An Unholy Alliance

tony-blair-speechELECTION DIARY

As the pressure mounts on Jim Murphy for tonight’s debate Tony Blair stepped out of whatever Gold Digging corporate hellhole he’d been working to announce his ‘100% backing for Miliband’, a strangely un-reassuring commitment probably about as welcome as his rejected  money.

Looking like a mixture between Jim Jones and Barbies boyfriend, the buffed and coiffured ex PM immediately struck out arguing that the economic case for leaving the UK had “collapsed along with the oil price”. We know that the price of oil has certainly been a focus of Blair’s for some time, but the problem for Scottish Labour is that Blair’s presence will only serve as a reminder of Murphy’s support for the carnage in Iraq that brought us into the present ISIS Charnel House.

His love of democracy allowing him to work for – for example the United Arab Emirates doesn’t, it seems, extend to referenda in his homeland. Referencing Scotland, and a referendum nobody’s announced, he said: “So should we do the same for NATO? Or have periodic referendums not just in Scotland but all over the UK just to check popular feeling?” At least he got one thing right, adding there was a “Herculean task” to face down independence.
In a rather beautiful insight into his own Ego and worldview he mewed that the rest of the UK would have suffered following independence, “relegated” from the “premier league of nations”. Status-envy. It’s all about status for Bambi, always has been.
Finally, he predicted that “reason” would drive Scots voters back to Labour and argued against “periodic” votes on independence. The voice of reason. Meanwhile, over at something called ‘Cap X’ Chris Deerin is also appealing to reason, whilst quietly losing the plot. He evokes Adam Smith and David Hume (whilst simultaneously chastising people for referencing Thatcher). ‘Scotland has gone mad’ he declares.
In a piece that demands ‘reason’ whilst spouting hysteria, Deerin writes:

“Our separatist movement isn’t violent, thank goodness, but it is bluntly dumb, faith-based and irrational. Unenlightened. And increasingly, it feels like it is dragging all of Scotland down to its level.”

If it’s a bitter realisation that the comfortable world that Deerin inhabits is slipping away, so too is any remote crumb of political credibility as he describes Ed Miliband as “surely as left-wing a leader as you’ll find outside Central America”.
Commandante Ed.

Poor Chris.

Getting into his stride now he argues that the media is dominated by a new and alien triumvirate: “the viewpoint that dominates our polity and media (is) an unholy alliance of Nationalists, Greens and socialists. I’m sure many consider themselves to be all three.”

Well quite, self determination, ecology and social justice – Three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

It seems this level of hysteria is everywhere. As Adam Ramsay puts it:

“Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that Westminster has been replaced with a bouncy castle, and our political class with hysterical children. As the long anticipated rise of the SNP looms closer into sight, the Conservative press seems to have wet itself in fear.”

Thankfully though our ‘mild-mannered centrist’ Prime Minister has brought Sam Cam north for some square sausage. Over a Full-English he announced: “Today, I am traveling to all four nations of our United Kingdom, to all four corners of our country, with one simple message: we have one month to save our economy from the disaster of an Ed Miliband government.”

30 days to go.

Things can only get better.



Categories: Commentary

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49 replies

  1. Chris Deerin writes:

    As the journalist Bruce Anderson wrote at the weekend, ‘the Scottish Enlightenment represented the triumph of rationalism, always in a calm and restrained fashion. Its philosophers and economists believed in using reason to improve the human condition, not to reshape human nature’. Our separatist movement isn’t violent, thank goodness, but it is bluntly dumb, faith-based and irrational. Unenlightened. And increasingly, it feels like it is dragging all of Scotland down to its level. What, I wonder, would Adam Smith or David Hume make of what has become of their once world-beating little nation?

