Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Brexit delusion over who calls the shots

I don't know about anyone else, but I've been rubbing my eyes in disbelief over the last few hours.  If you've been listening to the mainstream media's verdict on what was agreed at Chequers, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the fabled Brexit deal that Theresa May has been tasked with striking needed only to be a deal with the rest of her own Cabinet, and not with the European Union.   By that rather lower standard, what's just happened might indeed be seen as a stunning personal triumph for the Prime Minister and a guarantee of a (somewhat) softer Brexit, exactly as Stormfront Lite is claiming tonight.  The agreement will only be subject to a few modifications if Brussels raises any objections, reveals the Guardian, which apparently believes that the EU has only a limited consultative role in the whole process.  It's the old imperial delusion - decisions are things that happen in London.  The same commentators who complacently tell us that an indyref is a non-starter because Theresa May will say "no" also apparently believe that it's a mere point of trivia that the EU have already ruled out many elements of May's Brexit proposal.  Back in the real world, without the EU's assent there is no deal at all, and that would mean the hardest of hard Brexits.

A rare injection of realism was provided by Sam Coates of the Times, who acknowledged that the EU may well still insist on a straight choice between a looser Canada-type deal, and the Norway model that would entail the retention of the single market.  But he argued that the Chequers proposal was around 80% of the way towards the Norway model, thus making it that much easier for the Prime Minister to jump towards Norway if forced to choose.  What he didn't expand on is the consequence of such a decision.  It's highly debatable whether the government really are now 80% of the way towards Norway, but even assuming for the sake of argument that they are, the reason they haven't travelled the remaining 20% of the distance is that doing so would completely breach the red lines on formally leaving the single market and ending freedom of movement.  Some say that a soft Brexit is inevitable because there is a natural parliamentary majority for it - but that majority is cross-party in nature, and neither the government nor the Prime Minister are sustained in office on a cross-party basis.  I find it inconceivable that a Tory government led by Theresa May could keep Britain in the European Economic Area or retain freedom of movement, even if they wanted to.

And if that proves to be correct, there are only really four alternatives -

1) The EU backs down and accepts British cherry-picking of the most desirable aspects of the single market and customs union.  This is almost unimaginable because it would create a precedent that Eurosceptics in other member states would try to follow, thus risking the unravelling of the EU.

2) A Canada-type deal is negotiated after all.  This is possible, but it would require turning the super-tanker around, because it's clearly not close to what Theresa May has in mind at the moment.  It would mean a very hard Brexit in any case.

3) There is no deal at all.

4) The Prime Minister's failure to strike a deal (or a deal that is consistent with her red lines) triggers a political crisis that results in a change of leadership and/or a general election.

I can recall at least two previous occasions when we've been told that the PM has made a decisive move towards a soft Brexit, only for us to realise weeks later that there had been no change of any real significance.  I fully expect the same to prove true on this occasion.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Thoughts on the Plaid Cymru leadership election

This speaks volumes about just how unequal this "union of equals" actually is, but I would have been totally oblivious to the fact that a Plaid leadership election is now underway if I had been reliant on the London-based mainstream media.  I just happened to stumble upon the information on Twitter.  Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth, both highly charismatic and telegenic figures who have long been regarded as obvious leaders of the future, are both challenging Leanne Wood for the top job.  To put this development in perspective, imagine that John Swinney had not resigned as SNP leader in 2004 but had instead been challenged by both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.  Totally unthinkable given the closeness of those three people, but just imagine.  That's the sort of scenario Plaid are facing - there's not just the question of whether the current leader will survive, there's also the subplot of a battle between two different Kings Over The Water that only one (at most) can possibly win.  It really is the leadership contest to end them all.

I've followed Rhun ap Iorwerth on Twitter for quite some time and he's always come across as extremely progressive, so I was surprised to see the suggestion in a BBC Wales article that he might be more receptive to an arrangement with the Tories than Leanne Wood is.  I know unsubstantiated gossip from the BBC should be treated with healthy scepticism (if you believe Sarah Smith's running commentary on Nicola Sturgeon's supposed 'private views', you'll believe anything), but what doesn't seem to be in any dispute is that Mr ap Iorweth is taking a pro-nuclear stance by supporting the construction of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant in his constituency, while Leanne Wood is taking the opposite stance as leader.  That's a classic case of local people backing nuclear power while those further away from the plant paradoxically tend to be the ones more worried about environmental and health effects - we used to see much the same pattern in the debate about Dounreay.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that the people further away don't have a more clear-sighted perspective, of course.

The same BBC Wales article characterises Adam Price as seeking equidistance between Labour and the Tories, with the implication that this also puts him somewhere in between Mr ap Iorwerth and the more Labour-friendly Ms Wood.  I do seem to recall, though, that back in 2007 Mr Price was a key cheerleader for the idea that Plaid should opt for coalition with Labour and not with the Tories and Lib Dems.

