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Jeremy Hunt has a big idea to save the Union. He’s the man with the plan. It’s just a pity then that his plan is as unconvincing as his man of the people schtick when he sat beside Peterheid harbour with a fish supper and a can of Bru. And now because I’ve sat down to write this blog, I’m going to have to tell you what the plan is, which involves finding a new metaphor to describe the exercise in utter futility which is British politics. There are only so many bin fires you can liken it to.
Actually, that’s unfair to bin fires. A bin fire is self-contained. It eventually burns itself out. Brexit casts its noxious fumes everywhere, contaminating everything, destroying everything. It will go on and on and on, even after the UK leaves the EU. Brexit is the shape of British politics for decades to come. Nasty, xenophobic, driven by populists. There is no stopping it, only escape from its pollution. But Jeremy wants to make sure that Scotland can’t escape.
The great idea to reconcile Scotland to Brexit is to spread the blame. Jeremy is going to invite representatives from the European Research Group, the DUP, and the Scottish and Welsh Tories, to participate in the new Brexit negotiations that the EU has already said aren’t going to happen. Then when it all goes arse over elbow, Jeremy doesn’t have to take the blame for it all by himself.
One of the most important reasons why the UK is in such a mess with Brexit is because for the past three years the Conservative party has only been talking to and negotiating with itself. Jeremy Hunt is proposing that the way out of the Brexit debacle is to formalise that navel gazing. All that’s on offer here is more Tories talking to themselves about Brexit, cutting out the 48% of the UK who voted to remain and everyone else who isn’t a Tory or one of their allies. Somehow, Jeremy Hunt thinks that this is the way to heal the divisions in the UK. It’s a bit like saying that you want an ecumenical approach to solving religious differences, and then announcing that you’re only going to speak to those who have the exact same religion as yourself because the rest are all heretics who are damned to hell. Heathens! It’s the DUP approach to healing the religious divide, come to think of it.
Over at the Guardian, uber-unionist Martin Kettle thinks this means that Jeremy Hunt gets the union. Let’s walk through that slowly shall we. One of the Guardian’s senior columnists thinks that because Jeremy Hunt wants to involve Scottish and Welsh Tories and the DUP in his Brexit plans, that means that he understands the sensitivities and concerns of people in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Jeremy doesn’t want to involve the Scottish or Welsh Parliaments, or cross party cross-community groups from Northern Ireland. He has no intention of reaching out to the large remain majority in Scotland, or the remain majority in Northern Ireland. His invitation begins and ends at the Tories and their marching allies, and this means he “gets” the Union.
The Scottish Conservatives are a minority party in Scotland, representing a minority view. Not even everyone who supports Brexit in Scotland backs the Tories, as evidenced by the haemorrhaging of the Tory vote to the Nigel Farage Fan Club Ltd. during the recent European elections. Opinion polls point to the Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson for More Ruth Davidson party suffering heavy losses in the next Westminster elections, and Ruth herself will struggle to hold on to her Holyrood seat in the very remain leaning city of Edinburgh in the next Scottish elections.
Although it must be said that if she did lose her seat, it wouldn’t make a great deal of difference to the Scottish Tories, because none of them listen to her anyway. She has as much influence over Scottish Tory MPs as Uncle Ben does on the marketing of the rice that he’s the brand for. Ruth is equally tokenish. She’s just the smiling face on a packet of reactionaries.
Hunt’s proposal isn’t a sign of Scotland being valued by a Westminster politician. Quite the reverse. This is a coup by the Tories. The people that Scotland did give an electoral mandate to are being ignored. The people that a majority of Scotland gave their votes to, the SNP, the Greens, Labour, and the Lib Dems, are all being sidelined and marginalised. The only people that Westminster will countenance having any say over the shape and form of Brexit and how it affects Scotland belong to a party that Scotland has rejected. That’s not respect for Scotland. That’s making a travesty of Scottish democracy. It’s a massive two fingers to Scotland from the Tories.
Scotland’s voters have made it clear, repeatedly, that they reject the Conservatives’ vision of Brexit. Yet we’re being told that having a Tory version of Brexit rammed down our unwilling throats somehow constitutes respect for Scotland. If that’s respect, God knows what contempt looks like.
I look forward to the Labour party and the Lib Dems pointing that out. But the Lib Dems are too busy tying themselves in knots trying to explain why they want another EU referendum but not another Scottish one. They have their own deep difficulties with the concept of what counts as democracy in Scotland. Meanwhile Labour is immersed in its private grief and the self-proclaimed party of devolution is nowhere to be seen as devolution faces its greatest threat since it was introduced.
If Jeremy Hunt really wanted to stop people getting his surname wrong and calling him by a term of abuse, he’s going about it the wrong way. But of course, all this is academic for two reasons. Firstly because Jeremy Hunt isn’t going to win the Conservative leadership contest, and secondly because the EU isn’t going to reopen Brexit negotiations for Jeremy Hunt or anyone else. The Tories have lost themselves in fantasy politics, where the UK is still a global power, where the Conservatives can rule unchallenged, where the EU will cave in to British grit, where Scotland is supine and submissive and does what it’s told. Well in the words of the Scottish anthem, those days are gone now, and in the past they must remain.
Scotland is a part of a British state whose rulers have become totally unmoored from reality, from common sense, and from any form of politics based upon facts or evidence. If Scotland wants to remain tethered to reality, it can only do so with independence. All that is left for us in the UK is a centralising Westminster in pursuit of Brexit unicorns. The choice is stark. Scotland can either speak up for itself, or Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt will put their Tory words in its mouth.