    Bruce Anderson recommended that Scots read Adam Smith. Well, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe he and Chris Deerin should bother to read him as well. As various people pointed out in the comments section on Anderson’s post, he has no clue about Smith. Smith, as I noted in an earlier post on Bella Caladonia herewas kidnapped long ago by neoclassical economists and later neoliberals. The Smith who is commonly served up by the media and the post-Thatcherite political class is the dubious Chicago version; not the one from Kirkcaldy.  So yes, an independent Scotland should be about reclaiming and restoring our intellectual heritage. It’s just not the heritage of Anderson’s and Deerin’s fetid imaginations.

    • Yet the anti-intellectual characteristics of contemporary Scottish discourse have been noted by objective observers far and wide. The South China Morning Post repeatedly invoked Smith and Hume in their coverage of the referendum and noted the lack of rational discourse from a part of the world once renown for it’s sober thought. They, despite the dance between Hong Kong and Beijing were highly skeptical of the break up of the UK. As were most ‘neutrals’ around the world and noted and lamented was the decline of the UK into polemics and populism.

      And there is irony, in that both the post/ editorial and the above comment by Alan (although being quite correct!) misses the point entirely. Whether the economic legacy of Smith has been co-opted by Friedman in Chicago or Hayek in Vienna is irrelevant and absurd in the sense that we no longer live in the eighteenth century – Keynes ‘I change my mind when the facts change’. What is being invoked is not the actual output of Smith or Hume but the systemics they employed to reach their conclusions; the empirical and more importantly the highly skeptical (Neither of whom ultimately came to the conclusion of ‘the rational’ in the way Kant did.)

      This systemic approach seems to have been lost and replaced by ad hoc populism; identity, emotion and recourse to endless counter factuals rather than positive skeptical independent thought. Everything has been locked into binaries, not exclusively, but primarily from the Separatist side as they have the most to gain by keeping the debate on a high emotion, high passion, low rationalist, skeptical systemic level – as to do so quickly sees the objective economic and ‘dry’ argument for independence (pointlessly appealed to in terms of ‘self determination’ within a modern and highly interdependent increasingly cosmopolitan world where real power resides beyond national governments.) collapse. At least without any comprehensive recourse to this wider sphere and context, except for highly selective, backward looking appeals and thus irrelevant incidents (the Iraq war for example = all war/ western intervention bad – but with no mention or recourse to the debate of the wider doctrine of Liberal interventionism or Westphalian Real Politik and so on – the only appeal is to emotion!- Basically what ever pushes buttons.

      And for Hume in this there would be a category mistake whereby two different issues are conflated and confused. 1) the psychological/ passions/ desires debate 2) The agency of economics and social systemics. The first is the slave to the passions (a fundamental and inescapable state of affairs.) the later not so.

      And here is the problem. The former has overwhelmed the latter. The latter is now just grist to the mill without recourse to reality. See the multiple inconsistencies used in the post!

      Both Hume and Smith came to conclusions and stood by them irrespective of whether they would have preferred another outcome. The same cannot be said for the current climate in Scotland (and in fact he wider UK).

      • Scientist, a serious flaw in your thinking. You cannot claim that Hume and Smith were representative of the people of their time in some way, as you seem to do, and that Scotland has somehow lost its scepticism. Hume was refused a Chair at Edinburgh Uni for precisely that reason, and Scotland just voted No for reasons based on scepticism.

        The people of Scotland today are likely to be far more rational and sceptical than Calvanist 18th century Scots folk were. The people have tried voting Labour for decades, and there is no need to go over the results again (though I see you make light of the biggest foreign policy disaster in generations. Can you name a UK foreign policy disaster on the scale of Iraq? Suez doesn;t come close….the Great War is the only one I can think of.)

        Quite rationally, people decide to take matters into their own hands and vote SNP. Many will do so with some scepticism. What is irrational about that?

        On the other hand, if you’re looking for Humean reasoning or a Socratic dialogue on the social media, that is unlikely, I think it is safe to say….

        • Douglas,

          Fair points,

          But I’m talking about Skepticism as a tool of thought (like empiricism) unlike ‘the rationalism’ of Decartes etc. As universally used on all assertions. The problem is that in the public debate this is not so. Mainly because it takes someone as smart as Hume to do it…which we certainly aren’t.

