Sunday, March 4, 2012

The worst type of parochial, faux 'internationalism'

It would be overly-generous to talk about the "meat" of Ed Miliband's speech to the Scottish Labour conference the other day, but if such a thing existed it was probably this -

"I believe, and I believe that people across the United Kingdom believe,

That we owe obligations to each other.

That the successful Scottish entrepreneur owes obligations to the child born into poverty in London, and the pensioner in Wales."

Which begs the obvious question - does a successful Scottish or English entrepreneur also owe an equal obligation to a child born into poverty in Lisbon, and to a pensioner in Wallonia? And if not, why not? If Miliband's belief in solidarity is real and not as synthetic as most of us suspect, why isn't he arguing for a single European or world state within which to redistribute wealth to the maximum extent possible?

I've tried asking Labour supporters these questions recently, and the only answers that have been forthcoming have been along the lines of "we are where we are" and "the UK exists", and frankly if that's the best they can come up with, this argument is going absolutely nowhere. The rhetoric of Miliband and Alexander can only really make sense when viewed through a British Nationalist prism. Just like the SNP, they draw a line around a group of people and say that the social democratic contract should apply only between those people - and yet because that line is a different line to the SNP's and is drawn around a different group of people, they somehow expect us to believe that their kind of nationalism is more morally virtuous. Douglas Alexander evidently feels some kind of saintly glow when he addresses an audience in Cardiff and tells them that he doesn't see "foreigners" staring back at him. But why on earth would "Johnny Foreigner" be the first thing that pops into his head when he meets someone from Paris or Dublin? Why wouldn't he just see a fellow citizen of the EU, or even more fundamentally another human being?

I'm sure the likes of Duncan Hothersall and any others who are still wedded to the quaint idea that Labour is an "international movement" must be thrilled by all the recent talk of solidarity, but Alexander gives the game away. A belief in solidarity that is strictly limited to 'Fortress Britain' is the worst type of parochial, faux 'internationalism', reminiscent of those who used to fondly imagine that the Home Nations football competition was the real world championship. And, even more to the point, it's a type of solidarity that doesn't actually work. So when Miliband asks -

"And if we believe in the idea of Scotland as a progressive beacon, why would we turn our back on the redistributive union - the United Kingdom?"

- the obvious reponse is to inquire where the redistribution actually is within that union. We've now had thirty-three years of right-wing and centre-right Westminster governments opposed to the redistribution of wealth. The Labour administration that Miliband was part of had a leader who cheerfully boasted that he didn't give a damn that the gap between rich and poor was continuing to widen. And Miliband's own recent pandering to right-wing opinion in the south of England by accepting the Tory cuts (a stance which renders his bizarre claim that the SNP are "doubling the cuts" pathetic as well as nonsensical) is further proof that the cause of progressivism requires that this union should end as soon as possible, not be defended to the death. By opposing independence, Miliband is not merely legitimising ongoing Tory rule in Scotland, he is legitimising a political culture that holds that a successful Scottish entrepreneur has no real obligations to the poor and vulnerable at all. Not in Livingston, not in London, not in Lisbon, not anywhere.

Independence would in fact lead to a net increase in progressivism in these islands. The rest of the UK would unfortunately still be governed by the Tories or by Tory-Lites in other parties, but we know that's going to be the case anyway. Why should vulnerable Scottish pensioners have to suffer for Miliband's narrow British nationalism?


  1. Peter Mandelson made it clear that in order to be electable in the south east of England, where 36 million people live, they had to ditch their old selves and reinvent as New Labour, a centre-right party a little to the left of the Conservatives under Cameron.

    The frightening thing about the UK from a Scot's points of view, is that, with a rightist Liberal leader having settled relatively comfortably in bed with David Cameron, that leaves the union with 3 centre/centre right parties' policies to choose from.

    And that simply isn't the politics of Scotland.

    I feel a little sorry for Johann Lamont. Reading her speech to her party, I couldn't help but wonder who or what she was talking about. She described Labour as:

    "A party, a movement, which speaks up for the voiceless; which fights for opportunity where there is none; a party which believes – which demands – that all should have the chance to fulfil their potential and be the people they can be; which promises every parent that their child will have better chances than they had.”

