As people who read this blog know, I’m a Scot loving in England. I follow closely politics and especially left wing politics across the UK, but Scotland and England especially, so it’s been fascinating to see the reaction here in England from the left to the independence debate which raged for over two years in Scotland.
On the whole I’d say it was crushingly disappointing. Too many people stuck to their tribal roots and blindly bleated out support for Labour, even though Labour were working hand-in-hand with the Tories and doing their work for them. Too many people saw the campaign as being only about Alex Salmond, which was playing into the willing distortion that many in the media span that the Yes campaign was Salmond, when in fact it was an alliance of dozens of different groups that grew as the campaign progressed. They ignored the fact that the SNP were far to the left of Labour in Edinburgh and London, let alone the fact that many in the Yes campaign would never vote SNP but Labour had left them behind.
Labour in Scotland haven’t been a party of the left in some time, plus they’ve made some terrible allies in the Orange Order which has been driving working class socialists away from the party and into the arms of the SNP, with the result being that the former industrial heartlands of Labour in the Central Belt and Dundee voted Yes last week. The left in England cannot rely upon the people of Scotland to return Labour MP’s to Westminster in the same numbers they’ve been used to, and this seems to have engaged a huge amount of anger from Labour supporters in England who see the people of Scotland as ‘selfish’ because after the No vote, it’s all about giving Ed Milliband and Labour ‘one more chance’ as this time, they’ll get it right. As we’ve seen in the last week, there’s no chance Labour will get it right as the national UK party has moved into the same ground as the Tories and offer no alternative.
This however doesn’t matter to those tribalists on the left who saw the Yes campaign as ‘splitting’ British socialist values, or didn’t understand what civic nationalism was, or the inclusive nature of the Yes campaign as opposed to Scottish Labour who were whipping up fears of Scots becoming ‘foreigners’ and swung to the right.
I feel far too many people on the left in England missed a chance to support something that would have changed things, but were so locked into their habits of crying out that something should be done, saw things actually being done and frankly, bottled out of support for a genuine progressive movement. Instead many sniped from afar and some even went to Scotland to help support a Labour Party who stood with the Tories, Lib Dems and other groups who you should never stand with. Not everyone was like this of course. Billy Bragg and John Harris got what was, and indeed, is happening in Scotland, but most are still smugly suggesting Scotland will fall back in line and anyhow, it’s all for the best in the long run as Scotland can rejoin the eternal struggle which many on the left want to engage in just for the sake of being in a struggle without actually achieving anything productive.
It’s depressing to see the smugness that’s on display from many on the left that the ‘glorious struggle’ will continue with Scotland, yet all the promises made in ‘The Vow’ are falling to pieces, and now it’s being made clear Scotland is to be fracked to an inch of it’s life and the right to object will be removed. There are still food banks, and yet, we’re going to yet another war costing billions. All in less than a week after the result.
The problem with many in the left in England is they’re locked in a battle with the Tories and in doing so, have missed what Labour have become which is another Westminster party full of MP’s who couldn’t give a toss about poverty, the poor or the working class. It’s that struggle which maintains them and if anything threatens that then it needs to be dealt with, which is sadly, what I think happened with many on the left in England. Old tribal loyalties and rivalries not to mention some small minded thoughts about the nature of what was happening in Scotland meant they missed a chance.
Though things aren’t over. This is what’s happening in Edinburgh this afternoon.
There’s massive donations to food banks across Glasgow and Scotland as people help those less lucky. Meanwhile people of the left in England are pointing at UKIP and laughing because UKIP are ridiculous which they are, but what exactly are they doing apart from pointing out the obvious?
Of course it’s not everyone. There’s a lot of good people doing good things but too many are locked into old ideas, tribes and the eternal struggle which seems to be the only thing that sustains them. I think it was the fear of change, actual genuine change, if there’d been a Yes vote that scared them. Well, if they expect Scotland to fall in line they’ll be mistaken. Many were asking for Scotland to stay and set and example and they are but not what they were wanting.
It’s going to be interesting days in the run-up to the May general election. The left in England need to do some catching up with the left in Scotland otherwise they’ll be left behind…