Laurie Penny offered her ten cents on Scottish independence on Any Questions on BBC Radio Four eight days ago.
For those who are not radio aficionados, Any Questions is the Question Time for those who believe the pictures are better on the radio. It’s also the weekly political panel before a live studio audience with the good Dimbleby. When I say good, I mean relatively, naturally. Everything’s relative. Even the Dimbleby’s
Laurie sat on a panel alongside others, pontificating about Scottish independence, but doing so from a sympathetic point of view. Will the English be better off without Scotland? That question elicited great audience applause? But not so much where I come from, north of the border.
The BBC sides with the Better Together campaign. There has never been one shred of a doubt about this. That is not to imply there are no broadcasters who will vote for independence. I know with virtually 100% certainty that such people do in fact exist. Alas, they have to bite their tongue unlike the BBC’s Better Together cheerleaders: Andrew Marr, for example.
Barely a handful of BBC broadcasters come anywhere close to so much as trying to challenge the anti-Scottish independence bias of most of their colleagues. I won’t name this handful who do their best to stand against a reactionary tide. I won’t do that because I don’t want to be responsible for Chris Patten’s hatchet men zeroing in on them.
It is not fairness on the part of the BBC that will help Scots get independence. The problem, from their point of view, is their own stupidity. It is the fact that their editors are so outrageously out of touch with most of their viewers in Scotland (and not just in Scotland) that what they do has the exact opposite effect to what they desire. They have the anti-Midas touch.
To get back to last week’s Any Question, asking such a biased question about Scotland without a single supporter of Scottish independence on the panel cannot but make Scots very angry. This is the kind of prejudice that has been breeding nationalist discontent in Scotland for generations. Even the most loyal Unionists in Scotland know that.
What about Laurie Penny? Why was she inadequate from the point of view of political balance when dealing with this question? While it is perfectly true that Laurie defended us against bigots like Frank Field, she couldn’t stop herself from making the case for Scots rejecting independence; in other words, love-bombing us a la David Cameron, although doing so without cynicism.
What she said was interesting. All supporters of Scottish independence need to address Laurie Penny’s concerns. We do that not simply to deal with the anxieties of one isolated voice. We do it because what she said reflects the common sense view of most leftist in England. It is possibly even today held by a majority of radical Scots. It is certainly a set of ideas held by enough Scots to tip the balance of the independence referendum. And that is why independence supporters can’t afford to take them for granted. We need these people with us on the day of the referendum. We need to treat them with respect. We need to engage in a rational debate with them. We need to address their anxieties.
Laurie Penny ‘fessed up to the self interested nature of what she wants. She pleads with Scots not to opt for independence because she believes we act as a bastion against the worst excesses of the Tories.
Unlike that wretched apologist for corrupt war criminal Tony Blair, Frank Field, Laurie defends the right of Scotland to self determination. Thank god for that. It is bizarre that anyone should be applauded for this, but many in the Better Together Campaign are planning economic sabotage as I tap these keys. Indeed, what is their rejection of the shared currency if it is anything other than an attempt to intimidate Scots into surrender? What is their attempt to enlist Jose Manuel Barroso in kicking five million Scots out of the European Union if not an attempt to strangle Scots for daring to exercise our right to self determination?
The fact that Better Together want Scotland to be kicked out of the European Union unilaterally, despite our abiding by all treaties signed in our name before securing our independence, dependence won by means of democratic vote, independence negotiated in good faith with the remainder of the United Kingdom, and despite the fact that this rest of the United Kingdom will be no less a new state, a state whose Prime Minister, and backbenchers are determined to drag all UK subjects out of the EU, including the five million Scots who have no intention of leaving… Barroso’s threats are, to be frank, completely and utterly absurd.
No matter how many bottles of perfume Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, Alistair Darling, Danny Alexander, Johann Lamont spray on Jose Manuel Barroso’s bullshit, a turd by any other name stinks as bad. Barroso’s threats to Scots are utterly ludicrous. We dismiss them all with the contempt they deserve.
These authoritarian bastards even go to the trouble of transforming their three (or is it four) party system into a political cartel, one where the English electorate are denied any choice when it comes to the merits of a shared currency, merits that are not hard to see if you are not a puppet of these Better Together authoritarians.
Four cheeks of the one Better Together backside – five, if we include George Galloway’s Respect. What is this if not a one party state?
Ex-Tory Party Chairman Chris Patten’s BBC, ultra-Thatcherite Rupert Murdoch’s SKY News, and the anonymous right-wing Tory millionaires who own Channel Four… All of these megaphones of Britain’s Tory Establishment refuse to help others get a word in edgeways, to re-enfranchise the English voters: TUSC, for instance.
The argument Laurie Penny deployed in defense of her hope Scots don’t opt for independence had both a good and a bad side. In the first place, the values that may lead to Scots tunneling out of the United Kingdom’s dungeon are ones Laurie shares with us. They are values we are proud of. These are values shared by the core of Scottish Labour’s voters. They are also, alas, values Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander etc are turning their backs on. They are values that Scottish Labour have bequeathed to supporters of independence.
That said, there remains a very serious downside to what Laurie Penny argued. There is a despair as to how freedom for Scotland is a zero sum game, one that must necessarily damage the left in England. I want to explain why Laurie has gotten this very badly wrong. And I want to explain why it is important for the English left to now embrace Scotland’s right to self determination, not merely with resignation and a sense of unpleasant duty, but with confidence in your own future, your own ability to fight for a better life.
Scotland has already flushed the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage’s ultra Thatcherite, flat-tax xenophobes – UKIP – down the toilet of history. Ed Miliband’s Blairites, courtesy of their enthusiastic embrace of the Toxic Tories are in the process of destroying themselves also. The leader of Scottish Labour, Johann Lamont says Scots are not genetically programmed to make decisions for ourselves.
Now, no one likes to take advantage of a right-wing idiot’s embarrassing typos, their slips of the tongue, more than I do. But only up to a point. Johann Lamont never seriously meant what she said. But the reverse is no more true. It is mythical to imply that the Scottish people are genetically programmed to be more left wing than our brothers and sisters in England.
The first-past-the-post electoral system is the real problem. That is one nasty catch 22 for the English left. With Scotland gone, with our heading off in a very different direction to Britain’s Tory Establishment, taxing the rich, defending universal benefits, putting welfare before warfare, investing resources in the future, rather than letting them be gambled away by corrupt bankers, letting a thousand flowers bloom democratically and culturally… All of the above will have our southern neighbours looking enviously at the Scots. They too will demand a piece of the action. And they will get our support.
Once Scotland has won our freedom, there will be an inquest as to how Labour’s vote north of the border collapsed without trace, hemorrhaging so many activists as well as votes to the independence movement.
There will inevitably be an inquest as to how Labour’s vote melted away south of the border as well. And it will given no one is in the least bit inspired by Ed Miliband’s warmed up Tory policies. Millions of trade unionists will turn to other parties of the left. TUSC is waiting in the wing?… Cool.