If the suggestion that Ms Wood is the most left-wing of the three candidates is true, and from what I know about her I can believe there might be a grain of truth in it, that would leave me with a big headache if I was a Plaid member with a vote.  Ms Wood is probably closest of all the candidates to my own political views, but my gut feeling is that the Welsh public might look upon either Mr Price or Mr ap Iorweth as credible potential First Ministers, in a way that they perhaps don't with Ms Wood. It's the age-old dilemma - do you vote for the candidate with the best policies, or for the best candidate?  Having seen what happened to Labour after head ruled heart in 1994, I suspect I would probably follow my heart and vote to re-elect Ms Wood - although there would be a loud, nagging voice inside my head wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Pressure mounts on Theresa May to pass a Section 30 order after UK House of Commons UNANIMOUSLY votes to accept the sovereignty of the Scottish people

When it emerged last night that the SNP were about to hold an opposition day debate in the Commons on the Claim of Right, I speculated on the pickle the unionist parties might get into depending on how they decided to vote.  I expected the Tories to vote against the motion, in which case they would have to explain why they were opposed to the Scottish people's right to self-determination, and I thought Labour and the Liberal Democrats might abstain, in which case they would have to explain why they were refusing to support the founding principle of their own Scottish Constitutional Convention.  In the end, all three parties declined to walk into that trap.  They all backed the motion, which meant that it passed by acclamation - essentially a unanimous vote without a single MP registering an objection (not even the notorious 'Mr Upskirt').

But of course there are also consequences that flow from backing the Claim of Right.  If, when Nicola Sturgeon renews her request for a Section 30 order, the answer continues to be "no", it will be reasonable to ask what the Tories actually meant when they voted in favour of "the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs".  As a veteran of interminable back-and-forths about Devo Max with Tory supporters on Stormfront Lite, I'm well aware of the argument that the sovereignty of the Scottish people cannot be absolute when the objective is an enhanced form of self-government within the United Kingdom, because any change in the UK's internal constitutional arrangements affects the whole of the UK and can only be decided by mutual consent, not unilaterally.  But that excuse falls apart if you're still claiming that the sovereignty of the people is not absolute even when the decision is about whether to leave the UK altogether.  The choice on independence really is nobody's business but Scotland's, and the sovereignty of the Scottish people means nothing if it doesn't mean the right to say "Now Is Not The Time is an interesting opinion, but we disagree with it, and the decision is ours, not yours".  It means exactly the same right to decide whether to leave at a time and manner of our own choosing that the British people exercised in relation to the EU.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Border checks at Gretna Green? We're totally cool with that, say majority of Scots in new SHOCK poll

As you've probably already seen, the latest release from the new Panelbase/Wings poll asks how people in Scotland would feel about border checks if that were necessary for Scotland to enjoy the same special status in relation to the EU that has been mooted for Northern Ireland.

If Northern Ireland were to be granted special status which effectively meant it remained in the EU, but saw the imposition of customs and immigration checks between it and the rest of the UK, which of these is closest to your opinion?

The same status should be granted to Scotland: 53%
The same status should NOT be granted to Scotland: 26%

I think that's quite possibly the most remarkable finding in the poll so far, and it has all sorts of interesting implications.  The question is not sneakily worded in any way - it lays on the line that the border checks being talked about are the sort traditionally associated with a hard border between two sovereign states.  And yet, in spite of the fact that Better Together thought their fairy tales about barbed wire fences and Trump-style walls were a major Achilles heel for Yes back in 2014, an absolute majority of respondents - even when Don't Knows are taken into account - clearly do not believe that border checks are a dealbreaker.  And if they're not a dealbreaker for voters pondering an intra-UK border, it's hard to see why they would be a dealbreaker for voters thinking about a border between an independent Scotland and rUK.

In practice, of course, people are typically poor at answering hypothetical questions, and after being exposed to a second helping of Project Fear, they might well suddenly decide that border checks are quite scary after all.  In a way, the dream scenario would be if Scotland did actually gain the kind of special status referred to in this poll, because it would allow people to get used to a lot of the things associated with independence before making what would be a much smaller psychological jump.  That is one of the many reasons why the Tories will never allow it to happen.  But this poll leaves the Tory government with another problem: if the majority were not deterred by the mention of border checks, that means they must feel very, very strongly that it would be unacceptable for Scotland not to be given any special status awarded to Northern Ireland.  Can the government risk a massive public backlash in Scotland at a time like this?  If not, it significantly reduces their options in resolving the impasse over Brexit.

And a final thought: if people were not deterred by border checks, that must also mean they feel very, very strongly about the benefits of "effectively remaining in the EU".  That constitutes another timely warning that it could be a big strategic blunder for the SNP to water down its pro-Europeanism in pursuit of the minority of Yes voters from 2014 who want to leave the EU.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Bend It Like Blackford

The SNP's brilliant psychological tactic of forcing five lengthy parliamentary votes while England were playing a World Cup knockout match is surely destined to become the stuff of legend.  Labour abstained on the votes, as is the Labour Way, but nevertheless the Tories couldn't all go home or head off to the pubs because there needed to be enough of them around to outvote a few dozen SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs.  In the end, well over 100 of them saw it through, which probably means that a great many Tories who would very much like to have seen the England match missed a large part of it.

