Today, Thursday, there was a cabinet meeting that the cabinet office assured Sky News wasn’t a cabinet meeting. There was the usual carcrash of Conservatives pitching up at Number 10. Liam Fox was there, looming like bit player actor auditioning for the part of Lurch in the Addams Family. Andrea Leadsom showed up, grinning from ear to ear, which is either because she’s realised that had she not lost the Tory leadership contest to Theresa May it could have been her neck that was on the line, or possibly because she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. With Andrea it’s more usually the latter. Michael Gove appeared, looking terribly smug and pleased with himself. Although to be honest that’s how he always looks so it didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know.
One who didn’t turn up was David Mundell. Or to give him his full title, the Scotland Secretary Who Has Not Resigned Yet. David Mundell Who’s Not Resigned Yet was not invited, presumably because alternative catering arrangements had been made and they already had a tea boy. No one in the cabinet cares what Scotland thinks, but since David’s role isn’t to represent Scotland in the British government but to represent the British government in Scotland, there’s no point inviting him to cabinet meetings until the British government has decided on something new to say.
David gave a wee speech in London on Thursday during which he assured the assembled press – well, I say assembled. There was someone there from Reporting Scotland – that Theresa May understands Scotland’s opinions because “she was there last week”. I recently spent three hours in Dublin airport, where unlike the Prime Minister’s three hour trip to Scotland, most of which was spent at the airport with a brief excursion to a leather factory in Bridge of Weir where she grimaced at the staff before heading back to London, I actually conversed with people. This clearly makes me an expert on Irish public opinion, and so I am in the perfect position to assure Theresa May that Ireland thinks that she’s as woeful as Scotland does.
This morning Theresa did an interview on Radio 4 which apparently had the aim of persuading the public. It was typical Tory pals together chat you might expect from John Humphries, and Theresa still made a complete and utter hash of it. She banged on about the will of the people, which might have sounded marginally more plausible if it came from a politician who had a reputation for listening. Theresa May has never knowingly listened to anyone in her entire life. Her insistence that her deal is a good deal just comes across like the pub bore who insists that the Moon landing was a hoax.
The only thing that the public could have been persuaded of having listened to this embarrassmess of an interview was that Theresa is scarcely fit to order a curry never mind steer a Brexit deal through the Commons. She was incoherent, stumbling, and babbled the same sound bites repeatedly. It was an interview from another universe, one where her government hadn’t been found in contempt of Parliament, one where the European Court of Justice hadn’t ruled that the UK can unilaterally halt Brexit, one where there are no options other than her deal or no-deal, one where she’s going to get a majority for her deal in the Commons.
Theresa thinks that she’s being strong and resolute, but she doesn’t understand the difference between resolute and a refusal to accept reality. When you’re that delusional you don’t present an image of strength, you present an image that’s ridiculous. In that respect at least, Theresa is the perfect representation of the UK to the rest of the world.
Some on the Tory and Labour benches are pinning their hopes on striking an exit deal that keeps the UK closer to the EU, the so-called Norway option. However now it turns out that the Norway option won’t be very Norwegian after all. Meanwhile Norway has sent a very polite message to the UK in the shape of a letter from Ole Erik Almlid, the CEO of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise. Ole’s letter spells out Norway’s reluctance to see the UK elephant trampling its way into the cosy little EFTA club and suggesting that the UK makes it own arrangements. What it boils down to is, we don’t want you because we don’t trust you. We’ve got a nice wee gig going on here where we’re all terribly Nordic and consensual and none of us thinks we’re special. Please go away and deal with your gammon flavoured national nervous breakdown elsewhere. Tusen tak, Norge.
The Scottish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly against a no-deal Brexit, and against Theresa’s May deal. For all the heed that the Conservatives will pay to Holyrood. It means absolutely nothing to Westminster. Brexit has killed the twin lies that Scotland is a valued member of a union, and that Scotland’s voice can be heard within the UK. The UK offers Scotland no protection at all from English nationalism.
The Scottish Conservatives used the occasion to claim that if the UK falls out of the EU with no deal, it will be the fault of the SNP, the fault of Labour, and the fault of the Lib Dems. So it most definitely won’t be the fault of the party of the UK government which held the EU referendum in the first place in order to tackle its own internal divisions, and which has spent the two and a half years since arguing with itself. It won’t be the fault of the architects of Brexit. It won’t be the fault of the exceptionalism of British nationalism. It won’t be the fault of the party which has refused to listen to Scotland, or to take on board any of the concerns of those who voted to remain. It will be everyone else’s fault. Mostly it will be the fault of the SNP. The only thing at which British nationalists are exceptional is audacity and sheer brass neck. After Brexit they’re going to have to make the brass neck the new currency, because the arse will fall out of the pound.
Today, Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem MP, tweeted that she was sick and tired of the SNP using Brexit as a tool to achieve independence. Which if nothing else proves that Theresa May isn’t the only delusional British politician. Christine wants Scotland to stay in the UK and in the EU. Which is nice. I want to win the Euromillions and buy a private island Christine, and that’s as likely to happen as the UK Federalism Fairy waving its magic wand. Just how crap do you think Scotland must be if you still believe that we’re Better Together with this mob of incompetents and that Scotland couldn’t do better as an independent country.
The past two years have taught us a few lessons. One of which is that opposing Scottish independence doesn’t give you a free pass from nationalism. Another is that you can have the EU, or you can have the UK, or you can have neither, but you can’t have both. And a third is that if Scotland wants its voice to be heard, it needs to learn from Ireland and Norway and have an independent government standing up for its interests, because the British government sure as hell won’t. All that we’re offered is Theresa’s fart of a deal.
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