Curiously, the only place in the media we’ve been able to find even slightly detailed coverage of Gordon Brown’s speech on independence to a group of Labour MPs, MSPs and party apparatchiks in Govan this week was in Newsnet Scotland.
The press, which gave extensive coverage to the former Prime Minister’s last intervention in the debate, has barely mentioned the latest one, made again in the name of the figleaf “United With Labour” brand created to convince the party’s more gullible grassroots supporters that it’s not walking hand-in-hand with the Tories.
That may, of course, be because the media, while more or less obliged to cover UWL’s launch, is generally rather uncomfortable about it and doesn’t want to shine too much light on the group. But it may also be because Brown’s speech was such arrant, obvious nonsense that even Scotsman readers would be insulted by it.
Brown made two key suggestions. His first was to propose that the status of the Scottish Parliament be written into UK legislature such that it could no longer be abolished at will by Westminster:
“I would also write in the British constitution that the Scottish Parliament is permanent, irreversible and indissolvable.”
Alert readers will of course be wondering at this point precisely where Mr Brown would “write” such a thing, as the UK doesn’t have a written constitution, but that’s not the daft bit. It’s one of the most fundamental principles of ANY democracy that no government can bind the hands of its successors, and any such statute could be repealed just as easily as it was passed, no matter how many synonyms for “permanent” you wrote in.
The second grand idea of Brown’s speech was this one:
“We pool and share resources and we do so so that we have equal economic, social and political rights for working people, for pensioners, for people in need of healthcare or unemployed people in need of a job, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
I believe we should write this into the constitution, for the first time making it explicit that the purpose of the Union is not just defence security, is not just trading relationships, but to pool and share our resources for the benefit of working people, the elderly, children and families, in all parts of the United Kingdom.”
That all sounds very Utopian and socialist and well and good. Except we know what it actually means in practice for Scotland – money flowing out of the country to subsidise poor parts of England. And for better or worse, that prospect isn’t a big vote-winner for the No campaign.
It would be hard even for Scotland’s media, much of which still appears to worship Brown as some sort of god, to analyse his speech without banging into these whacking great elephants parked in the middle of the room. So they give it the most token coverage they can get away with and scuttle along to find something easier to spin or smear.
If this site’s shown anything over the last couple of years, it’s that what the press doesn’t report is at least as important as what it does. Gordon Brown, still popular in Scotland and a political heavyweight by any reasonable definition, ought to be in the latter category. Ask yourself why he’s not.