Commentary by Derek Bateman
If people didn’t understand the EU referendum, is there a chance they compound the problem by misunderstanding this election?
We never got near the real issues in the referendum because the Leavers were determined we shouldn’t and the Remainers, led by that clown Cameron, were too complacent to bother.
It’s worth noting that we only really got down to real politics when it became apparent that Theresa May wasn’t a leader at all, that it stretched credulity to call her a politician. We were being led by a scarecrow that was afraid of crows, that couldn’t talk to anyone without patronising them and whose career had been a procession of mini catastrophes – failing to curb immigration, antagonising the police, undermining national security and having nothing new to say on terrorism despite six years at the Home Office.
That was when leadership emerged as a key question for voters, not, as she planned, the big choice from the outset of the campaign when she arrogantly believed she could mince Corbyn in the media machine.
As Roy Greenslade has been pointing out in the Guardian, even her staunchest boot-licking media supporters have stopped lauding her as the tough leader the country needs and instead fallen back on childish and often inaccurate depictions of Corbyn. The irony is that leadership is now the key question, because he clearly has something a growing number prefer that her brittle, overbearing persona doesn’t. It’s probably honesty. A sad man in an allotment he may be but, compared to her, he’s authentic. He’s a mealy-mouthed dreamer offering stuff a broke Britain can barely afford. He relished his notoriety as an acquaintance of the terrorists back in the day because he is fundamentally a rebel. But then British governments privately spoke to and negotiated with the bombers even as their terror continued to take lives. Britain has armed those who would later become our terrorist enemies and, when it comes to the Libyan-affiliated bomber of Manchester, it seems we facilitated his journeys from North Africa to England and back. Corbyn may be a soul brother of men of violence but he’s never actually aided them directly, unlike successive governments.
So May is now exposed as a hollow drum, echoing sound bites and insulting what the Tories think of as little people – like the nurse looking for a pay rise. That silly woman was treated like the six-year-old she clearly is and reminded that there’s no magic money tree. In that television moment Theresa May summed up the history of her entire party. Tories believe they are superior and the only differences between them is the degree to which they patronise everybody else. If you’re a patrician Tory you accept that with your privileged position goes a responsibility to give a bit to the less well-off. If you’re a hard right Tory, like those who have captured the current leadership, you are a social hyena scavenging off the misfortune of others. (It’s hard to think of an intelligent way to justify the cruelty deliberately inflicted on the disabled and the vulnerable by Tory cuts and policies so brutal they are condemned by the UN).
But, across Scotland, backed by the Labour Party, that is what we are being urged to vote for. We are to endorse an authoritarian hard right party in power which is still working its way through George Osborne’s cold-blooded spending cuts (another £9bn to go) 10 years after the financial crash. Voting for Conservatives means endorsing what is on track to be a 20 year generational decimation of the welfare state – not harming a handful of scroungers but crushing the life styles of those who can’t walk unaided or whose learning disability restricts them to long term unemployment or low-paid menial work. Their policy is for low wages and long hours which kill family life for hundreds of thousands who work round the clock. Working conditions can be brutal but the unfair dismissal process has been closed to most applicants allowing unscrupulous employers to get away with it. In-work pensions have disappeared. The real magic money tree is the Bank of England which printed hundreds of billions to shore up the banks who caused the financial crisis in the first place. Theresa didn’t patronise the bankers. She wouldn’t dare. She’ll fall over herself again when they bleat about the difficulties of making massive profits after Brexit. She will find a way to ease the troubles of big business because history shows the Tories always do. But nurses? Police? Nah…you’re two a penny and you’re not One of Us.
This is the Britain the Tories have created and which we are now asked to endorse. In Scotland we do so, not by voting Tory but by voting for Ruth Davidson’s candidate (fill in the blank).
Under Davidson, Scottish Tories have gone from ineffectual social climbers in club ties and sensible shoes, to a jeering mob. They have infantilised the electorate by pretending there are no issues except denying Scots a vote on independence. They have taken simplistic messages from focus groups and, presumably with their tongue out, carefully copied them out as policy. This way they have harnessed the anti-SNP lobby and blinded them to what they are actually voting FOR. I’m sure it’s true that many don’t want a referendum but at least you can vote No if there is one. How will you stop Brexit without a referendum? As groups like the farmers and fishermen slowly see evaporate the chimera of taking back control, as firms in chemicals or aviation or food supply see sales processing clogged with compliance, admin and delay, will it seem foolish to have cast aside the idea of a Scotland-only way out of the mess?
Tory voters are being taken for fools, treated like Theresa’s nurse who thought a pay rise seemed reasonable without realising she just doesn’t count in the Tory worldview. If May wins on Thursday we will also have to deduce that her incompetence that helped the terror attacks – especially getting rid of police in England and firearms officers – simply didn’t bother the voters enough. Other than the murderers themselves, no one in the UK is more culpable than Theresa May.
If Davidson takes seats it will be because she played a nationalist card, narrowed the choices down to British Tories or Scottish Nationalists and across our country it will be clearer than ever who wins that argument. I prefer it when they fight on our ground.
So we need to remember that in Scotland, the forces of progressive politics run strong. If as happens, some seats are lost, that doesn’t make a victory. You know that’s true because it’s the opposite of what Paul Sinclair said in the Mail, he the latest in a line of Labour types whose sectarianism is visceral and in proportion to their need to make money from the Unionist press. The SNP will win this election in Scotland. They will remain the government in Scotland. A referendum is government policy. May is weakened in Brussels and the truth of Brexit is yet to dawn. We take the long view and the day gets ever closer.