“If polls in Scotland don’t change revise the saying ‘you can’t fool all the people all of the time’ as almost all are appearing to be fooled.”
So tweeted George Foulkes — Comrade Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, to give him his full socialist honours — over the weekend.
Casting the voters as fools is a novel electoral strategy but Scottish Labour has thrown everything else at the SNP, so it’s at least worth a try.
The noble lord’s frequent pronouncements — Foulkes wisdom, if you will — add much to the gaiety of the nation. He once tried to have the video game Space Invaders proscribed for causing youngsters to “become crazed, with eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them”.
But his tweet, revealing of Labour’s continuing bewilderment at what has happened in Scotland and cluelessness over what to do about it, also contains a kernel of truth.
The voters do seem oddly credulous, loudly distrustful of established institutions and political parties but unquestioning of their populist challengers. They don’t want a radically different relationship with elites so much as a good vent at the current crop of bastards in charge.
Donald Trump, a twice-divorced New York moneybags, is wowing poor evangelical Christians in America’s red states. To bring up the Republican presidential candidate’s long history of liberal positions — formerly a registered Democrat, Trump was once pro-choice, in favour of universal healthcare, donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, and invited Hillary to one of his three weddings — is simply proof that you are a shill for The Establishment. Trump need not be authentic as long as the anger he taps into is.
So too the Scottish Nationalists, who can hardly believe their luck. Their economic case for independence has had more holes shot in it than Che Guevara and yet support for the SNP, and for a breakaway from the UK, continues to rise. It seems not to matter that an independent Scotland would have faced cuts to make John Swinney’s current “reprofilings” look like socialist profligacy. Westminster Bad, SNP Good.
Still, gullibility has a limited shelf life and, when abused, calcifies into cynicism. We are fast approaching that stage in Scotland’s relationship with Westminster. Deploying Gordon Brown as guarantor in the last desperate days of the referendum, the UK Government ratted on his promise of “nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule”.
Now it seeks to bounce the Scottish Government into a bad deal on the fiscal framework. The Smith Commission agreed a “no detriment” principle that neither government’s pocketbook would be picked as a result of additional powers being devolved to Holyrood. But the Tories refuse to recognise the crucial issue of population growth, forecast to be slower north of the border than in England. The SNP, quite reasonably, wants a mechanism to correct this imbalance and proposes per capita indexed deduction. Professor Anton Muscatelli warns that the alternative could be a £3.5bn hit to Scotland’s cashflow over ten years.
Strong-arming the Nats into a shoddy settlement might seem like a jolly wheeze in the corridors of Whitehall. A brutal regime of SNP-imposed cuts would finally bring Scotland round to its senses. Yes, that’s it. Let them fall flat on their faces. That’ll put a stop to all this separatism nonsense.
Maybe so, but it would validate the Nationalist spiel that the UK is not a union of equals; that Scotland is a mere possession of Westminster, its prosperity to be toyed with for callous political advantage. It would confirm the necessity of independence in the minds of some and fortify its logic for others.
As Ardrossan-based misogynist and Twitter sensation Brian Spanner says, the referendum was a matter of “one opportunity, many opportunists”. That’s true but by no means were they all on the nationalist side. The SNP is out to stoke up resentment towards “Westminster” right up until Scotland finally snaps and votes to put everyone out of their misery. In its knavish manoeuvring the UK Government is coming to the aid of that enterprise. It’s not grievance politics when you have a genuine grievance.
Perhaps the Tories want a second referendum and to be rid of Scotland for good. If they don’t, they are playing a dangerous game indeed. David Cameron and George Osborne may face little opposition in the House of Commons but it’s not Jeremy Corbyn they’re dealing with now. Nicola Sturgeon is twice the political strategist either of them is and if she gets sandbagged around the negotiating table she will have her revenge at the ballot box.
Westminster should tread carefully in its dealings with Scotland. We won’t get fooled again.
Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, once lamented the lack of critical thinking on university campuses. “They believe in diversity of everything except ideas,” he quipped.
Now Peter Tatchell finds himself accused of “transphobia” and racism by some dreary student representative, who has refused to share a platform with the human rights champion on those grounds. As allegations go, it’s certainly imaginative — a bit like accusing Elaine C Smith of being a Rhodes scholar.
It would be unfair to expect the bastard children of Judith Butler and Herbert Marcuse to appreciate the sweat (and often blood) Tatchell has put into the gay rights and anti-racism movements over the years. Back then, activism involved more than tweeting a glum-looking selfie and #everydaysexism. Tatchell was beaten, harassed, arrested, spat upon, and denounced by “respectable” society. Today he is shunned once again, another victim of the regressive left and its intolerance of all dissent.
The spread of this virus of anti-thought poisons the intellectual bloodstream of our universities. There are a number of possible antidotes but here is one to pilot before any other: Remove the cap on tuition fees. Not only would it bring a much-needed cash injection into higher education, it would make banning “TERFs” and penning footnoted mash letters to Anita Sarkeesian a very expensive four years.
Boycotting the boycotters
It’s been a bad weekend for people who monitor film credits for names ending in “berg” and “stein”.
The UK Government announced its intention to ban public bodies from participating in boycott, divestment and sanctions activity against Israel. BDS, a form of economic warfare waged by campaigners dismayed at the stubborn refusal of the Jews to be thrown into the sea, is the fashionable cause du jour. That it pushes Israelis into the arms of the hardliners, deprives Palestinians of desperately needed jobs, and darkly echoes historical boycotts of Jews and Jewish-produced goods seems not to trouble supporters of BDS.
In response to such insidious activities, pro-Israel campaigners have pioneered “buycotting” — purchasing Israeli products as an act of solidarity. The Jerusalem Post reports that a Netherlands store has begun to label settlement goods, following regulations adopted by the European Commission to differentiate items from the West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem. The twist: The Dutch retailers are Israel-supporting Christians and not labelling their fare for the Commission’s objective of stigmatising the products and those who manufacture them — but so good Zionists can show their support for the communities across the green line.
When I read the two stories, I raised a glass of Judean red in celebration.
Salmond v Farage
Nigel Farage has accepted Alex Salmond’s challenge to debate Britain’s membership of the European Union. This is just what the EU referendum needs: A slanging match between a megalomaniac who wants to break away from a successful union — and Nigel Farage. Then again, the moderator could cause an outbreak of consensus by asking the two men their view on Vladimir Putin.