A noxious broth

British politics is not a pretty thing to behold. Particularly now that the British Conservative Party has succumbed to its own version of the ugly factionalism which has beset the British Labour Party for decades. I have no evidence to support the contention; indeed, no evidence may exist, but I would venture that had a survey similar to that reported in The National, been conducted within British Labour at any time in the last 30 – 50 years, it would have shown remarkably similar results. Similar in that, at any given time, there would be factions within the party prepared to tolerate all manner of negative consequences – up to and including the demise of British Labour itself – in pursuit of their particular faction’s agenda.

Historically, one of the identifying characteristics of the British Conservative Party was its capacity for unity in the face of any challenge to its power. Whatever disagreements and differences may have roiled within Tory ranks, come the threat of being defeated by the detested ‘reds’, the magnificent ‘blues’ would pull together like a termite colony under attack by ants.

Anecdotally at least, one of the identifying characteristics of British Labour has been that it has more factions than members. And a significant proportion of those factions considered their policy agenda more important than winning the power to implement that agenda. A few even considered themselves more important than the party. Or, they considered themselves to be the party.

The political left in the UK has been a diminished force, in part because of its aversion to effective political power, but also due to a curious predilection for ‘defeat with honour’. The glory of the fight is appealing. The responsibility that comes with victory, maybe not so much.

Now, we have a British politics in which British Labour is as riven as ever by cliques and conspiracies, except that the lines separating the factions have become indistinct, if not blurred to invisibility. Even the factions seem to have lost cohesion. And few if any seem coalesced around anything recognisable as a firm principle.

As for the Tories; the best we might do in the way of a generous perspective is to observe that they have had less practice at this factionalism lark than the other main British establishment party. Compared to British Labour, they are rank amateurs. So it may not be so surprising that they aren’t coping at all well with the unfamiliar phenomenon of division in the ranks. It’s as if all those termites had suddenly shrugged off the bonds of colony and developed their own individual personalities and priorities and preferences. They’re all over the place!

I think the word I’m looking for here is ‘dysfunctional’. Although the term hardly does justice to the noxious broth of megalomania, avarice, ego, ineptitude, vacuity and corruption that seethes in the cauldron of the British state.

Scotland surely does not want to be a part of this.



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Run! Don’t walk!

This is pure fantasy from British Labour. They claim they will campaign in a snap UK general election on a promise to renegotiate the Brexit ‘deal’ without May’s ‘red lines’. Just a few wee problems with that.

British Labour has shown itself remarkably reluctant to force that UK general election. Not least because the polls indicate they would lose. In this instance, we have to give the polls some credence. When the official opposition is five points behind the worst government in living memory, there’s definitely something amiss. They should be at least five points ahead. It’s very difficult to see how British Labour might recover even half of that ten point gap. It would take something big. And all they are offering is empty promises.

Like the empty promise to renegotiate the Brexit deal. But first they’d have somehow persuade the EU to extend the Article 50 negotiation period. How are they going to do that from the opposition benches? Then they’d have to win the election – against the odds. Then they’d have to persuade the EU to reopen negotiations after they’ve said repeatedly and with increasing forcefulness that they will do no such thing.

And even if they pull off this series of little miracles, they’ll still face the obstacle of getting their shiny new ‘deal’ approved by the British parliament. If MP’s are not going to approve May’s deal with it’s ‘red lines’ what chance is there that they’d vote through a ‘deal’ which would inevitably be portrayed as a total capitulation to the EU?

A change of tenant at 10 Downing Street is not going to resolve the Brexit issue. In fact, it may well be that the British political elite have finally managed to create a situation which simply cannot be resolved.

Scotland at least has the option to walk away from this toxic situation. We should do so as briskly as we possibly can. #DissolveTheUnion


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The bargain

When someone, such as shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, speaks of getting “value for money” from weapons of mass destruction then it is time to question, not merely the political acceptability and military wisdom of the Trident project, but the mental well-being of those who promote it. How would one begin to measure “value for money” in such a context? What exactly might represent “value for money”?

The idea of “value for money” suggests the possibility of an optimum balance between what one pays and what one gets in return. In the case of Trident, what is paid is a figure so enormous as to baffle the imagination. It is, broadly speaking, an amount sufficient to run a country the size of Scotland for a year. Enough to provide at least a reasonable level of public services such as education, healthcare and public safety.

And what do we get in exchange for this enormous outlay? We get a (supposedly) independent nuclear deterrent. Something which can never be used because to use it would be to destroy, not only the ‘enemy’, but ourselves and probably all of human civilisation and maybe even all of life on this planet. We cannot use ‘our’ deterrent because of the existence of other deterrents. The only people who won’t be deterred are those who would actually welcome the obliteration of human civilisation and who would regard global extinction as a bonus.

So, we get a deterrent which only works against those who don’t need to be deterred and which actually acts as an incentive rather than a deterrent to those who need to be deterred. What would be a reasonable price to pay for something which is, at best, useless and, at worst, counter-productive?

Even if it cost nothing, Trident would be an obscenity. The squandering of resources piles insanity on top of obscenity.

So, what else do we get in exchange for this prodigious expenditure? We get to be a “tier-one nation”. Which means only that the British ruling elite get to indulge their pretensions to global significance. They get to strut the world stage alongside the other ‘major powers’. They get invited to the meetings. They get to cling to something vaguely resembling past imperial status. By maintaining a nuclear deterrent, they get to be the kind of power that needs to be deterred.

And, given the dubiousness of the concept of deterrence, that’s pretty much all we get. In return for depriving ourselves of the resources needed to make our country work better, we get to watch as the British political elite plays in the ‘big game’. In exchange for accepting that real people will suffer and real lives will be less than they might be, we get to be vaguely associated with people who are made more than they ought to be.

It seems that, for British Labour as much as for their Tory counterparts, getting “value for money” means maximising privilege for the few while minimising provision for the many.


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