A lot of sanctimonious drivel has already been spoken and written about this episode, but what I found truly contemptible was the revelation that Tory minister Margot James had physically approached the SNP during the votes and demanded that they think of Westminster's staff.  It was as if she truly believed she was looking at a political party that had completely taken leave of its senses, and that needed to be snapped back into self-awareness about the consequences of its irresponsible actions.  Er, hello?  It's only a matter of weeks since Margot James' party destroyed Scotland's devolution settlement after just nineteen minutes of parliamentary 'debate', during which no Scottish MPs were permitted to speak.  The settled democratic will of the Scottish people, as overwhelmingly expressed in the 1997 devolution referendum, was casually overturned by the imperial authorities in the manner in which a fly might be swatted away and instantly forgotten about.  Until an independence referendum is called, the only way that Scotland's elected representatives can fight back against the squashing of our country's democracy is by clever use of the parliamentary rulebook to cause small amounts of disruption, thus making the London government realise that its actions do at least have some bothersome consequences - which in this case meant that a limited number of highly-paid staff missed part (and only part) of a game of football.  Oh how frightful.

Yes, Margot, there is one political party that has lost all sense of perspective about what is happening, and that needs to be forced to belatedly confront reality.  But that party is not the Scottish National Party.

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We're about to see a second day of clever parliamentary tactics from the SNP, because they've called an opposition day debate on the Claim of Right.  The motion that MPs will be asked to vote for or against notes straightforwardly that the Scottish people have the "sovereign determine the form of government best suited to their needs".  The simplicity of the motion presents all other parties with a dilemma.  Can Labour and the Liberal Democrats really abstain on a Yes/No vote about the founding principle of their own Scottish Constitutional Convention?  Will the Tories be able to come up with an explanation for saying that the Scottish people do not have the right to determine the form of government best suited to their own needs?  The way each unionist party votes, and justifies how it votes, will be taken down and used in evidence against them - particularly in the next independence referendum.

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Purely by virtue of a freakishly favourable draw for England, we're now suddenly staring down the barrel of a 1966 scenario.  And the fact that an England victory from 52 years ago is still being insufferably rammed down our throats on a daily basis is a useful clue as to why we might, on the whole, be better off not having to deal with a much more recent repeat performance.  But we may have to face the fact that if The Catastrophe is yet to be averted, it's now most likely to happen in the final.  England probably have a slightly better than even chance of beating Croatia - their toughest potential semi-final opponents.

I've always thought the best way of countering the mythology of 1966 is to promote the truly concrete past achievements of the Scotland team - as opposed to clinging to relatively meaningless single game triumphs such as the 1967 win against England, or the 1978 win against the Netherlands.  By 'truly concrete' I mean the fact that any retrospective world rankings going back to the start of international football would put Scotland in the number one position for long spells, and also the fact that Scotland won the defunct British Home Championship - the oldest and for a long time the most prestigious international tournament - on a remarkable 41 separate occasions.

On that theme, I was browsing through some of Wikipedia's articles about the British Home Championship a few hours ago, and just by chance I landed on the article about the 1979/80 edition of the tournament.  Now I've seen some brazen Anglocentric wording in my time, but just take a look at this effort...

"The tournament also finally marked the end of a decade of extremely poor international football results for all the Home Nations. Apart from disappointing Scottish performances in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups, no British side had been represented at a major football tournament since England were knocked out by Germany at the 1970 FIFA World Cup. In 1980, England finally qualified for the 1980 UEFA European Championship and although their performance was unspectacular it did lay the groundwork for the appearance of three of the Home Nations at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. The Home Championships thus allowed spectators and coaches an impression of the reorganised British sides and their capabilities in competitive football."

It's almost exquisite, isn't it?  England's qualification for the 1980 Euros was the first time a British team had qualified for a major tournament since England in 1970, unless you count Scotland qualifying in both 1974 and 1978 but obviously you won't count 1974 and 1978 because Scotland are not England.  That complete gibberish actually made sense in someone's head.

I was initially a bit daunted by the major surgery that would be required to make the article less risible, but after a bit of thought I edited it to read as follows...

"The tournament also marked the end of a decade-long era in which Scotland had been the only British side that managed to qualify for major international football tournaments, in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups. In 1980, England finally ended that Scottish dominance by qualifying for the 1980 UEFA European Championship and although their performance was unspectacular it did lay the groundwork for them to join both Scotland and the revitalised Northern Ireland at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. The Home Championships thus allowed spectators and coaches an impression of the reorganised British sides and their capabilities in competitive football."

I may have gone a bit to the other extreme by talking about a "decade-long era" of "Scottish dominance", but sometimes you need to go to the other extreme just to balance out the nonsense.