    Seriously, is the woman delusional or has she worked out that she can, indeed must, blether that kind of empty nonsense to the party conference?

    This is the party that in 13 years of power in London managed to speak for the City of London and increase the gap between rich and poor. This is the party that reversed more or less nothing that Thatcher had put in place. This is the party that far away from London and the south east has had control of Glasgow for more than 50 years, and has managed in that time to create in that city, some of the poorest pockets of life in the European Union.

    "We lost an election. We did not lose our sense of right and wrong. We did not lose our values", she told us gravely.

    What on Earth is she talking about? YES THEY DID. They lost them completely and utterly. If they ever really had them.

    I had the feeling with Lamont that she was talking about a party she wished existed, but with Miliband, I can't help thinking that he is more than at home with the party of the (rich) people.

  2. Mandy also said that Labour were "intensely relaxed about people being filthy rich." Simply because like all of his kind he aspires to that position himself.

    The stark facts are that in 13 years of New Labour , the gap between rich and poor got much wider and child poverty increased.

  3. My comment on Kenny Farquharson's article in the SoS today touched on Labour's "internationalism". I'm going to reproduce it below, because it appears to have been ignored by those commenting on the article, and being the big-head that I am, I reckon everyone should read what I say.

    You're missing the obvious problem with Lamont's lamentable bridge contracts angle, which is just Brown's "British jobs for British workers" policy, wrapped up in tartan. Brown used that to try and neutralise the BNP with a policy that was designed for Daily Mail headlines. It had slightly racist/xenophobic undertones to it. Similarly, this policy could be described as "Scottish jobs for Scottish people", and thus tries to appeal to what Labour thinks Scottish nationalism is all about. But Scottish nationalism is about nationhood, not nationality, so this policy of hers won't resonate the way she hopes. Labour, still convinced internationalism underpins their ideology - despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary in their actions - does not understand that the interdependancy of nations today depends on those nations being independent of each other in the first instance. Interdependancy without independence is just dependency. Labour thinks Scottish nationalists are narrow-minded, but we are not - the only narrow-mindedness going about is blind obedience to a union which holds Scotland back and prevents us prioritising Scottish problems by withholding power from us. If this is Labour's idea of nationalism, they might as well rename themselves the New Scottish National Front - ironic given the number of Labour party members out there who use jibes like "Scottish Nazi Party" at the SNP, and the alarming number of elected (and non-elected) representatives from Labour who compare Salmond to various racist dictators.

    For Scotland to play its part on the international stage, it needs to have the powers to contribute. Where is the Scottish voice when various world leaders are discussing what to do about world poverty? It's non-existent. "Oh, but Gordon Brown was Scottish", English unionists love to tell us. Well, William Hague is from Yorkshire, but that doesn't mean that he puts forward a uniquely Yorkshirish/Yorkshirian/whatever argument when discussing matters with other foreign ministers.

    The direction of travel in the world is clear. There are almost four times as many countries now as there were 70 years ago. International relations is about small independent countries working together in the best interests of all, not large bulky landmasses jostling for position. Is the world not a much richer place - culturally and economically - for the existence of all these countries, rather than when we just had a few colonial powers? Why should we suddenly stop now?

    Oh, and I do love it when the unionists come out with a new buzz phrase like this "the UK is a redistributive union" one. It's so blatant the way they suddenly start singing from the same hymn sheet, like they all thought of it at the same time.

  4. It was worth reading, Doug.

    Lamont brought up the Forth Bridge jobs in her speech again. Clearly despite having been told four times at FMQs about the fact we didn't actually make that kind of steel, it hadn't managed to penetrate that pretty little head of hers.

    And just like Brown's British jobs for British workers, her comments were meant for the Daily Mail. This time the Scottish edition.

    But does she/do they care about Scottish jobs? Not really. They (in the form of Darling) were proposing massive cuts, the same cuts as Osborne has implemented.

    She blames the Edinburgh government for implementing these cuts, which would have been imposed by her own chancellor had the Liberals decided to go in the opposite direction. Would she have complained had Darling still been chancellor?

    If you read through her speech it is full of buzz words, nonsense and emptiness.

    And according to Spud Murphy, she will be leading the campaign for the Union.

    Bring it on, I say.