A Black day awaits the British constitution and a very puzzling one for those whose misfortune it is to have to foretell the future in the entrails of a general election. The bellwether (and if one’s going to mix one’s metaphors, one really should start early) for the forthcoming calamity is 20-year old Mhairi Black who looks like defeating the Labour bigwig Douglas Alexander.
This will be the icing on an SNP landslide, tolling the death-knell for the British Labour Party north of the border, at which point, no amount of metaphors, plain or mixed, shaken or stirred, with no olive or just plain dirty, will convey the confusion that must follow. For the virtual extinction of all pro-union parties can only be seen as an irresistible mandate for Scottish independence. So where does everyone go from here? I mean everyone: the UK, the EU, the US, the UN, even God help us, U2.
(It’s often a sign of secessionism being in the air when people start doing funny things with their names. Presumably Mhairi was once Mary. Ewan MacColl was once Henry Miller. Eamon de Valera, the legendary Irish politician, began life as Eddie Coll).
Unions between peoples require a certain mystical component, a magic that will generate peculiar and indefinable bonds. These are the habits, affections and customs that make for a pleasant marriage. To create a ledger of who does what, and who does not, as Scotland has been doing, usually ungenerously and inaccurately, is certain to destroy the unifying magic. And after a couple of decades of grudge-filled accounting, one thing is obvious. The CDs and the books are already being eyed with a view to a Caledonian acquisition once the home is formally divided.
One already hears from across the Tweed the carping tone of an unsatisfied wife who suspects, but cannot prove, that her husband has been scoring sixes on an away wicket, and possibly not wearing pads. For her, the union is beyond repair, and the missing CDs he was looking for are already secretly with her mother, who never liked him anyway.
Curiously, the self-obsessed London media, who generally believe if something doesn’t happen within a bus-ride from Broadcasting House (yes: they know what buses are: they’ve seen them on the telly) don’t seem to have grasped the cosmic importance of this election. That’s what comes of living in Europe’s only megalopolis: eg, try asking a Manhattanite about affairs in Kansas. That’s why London is still talking about a vote-by-vote post-electoral deal between Miliband and Scots-Nats, by which more English taxpayers’ money would be funnelled north to make good the black hole in Scotland’s welfare bill.
Black holes are black holes. They cannot be filled. So it’s time for England to wake up and check the credit card bills. It’s over. Last year’s no-vote in the Scottish referendum, and the promise that it was a once-in-a-lifetime plebiscite, is already a footnote in some future history of how Nicola Sturgeon led Scotland to independence. Who can stop the Sturgeon juggernaut? Not Cameron, not Clegg (which in Scotland is a horsefly) and certainly not Ed Miliband. When North Korean scientists did a knock-off version of Wallace and Gromit, Miliband was the result.
If you saw him approaching, his head, mouth, feet and arms moving like something on a Pyongyang wind-up doll, you’d hurry your children across the street, cuffing them busily and hissing, “Stop staring!” He clearly has no boundaries, as dolls tend not to have. That explains his astoundingly cynical grab for the Muslim vote by promising criminalise ‘Islamophobia’, whatever that is. Dear me: a Jew after the Muslim vote. The spirit of an adventurer, yes? No, of an automaton.
Maybe the combination of the ethnic minority vote, plus the traditional Labour vote and day-by-day deal-doing with the Scots Nats will allow some facsimile of administration to come into existence, but it will be about as effective as King Zog’s exiled rule over communist Albania. Read my lips, London. This election is not about who governs Britain from Downing Street. It’s about the future of the political union that created the industrial revolution, painted half the world red, was victorious in two world wars, and saved Europe for democracy. Yes, and it’s over. (Ah, but somewhere in the wreckage of the UK will be the hopes and the aspirations of the last truly ‘British’ people remaining in the UK, Europe’s Falkland Islanders, the loyalists of Northern Ireland. A moment’s silence, IYP).
Why has Scotland gone this way? Granite has given way to granola, and the canny Scot has become the cannae’ Scot, with welfarism doing precisely what all those beastly reactionaries nearly seventy years ago said it would. The most gifted and spirited people in Europe have now become dependency-junkies. Glasgow is the city that doesn’t sleep at night because it does that during the daytime. Emergency welfare payments there last year at £8 million were the highest for any city outside London, which is over 10 times the size.
The Presbyterian Church of Scotland, once the very embodiment of careful calculation and actuarial prudence, now has fewer worshippers than do mosques, while Tesco does the sabbatical duty of the kirk. And Scottish Catholics, with the death of political Presbyterianism, no longer feel the need for the protection conferred by England and the Labour Party. So both groups are now free to embrace the SNP – especially since the latter has created a tiresome but electorally appealing discourse around that most un-Scottish thing, addictive self-pity. (The hideous background din you hear? Just an incredulous John Knox, vomiting).
If Scotland goes, what happens to the Army, RAF and the Royal Navy? The Black Watch long ago became The Dusky Watch, as Fijians took the place of Scots. The RAF will probably be relieved not to have to guard Scotland’s interminable coastline. But the navy’s plight is pitiful. As a bribe to Scotland to stay British, Defence Secretary Des Browne and Chancellor Gordon Brown (both Scots with Scottish constituencies- there now, that wasn’t too painful, now was it?) agreed to build the vessels on the Firth of Forth. This was rather like France paying the Germans to build the Maginot Line (but not forgetting to leave a gap near the top, just in case they wanted to pop round again). The British had and have no need for one aircraft carrier, never mind two. (Britain is a trading nation? Yes indeed; so too are carrierless Japan and Germany).
The Royal Navy has neither the organisational skills nor the manpower (if we’re even allowed to use that word any more) to crew the carriers, or the support vessels and guided missile destroyers (the navy has just six) that will have to accompany them wherever they go. They’re not even white elephants, because with some deft midnight work with a hacksaw, you could at least sell their tusks to the flaccid Chinese. Thus the Royal Navy is about to be destroyed in order to keep Scotland happy – as forlorn a quest as opening a condom-shop in a convent for nonagenarian lesbians.
Russia inherited the residuum of the Soviet Union’s treaties, and England, with its old conquests, Wales and Northern and their largely inert economics, still attached by umbilical cords, presumably will have to do likewise. But this will be a matter of agreement between Britain’s treaty partners: the EU, US, UN, et cetera – possibly even Bono, who presumes to have negotiating rights with everyone.
As England wakes up to realisation that the other side of the marital bed is cold and empty, the Scots should not take too much for granted. David Cameron scoffed recently that England had never been ruled by nationalist secessionists. Wrong. The Irish Parliamentary Party helped force through Liberal government policies against Tory resistance, 1912-14, before getting Home Rule. The English may not remember their history, but the City is theirs, and moneymen with their hearts of soak can usually draw nutritious haemoglobin from even Plato’s dusty bones: ask Greece.
Indeed, the Scots don’t yet seem to have woken up to the fact that independence will be very very painful. When the British withdrew from independent Ireland in 1922, public servants’ pay fell by up to twenty percent. The Scots have been already told, post-UK, they may not use sterling. With their now almost worthless oil, they’re now about to abandon the forest canopy of Britain, for an untamed savannah where the butterflies are sabre-toothed, the koalas have rabies and even the hummingbirds suck blood.
Steady there, Carruthers.