          And I’m not supporting the Iraq war, I agree it was a disaster of epic proportions, not least for the Iraqi people, but that invoking it has no relevance to the appeal to reason in the post. It is ‘grist to the mill’ invoked for other reasons ans therefore irrelevant to the point being made about the ‘reason’ used in contemporary debate. The fact it was used in such a manner proves my point.

          And the biggest irony is, that both Deerin, Anderson, Bella, all falsely appeal to ‘reason’ for moral arguments. Hume (skeptical and empirical) pointed out this was nonsense…Reason does not motivate the will but is the ‘slave to the passions’. The only rational argument can be from the 2) the data, the facts – this also highly contested also.

          The problem is that the tow are conflated. The moral argument and the rational argument.

          And yes hahaha….not sure social media is the place for such pontificating. But hey ho maybe it’s about time the level of debate was raised?

          • I admire your efforts to raise the debate above endless repetition of the same nationalist narrative which is highly attractive emotionally for those inclined to that but less atria to sceptics whose request for evidence etc is met by the accusation of being fear mongers – which is another emotionally charged accusation in place of debate

          • Incidently, I’m not claiming to be right, just trying to open the space for wider more consensual and precise discussion. Not as much fun as hurling abuse though!

          • @arthurfaeleith

            A fair enough point. But this is not how the pro indy ’emotive’/ ‘moral’ argument is framed. It tends to be framed in terms of social justice and high public spending at a time when ALL western states are having to reconfigure their welfare systems? Why? I mean where is the recourse to the changing world beyond Scotland and the massive impact it is having historically speaking. The comparative advantage of the west in tech and production eroded by Asia? Where is the acknowledgment that what Scotland is experiencing is symptomatic across the western world? Why Nationalism now? And why everywhere. And again you say better governed but the Empircal evidence is contested upon the 15 years of devolution. Also why stick to just one model? Independence as a solution to the percieved (and real) failures of the British state?

            Besides, I was talking about systemic argument.

      • That’s strange, because my desire for independence is firmly based in the arguments around better governance and economic success. I have had many discussions with unionists who were unable to counter the points I made, and who eventually resorted to saying that they simply wanted to remain British. A fair enough position, but surely one based more on emotion than reason. I simply don’t recognise your description of what has been going on in Scotland. I suspect that you have decided what you think is happening, and will not let facts change your conclusion.

      • Absolutely. And the comment about the ‘carnage in Iraq that brought us into the present Isis charnel house’ conveniently ignores the fact that it was the carnage in the twin towers that took us (I agree, mistakenly; but hindsight is a wonderful thing) into Iraq (and Afghanistan).

        • PS This comment (‘Absolutely. etc’) was in response to Scientists Rule’s first comment, not (although by chance it still has some validity in this instance) to Barraload’s. Thus does Bella Caledonia distort the dialogue.

      • Scientists rule wrote:

        Whether the economic legacy of Smith has been co-opted by Friedman in Chicago or Hayek in Vienna is irrelevant and absurd in the sense that we no longer live in the eighteenth century – Keynes ‘I change my mind when the facts change’. What is being invoked is not the actual output of Smith or Hume but the systemics they employed to reach their conclusions; the empirical and more importantly the highly skeptical (Neither of whom ultimately came to the conclusion of ‘the rational’ in the way Kant did.)

        That Smith was co-opted by Friedman, Hayek et al. is relevant because Smith is used to provide legitimacy for their particular brand of economics. They present modern economics as an unbroken tradition of truth founded by Smith. Understanding that this is not the case and the very significant differences between Smith and Hayek, Friedman etc. is important part of any effective critique. (Whether such a critique exists among nationalists is another matter.)

        You claim it is not the output of Smith but the “systematics” employed, which you identify as empirical and skeptical, to reach conclusions If only.

