Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Outside The Wall

It's long been this blog's view that the status quo effect will prevail in the Scottish referendum, especially when the "don't knows" are hovering around the 23% mark. Thus while the polls recently have become neck and neck in terms of in or out, bookmakers are still offering odds-on regarding a no vote.

With Scotland there is understandably a clear anti-establishment vote which has been relayed to the pollsters. Yet experience shows that this only translates to referendum results, or indeed other elections, if the resulting vote has no dramatic consequences.

An example of this is the non-binding referendum in New Zealand in 1992 regarding political reform. We also see the same apply in mid-term by-elections where anti-etablishment kicking is prevalent only to return to a default candidate at a General Election. Ireland proves to be another example when they rejected the Lisbon Treaty first time around only to approve at the second time when it was made clear "rejection would have consequences" regarding EU membership.

An interesting observation though is despite the obvious anti-Westminster vote within the Scottish referendum, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg have decided to encamp in Scotland for the day so that there will be no PMQs, thus demonstrating a wonderful illustration of arrogance and complete political blindness - seemingly unaware that their presence is more damaging than helpful to the Union cause. Subrosa is not impressed and rightly so:
Interesting times aren’t they?  Yesterday, in a token gesture to Scotland, the Saltire was raised over 10 Downing Street.  I believe it is to stay in place until after the referendum.  How happy I am to see such benevolence from London. Do I feel patronised?  Of course not.
Be prepared for the media to be overflowing with reports about the London heir bummers’ visit to our country and don’t forget to smile at their ignorance (or should that be arrogance?).
A point echoed by Norman Tebbit:
The political establishment down here in the Westminster village has been stung into hyperactivity by the sudden surge of support for the Yes campaign in Scotland. Without very much discussion with their own parties Ed Milliband and David Cameron have reached a joint conclusion: that Scotland's discontent can be overcome and a "No" vote secured by promising the Scots that they can have independence in all but name if only they vote to stay within the Union. Devolution by the bucketload, it is implied, would allow the Scottish assembly to tax and spend as it pleases while still remaining under the cover of sterling.
It seems to be a perfect example of why so many Scots are supporting the severance of the Union. In short, it typifies the remoteness of that Westminster establishment, not just from Scotland, but the people of England and Wales.
And again, more forcefully by Dan Hodges:
By the evening Gordon’s chat with a few of his constituents had become a full-blown plan to recast the Union. It was, Brown said, nothing less than a move towards a federal Britain. “A new Union is being forged in the heat of debate”, he said.
Great. But what debate? I’m not involved in it. You’re not involved in it. Unless I’m missing something, no one in England, Wales or Northern Ireland is being given a say over this radical new constitutional arrangement.
I’m not missing something. Gordon Brown was crystal clear yesterday. “These reforms will confirm that Scotland has helped changed not just our own country but the United Kingdom,” he announced. Well, thanks for that. But I’m afraid that’s not Scotland’s prerogative.
Scotland is currently holding a referendum over whether it wishes to secede from the Union. It’s a simple Yes/No question. Do you want to stay, or do you want to go? Not, “do you want to unilaterally establish the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Federation.”
’ll repeat, what do our politicians think they are doing? Whether or not Scotland remains a part of the Union is a matter for the Scottish people alone. It’s right they are having their referendum, and that they should have sole say over their destiny. But that is no longer what is on the table.
What is now being proposed – we are being told – is nothing less than an entirely new constitution for the United Kingdom as a whole. And no one other than the people of Scotland appears to be getting a say on whether they agree with it or not.
Actually, let me rephrase that. No one but the politicians appears to be getting a say.
Alex Salmond has some justification when he refers to "Team-Westminster". Team Westminster are clearly panicking and are offering overtly devo-max, this though is not new, it was offered quietly by Cameron some time ago. But how arrogant is it for Gordon Brown et al to now brazenly offer such terms without reference to anyone else in the Union  - it's our Union as well.

If nothing else the Scottish referendum demonstrates acutely that the arguments are less about Hadrian's wall and more about a circular symbolic wall around London, universally known as the M25.

We need this...


  1. I can't quite see how this is going to work without reference to the rest of the UK at some point.

    We can't have 2.5 million people (5/2) deciding the future of the Union. If Scotland wishes to leave then fine but they don't get to dictate the conditions under which they might stay.

    I'm getting the feeling that Westminster hasn't thought this through. We in the Democratic Republic of Yorkshire want a referendum too. We have 5 million residents also. Where is our referendum and our concessions.

    1. I suspect it was thought through in these terms:

      This devolution lark is a nuisance we don't want and don't want encouraged any more.

      There's no, which is what we have now and can live with and it might take the steam out of the devolution nonsense.

