Theresa Maybe gave an interview for Sky News on Sunday, during which she showed off the incredible political skill which has characterised her premiership – speaking at length while saying absolutely nothing at all and never, ever, giving a direct answer to a direct question. And you know that when she says she wants to be clear that she’s going to be as clear as a mud bespattered windscreen. If she was asked what is the capital of the UK, she’d say, “I want to be very clear on this. We’re working towards the very best capital for all the people of the UK. It’s not a binary choice. The capital is the capital. The seat of government is the seat of government. The people of Britain deserve a bespoke capital that’s the seat of government of a country that believes in free trade and supports our friends and allies but which makes it own laws and controls its own borders, and that’s what I’m going to deliver.” Still, you can’t complain that May is inconsistent. She allows herself to be pinned down on nothing, and she delivers exactly that. She’s the quantum squirrel of politics, simultaneously saying a lot while saying nothing in an effort to distract us from the vacuum in her soul.
Following the interview we still know that a tautology is a tautology, that Brexit is bespoke, that’s it’s red white and blue, that it’s going to be taking back control of our borders and our laws, and that it’s not a binary choice. It’s just that we don’t know what we’re going to end up with or what any of those laws that we’re taking back control of are going to be, except that it’s probably a safe bet that they’ll be reactionary laws that punish the poor and reward the City of London. That’s what politicians like Theresa like to describe as difficult choices. “Who shall I make pay for the economic disaster caused by corporate greed?” They ask themselves, “The big businesses that I hope to get cushy directorships with, or poor people who don’t vote for me anyway? Gosh that’s a difficult choice. Oh I know, let’s punish the poor.”
British politics is essentially the art of saying nothing at all and ensuring that established interests continue to be rewarded and serviced, while trying to make it appear that you’re doing something important and significant. Theresa May is an expert at that hollow shell game. The most galling thing of all is that those right wing politicians who have done their utmost to reduce and diminish the life chances and opportunities of the unemployed, the disabled, the low paid, and the vulnerable, all of a sudden pose as their champions.
Meanwhile, over in the Labour party, the dying embers have declared that they’re now in favour of federalism in the hope that will fan some flames. Not just any old federalism mind, but radical federalism, which is much the same as ordinary federalism but has been improved with additional workshops on macrobiotic diets and how to knit your own bobble hats from hand plucked Bolivian vicuña wool. It would be far more convincing if we hadn’t already heard it all before.
Of course it’s not definite yet. This is after all the Labour party. They’ve not explained how the proposals aired over the weekend for radical federalism are different from what Gordie Broon swore blind in 2014 would happen if Scotland voted no. Maybe they’re just hoping that we’ve forgotten that. But we haven’t. We remember that Labour promised superdooperdoubleplusgood-devo, and then spent its time and energy eviscerating the proposals of the Smith Commission. We remember that the party is constantly promising more devo, extra devo, the bestest devo in the multiverse. And we remember that when it comes down to it, Labour always fails to deliver.
Jeremy Corbyn, who has shown as much understanding of Scotland as a squirrel understands quantum mechanics, has yet to agree on the new federalism no-we-really-mean-it-this-time proposal. The chances are that what’s being aired will be watered down and weakened by the assorted interests within the party who have no intention whatsoever of giving up on any of Westminster’s power, because that’s what has always happened in the past. The original proposals for the Scottish Parliament included control of broadcasting until Labour’s backroom boys and girls got their little squirrel paws on them.
Even if Jezza does come up with a definite plan which becomes a definite manifesto commitment there’s still the little matter of a general election to win. And the way things look right now there’s as much chance of that happening as there is of a squirrel in an alternate universe making a breakthrough in its understanding of quantum mechanics and finding a means of travelling through a wormhole to this universe where it stands as the Labour party candidate for Nutkinshire South. Still, there’s at least a 50% chance of it being red, which is a probability several orders of magnitude greater than Labour’s federalism proposals ever actually happening. The weekend’s developments are unlikely to halt Labour’s death spiral in Scotland, too many of us are fed up with the party telling us that it’s got lots of lovely nuts stored up for delivery at some unspecified date in the future and then only ever delivering some inedible husks.
In another political interview on Sunday, there was some straight talking and some definite commitments, which can only mean that neither Theresa May nor the Labour party were involved. Nicola Sturgeon assured Andrew Marr that she was not bluffing. If the Tories take Scotland into a hard Brexit, there will be another independence referendum. She’s offering compromises, she’s offering negotiation, and if Theresa May’s government do not meet Scotland halfway then there will be another independence vote. Because if May won’t take Scotland’s position into account then all she’s doing is proving that the Union is as ficticious as her reputation for clarity.
The ball is in Westminster’s court. They’ve been given an opportunity to prove that they’re not liars, an opportunity to stand by the promises and commitments that they made to Scotland when they told us that Scotland is an equal and valued partner in this family of nations. If they turn that opportunity down, the Union will have been killed by the Unionists themselves, and no number of quantum squirrels is going to save it.
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