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Is Boris Johnson racist? Is Brexit an English nationalist fixation? Is Ruth Davidson obsessed with independence? These are questions that shouldn’t need to be asked, because their answers are self-evident. However that didn’t stop a minor stooshiette in the Commons today when Ian Blackford began by asking, “Does the prime minister agree with the frontrunner set to succeed her that the Scottish people are a verminous race that should be placed in ghettos and exterminated?” Then he quoted some of Boris Johnson’s racist comments about black people and Muslims and asked Theresa May, “Does the prime minister realise, not only is the member racist, he is stoking division in communities and has a record of dishonesty?”
Theresa May has, naturally, realised no such thing. She’s far too busy not answering any questions for that. This is a woman who has never knowingly given a direct answer to any question that has ever been put to her in her professional life, and then she berated Ian for asking her a question that wasn’t about what the Prime Minister has done because she’d far rather have preferred not to answer that question.
After this exchange, the Speaker demanded that Ian Blackford retract the statement that Boris Johnson is racist, because it’s far more offensive to accuse someone of being racist than it is to be actually racist. We shouldn’t be surprised. This is after all the House of Commons, where Conservative ministers and backbenchers queue up to tell lies, but where the greatest imaginable breach of parliamentary etiquette is to accuse the liars of lying. Stirlingshire Tories exemplify the problem in the Tory party, tweeting about how Ian Blackford had “embarrassed himself”. It’s far more embarrassing that Stirlingshire Tories think it’s more embarrassing to call out racism than it is to have a party leader who’s a racist.
All this is taking place in the shadow of yesterday’s poll which showed that the grassroots Conservative members who will make the final selection are perfectly happy to destroy the UK in pursuit of their Brexit unicorn.
Ruth was interviewed, very briefly, on the telly yesterday about her reaction to the poll from YouGov which showed that a large majority of Conservative party members in the UK would accept getting rid of Scotland if it was the price of securing Brexit. Ruth had her wasp chewin face on, the one that she wears on those rare occasions when she’s asked a difficult question by the press, or the not so rare occasions when she gets slapped down in Holyrood. It’s the face that you wear when you’ve spent all evening chatting someone up in the pub, only to see them waltz out the door with Nigel Farage, leaving you bereft and alone with a stale milkshake.
Ruth wants Brexit to be delivered, but not at the expense of the UK. Just at the expense of Scotland. “I think there’s a number of people in the Conservative party who need to take a long hard look at themselves,” she harrumphed. And for once Ruth said something that everyone in Scotland could agree with, especially if that number is 100%. She was one of those who peddled the myth that Scotland was a financial drain on the UK, she doesn’t get to complain that Conservatives in England believed her.
On Radio 4 today, Ruth was asked if she could go out on the doorsteps and ask voters to make Boris Johnson Prime Minister. To which Ruth replied “Up against Jeremy Corbyn? Yes,” although that came with the unspoken qualification “in Chelmsford”. She doesn’t do doorsteps in Scotland, or constituency surgeries for that matter. In Scotland she’d just be reminded of all the things that she’s said about Boris Johnson in the past, and in Scotland her opponent isn’t going to be Jeremy Corbyn. But now she’s trying to deny that she called Boris Johnson a liar when she accused the Leave campaign that he led of lying repeatedly. Not sure the bumble-bluster, kitten smirk, tangent-bombast routine is cutting through, Ruth.
Scotland doesn’t want Brexit, but that doesn’t matter to Ruth Davidson or the Scottish Conservatives. Not that she has much control over those Conservative MPs who were supposedly elected as her personal representatives in Westminster. Four of them voted for Boris Johnson in the leadership contest, not one of them backed Ruth’s favoured candidate Sajid Javid. Another six of of them, including David Mundell, are backing the Tweedledum to Boris Johnson’s Tweedledee in the leave campaign leadership, Michael Gove. Michael is a man whose sole qualification for becoming Prime Minister is that he thinks it’s the same as a debating club in Oxford University. He’s marginally less hardline on Brexit than Boris Johnson, in that whereas Boris Johnson insists on leaving the EU on 31 October and to hell with the consequences, Michael Gove is willing to slime his way out a week later, and to hell with the consequences. Scotland’s needs and the votes of its people mean nothing.
