Yesterday I wrote a blog article in which I compared David Mundell, the Scotland Secretary, to a union fleg branded supermarket bag, flapping uselessly in the branches of a tree. I would like to say now that this remark was unwarranted and utterly uncalled for. Plastic bags do have a useful purpose.
It is being reported today that the Fluffy one disassociated himself from a group of rebel cabinet ministers who had threatened to resign if Theresa May does not take a no deal Brexit off the table. The reason he did so wasn’t because he thinks a no deal Brexit wouldn’t damage Scotland that much after all, it’s because he didn’t want to give the SNP an “easy win”. So there you have it. It’s far more important to the Scotland Secretary that he avoids doing anything that might assist the SNP than it is to stand up for Scottish interests.
It is universally agreed by everyone in Scottish politics who isn’t Ross Thomson that a no deal Brexit would be a disaster for the Scottish economy. It threatens to double unemployment and Scotland will be mopping up the consequences for years to come. You might think then that avoiding such a calamity would be the top priority for every Scottish politician who has the slightest degree of intellectual or emotional maturity. So again, not Ross Thomson then. But sadly, you’d be ignoring the kneejerk tribalism of David Mundell, who like his boss puts the interests of the Conservative party above the interests of the country he purports to represent.
David is not going to threaten resignation, because for weeks now the SNP, and independence supporters in general, have taken to referring to him as David Mundell who hasn’t resigned yet. That’s because both he and Ruth Davidson threatened to resign if Northern Ireland was to be treated differently in any Brexit deal from the rest of the UK. That’s what Theresa May’s deal is proposing, yet neither David nor Ruth has resigned.
So if David did indeed threaten to resign now in order to press the Prime Minister to take a disastrous no deal Brexit off the table, and then he actually followed through, he’d give the SNP that easy win the avoidance of which is his overriding political imperative. Because then the SNP would have the satisfaction of seeing him resign. There is some sort of a logic there. It’s the logic you’ll find amongst five year olds on the school playground. The truth is that the SNP would rather see him remain in office, because he’s totally useless at his job and is a walking advert for Scottish independence. The only person who thinks that David Mundell is effective at his job is David Mundell.
Heaven forfend that the Scotland Secretary might think that the best way to stand up against the SNP was by demonstrating that there is a strong and confident voice for Scotland within the UK. After all, if there was a way in which Scotland’s needs and concerns could be aired and responded to at the highest levels of the British government, if the British government could be seen to be forced into taking Scotland’s needs into account, then there wouldn’t be so much support for the SNP. If David Mundell had set out after the 2014 to ensure that all the promises and commitments made by the Better Together campaign of which he was a part had actually been honoured, then the SNP would be a whole lot weaker than it currently is. Because what really drives the Scottish independence movement is the unwillingness or inability of British politicians to hold Westminster to account for the promises it makes to the people of Scotland.
However the actions of David Mundell and his Scottish Conservative, and Labour and Lib Dem, colleagues in Better Together demonstrate that the most important consideration for British nationalist politicians is to keep Scotland within the UK. If that means damaging Scotland or harming Scotland’s interests, that’s something that they can live with. If that means ensuring that Scotland is silenced, that’s a price they are willing to pay. Fundamentally, the role of David Mundell is not to speak for Scotland in the British government, it’s to speak for the British government in Scotland. It’s important that we call him out for that.
It’s being reported in the British press that Mundell didn’t want to resign because he says that there’s a group of 35 SNP MPs who are actively working for no deal. Clearly, he’s not been paying attention. The SNP – and to be fair the Lib Dems and the Greens – have consistently opposed Brexit from the outset. The Scottish Government has produced a detailed plan which sought to minimise the ill effects of Brexit on the Scottish economy. It is simply incorrect to say that the SNP want a no deal Brexit. The SNP, like most people in Scotland, doesn’t want Brexit at all. There is no such thing as a good Brexit for Scotland, or for any other part of the UK. The arguments for an independent Scotland are easiest to make within the context of a UK which remains a part of the EU, or a UK which has a good deal with the EU. Despite the constant claims to the contrary from anti-independence politicians and the media, the SNP doesn’t hate English people, and it certainly doesn’t wish a no deal Brexit on the rest of the UK out of any animus towards the English.
But David is now saying that he’s not going to stand up to a Prime Minister who risking a no deal Brexit, because he doesn’t want to help an SNP which he claims is working for a no deal Brexit. Even by the standards of the five year olds who inhabit the yah boo sucks Scottish Conservative playground, that makes no sense at all. There’s British statesmanship for you. There’s punching above our weight. That’s exactly the kind of political immaturity and self-defeatism which has led to the UK losing what remains of its international standing and being reduced to a laughing stock, not just within the EU, but around the world.
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