        Neoclassical economics is based on mathematical models. Smith didn’t have much time for “tedious or doubtful calculation”. And yes, I think he would be highly skeptical of the sophistry that is modern economics. It is social science that doesn’t understand social phenomena as it’s too busy indulging in pretentious math, as if economics was akin to physics. The physicists laugh. Unemployed physicists get in on the money racket. And if there is one thing we learned from 2008 it is that it isn’t falsifiable.

        The mathematical models treat humans as self-interested rational utility maximizers. This is hardly empirical as any fool can tell you humans are rather more than this. Smith discusses human motivations and behavior at length. Here’s what Smith had to say about writers of his time who reduced human behavior to self-interest:

        It is the great fallacy of Dr. Mandeville’s book to represent every passion as wholly vicious, which is so in any degree and in any direction. It is thus that he treats every thing as vanity which has any reference, either to what are, or to what ought to be the sentiments of others: and it is by means of this sophistry, that he establishes his favourite conclusion, that private vices are public benefits.

  2. For a start, it’s not your country, it’s ours and next time, spend your time with the people (dangerous for you, eh?? rather than your finance friends. There , you haven’t really left Englamd, no doubt deliberately. If you want to see all four corners, go round the food banks.

    • Case in point. Food banks = emotion. Food banks that could be easily mitigated using the current powers of the Scottish parliament, such as rent reform. The actual blame lies in both WM and Holyrood and in fact the wider economic system, not just the one. Yet this nuanced but basic and obvious observation is not the desired outcome. It doesn’t fit the polemic.

      • Again, scientist, what is rational about the way wealth is distributed in society today in Scotland, a very wealthy country with many, many people living in poverty?

        You claim reason is on your side? Hilarious. Remind me what Smith said about what would happen if you left the market to its own devices, and the state didn’t intervene? Did he not say something along the lines that it would leave man “a miserable, wretched animal” and lead to social unrest?

        Well, you’ve got social unrest in Scotland now, at the moment channelled through a political party and a wider movement, though I would be in favour of all those people who need to go to foodbanks occupying the hunting estates of the highlands, starting with Balmoral…

        As Marx said, in untrammelled free market capitalism, “all that is solid melts into air”, and that includes the Union of 1707 by the looks of things….so all quite rational, not at all emotional my friend.

        • Again, I’m talking about systemic argument (how arguments are constructed) not the factuals.

          • All factuals are irrelevant if inconsistently appealed to in a structured non-systemic way. Anyone can construct an argument and thus a counter argument and then chose the one that suits prior held passions.

          • No better example of reason being a slave to the passions than Blair in Iraq…poor people of Iraq….

            ….yes, you’re right about arguments being constructed as a way of justifying prior beliefs, but the mainstream media is bad and often worse: they lie….

            I have made criticisms of sites like Bella and Wings before, but I have never thought they were anything but honest…unlike The Sun, The Mail and The Telegraph….

        • But just to take you up on a point (incidently I agree with most of what you’re saying on an emotional level) but you talk about ‘Food banks and the highland estates – me too…But if you read the post it appeals to Adam Ramsay as a positive to support the argument, yet Adam (sure he’s a nice bloke) is a baronette and one of the 400 set to inherit Scotland’s land. Do you see the inconsistency and the lack of reason in the argument in this discrepancy?

          • Or the fact that land reform is entirely devolved and has nothing to do with the UK political structure. What ever fits.

          • Yes, the problem is widespread, not just one side or the other – the problem actually is sides at all.

          • Scientist, the Scottish Enlightenment was the movement which broke with hundreds of years of philosophical tradition- which had been obsessed with the self and property and abstract notions like the State of Nature – and declared man to be a social animal….

            Once you accept that – and Thatcher forgot to read that bit obviously before the Sermon on the Mound – it becomes a question of reason, not emotion, to organize society in a way which takes man’s social nature into account.

            What we have had for three decades in the UK are the politics of the self, of property rights….the politics of me, me, me and insatiable greed, with man’s social nature increasingly ignored.

            It can’t go on….something must be done….

          • I am sceptical of the SNP, of course I am….but I wouldn’t consider voting for any of the Unionist parties….

