By Mike Small
Yesterday was a historic day. The Daily Record dedicated an eight-page pull out to what they are describing (straight-faced) as ‘extracts from the most explosive political book of the year’.
Forget Edward Snowden, here’s Gordon Brown telling us we can have EastEnders AND River City. Talk about incendiary. Here’s details of the discussions the great man had with Wendy Alexander about the actual Calman Commission. Boom. It’s political TNT. There’s even mention of varying the Scottish Parliament’s tax-varying powers from 10 to 15p. Take cover … that’s dynamite!
Brown, looking like a sort of shrewd Papa Smurf in a fetching wode/Tory blue started well. After outlining what ‘this great nation of ours’ had done through history he goes on:
“Could this historic nation of just five million people make history again – leading a new wave of secessionist movements that strike at the heart of the advanced industrial world? Could it be the pacemaker for nationalist breakaways in Spain, Belgium and eastern Europe and for a thousand liberation movements in the developing world?”
Suddenly I thought I had Brown all wrong; this is a real vision you could aspire to. Maybe the old socialist had rediscovered his Maxtonian roots and was about to emerge as a sort of Scots Che Guevara, touring the third world espousing PFI. But no. I realised that this was a BAD thing.
POOLING and SHARING
Under Gordon’s Daily Record vision (if not his actual term in office or anyone’s actual experience) Britain is a ‘Beacon for the World’, a ‘Union for Social Justice’. As the titan of world politics humbly explains:
“The typical citizen of Arkansas will have 50% of the income of his New Hampshire counterpart. By contrast, the differences between Scotland and England have narrowed to vanishing point, with the typical Scot earning an average of 96 per cent of that of his English neighbour.”
You might at this point want to have a lie down.
Gordon Brown’s analysis is strikingly similar to David Cameron’s. It’s a unionist convergence moment. Neither appear to be connected with social reality. Cameron’s words could easily come out of Brown’s mouth:
“Together we’re actually stronger. I think we have a fairer country, a better country, a richer country with all of us together.” – David Cameron
What is extraordinary about Brown’s ‘historic vision’ is not the trundling banality of it all. It’s that it completely avoids the unquestionable facts about poverty inequality and social injustice that face people today (based on the extract we have seen). Let’s lay out some of those facts.
Despite Scotland’s undoubted wealth a staggering one in four of our children still live in poverty. What’s more the latest official statistics suggest recent progress in reducing child poverty has stalled.
In November 2011 the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecast child poverty to rise by 800,000 across the UK by 2020 as a result of current UK government policies.
In January 2012 it was revealed that 13 Scottish councils have wards where more than 30% of children live in pockets of severe poverty.
Britain’s unemployment rate has remained at its highest level since 1995 – 8.4% – as the flatlining economy takes its toll on the labour market. In Scotland alone, unemployment numbers rose by 16000 over the last three months of 2011. Youth unemployment is at a record high in the UK, with 1.04m (22.2%) of 16 to 24-year-olds without a job.
This is the stark reality of Cameron’s Britain and the Union today. A government we didn’t elect presiding over an economy we don’t control.
It’s not just in social justice that Brown’s book seems bereft and disengaged. Ignore the insulting notion that’s been repudiated again and again about pensions, or the bizarre and grisly scare-mongering about organ donations ‘Scots survive with British organs’, his ‘Top Ten Ways to Take Scotland Forward in the UK’ are weepingly odd.
No 3 New powers for Holyrood over Housing Benefit. We did tell you this was the most explosive book of the year right?
No 5 ‘We want to be part of a UK-wide energy and environmental policy’. He actually thinks this is a selling point? That would mean a disaster for even the most basic green advances we’ve achieved under devolution. This from the man who advocates ‘1000 new nuclear power stations for the world’ or convergence with the UK’s ‘environment’ minister who backs GM and who doesn’t believe in climate change (2).
No 8 ‘Replace the House of Lords with a UK Senate’. He’s just making things up on the back of an envelope now. Westminster has been NOT reforming the House of Lords for a 100 years.
As John Harris reminds us: “According to Deborah Mattinson, his pollster, Brown “loved slogans and believed them to be imbued with a mystical power capable of persuading the most intransigent voter”, and therefore went a bundle on them – not least “A future fair for all“, the surreal dud with which Labour went to the country in 2010, following 2005’s equally idiotic “forward not back“.
God knows what slogan should appear from all this: “hurtling backwards” or “shackled together”?
This is banal farce hyped in the most embarrassing fashion by Scotland’s tabloid. The political vision of a man who was blinded by power and colluded in the New Labour experiment with all its disastrous foreign adventures including going to war five times in six years (1)and the disgrace of Iraq, re-heating tired clichés in a desperate attempt to cling on to the last vestiges of influence.
If it is explosive in any way at all it is in dispelling the myth that Labour have a progressive voice in the referendum debate.
(1)Brown sets ‘no limit’ on number of nuclear reactors to be built:
(2) Why Is Climate Change Denier Owen Paterson Still in His Job? http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mehdi-hasan/uk-floods-owen-paterson_b_4767153.html
(3) See John Kampfner’s Blair’s Wars: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/sep/28/politicalbooks.politics