A question of character

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An opinion poll published today has found that a majority of Scotland’s voters would back independence should Boris Johnson become Prime Minister. 53% would prefer independence to seeing Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street. However even without that scenario, 49% support independence, a figure which is within the normal margin of error of opinion polls, and which therefore means it’s too close to call.

Even before an official independence referendum campaign has kicked off, half of Scotland or more want independence. That’s an incredibly strong position for us to be starting from, one which explains the panic in the ranks of the Scottish Conservatives and their desperate attempts to forestall another referendum. It’s why Jeremy Hunt is in Peterhead today, telling Sky News that he will not allow another referendum. People in Scotland don’t want another referendum, he averred, hoping that if he said it often enough it might become true.

I have tried this myself, every week on a Friday before the Euromillions results are announced, I tell myself in a confident voice that I’m a multimillionaire. It hasn’t worked, and Jeremy’s pronouncements won’t work either. The difference however is that my pronouncements about my impending Euromillions win has no effect on the outcome. The numbered balls don’t hear me saying it and say, “The cheek of him. We’re going to make sure that his numbers don’t come up.” On the other hand the pronouncements of Tory politicians that they’re not going to allow another referendum merely antagonise the large majority of Scotland’s voters who are not Conservatives and make it more likely that a referendum comes about. And that when it does they’ll vote Yes.

Jeremy said on Sky News that if he becomes Prime Minister he’ll hold Nicola Sturgeon to account. But he won’t become Prime Minister, because what he’s not willing to do in this leadership contest is to hold Boris Johnson to account. This weekend his rival is facing calls to explain why the police were called out to the flat he shares with his partner after neighbours heard a loud row between the two of them accompanied by the sound of smahing, yelling, and his girlfriend screaming at him to get off her and to get out of the flat. Neighbours also report that Boris Johnson’s car is frequently parked illegally and accumulates parking tickets.

This latest incident comes of top of all the well known and well documented issues about Johnson’s personality, his lies, his gratuitously offensive statements, and his overweening sense of entitlement. It comes after a series of worrying reports about Johnson’s character from people who know him well. From his former boss at the Telegraph Max Hastings, who described him as a “gold medal egomaniac … He is also a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier, figure than the public appreciates.” From the Tory grandee Michael Heseltine who said that Johnson is “a man who waits to see the way the crowd is running then dashes in front and says, ‘Follow me’.” From Martin Hammond, his housemaster at Eton, who wrote in Johnson’s school report in 1982, “I think he honestly believes it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”

Boris Johnson’s moral character is very much the issue here, the questions raised about him go to the very heart of whether he is a suitable person to become Prime Minister. People can change their minds about things. They can change their opinions. They can’t change their personality. But Jeremy Hunt doesn’t want to go there, and that leads inexorably to questions about Jeremy Hunt’s character. What sort of person is Jeremy Hunt really, underneath his carefully constructed front of quiet reasonableness? When you scratch the surface you find a chancer, an opportunist, a man for whom principles are disposable if ditching them can advance his own interests. His flipping on Brexit from remain to being willing to countenance a no-deal crash out of the EU is the least of his character flaws.

Jeremy has his eye on a cabinet position in a Johnson government, so he only punches down, not up. He’d rather pitch himself to Tory voters in England as someone who will put those uppity Scots in their place, because that’s easy. That doesn’t threaten his future career prospects within the Conservative party. Jeremy Hunt won’t speak truth unto power, he won’t challenge Boris Johnson on the question of Johnson’s fitness for high office, but he wants everyone to believe that he’s the guy to take on the EU. If he really did possess a magic plan to get the EU to renegotiate, to ensure that the Brextremists get everything that they want with no damage to the UK economy, you’d think that he’d have mentioned it at some point during the previous three years when he was a senior minister in government. But he didn’t, because he was more concerned to embed himself in Theresa May’s goverment than to challenge her. He didn’t because the plan that he claims to have now is just another unicorn chasing fantasy.

That’s why his campaign will fail, no matter what personal issues Boris Johnson gets mired in, because Jeremy Hunt has personal failings of his own. They may be less spectacular, but they are no less debilitating. They’re just obscured by the blinding light of Boris Johnson’s character flaws, but in the unlikely event that Hunt did win, then his own failures and inadequacies will become the focus of attention. Scotland will quickly discover that the man who trashed England’s NHS will just as willingly trash Scotland’s devolution settlement.