          • I don’t buy the notion that you can separate the ‘Scottish Enlightenment from Germans, French, English, Irish, US…it was a universalist and htch pot thing centered in the notion of ‘man’s rationality over superstition and dogma’ Property and Locke for example? The individual and the rights of man – Thomas Paine?

            I noted you mentioned John Gray…he wold of course just shake his head in dismay at everything I’ve said hahaha.

          • Even if the evidence showed that a Labour Unionist party was the most likely (probable not fact!) means to the ends of your ‘passions’ – I’m guessing social justice in the left wing redistributive sense…as opposed to an indy Scotland dependent (no real choice in the way larger states do) on riding the global neo-lib wave with low corp tax and dependent on monetary policy from a larger neighbour?

            Just hypothetically speaking?

    • Who do you understand as ‘we’, Iain Hill? Not, per the Referendum rules, the thousands of Scots born and bred but now living outside Caledonia, especially if in England. Not for English-born, like myself, who dedicated 30 years of my life to living and working in Scotland, until health took me back to the slightly warmer climate of my native England. ‘We’, per the Referendum, are ‘anyone who happened to have reasonably steady residence in Scotland at a particular date’.

  3. It seems that the Blessed Mr Blair has not yet grasped the fact that the Scots have no desire to charge about the world protecting US interests with bombs and bodies at enormous expense.
    Most of us only want to sort out Scotland’s quite significant issues.
    And mind our own business.

    • ‘We’? ‘Our’? (Mrs Thatcher: We are a grandmother? The Royal ‘We’?)

    • Yep, not much rational thought there. All bombs and bodies. Yet no ‘bombs and bodies’ when BAE are welcomed to Scotland by the present SNP administration. Pointless.

      • Keep going. your contributions are at least thought provoking and deserve to be debated. How would an SNP administration deal with Amazon. Welcome and support inward investment in jobs or abhor their tax practices?

        • The long and short of is it Scotland/ nor the UK can regulate transnational tax avoidance without recourse to transnational governance of some sort (although the larger the market the greater the bargaining power – If Starbucks leave Scotland it doesn’t matter…but to leave the UK would dent them in many ways). So the real debate ought to be a cosmopolitan one/ why the UK govt won’t act and how to make them act….and is actually happening by the way.

          On the one hand you have Scotland leading the way by pointing this out, on the other, it is better achieved through the greatest unity.

          • The larger the ‘Unity’ the more people you need to convince of your argument to effect change. Governments have more taxes, more money and are further away from hearing what the punter is saying. A very large country can use it’s money and power, and access to argue it’s case and split opinion into as many parts as suits its case. Ben Lawers will return to the sea and the age of Nations will be over at some stage in time. Until then self determination and nationhood is as worthy here as in any other place on this planet.. Alliances can be made with like minds, peoples and nations around the world without having to forego our rights to raise our own taxes and have the final say in whether our young men and women go to war or not.

          • Hmm. It appears to me that everything that you have written so far about David Hume, Adam Smith, rationality, scepticism, the ‘passions’, and systemics, boils down, in the end, to one thing: ‘Vote Labour’.

            I could be wrong about this, of course.

            Am I wrong?

          • Ye Gods! An epistemology troll!!!

  4. Would Scotland independent have nuclear weapons? Would Scotland independent have invaded Iraq, screwed up Afghanistan and sent Libya back to the middle ages? Would Scotland independent have closed its steelworks? Would Scotland independent have pissed away all its oil monies? Would Scotland independent be trapped in a bust economy £1,500,000,000,000 in debt.

    Most of the contributions above are peripheral nitpicking by “clever” people who may confuse each other but don’t confuse me.

    • To all the above ‘probably’ yes.

      • Apart from the debt one.

        • The moral luck of hindsight or never being in a position of having to act.

          Nulear weapons …maybe? Does this come with the NATO caveat?