It wasn’t just Ruth who was narked by the YouGov poll. He who should not be named because like Beetlejuice if you say his name three times he just pops up pouting about the fiscal transfer, was seriously irritated on Twatter. Scotland’s least favourite dogfood salesman and graph enthusiast was not at all happy with the result of the poll. He even managed to blame the SNP for it. It’s apparently a victory for the SNP’s “strategy of making Scotland’s voice in the UK sound like that of false-grievance mongering dicks”. Bless.
Now I may have missed something, but I thought that the SNP’s strategy over the past few decades has been to tell Scotland that independence would not be the financial and economic calamity that certain opponents of independence claim it would be. And for doing so they’ve been vilified, traduced, insulted, and sneered at by opponents of independence. There is nothing more offensive to a British nationalist than the notion that an independent Scotland might be better off managing its own resources and raising its own taxes.
What British nationalists thought was their greatest strength has turned into their greatest weakness. This poll is actually a victory for all those people who have been constantly producing graphs telling Scotland and the world that Scotland is a financial basket case which relies upon the goodwill and largesse of the rest of the UK in order to stop it turning into an even more impoverished form of Greece, only without the nice weather. It’s a victory for those who never question the methodology or politics of the annual GERS figures because they are eager to use those figures as a weapon. It’s a victory for those who think that the supposed financial and economic weakness of Scotland, a land blessed with an embarrassment of wealth, talent, and natural resources, is an argument for the UK instead of an indictment of generations of Westminster’s rapacious financial mismanagement.
When you keep telling people in England that Scotland is a drain on its resources, that Scotland is a leech, that they pay for Scotland’s public services, you can’t really act surprised when some of them turn round and tell you that they’d be happy to get rid of Scotland if Scotland is perceived as standing in the way of a political goal they actively desire. But hey, let’s just blame the SNP for it shall we.
Today we got the results of the third round of voting in the Tory leadership contest. It’s hard to imagine now what Boris Johnson could do that would blow up his campaign. He has cheerfully fostered racism, he has likened gay marriage to three men marrying a dog, he thinks it’s fine to call gay men “bum boys”, he believes that being Scottish ought to rule you out from being Prime Minister. He’s a serial liar. He’s a cheat. He conspired with one of his pals to have a journalist beaten up.
He could be caught in flagrante delicto with a nun and a dead pig, and it would just be laughed off as Boris being Boris. After all, it has already come to light that he’d allowed the publication of a grossly and offensively racist tract calling for members of a particular ethnic group to be herded into ghettos and exterminated, and it is being dismissed as just a bit of banter and it’s the targets of that racist abuse who are in the wrong for being upset about it. So much for “Stay with us Scotland, we love you.” But none of this matters because Boris Johnson is upper class. Is there a quota of racist stuff you can say before you can be called a racist? If there is the quota is certainly much higher if you’re exceedingly posh like Boris Johnson.
It’s looking like a run off between him and Michael Gove or Jeremy Hunt. The result of the third round of voting saw Boris Johnson increase his lead over the other candidates. He got as many votes as the next three candidates combined. With 143 votes, he’s only a few votes short of taking an absolute majority of MPs’ votes. Jeremy Hunt came a distant second with 54, Michael Gove trailed on 51, Sajid Javid struggled into the next round with 38, and Rory Stewart went backwards and ended up with a mere 27, dropping out of the race.
The Conservatives don’t want someone who’ll tell the truth about Brexit. They want to wrap themselves in the red white and blue comfort blanket of the fleg and tell themselves that England is special. They want to contort themselves in lies in the hope that they can see the sun shining out of their own backsides. Meanwhile a no deal Brexit gets more and more likely with every passing day. We’re all screwed. The only comfort is that we’re not as screwed as the Tory party.