When Ed Miliband said last night he would rather see David Cameron back in power than make any kind of post election deal with the SNP, the nice positive piece I wanted to write about my hopes for the future governance of these islands disintegrated in disbelief. Who on Earth has Ed been talking to? What nonsense are they feeding him? Why did he agree to say something quite so mind bogglingly, multifacetedly stupid?
Not only has he just told the voters of Scotland that he prefers Tory government for the whole island to a civilised conversation with the people more than half of them (according to the polls) are going to vote for, he has just insulted the intelligence of voters everywhere in the UK with a quite unnecessary concession to the baying nutjobs of the Tory Press.
Here’s one possible scenario. The Tories are the biggest party next Friday. They try to form a government in cooperation with the Liberals and the DUP. They get as far as a Queen’s speech. If the SNP and Labour combined vote against that Queen’s speech, they can bring the Tories down before they get going.
The logic of what Ed just said, which every single Tory MP and mouthpiece in the media will hold him to, is that he abstain. Because to form his own minority government, he will need the support of the SNP whether he pretends they don’t exist and he can’t see or hear them or not.
He has just crippled his own minority government in an act of craven stupidity, a last ditch attempt to put the Scottish horse back in the stable from which it has clearly bolted, and a pointless bit of pandering to the Tory consensus which will despise him all the more for it. Once again, with the SNP, Labour have decided the best thing to do is shut their eyes and wish they’d go away.
Now I kind of understand where they’re coming from. It must hurt like hell to find yourselves to be the chumps of history.
But if they do go on to form an administration now, with support from the SNP which they can deny all they want to, it will be perfectly clear for everyone to see (and point out to them daily) they will look like power hungry hypocrites. They will tacitly, but obviously, be in hock to the Scottish Satan who will no longer be in the mood for positive engagement and exposed to the daily mockery of the entire British Establishment. They’ll look stupid as well as unprincipled. It will be hideous.
Labour made the historic mistake of accepting that government overspending was responsible for the financial crisis in 2008-9. This was bollocks then and it’s bollocks now. But they decided they couldn’t fight the lie so they’d accept it. They cringingly conceded to Tory logic. They’ve just done it again with regard to Scotland and even if they do form a minority government, it will be crippled and compromised from the start.
And they can blame the Scots for voting for the wrong party all they want. Their willingness to join the Tory world view on this and every other matter, it seems, is why Scotland, which is fortunate enough to have an alternative electoral repository for hope, is about to reject them.
I had such hopes that once the Scottish Labour MPs were out of the way that we in Scotland on the one hand, and progressive forces elsewhere would accept the new reality together. That a new constitution for the islands could be worked out between us in good faith. My fear is that what Ed said in the heat of a TV programme last night has condemned us instead to a messy, bitter, recriminatory few years with Labour and the SNP continuing to scream each other puce in blaming each other for everything until Boris walks into Number 10 and we walk out of the Union in a welter of avoidable acrimony.
I had such hopes. That we could recover some of the focus on our mutual welfare that were embodied in the Labour Government of 1945. That we’d find it in ourselves to amicably re-negotiate sovereignty for the benefit of everyone who lives here. Whether we called it federalism or independence. That a bloc of SNP MPs could actually become a fixture of a UK parliament that would then redefine itself through negotiation, with a full transfer of sovereignty to…
I give up. Courage fails me. I find myself unable to hope for anything so sensible. Even with the prospect of a transformative victory next week for the SNP, I find myself in mourning for the better “Britain” that might have been.
Because we might have done this so much better. Till Ed Miliband listened to the bitter trolls of Scottish Labour. And said something stupid last night. Careless but defining. Final. Without even thinking. And this demonstrating that not only have the Tories just abandoned the Union for their own narrow stupid, greed headed advantage, not only are the Tories short sighted and stupid in regard to their precious Union, so, when it comes down to it, are the Peoples’ Party of the Britain that Was, the Britain that they used to represent as a positive inclusive sense of mutual value, and that they now, like the Tories, represent only as a tawdry, vacuous pretence, a shambolic, empty pageant of royalty and Britain’s Got Talent.
They have been trying to make the case that they remain the historical heirs of the last British National Moment that made sense. That they held dear the creations of the Labour Government of 1945-51 to which the people of Scotland still, maybe naively, cling.
Are they Hell. They’re a bunch of squeaky useless PR people who wouldn’t know a value if it punched them in the head. And if they’re better than that, they’ve just blown their chance to act like it.
At least that’s how I feel this morning. I am filled with the same cold, contemptuous anger as I was during the referendum and that they’ve been meeting on the doorsteps, bewildered that no one seems to love them any more.
You did this all to yourselves, you dumb, doomed, craven little men.
Last year, when I looked at the scummy, doomed campaign style of Better Together, I remember thinking: “Jesus, the United Kingdom, no matter what I think of it, surely deserved better than this second rate, nihilistic shit. Can’t they see the price they’re going to pay if they keep this up?” I feel that way again. There’s sadness mixed in with the determination that we may as well get it over with and get shot of the lot of them.
Postscript: All day I’ve been wondering what possessed a careful intelligent man like Ed Miliband to say something so transparently stupid and careless. Then the answer came to me. Nick Clegg. Nick and Ed are doing a deal and what Ed said last night is part 0f the price. I’d bet my house and kids on it.