Those No voters in Scotland who say they’d switch to Yes should Johnson become Prime Minister will pretty soon switch to Yes anyway. Jeremy Hunt won’t save the Union. Boris Johnson would wreck the UK in a heartbeat in order to further his own interests. Jeremy Hunt would too, it will just take him a little longer. The end result will be the same. There are no depths of moral squalor, cowardice, and hypocrisy which are beyond the reach of a Conservative MP on the career path. No one who has observed Jeremy Hunt’s career over the past few years can be in any doubt that moral cowardice is his default position.

What sort of union is this really? Brexit, and now this woeful Tory leadership contest, where candidates vie with one another to lecture Scotland and tell us what we will not be ‘allowed’ to do merely shows us that this is not a real union at all. Scottish Unionism is founded upon a lie, the lie of partnership, the lie of participation, the lie of the equality of the nations of the UK. Both the candidates for Tory leadership propose to undermine the devolution settlement even further with a “department for the union” which will impose UK government priorities on spending on what are supposed to be devolved areas. So much for the vow never to make any changes to the devolution settlement without the express consent of the Scottish Parliament.

And while all this is going on, the Labour party is nowhere to be seen. The lies of British nationalism stand exposed. Independence is a question of character, and not just the characters of the two posh boy chancers who seek to become the next Prime Minister and to destroy the devolution settlement. It’s a question of the character of the UK.

19 comments on “A question of character

  1. I’m hoping that the SNP leadership is ready to act, and act fast, if either of those two nauseating characters does anything to pose such a threat to our democracy, freedom and institutions that it becomes an existential question – including, at least, attempt to ensure that legislation that runs counter to the devolution settlement is denounced immediately and the Westminster regime taken to (preferably Scottish) court.

    We must all keep an eye out for further abuses of human rights by the regime, by the Home Office and DWP in particular. We have not been active and forward enough in challenging those using the courts, up to the international level. There are ways to combat even “reserved” matters – someone, not necessarily the Scottish Government, could drag the regime through the UK and the international courts, and there are ways to get civil society groups onto the register of organizations approved by the UN to advise and report to the Economic and Social Council, for example – and, of course, the various UN human rights bodies.

    Westminster isn’t doing it, it has no interest in doing it, it resists the UN (which it played a large part in setting up) because its policies are so extreme right. It’s a forum to which we presently do not have access. We must remedy that – unofficially, through back channels, every way we can think of.

    We need as many friends and allies internationally as we can get. Boris Johnson is not in the least interested in the normal rules of conduct that bind normal people into a society. Jeremy Hunt is not much more than his mini-me. Neither can be expected, in the spirit of gung-ho English exceptionalism, to pay the slightest heed to the international treaties and conventions that the UK signed up to to try to ensure that people are treated with a modicum of decency.

    On a more hopeful not, it would, I am sure, give many of us grim pleasure to see the Tory Party under Johnson decide it doesn’t want the potential hassle – which our representative really should big up to the extent possible – and cast Scotland loose in its effort to achieve the bloodiest Brexit possible, and the easiest subjugation possible of opposition in the rUK, without us awkward Jockanese queering their pitch.

    The great thing about it – if England declares itself independent of the rUK, in effect, no doubt without asking the Welsh how they feel about it – is that the Usual Suspects among the Yoonatics in Scotland – SiU, manky T-shirt man, la Davidson, Murdo, the Ludgers – would have the rug whipped right out from under them.

    It’s not such a far-fetched idea, you know, especially under Johnson. BoJo doesn’t care about Theresa May’s precious, precious Union. Davidson sidelined him at the Tory Party Conference in Aberdeen for good reason – and it seems that a majority of the Tory Party membership would be happy to dump Scotland too.

    BoJo – bone-idle egoist and narcissist that he is – could find it far more palatable to cast Scotland adrift than have Scotland vote for independence and embroil his regime in difficult, tiresome and boring negotiations, and – most important – for him to become known as the Prime Minister who lost Scotland. In other words, he could prefer to “allow” us to have our country back rather than have us take it from him, because the Tory Party (outside Westminster, at least) wouldn’t mind, but would be wounded in the amour propre if we took it for ourselves, because that would be anti-English racism, now wouldn’t it?

