The Daily Mail wants to know “who will speak for England”. Its front page editorial was a ranting demand that the Brexit campaign gets its act together and ensures that the United Kingdom is taken out of the European Union and into a mid-Atlantic neo-conservative dystopia even more nightmarish than the one we’re currently trapped in. The Mail’s wet dream is to turn Britain into a low wage economy with no worker’s rights and where everything has been privatised. They want to turn us into the shit kicking bits of the USA only with worse weather and bad food.
The words who will speak for England are based on those uttered by anti-appeasement Tory MP Leo Amery in 1939 when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain implied to the House of Commons that he wouldn’t support going to war with Germany even though the Nazi regime had just invaded Poland. In doing so Berlin had torn up the Munich Agreement which Chamberlain signed in his infamous meeting with Hitler the previous year and which he claimed had secured peace in our time. The price of peace was the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Then as now, the rights of small countries get ignored by larger ones. As the Labour deputy leader Arthur Greenwood rose to speak in the debate in the Commons, he said he was speaking for Labour. Amery called out “Speak for England!” Scotland wasn’t significant to Tories then, so some things never change.
By one of those weird twists of historical coincidence, Leo Amery’s son Julian played a leading role in the Tory campaign to deny Scotland devolution when Harold Wilson proposed a weak form of self-government in the 1970s. His father didn’t acknowledge the existence of Scotland, and his son worked his wee Argyle socks off to ensure that Scotland wouldn’t have any voice of its own. Now his father’s words are being used to deny that Scotland exists at all. Julian would be so proud. Incidentally, Leo’s other son, John, was hanged just after the war for collaborating with the Nazis.
The Mail did, in a small line buried deep within the text, insist that it wasn’t comparing Angela Merkel to Hitler, although if it wasn’t then it would never have thought of using the headline in the first place. Mind you, the Daily Mail isn’t exactly noted for its thinking. It’s noted for its knee jerk right wing extremism, its hatred, its intolerance, and its bawbaggery. It’s pretty hypocritical of the Mail to quote leading figures in the struggle against the Nazis and enlist them into its Eurohatred campaign, because in the 1930s the Daily Mail’s owner Lord Rothermere was a notorious supporter of the Nazis. But then self-awareness isn’t one of the Tory right’s strong suits. Not so deep down in the psyche of the English right, we’re still fighting WW2.
If the Daily Mail did any thinking it might have thought that as soon as it published that pretentious and portentious headline that it would have seven shades of shazbot ripped out of it on Twitter, because that is exactly what happened. Social media users were happy to give the Mail their suggestions about who should speak for England, the Chuckle Brothers, Mr Blobby, Lauren “Am I bovvered”, Boris Johnson dangling from a zip wire, Mr Bean, that woman who put a cat in a bin, or Bungle from Rainbow. All of these suggestions – with the possible exception of Boris – were more plausible than anyone in the Brexit campaign.
Elsewhere buried deep within the text was a wee line saying that by “England” the Mail of course meant the United Kingdom. There we were during the independence referendum being told that we were a loved and valued part of this great family of nations, the most perfect union of countries in the history of the multiverse. Scotland gets to punch above its weight because of the UK.
While most Yes voters in Scotland were already aware that to all intents and purposes Scotland had been subsumed within Greater England, Scotland’s No voters were in blissful denial and the British establishment was quite happy to keep them that way. Paying lip service to the Union instead of England allows the No voters of Scotland can keep focussing on teacakes, the fragrancy of fantasy authors, and the myriad ways in which the SNP is really, really bad. Then they can ignore where the power really lies in this country, and it’s not with Scotland.
Now it’s plastered all over the front page of the Mail that Scotland is an English region. We really are just Scotlandshire, and you thought that was only a joke. The Mail is the mirror of the views of the nastier parts of Middle England. The parts that vote UKIP and Tory, the parts that are convinced that England is uniquely special amongst the nations of the world. The parts that Tony Blair and Gordie Broon’s Labour pandered to. The parts that think England encompasses this entire island. You know, the kind of territorial aggrandisement of the sort favoured by German governments in the first half of the 20th century. Not that I am at all implying that the Tory right in the UK is in any way shape or form prone to outbreaks of Nazism. Oh no. I’m not drawing that comparison in exactly the same way that the Mail isn’t drawing comparisons between Merkel and Hitler. So that’s OK then.
The Scottish edition of the hate-rag had a different headline. Even the Mail’s more swivel eyed journos realised that subsuming Scotland within England wasn’t going to play well in Scotland, so we got one of the Mail’s cancer stories instead. Admittedly everything published by the Mail is cancer, but this time Scotland was treated to a story saying that more of us are surviving cancer than ever before, probably because we have the good sense not to read the carcinogenic Daily Mail.
The English Tory right is the real pus filled well of grievance. England always gets the governments it votes for, Scotland and Wales don’t. If England votes to leave the EU then the entire UK will be wrenched out, irrespective of what voters in Scotland or Wales want. Who will speak for England? England has its Tory government. But when the question is who will speak for Scotland? The Mail has no answer, neither it nor England’s Tory government cares.
Scotland will consider that question in May, and the answer will not be the Europhobic Tory right. The Daily Mail is the cancer of the British body politic. In its pro-indy parties, Scotland has a cure.
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