Thumbs down to Westminster’s Colosseum

On Thursday, before the tragic and brutal murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in a shooting incident suspended campaigning, the EU referendum campaign reached further down into the gutter than it has gone before. Mind you it’s been in the gutter and rolling about in the filth pretty much since it started. Saying that the EU referendum campaign has produced a disgusting new low is a bit like saying that someone managed to be offensively undignified in a bare-arsed shit-slinging contest, but Nigel Farage’s unofficial leave campaign poster managed it.

The poster took the prejudice and racism of far too many in the UK, and put it into pictorial form. It depicted a line of Syrian refugees stretching out into the distance, with the slogan “Breaking Point, the EU has failed us all. We must take control of our borders.” Britain already has control of its borders within the EU. Refugees from the world’s war torn regions, which are too often war torn because the UK has cheerfully been selling weapons to some dictatorship or other, don’t have access to the UK as it is. That’s why there’s a refugee camp full of desperate people just across the Channel near Calais who are being driven to attempt crossings of the dangerous waters in inflatable boats, or trying to hitch a ride hiding in the back of an articulated lorry. It’s got nothing to do with Britain’s place in the EU. It just plays on the fear of people from the Middle East.

If those refugees in Nigel’s poster were able to enter the UK, a UK which is still very much a member of the EU, there would be no Calais Jungle. The poster seeks to conflate two very different issues into a miasma of fear, scaremongering which appeals to latent racism. But as Nigel would no doubt say, better latent than never. The tragedy is that Nigel’s disgusting and dishonest tactics have a very good chance of succeeding.

The choice we have is being a part of a UK which is dominated by a racism that denies its racist, a xenophobia which seeks to take us out into a mid-Atlantic dystopia where workers’ rights are denied and traduced, or a UK in which the elites feel free to lie, dissemble and cheat in order to retain their grasp on power. The best an ordinary punter can hope for is a two month contract in a call centre between appointments at the job centre.

That’s why there is little public excitement about the EU referendum in Scotland. This is not our referendum. It’s only happening in the first place because David Cameron was arrogant and stupid enough to believe that he could use the question of Britain’s EU membership as a proxy to settle divisions within his own party.

Cameron wanted a short snappy campaign, and then in his arrogance he thought that the question would be settled once and for all and he could go back to his patrician politics as usual. But that’s not what’s going to happen. Irrespective of who wins next week, British politics have fractured. The Unionist continually harp on about the divisions caused by the Scottish referendum, but those are mere cracks in the glazing compared to the Grand Canyons of alienation created by the Unionists themselves. And far far away on the other side they can just about make out the spirits of honesty, decency, and truth, waving goodbye. Those are on Scotland’s side.

From dire warnings of economic meltdown and World War Three to threats that we’re going to overrun by people who speak foreign languages and whose foreign food will take over shelving in Tesco, this referendum has been the nastiest and most unpleasant exercise in democracy since a Roman emperor asked the crowd in the Colosseum to give a thumbs up to killing some Christian kids. If anything illustrates the utter moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the United Kingdom and the Westminster political class it has been the way in which this supposed exercise in public consultation has been cynically sucked dry of anything approaching intelligence, wit, warmth, humanity and compassion.

Anyone who compares the nastiness, negativity and noxiousness of this EU referendum campaign with the Scottish indyref is only contributing to the lack of principle and imagination which characterises this EU referendum on both sides. In comparison the Scottish referendum was a joyous and positive affair. Where Scotland had wish trees and Lady Alba’s witty songs, Westminster’s EU referendum has covert racism and the imaginative brain power of tree slime on tranquillisers. The only wish tree is the one that says we wish it was all over. If you could plant a sapling in the soil of the EU referendum campaign, the only thing that would grow would be poisonous.

Whereas there was at least one side in the Scottish referendum which attempted to be positive, there’s none of that in the top-down campaign for the EU referendum. There is no mass public engagement, at least not in Scotland, and there’s no mass participation. While the Scottish indyref electrified a nation and sparked a flowering of democratic activity, Scotland sits on the sidelines of the EU referendum as a passive observer at the Colosseum. We don’t even get ringside seats as British democracy throws itself to the lions of hatred and fear and cynical manipulation. This is not a referendum, it’s a howl of impotent rage. This is what happens when the elites ignore the people and take them for granted. The people decide to destroy everything because they have nothing left to lose.

What this referendum tells Scotland is that there is no place for Scotland in what passes for British political discourse, if you can call two sides screaming at one another in contempt a discourse. Our only remaining role in the UK is as a hairy legged bogey man that the establishment can use as a threat in an attempt to scare Middle England into line. Scotland needs to give a thumbs down to Westminster’s Colosseum. We need an arena of our own. One in which we can star.

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22 comments on “Thumbs down to Westminster’s Colosseum

  1. Edward Freeman says:

    Good on you, wee ginger dug, because you like language and linguistics, I’m going to say rem acu tetigisti.

    As for “tree slime on tranquillizers” – glorious!