      There's Devo Max which will be very popular and will fuel the devolution nonsense, particularly in Scotland, but also generally.

      There's independence, which is the nuclear option which only a madman would take and the polls show that.

      Reduce it to a choice between what we have now and the nuclear option. As the nuclear option is for headbangers only and the polls show this, there's no need to fret about what would happen if it was taken, because it won't be. It's all been channelled into what we have now and what we want and that will take the steam out of the devolution crap and it's all in the bag.

      Close to the day the polls are looking as if the nuclear option will be taken. It's that Oh Shit! moment. Time to operate in headless chicken mode, tell Scotland we love you, wall to wall Saltires, chuck Devo Max into the no package and hope for the best. There's another Oh Shit! moment when it turns out there are all sorts of practical consequences to the nuclear option being taken which it doesn't appear have been given a moment's thought, so they are now making up very serious policy on the hoof.

      I don't believe the SNP camp is any more prepared for the nuclear option either, at least there's very little evidence they are.

      None of this is anything to do with creating an equitable devolutionary settlement or democracy or any of that tripe, any more than the lopsided settlement hatched under the Blair government was concerned with that, rather than electoral engineering.

    2. 'We can't have 2.5 million people (5/2) deciding the future of the Union.'

      No indeed: of course at the moment it is about 4 or 5 people (in Brussels) plus their toadies (in London, natch). Let's face it we are damned if they do, damned if they don't!

  2. If you refer back to 'The Thick of It', I think the parties reached their '...quiet bat-people....' moment this week. The moment they realised that path-of-least-resistance complacency and sudden, off-the-cuff ineptitude met some forms of reality they had previously been only too content to pretend didn't exist.

    Perhaps like Dan Hodges' usual unwise posture on these things - that complex matters can easily be bound up in simplistic mathematics of polling and what-has-gone-before'ology. A scientific experiment, the result of which had been pre-determined by its participants only for them to discover half-way through that they might have to face the uncomfortable notion they had each been talking b*llocks.

    It's an education - writ much larger - by which we can determine how an EU referendum campaign might react to unwelcome polling. In that, such an EU referendum will be contrived to ensure that such unwelcome polling data can never intrude during the campaigning period. It will be professionally pre-rigged into comprehensive sterility. If there was the tiniest emergence of possibility that the Brexit campaign could win, then a senior Civil Servant will - in an incident wholly spontaneous, as they always are... - be photographed going into Downing Street 'inadvertently' showing a page from a report proving the UK electorate will be reduced to eating coal and asbestos sheeting within four months of EU withdrawal. Taking a lead from WfW, and his past reports of infiltration attempts on his website, it would be adviseable that anti-EU bloggers keep a detailed look at attempts on their own websites. I'd suspect those attempts will increase exponentially in number as we approach the next election.

    This week demonstrated the current Westminster Parties do not have the capacity to roll with the punches nor strategically plan properly for reverses. I'd suspect that will remain the case all the time those parties are led by the same kind of SpAd-U-likes. We also learned that where the parties had to choose between the public defeat of a political programme, and the consistency of the British Constitutional condition, it's Britain which will need to change. I hope the electorate get the chance to hear that loud and clear while the opportunity presents itself.

    Interesting times, as they say...

    1. Interesting.

      I think it shows that the Westminster parties are determined to maintain the status quo whatever it is. They put no thought into the idea that things are going to change for reasons beyond their control, so it would be wiser to anticipate that with their own changes which would be uncomfortable, but less so than muddling along.
      I think that's saying more or less the same as you were.

      That's what's at the heart of the panic measures to chuck Devo Max into the mix at the last minute. As you say, they are being confronted with a possible reality which they'd excluded from thought.

      As for scare stories, there's no doubt that there's been tidal wave of coverage of aspects of the financial downside in the Indyref campaign. Nonetheless, it appears that the Yes campaign have no convincing answers, and rely on wishful thinking and emotional hype, on at least the important questions of the currency and EU membership. I would say they have been downright dishonest. There are all sorts of other questions such as the number of public sector jobs in Scotland, which wouldn't remain in a foreign state to the UK. Independence has been sold as a dream option where everything fits neatly into place and there are going to be no problems. I doubt there's such an appetite for independence in Scotland such that it would put up with real misery without causing civil commotion.

      This is instructive from the point of view of those wanting to leave the EU in all sorts of ways. One thing that occurs is that emotion is an important part, but you also need an honest, rational line and you need a thought through plan as to how it's to be handled and what comes after, which doesn't depend on best case assumptions, much less hopelessly optimistic ones.

      The other thing is that the EU is far less flexible than Westminster, and it couldn't chuck in Devo Max for the UK as a panic measure.