We’re living in strange days. This is widely described as the greatest political crisis in the UK since WW2, and it’s entirely self-inflicted. Things in Ukania have got so bad that Scottish newspaper editorials have, on occasion, been forced to get through 1000 words without finding the time to slag off the SNP. The Conservative party is on the verge of meltdown. Labour is riven with internal disputes, factions, and threats of division. The civil wars within both parties are so intense and bitter that even the Herald has had to become distracted from its usual insistence that it’s only the SNP which is falling apart.
The government’s central policy lies in tatters. Theresa May has been reduced to making a humiliating tour of EU capitals to beg for concessions while her party is in open rebellion in the Commons. It is still possible that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal on Friday, our fate is entirely with the patience and forebearance of the other 27 members. So much for taking back control. So much for sunny uplands. So much for the easiest deal in history. So much for possessing all the cards.
However it is more likely that the EU will give the UK a much longer extension to Article 50 than Theresa May wants. The UK will have to take part in the European elections which she has sought so hard to avoid, and it is likely that the UK will have to submit to a series of humiliating tests and suffer restrictions on its rights as an EU government because the other EU states have lost all trust in the goodwill and good intentions of the British. The rest of the EU wants to ensure that Brextremist wreckers can’t block the EU budget or other EU measures that the 27 decide to adopt for themselves. We have become the ASBO state of Europe, with an electronic tag on our ankle to ensure our good behaviour.
All this is entirely the fault of the Conservative party, which has consistently put its own short term party interests before all other considerations. This disaster is many orders of magnitude greater than any SNPbad story to grace the pages of the Scottish press, and it’s a Great British Mess, made by and 100% the property of the British political establishment. This is not the UK that Scotland was sold in 2014. It’s not a union. It’s not united. It’s not safe, stable, and secure. It’s declared that it doesn’t want to be European. It has trashed its international reputation. The UK is a joke without a punchline, it exists purely as a cautionary tale to fledgling democracies. Even banana republics have bananas and nice weather. The UK can’t even manage that much.
But never mind about any of that. The federalism fairy is flapping again! And this time she comes waving the red flag. This is because the latest set of fanciful federalism proposals which will never see the light of day are being developed by Baroness Bryan of Partick, who is apparently a Marxist peer. A Marxist peer is a real thing in the UK, like a vegan butcher, a minimalist hoarder, or an atheist pope, and all by itself the existence of such a concept in this universe tells you just how dysfunctional the British state has become. The proposals, from the left wing Corbynista group Red Paper, got a glowing write up in that bastion of the British establishment, The Times newspaper. So they must be really worried about the impending reality of Scottish independence.
These days it’s hard to read any new proposals for a federal UK without either laughing, crying, or thinking it’s a typo for feral. I am quite sure that their advocates sincerely believe in their shiny new plans for a better Britain, but that is no guide to the likelihood of them ever seeing the light of day. You’d be as well proposing that we could solve poverty by making sure that everyone in the UK wins the lottery. It’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to happen.
The truth is, at it always was and shall always remain, that proposals for a federal UK appear and are consumed despite possessing zero calorific content. Then they pass through the body politic as quickly as a dose of prune juice and with similar intent. Effectively, the sole purpose of proposals for federalism is to crap on the Scottish independence movement.
In the real world, there is zero prospect of a federal UK ever coming into being, for the simple reason that there is no demand for it in England and no motivation there to solve a problem which isn’t England’s. There’s less chance of a federal UK than there is of Theresa May saying, “You know, quite a lot of things have changed really,” and admitting that the Brexmess is largely the fault of her own intransigence. It’s just a bauble to distract us from the truth that Scottish independence is the only realistic escape route from the constitutional collapse of the British state. It’s a bauble which is tattered, battered, and has long since lost any shine it may once have possessed.
Those who believe that there’s a federal fairy at the bottom of the British constitutional garden are correct in their understanding that British politics and the British constitution are fundamentally unfit for purpose. Brexit has illustrated that. We’re in this mess because British politics grants all power to the victor, no matter how narrow the victory, no matter how many are disengaged from the entire process.
The tragedy for those who believe in the federalism fairy is that the UK is incapable of reform. No matter how hard they wish, no matter how strongly they believe, the bottom of the garden of British politics is going to remain federalism free. Not even the existential crisis of the independence referendum, so hard fought, so narrowly won, made the British state change its ways. Once this Brexit crisis is resolved, one way or another, Britain’s political parties and political establishment will go back to business as usual. For Scotland, and for anyone in the UK with a modicum of sense and maturity, all that stretches before us is decades of aching embarrassment, humiliation, and ignominy.
These latest proposals from allies of Jeremy Corbyn combine the federalism fairy with the equally fantastical belief in the British Parliamentary road to socialism. Labour has had over 100 years, and despite decades of majority Labour governments during that time, it still hasn’t managed to abolish the House of Lords. Instead it’s given us Marxist peers. Electorally speaking, the British Parliamentary road to socialism and the federalism fairy are just two delusions in search of the deluded.
Back in the real world, if Scotland expects reform, we have to do it for ourselves. No one else is going to do it for us.
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