  2. Macart says:

    This referendum has never been about democracy. Its never been about ‘taking control back’. It’s been about power and greed. Its been about which type of right wing politics dominates the UK political scene for decades to come, but more essentially its been about the direction of UK society.

    Next week should prove fairly informative for our voting public.

  3. says:

    Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.

  4. Andimac says:

    The Dug’s references to the Colosseum are spot on…unfortunately. The Roman patricians well knew the value of “panem et circenses” – bread and circuses – give the mob a fag, a shag and a kebab and you can put anything past them. As the Romans also said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Nil desperandum? – Well, I think I may.

  5. douglas clark says:

    I posted my vote a week ago with a heavy heart. Basically it felt like voting in an internal Conservative Party leadership election.

  6. Mercifully, in five days time this farce will end.
    There is no doubt that it has been a Bullingdon boys’ bun fight.
    The Tories are split, New Labour is split, and the Lib Dems have yet another murky scandal posthumously gurgling up from the corrupt Liberal hedonist primordial swamp.
    Elsewhere we have Born Again Massie attempting to urge us all into a precipitative IndyRef II, which we would surely lose; indeed, I suspect that this is his ‘bring it on’ motive.
    A second hastily convened Referendum would fail, for various reasons, and would put the Self Determination Movement back for decades, the real reason I fear, that Mr Massie has suddenly draped himself in the Saltire.
    There is much preparatory work to be done before we address the Independence issue again.
    Project Fear I scaremongering on currency, Europe, Defence, and so on.
    We need sharp and sustainable rebuttals to the Plague of Locusts strategy of the Unionists and their Propaganda wing, the Scottish MSM.
    I am perfectly happy to sit back and watch the Red and Blue Tory warring factions rip each other’s lungs out for a year or so. If this doesn’t give swithering No-ers food for thought and at least consider self determination then there is little hope that reasoned arguments will.
    The UK is in tatters.
    Good things truly do come to those who wait.
    Unlike Godot, Independence is coming.
    Next Friday’s going to be fun.

    • Nigel Mace says:

      Paul is in excellent form here, yet I detect ‘a plague on both their houses’ in your comment, Jack – and, while I sympathise, it is a sentiment that fails to recognise that we are, at present, condemned to live in one of them – and it looks like being very much the worse one.

      Friday will not be fun at all. It looks like being one of the bleakest days in post-war Europe, for there is more at stake than the Bullingodn bun-fight – or even our next referendum.

      The EU with its many faults and failings is many decades – of peace within Europe and of ordinary folks mixing and sharing their lives – better than the ghastly continent we used to inhabit. Brexit will deal that progress a terrible blow, not only in our islands but also in Europe as a whole. The Brexiters have their unlovely (very) counterparts across our continent from Le Penn on and downwards and such a result will strengthen the same kind of racist, isolationist mood which Boris/Farage and co. have so shamelessly stirred up here. Fire has been conjured up and played with and it is likely to burn many more before it can ever be extinguished.

      I’ve obviously missed what appears to be Alex Massie(?) stirring for a second Scottish Referendum – but if he has, he must have found a new streak of insight to match his brilliant (and I’m a long-time critic of his writing) “A Day of Infamy” blog on the murder of Jo Cox. He is not wrong. Brexit will only add to the number of our supporters, especially as its farcically disastrous economic consequences start to show. Labour is never going to campaign with the Unionist Tories again and may very possibly either split openly or even come on board precisely because of Brexit. The Unuionist camp is going to be shredded by this result and – judiciously timed within the Brexit/EU negotiation period, i.e. in the next 2/3 years, Independence will win.

      But please no levity about the wounded and shamed Europe which may lie before us on Friday.

      • Excuse my clumsiness of words, Nigel. My ‘going to be fun’ is delivered with as much level headed sangfroid which I can muster.
        ‘All hell will break loose’, is what I meant in my cack handed way.
        Under Tory Rule, Scotland continues to be driven into Victorian austerity, and ‘trouble at mill’ old Capitalist values.
        A worker is reported to be compelled to piss in a bottle at their work station, or face the sack.
        The Desolation Row of food banks, Pay Day Loans at 1000’s% interest, zero hours contracts, and so on, is well documented and commented upon much more eloquently that I can muster elsewhere.
        The EU dogfight between strands of the English Establishment serves to illustrate how emasculated we, the citizens of Scotland really are.
        85% of the electorate will yet again decide our EU fate, and we are expected to faithfully follow where England leads us, no matter.
        It is the kernel of the Self Determination argument. We demand our country back.
        The death of this young woman is a tragic thing; but to have Mundell on the Beeb blurting on about the increasingly ‘shrill’ posters on social media and presumably concomitant sense of threat to his personal safety, on the back of this MP’s cruel murder, beggars belief.
        Massie is an arch Tory Unionist.
        I have not read his blog on ‘A Day of Infamy’. I’ll take your word for it.
        We are already living in the End of Days; of the UK that is.
        It will not be ‘fun’ on Friday. I apologise for your sense that I was being whimsical or indulging in schadenfeude.
        I concur. Britain is in a dark place, with little immediate prospect of relief.

