Last week's post 'The Mad, Mad World of Rory Stewart' was originally going to have the words 'and Benedict Brogan' tacked on to its title, but I realised there was probably only so much lunacy I could take in one sitting. You might remember that the Telegraph man caused a flurry of excitement a few weeks back by claiming that the consensus view in Westminster was that David Cameron would have to resign as Prime Minister if Scotland votes for independence in September. I had a read through some of the relevant articles to see if I could understand the reasons for that, but I didn't really make much progress, not least because the version of the facts that Brogan built his 'logic' upon was so utterly alien from anything that we would recognise as being true. In desperation, I even listened to Brogan being interviewed at length by Iain Dale on LBC - an intensely painful experience that was the rough equivalent of trying to learn about the subtleties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by watching Sarah Palin being interviewed on Fox News. But I did eventually start to get to grips with the Gospel according to Benedict. It seems Scotland has reached the brink of independence for just three reasons -
1) In the 1980s, the Scottish Labour party under Gordon Brown (apparently the greater seniority of John Smith and Donald Dewar was a figment of our imagination) opportunistically whipped up anti-Tory and "nationalist" sentiment. Please note that there was no question of the Thatcherites having blundered with their quasi-colonial approach to ruling Scotland, or with their introduction of policies that were repugnant to the Scottish population. There was also no question of us Scots having spontaneously reached our own verdict on whether Thatcherism was consistent with our values or not. No, the whole thing was a Gordon Brown plot, and if Labour had only acted "responsibly" we'd have all remained much more docile, just as nature intended. Brown's recent intervention on behalf of Better Together should therefore be seen as a conscious attempt to "atone" for his sins.
2) Many southern Tories are no longer really unionists, because they have become too obsessed with Euroscepticism. And please note that the only conceivable way in which a Tory can ever be a problem for the No campaign is through not having a sufficiently cultish devotion to the Union. This became clear when Dale invited Brogan to explain his curious idea that David Cameron could somehow be an asset for Better Together if he were to set up base in Glasgow for a few weeks. You might have expected that Brogan was going to tell us that Cameron could project a liberal and tolerant impression of Toryism that was more in tune with Scottish values, or that he was the man to offer constitutional reforms within the UK that would accommodate Scotland's desire to substantially govern itself. But no - all Brogan had in mind was that "you have to remember that Cameron has always been a very strong unionist, in contrast to some of his colleagues". Well that's a relief, because if there's one thing Scotland absolutely LOATHES about the Tories, it's their failure to bang on about the bloody Union all the time.
3) David Cameron decided to hold an independence referendum to call Alex Salmond's "bluff". Yes, really. If you thought that the Scottish Government legislated for the referendum after putting it in their manifesto and then receiving an overwhelming electoral mandate, you were very much mistaken. Nope, it was all Dave's idea - and that's why he'll have to go if his "masterplan" backfires. Just to emphasise this point, the first caller to Iain Dale's phone-in after the interview said that he didn't necessarily disagree with "Cameron's idea" of holding a referendum on Scottish independence, but that if he was going to do it he should have given everyone in the UK a vote. The mind boggles.
If you're spotting an overarching theme here, it's probably a denial of Scottish agency at every stage of the process. The possibility that the independence movement may be a spontaneous and rational reaction to the failings of the Westminster political class isn't even up for discussion. We didn't decide for ourselves that we despised Thatcherism, we were brainwashed into thinking that by Labour. Our elected government didn't decide to hold a referendum and then run a good campaign, it was just a cock-up by our betters in London. And although mistakes by the Westminster political class have got us to where we are (it couldn't possibly have been anything else, after all, because Westminster is God and is the determinant of everything that happens), those mistakes were strictly confined to the very narrow domain of typical Home County Tory preoccupations, such as Euroscepticism.
As attempts by London journalists to rationalise the referendum go, this one is very much of the "it's not you, it's me" variety. Apparently a Yes vote would trigger Cameron's resignation because it would be a "vote of no confidence" in him. Well, such straightforward cause-and-effect would certainly be a novelty. Has no-one in the unionist London press noticed that we've given the Tories a resounding vote of no confidence in every single general election since 1959, but have had little to show for our efforts? That is kind of the issue here.
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Our old friend Ian Smart appeared on Newsnight Scotland last night (again). Can someone explain to me why he was allowed to get away with the conscious and cynical lie that Labour for Independence "turned out to be" a front organisation comprised of SNP councillors pretending to be Labour? I don't blame Andrew Tickell for not jumping in at that point, because he was there largely to offer his legal analysis rather than indulge in partisan knockabout on behalf of the Yes campaign. But it really is incumbent on the presenter to instantly correct malicious falsehoods that are intended to lead voters astray.
Earlier in the programme, there had been a rather indulgent package about "No Borders", a hitherto unheard of organisation that appears to be the anti-independence campaign's answer to National Collective. After Better Together's sneering comments about National Collective in the Herald the other day, I can only salute the Yes campaign's restraint in not suggesting that No Borders' plans to "reconstruct Flodden through the medium of dance" are unlikely to win many votes for the union.