In his speech to a fringe event at the Conservative party conference in Manchester this weekend, Scottish Conservative harrumphist in chief Douglas Ross vowed that his aim is to “end nationalism for good”. He was speaking to a fringe event because the Scottish Conservatives have been on the fringe of Scottish politics since 1955. Given Douglas Ross’s epic detachment from the political realities of modern Scotland, and indeed it seems from reality in general, that’s where they are going to remain for the foreseeable future.
It takes a truly gob smacking lack of self-awareness to address a conference of the party which has inflicted Brexit and its British nationalist exceptionalism upon the whole of the UK and declare that you’re going to put an end to nationalism for good. Well quite, Douglas, how about starting with your own party?
Douglas also accused Nicola Sturgeon of being detached from working class communities. That would be the Douglas Ross who voted to strip the poorest families in the country of the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit at a time when food prices are rising and energy costs are soaring. He also voted for a hike in National Insurance , a tax increase which will disproportionately be borne by the low paid. There’s that lack of self awareness again. The First Minister has public approval polling which Douglas Ross can only dream of, Douglas accuses her of being detached from working class communities.
The Scottish Conservatives are not just detached from working class communities, they’re also detached from reality. To be fair, there are some working class people that the Scottish Conservatives are not detached from, those would be the ones that go on Orange parades and sing hate songs about their fellow Scots with an Irish Catholic heritage. They are not representative of working class communities in Scotland.
The Conservatives are defined by their nationalism, they owe their recent electoral success entirely to their full throated espousal of an aggressive, exceptionalist and triumphalist English nationalism which they have dressed up in union jackery and rebranded as Great Global British, because their victories in English elections sure as hell aren’t down to their competence, honesty and moral probity.
Unlike the civic nationalism which characterises mainstream support for Scottish independence, which is welcoming of migrants and which strives for inclusivity, the nationalism of the British Conservatives is a particularly nasty and xenophobic nationalism which demonises migrants and rests upon the unshakeable but deeply deluded conviction that being British represents an elevation to a more superior state of being. However we are supposed to believe that the Conservatives’ constant and dubious claims that the UK is “world beating”, their fantasies that the rest of the world is falling over itself to offer the UK highly favourable trade deals ,and their full blown flag fetish and glorification of the royal family, the Empire, and the armed services isn’t actually nationalist at all. Not only do the Conservatives think that their Anglo-British nationalism isn’t nationalist, but they are also firmly of the view that everyone else must celebrate it too, and if we will not celebrate it willingly, then we are to be compelled to.
Douglas is here displaying a level of cognitive dissonance which means that he shouldn’t be appearing at the Tory party conference, he really ought to be going on Dr Phil where people who care about him, and I am assuming that such exist, can stage an intervention. In order to maintain his delusion that the Conservatives are not nationalist he is psychologically projecting all the nationalist sins of his own party onto his political opponents . When Douglas and his allies accuse supporters of independence of being anti-English it’s really to deflect from the anti-European prejudice that is the motor for Brexit. His own party is driven by bigotry, snobbery and contempt and can only conceptualise politics in those same fearful and fear mongering terms. . What Douglas Ross and the Conservatives stand for is not so much a political philosophy as it is a political pathology.
The first step to healing is to admit that you have got a problem. Douglas and his Tory chums don’t think that they have got a problem. It’s everyone else that has a problem. And this would be true, we have a problem with Douglas Ross and a Conservative party which seems to believe that as long as they wrap their nasty, xenophobic British triumphalist nationalism in a Union flag then it magically ceases to be nationalist. In a similar way Douglas believes that when he puts on a blue Conservative rosette he magically ceases to be a hypocrite.
Douglas also claimed that his party is going to target SNP voters, and that the next political wall to fall to the Tories after the red wall of Labour seats in the north of England would be the “yellow wall” of SNP seats in Scotland. The delusion is strong in this one. The Scottish Conservative detachment from reality is risible.
Douglas of course offers no plausible political strategy for how all these independence leaning voters are to be enticed to vote for a British triumphalist party which not only has set its face against independence but has also embarked upon the unilateral destruction of the devolution settlement and which appears determined to subvert the outcome of any Scottish election which is not to its liking. In the same speech Douglas Ross claimed he had no problem with the British Government by-passing the Scottish Government on devolved issues.
“Vote for us we hold Scottish democracy in contempt and intend to ignore you” is not exactly an appealing election slogan but it’s an entirely accurate one where the Conservatives are concerned. But Douglas has gone so far up the colon of British nationalist exceptionalism that he appears to believe that he can persuade Scotland to vote Conservative by doubling down on the contempt that his party has for Scottish democracy. That might play well with the British nationalist zoomers on social media who want to abolish the Scottish Parliament but it’s not a vote winning strategy. The Union is in its death throes and it’s the Conservatives who have killed it.
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