        • Joe Kinnear says:

          I agree much of contemporary life in the UK is shit – off the scale economic inequality etc. But doesn’t the enlightened and “progressive” EU “protect” us????

  7. Joe Kinnear says:

    “The people decide to destroy everything because they have nothing left to lose.”

    Wee bit OTT don’t you think? I had no idea your love of the EU was so deep! ‘Everything’ – really? Also you piece is hardly the “positive” shilling for Goldman Sachs et al., that Queen Nicola claims to be engaged in. Scaremongering much?

    Sanctimonious, whiney hypocrisy really isn’t the way to win over small u Unionist Scotland. But I suspect you’re not interested in doing that.

  8. Tinto Chiel says:

    Great article, Paul but I kept thinking, “Is this what it felt like to live in Weimar Germany before the Nazis took over?”

    I never thought I would see such deplorable dog whistle conduct by right-wing politicians and the press in the UK. Unfortunately, they do not pay the consequences. Here it was a defenceless young woman and mother, killed, it seems, by a deluded and manipulated individual shouting Britain First slogans, which he repeated in court this morning.

    UKOKia, where every hour has a Two-Minute Hate.

    Beam us up, Scotty.

  9. arthur thomson says:

    Your post is spot on Paul.

    And Jack Collatin, your thoughts on a second indyref on the bounce are spot on. Fortunately, the SNP are not daft enough to go down that path.

    I do not share the pessimism about the outcome of the EU Ref that others apparently feel. My short term memory isn’t so bad that I have forgotten the crap that constituted the UK prior to the EU Ref taking over the media. That same crap is what has to be addressed after Thursday. The key difference, I hope, will be that the consensus of the self-satisfied may have been severely undermined and that would be a very good thing.

    I so agree with the following from Paul: ‘This is not a referendum, it’s a howl of impotent rage. This is what happens when the elites ignore the people and take them for granted. The people decide to destroy everything because they have nothing left to lose.’

    My hope is that this referendum will bring about systemic change, i have the good fortune to have a relatively comfortable life but around me I see innumerable people who are struggling and in many cases drowning (some literally). The often stated idea that it is these people who stand to lose most from radical change is just a cynical lie. The alternative to change is just more of the same crap.

    We who are committed to Scottish independence know very well what it feels like to be the butt of constant slanders and the deliberate sabotaging of our aspirations, It so happens that the very people who are most upset about the divisions arising out of the EU Ref are the self-same people who wish to destroy our dream of self-government.

  10. Macart says:

    On outcomes? I’ve always reckoned the SG were aiming for the end of the current parliamentary term. At earliest opportunity? For a whole host of reasons 2020-21. All either Mr Salmond or the First Minister have ever claimed is that the trigger for a referendum would require a constitutional crisis such as a Brexit. This does not mean that they’d hold a referendum the day after (exaggeration, but you get the drift).

    If its a narrow YES, where Scotland’s vote has effectively kept the UK in the EU, the relevant political forces within Westminster and the right wing press will do what we fully expect of them by this stage. The cultural and political gap will widen accordingly.

    If its a no to EU membership, yet the Scottish electorate vote in favour by majority, the SG have their trigger which they can deploy at any time in the next four or five years. At very least they’ll make good use of the period in a post Brexit vote where Westminster drags its ass on negotiations with the EU, the Conservatives swap leadership and backstabbing runs amok amongst the parties of the UK political scene. This could possibly be a period of two to three years. Bags of time for the pro independence parties and the SG to assert themselves as a steady ship in a political storm. Which, of course, they are.

    Either way, they’ll buy themselves the necessary time to build that consensus and put further water between Scottish politics and the madness that is Westminster politics. The timing of the new independence initiative to begin this summer was never an accident. Its tone and direction would always have been dependent on the outcome of this vote IMO.

    Slow, patient, measured and steady. No mistakes, the people themselves will let them know when they’re ready and the SG already know the existing movement are champing at the bit to get busy. Next one we win, not just because we know the outcome before we start, but because we absolutely HAVE to.

    • douglas clark says:


      It frankly depends on the majority of people agreing with us.

      Then we will win a new plebidite or not.

      • Macart says:

        You know the releases as well as any Douglas. The FM won’t move for a referendum unless there is a consistent majority in favour. That’s why time is essential and why even with a possible Brexit and ready to hand constitutional trigger, people need to have patience. Time will be required to build that consensus, for people to come to terms with a very swiftly moving/degrading political landscape.

        Many are anxious to move immediately on such an occurrence. IMO that would be a catastrophically bad idea. When we go, we go to campaign knowing the majority of people not only want a referendum, but want the change. This parliamentary term is shaping up to make this possible. Westminster politics is in freefall, austerity ideology is running unchecked and HMG has broken or fudged every pledge and assurance they made to the Scottish electorate throughout our own referendum campaign.

        Whatever happens next week, our own government needs time and stability to keep building that case.

  11. Albawoman says:

    Patience is Genius!

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