          Iraq – 136 countries invaded (Denmark had a similar per capita force as the UK and were very pro Bush) – Indy Scotland dependent on FDI very close to US especially with oil + Scot parliament voted to invade (so probably yes).

          ‘Screwed up Afghanistan’ – so nothing to do with the Taliban or the USSR or the Mujahadeen or the USA or the Afghan leaders themselves? All the UK fault? And I guess Scotland is once again absolved of Imperial responsibility (as though an arm was twisted?)….again (probably yes)

          Libya (yep probably) see the above 2 and Al Mehgrahi? bet a few in the SNP were over the moon by the demise of the Gadaffi regime. All now hush hush.

          Steelworks (most probably yes) as Steel can be produced at a tenth of the price in India and China. And most steelworks around Europe and America have closed.

          Oil monies? maybe? trying to maintain and subsidize massive loss making heavy industries? see above.

          Would Scotland be trapped in an indebted econ? As most European countries, especially those on the periphery who depend on trade with bigger econs are, then (probably Yes).

    • Will, there is nobody as “clever” as the SNP it seems, who are no longer content with securing an independent Scotland – for which they need to quit shilly-shallying and come up with a plan for a Scottish currency and make the case for an elected head of state – they now want to reform what was, just a few months ago, something they themselves maintained could not be reformed, ie, the British State.

      What do I care about reforming the House of Lords? England can fill its second chamber with barnyard animals for all I care, so long as Scotland is indie. The English love their pomp and ceremony, let them have it!!! And you cannot talk about the Scottish people being sovereign and so much more to the left while keeping the monarchy….that is nonsensical…

      On the other hand, Fiona Hyslop flying out to the States to try to entice US studios productions to shoot in Scotland when we still don’t have a film studio…that isn’t so clever…that’s like flying to Brazil to propose a challenge match in Scotland without us having a national stadium, or in fact a ball…no doubt she quoted a couple of the poets from the wall of the Scottish parliament, that always works here, as if to prove that you are on the side of Scottish culture, despite all the evidence, ie, The Great Cthulhu, otherwise known as Creative Scotland…

  5. Well I seem to have by accident stumbled on a unionist promotion page I have noticed over the last few weeks that this site seems to be attracting more than it’s fair share of nuts on a care in the community placement I might have a look in a few weeks when you have cleaned out your stable thank God very few normal people will see these nutjobs rantings yes I know your post is awaiting what ever

    • So any effort to debate issues are discarded thus. I thought that this site was an attempt at broader journalism where different views could be aired -at least I thought it was until I read the above and other posts that slag off any who are not believers

    • Robert
      Agreed…..
      Bella
      What is all this guff?

  6. Northern Ireland a nation! when did this happen?

  7. Junius. According to Milliband there is only” One Nation”. Not sure if he has advised Cameron of this.

  8. I’m at a loss to understand why emotional response is being denigrated by some in this thread. Surely, the anger I feel, at my neighbours and friends, being forced into intolerable living conditions by government policies, is somehow less reasonable, is quite objectionable. I would like to suggest, in an unemotional way, that some of you are frankly, too far up your own frigid arses.

    • Well put. Reminded me of a quote: “Rational thought on its own becomes pathologically self-serving and destructive of life. Einstein purportedly expressed a similar sentiment when he said that the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant; we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

  9. Well said Alex. Sounds quite rational to me actually..

  10. Very informative discussion. Scientist, well done for raising the bar on social media! See, it works.

    Other subj: for those who have not yet done so, have a look at the article by Adam Ramsay referenced in the Bella article above. It is really worth the read, a brilliant analysis of the ‘day after’… May 8th and beyond.

    https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/newspapers-are-preparing-for-coup-and-labour-is-doing-nothing-to-stop-them

  11. Mr Deerin has it 100% wrong. Since Devolution, but with huge acceleration during the past 18 months, we are experiencing the evolution of the New Scottish Enlightenment, led from the outset by our national culutural vigour. Or to put it another way (it should be our national anthem), as Pete Townshend wrote: “Won’t get fooled again”. They’d better believe it.

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