    The economics of it? Boris doesn’t care about economics, he cares about himself, and he’s going to be alright whatever happens. And he’s said “bugger business”, or words to that effect, when challenged about the effects of Brexit on UK businesses. He doesn’t care. That’s his weakness, and our strength. Boris will light out the moment the going gets tough – but we’re in it for the long haul.

    • Marion Richardson says:

      Totally agree.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      We attach too much credence to the individual rather than their representation of various parties supporting to common benefit. May was under no less direction than the next sainted or condemned incumbent will be, although I confess St Boris would be a nightmare for control, which is why I believe the safer Mr *unt will somehow prevail.
      In Scotland, Labour and Conservatives are reeling behind their masques of strength, even the preening Mundell knows hos days are numbered, when like the rest of us remains a mystery.
      I agree Scots need to be more decisive and forceful but I get the strangest feeling the starting gun is loaded before the Westminster Shit Show gets rolling….

  2. Illy says:

    Sorry to go off topic so soon, but you should really update the link to Munguin’s Republic in the sidebar.

  3. Terry callachan says:

    Is it possible neither candidate gets enough votes to be PM ?
    What then
    Does T May continue as PM until a general election

  4. stewartb says:

    Another fine contribution from Paul. However IMHO, the most significant part of his post is this: “An opinion poll published today has found that a majority of Scotland’s voters would back independence should Boris Johnson become Prime Minister. 53% would prefer independence to seeing Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street. However even without that scenario, 49% support independence, a figure which is within the normal margin of error of opinion polls, and which therefore means it’s too close to call.”

    OK so the majority view on indy is too close to call. But this is despite all that’s going on politically within the Union. It is despite the fact that: (i) Scotland has not given the governing Tories a majority of votes since the 1950s; (ii) a majority of Scots vote for EU membership which is now about to be lost; and (iii) Scots have voted in an SNP (independence supporting) government in Holyrood for c. 10 years. But we still can’t get opinion polling for indy above 53%, or 49%: are the pools wrong or is attachment to the Union just remarkable strong … despite everything? What is it about c.50% of the Scottish electorate that is still, apparently, resistant to indy? We need a game-changer: what might it be?

    • BoJo might be it: with him as PM, the polls are 53% right now – and he hasn’t even started yet. He will d*amn near certainly do and say things that will really, really get people’s backs up – even if he doesn’t apply Alexander’s Gordian knot solution to the Scottish Question by booting us out of Englandland.Which, I swear, is not inconceivable – because he doesn’t listen to anyone, he doesn’t care what consequences are for others, and he’s and idle sod – so cutting Scotland loose would be the same kind of dramatic solution, to his mind, as a no-deal Brexit is for the (r)UK.

    • Remember we started on less than 30% in the first insured and victory was snatched from us in a variety of underhand ways – the Vow & purdah anyone ?? The lying toerags of MSM anyone else ?

      But beyond that, of the 50% who supposedly remain resistant, there will be around 30% of whom will never, ever, EVER be persuaded – we waste our time on them trying, so stop trying. It’s the 20% who could be persuaded we need to bring over to the happy side and once the date is set, we will. We can campaign now, yes, and we should be campaigning now, all the time, but for some folk the real #indyref2 won’t start until the First Minister lady sings and then…….we will win them over.

      We will win.

  5. bringiton says:

    Where the US of A goes,England/UK follows.
    If Trump is good enough for the USA,then BoJo is good enough for England.
    Right wing nutters dressed up as popular leaders who will deliver the impossible,or so many people in England appear to think.
    It’s what happens when it becomes clear that either the impossible actually cannot be delivered or that the consequences make life impossible.
    Meantime the ideological right will take the opportunity to further their neoliberal agenda.

  6. elizabeth.boies.leighton says:

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

  7. Dave tewart says:

    Latest this morning from hunt, ‘The UK will consider supporting trump in attacking Iran’
    Why not just ask the israeli air force to attack the nuclear facility, World War Three to start.
    This could be very soon.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      The US and UK have previous on this but bear in mind these two reprobates are appealing to the Members so it is probably even less true than it normally would be. Once a Hunt..

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