Ed Miliband was in Glasgow on the 30th of January, supposedly outlining the Labour case for keeping Scotland in the Union. Between Ed currently being in charge of Labour party policy at UK level, and this event being the first major case made for the Union by a UK party leader since the referendum announcement, we waited with bated breath for the Positive Case.
Finally, Labour UK with its presentation of The Positive Case. Furthermore, what tantalising details could Labour Scotland add? The tension across the nation was (almost) palpable.
Mr. Miliband started out with calls over curbing executive pay. You know, employees sitting on company boards and deciding their managers or owners compensation packages. This policy could only be described as a relocation incentive package for any business owner. To be able to know who should be paid what, those employees would require full access to the books in order to know what can be afforded, and which company is going to reveal this sort of ammunition to mere plebeians? This is an unenforceable waffle-policy that is designed to make the uneducated feel good. The original Mr. Ed at least had horse-sense.
The Glasgow speech then rolled over into the area of more responsible capitalism. Since it was Labour, his party, who were the major driving-force behind dismantling protective legislation, subverting the monopolies commission in order to create super-banks, and were the proponents of “light touch regulation”, it was most interesting to hear Mr. Miliband try this overtly hypocritical angle. Significantly, the detail on how "responsible capitalism" was to be achieved was missing. That’d be more waffling then.
Red Ed then marched into the Union, pounding the message that we stand or fall by our ability to work together. That is why he is making the case for Scotland to stay in the UK, he says. After centuries of failure from Westminster, what was specifically lacking in his oratory was precisely how this would suddenly change, and how Scotland would now surprisingly benefit by remaining within this malfunctioning union and “working together”.
Ms. Lamont’s boss did say he came to Scotland with "humility" because of Labour's performance in the Scottish elections last year. He showed his humility alright, by attempting to legitimise his right to be involved in Scotland’s referendum debate because of his father’s military record during WWII, claiming “He fought in the Navy and served off the Forth of Firth. He did not come to England; he came to Britain”.
Whether the error was by Ed or The Guardian is immaterial. Either way it was another anecdotal example of Londoner’s just not bothering to learn or understand the nuances of Scotland's language.
However, what Ed didn’t reveal was what his father, a refugee from Nazism in Europe, really thought of the England. An excerpt from his diary dated 1940 states, “The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world .... England first. This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.” Prophetic words from Mr M snr.? Link
It is certainly arguable we Scots are almost the last bastion of that now dead empire, and that our inclusive Scottish nationalism may well be utter anathema to its relation south of the Tweed.
The next thundering statement from Mr. Ed was stunning, only because it was so blatantly obvious, “If Scotland separates, all people living in the four nations of the UK will be affected”. What wasn’t clarified for any listener was how it would impact the individuals concerned – or if indeed, the impact might be more limited to the political classes. The tone and context of delivery inferred England, Wales and Northern Ireland couldn’t make it without Scotland, and consequently we should voluntarily submit our nation to ongoing exploitation.
Subsequent to Thursday’s affirmation of the Claim of Right at Holyrood, there was little option available to him but to agree that the people of Scotland should decide the timing of the referendum. He didn’t disappoint. Whilst he is now singing from the same hymn sheet as his arch ally David Cameron, he was a little more diplomatic about the referendum question(s) saying simply, it “should” and not “must” be based upon "one clear question". This One Clear Question approach affirms and confirms that without unfettered control of Scotland’s resources, Westminster simply doesn’t want to deal with the Scots.
Ed confirmed the basis of that argument as he continued by stating he does not want Scotland to stay in the UK because he thinks it is too weak to flourish on its own.
At last. Something of substance from the Labour leader; Scotland is a strong country and will, in his opinion, succeed as an independent nation. Perhaps the Positive Case for the Union was about to begin to unfold.
However, what followed was a bit of a let-down: “I support Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, not because I think Scotland is too poor or too weak to break away. But for a profoundly different reason: Because I believe that Scotland as part of the United Kingdom is better for the working people of Scotland, and better for the working people of the United Kingdom as a whole”.
Oh, dear, what we have here is totally contradictory hogwash. Scotland is acknowledged as being in surplus. Ed Miliband even acknowledges we’re strong enough to succeed, yet he says Scots and then English, Welsh and N. Irish are better together, especially the working class. Definitely something is missing in this argument, because the working class create the wealth of a nation. And here is the Labour leader telling us that Scotland’s working class will be better off if they give a ton of their hard earned wealth away to support the folks in other countries.
It is undoubted that Scotland will help her neighbours after independence, as we have done in the past. It’s just that in future it will be called what it really is, “foreign aid”. However, we’ll decide when, what or how much we can afford, although it is likely to be more limited than in the past. That is, until our own areas of incredible child poverty and deprivation, which were engineered under the Union, are cared for.
Continuing his speech, the Labour leader said, “The real divide in the UK is not between Scotland and England but between the haves and the have-nots. Here Mr. Miliband appears to miss the fact that it was under Labour that this great gulf, which had been narrowing, saw a very dramatic re-opening. It also appeared to create no embarrassment to the erstwhile champion of the red rose that here was a “have” being utterly condescending to the “have nots” whose support he was bent on gathering. Irony obviously escapes Mr. Ed.
Ms. Lamont’s star import then proceeded to wax lyrical about the history of “social justice” in “this country”. Again the irony was lost that he, one of the elite, was speaking of social justice in a city where the life expectancy can often be less than that of the Palestinian West Bank population. He also chose to blissfully ignore the fact that during the last decade his party had set in motion the dismantling of “social Britain”. Not the Tories, they are merely continuing the process begun by Labour.
He then reminded us it was a Scotsman, Keir Hardie, who founded the Labour party one hundred and twelve years ago. Importantly, Ed omitted to inform us that one of Hardie’s main goals was home rule for Scotland.
Going on to reference the Equal Pay Act and the minimum wage as “British achievements”, he appeared to be implying that an independent Scotland couldn’t implement its own “living wage” policy. However, the “British Achievement” of the current minimum wage which doesn’t allow the recipient any escape from the poverty trap, can’t in reality be expected solve many of society’s woes.
As leader of the party who dismantled much of the UK legal safeguards to prevent rampant capitalism running amok, Ed Miliband espoused that building responsible capitalism is "the true project for social justice in our United Kingdom". He may be incapable of recognising it, but this was irony incarnate, and he appears to have a talent for it.
The remainder of Ed’s speech continued in waffle feel-good mode without any single item of hard backed verifiable substance. Tackling climate change was one aspect where he did refer to a need for cooperation. All that sprang to mind was “fine Ed, catch up”.
One interesting and fairly important question from an individual in the audience came later, “Is there any economic data about what might happen to Scotland post-independence?” It’s an unambiguous question, fairly asked. You would expect Miliband being leader of a Whitehall party to be in the perfect position to know exactly what Scotland contributes, i.e. her net balance sheet. In spite of this, it was answered by Johann Lamont, saying the question illustrated an important issue. Her response continued in a stunning fashion stating that when people pose questions like this they are accused of "talking down Scotland". Ms. Lamont, how is asking about Scotland’s accounts “talking down” the nation? Or was this a question too far? Would the truth have proven to be so utterly harmful to the Unionist cause as to be fatal?
The only word that can describe today’s Glasgow utterances from one of Westminster’s key politicians is – vacuous.
From his Scottish leader, it was far, far worse.