Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Charles Kennedy set to lead pro-Union campaign in referendum

A report in tomorrow's Guardian claims:
Alistair Darling, Charles Kennedy and the former Tory leader in Scotland, Annabel Goldie, are being lined up as the main faces of the pro-union campaign in the referendum on Scottish independence, sources in the three parties confirmed Wenesday [sic] night.
The report also says that Labour and Liberal Democrats have expressed the hope that David Cameron will adopt a lower profile in future.

Will Charles and co. be enough to save the Union? Certainly, the rise of the SNP has been greatly eased by the way that almost all the considerable figures in the other parties have chosen to make their careers at Westminster rather than Holyrood. He may now face more formidable opposition.

But, having been told when young that the future lay in great conglomerates, I grew up into a world more notable for the break up of multinational states - Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union. It is hard to resist the feeling that the tides are at present in favour of the SNP.

Another question is how hard the Conservatives will try to save the Union. It used to lie at the heart of their identity, but in this way - as in so many others - the modern Conservative Party has little connection with traditional British Conservatism.

I doubt that David Cameron will want to be the prime minister on whose watch the United Kingdom broke up. But it is hard for him to resist the calculation that it would be much easier for the Conservatives to win a majority at Westminster if there were no Scottish members there.

And, as we were reminded in King's Lynn, to the average Tory member the Scots are just a bunch of ingrates who take more than their share of public spending.

The SNP, equally, is convinced that an independent Scotland would be much more prosperous. They cannot both be right.

My own suspicion is that the end of the Union would make surprisingly little difference to Scotland or England, which is why I find that I am not dismayed at the prospect.

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Dan Falchikov said...

Well said. While I think Kennedy still has something to offer - I'm not convinced that diluting it with the charms of the other two will do anything but bring his star even further down.

And anyway the liberals and Lib Dems have never considered themselves unionists before - and part of the reason for our collapse north of the border is our indistinguishability from the others. The party needs to get out of the unionist trap set for it by the SNP not drag itself furthe rinto it - which this moves implies.

T. C. R. MacDonnell said...

Having just written a brief blog on the matter myself, I found that I felt that the break up wouldn't matter too much either way as well. But the thing which revolts me is that proud nationalism is winning out over cooler sensiblities. That something so petty as a national identity is threatening to tear the country apart in spite of shared economic interest and more than three hundred years of friendship, cooperation and shared fortunes is infuriating. It's like burning down your shared house because pixies have promised you gold.

AdamH said...

The idea that the disappearance of Scotland's MPs from Westminster would lead to a permanent Tory majority is an interesting one. In the short-term, it might well be true, but wouldn't electoral politics adapt to the new realities?

More currently Tory voters might be less likely to vote for the party once it had been in power for a certain amount of time, for example, and the disappearance of Labour's Scottish contingency might cause wider changes in its direction and the way it's perceived.

I find it rather like the argument that the Lib Dems would benefit from PR/STV, when in reality, in the long term, it would probably squeeze our vote back to the core liberal 10-15% of the population as tactical voting and incumbency advantage became smaller issues. It would still be 'better' overall, and a good thing for liberal democracy - but the long-term fall-out as voters adapt to the new reality would not be to entrench the Lib Dems.

iain said...

Just as in the Euro referendum our distinct contribution was glossed over in favour of a bland pro vote so I fear in Scotland we will not put the federalist case and get swallowed up in a Unionist campaign.