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Grasping the thistle

Posted on July 16, 2019 by

Last night, grudgingly, we watched the whole of the final Tory leadership debate, for a contest in which pretty much everyone believes Boris Johnson has already gathered enough votes to comfortably win even though there are several days of voting to go.

The headline outcome the media appears to be focusing on is that both candidates proclaimed the Irish backstop “dead”, to which the EU’s response will without a doubt be “Is it, aye?”

So where does that leave us? Let’s have an update.

Firstly, and obviously, as everyone has known for months and months and months: the EU will not negotiate on the backstop. There is zero chance – none whatsoever – of either man securing a new deal without the backstop. So there are only a few things that can possibly happen now.

Let’s start with the assumption that Boris Johnson will be the UK’s new Prime Minister, because he will be. There’s been talk that Labour would call a vote of no confidence within days or even hours of him taking office, which would be just monumentally stupid (and is therefore quite likely to happen).

Johnson would probably win such a vote, and if he didn’t it would trigger a general election for which Labour is woefully unprepared, STILL lacking a clear Brexit policy to put in its manifesto, as a deeply uncomfortable Emily Thornberry demonstrated to the nation on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday.

Johnson, conversely, would campaign on an unambiguous “we leave on 31st October, do or die, no matter what” platform – inescapably implying or even just openly stating a no-deal exit, because after an election there simply wouldn’t be time for anything else – and would likely secure a clear majority because there’d be no room for the Brexit Party to outflank him with a more extreme position.

(Johnson would almost certainly also benefit from the famed “sense of fair play” the British like to attribute to themselves, as John Major did in 1992, because it would be seen – not entirely unreasonably – as manifestly unjust that he’d been dumped without even being given a chance.)

The Remain vote, meanwhile, would probably split between Labour and the Lib Dems, making any sort of Remain coalition hideously difficult – even if they got enough seats between them for a theoretical majority, something that’s highly unlikely.

(If they turned out to need SNP votes as well, the price of coalition would – we hope – be a second independence referendum, and it’s something of an understatement to suggest that that would complicate matters considerably. On the other hand, if the Tories failed to get a majority but the Brexit Party got enough seats to take them over the line, that coalition sits together a lot more easily.)

So let’s rule out an immediate GE, because neither Labour nor the Tories really want to fight one of those right now. What’s left?

1. By fair means or foul, Boris Johnson carries out no-deal on October 31st.

This is still the most plausible outcome. It’s far from clear that MPs can stop him doing so even if he doesn’t try to prorogue Parliament, because it’s still the default position and – uniquely among the numerous options – doesn’t actually need to win a vote in the Commons to happen.

2. No-deal is prevented by either Parliament or the courts.

The latter is the tactic being floated by the tenacious but rather unlikeable Gina Miller, and what’s astonishing about it is the apparent belief that 17m Leavers would take it lying down were it to succeed.

Johnson would have no choice but to call a general election, saying that liberal elite middle-class Remoaners had cheated the people out of their democratic will (and in fact he wouldn’t be wrong).

The election would likely pan out in exactly the same way as the no-confidence scenario outlined above, resulting again in a Tory or Tory/Brexit Party majority which would then be able to enact no-deal.

3. Johnson fails to get a new deal but asks the EU for another extension instead of no-deal.

It’s far from certain the EU would grant yet another do-over, but it’s irrelevant as Johnson would be as well setting himself on fire outside the door of 10 Downing Street, and he knows it. He might be able to survive as PM in the short term because the no-confidence arithmetic would be unchanged, but it would only be delaying the inevitable.

An extension would achieve nothing that hasn’t been achieved in the last three years in terms of actually producing Brexit – because all the circumstances would still be the same and the Irish Question would remain essentially unsolvable – but it would utterly destroy the Conservative Party and Johnson with it.

The final warning that its voters gave the party in the EU election would turn into mass desertion, sooner or later the lame-duck government would implode, and the Brexit Party would win the ensuing GE. Johnson has staked the whole horse and pony show on delivering Brexit in October. He cannot afford an extension.

4. Johnson calls a second referendum.

Voting is disrupted by squadrons of flying pigs.

All of the above roads lead to no deal, and to be blunt, folks, any other scenario is a fantasy. The only even slightly plausible alternative to a no-deal Brexit (whether on 31 October under Johnson or some time next year under Nigel Farage) is the Hail Mary of a general election where the vote splits four ways and the lottery of FPTP throws up some sort of impossibly bizarre result like the Lib Dems winning a majority.

But the highest poll rating they’ve recorded since 1 June is 23%, and even the joke of an electoral system that is FPTP can’t realistically turn that into 325 seats.

(And if it somehow did, we’re genuinely not sure if Lib Dem policy would be to hold a second referendum or just to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU on the back of less than a quarter of the vote. If the former, everything would be up for grabs again. If the latter, well, duck and cover.)

As independence supporters, the conventional wisdom is that our best hope is an election in which the SNP hold the balance of power and can leverage it for a Section 30 order or even the permanent transfer of referendum powers to Holyrood. Polling suggests they could win 50 seats, which would almost certainly be crucial to any would-be government favouring Remain.

The booby-trap in that outcome, however, is that a Remain-committed UK government would be the least favourable backdrop imaginable against which to hold a second indyref. We’d be throwing away the biggest advantage we’re ever going to have.

Once again, the best odds of success for independence probably belong to the idea we put forward back in April – doing a deal with a Tory/Brexit Party government for a second referendum, in return for backing (or even just abstaining on) Brexit.

To put it extremely mildly, that’d be a controversial road to go down. But the bottom line is that the SNP owes the voters of the rUK (who’ve spent the last 30 years calling Scots whinging subsidy junkies and grievance chimps) absolutely nothing – it’s the party of Scottish independence, and if making a one-time deal with the devil is the cost of escaping that devil forever, it may yet be a deal that needs to be done.

The SNP has focused for the last three years on trying to save England and Wales from themselves, with no success and very little in the way of gratitude. But ultimately the goals of achieving Scottish independence and preventing UK Brexit are in direct and fundamental conflict with one another.

Pretty soon the party is going to have to decide which one it cares about the most, and since all the odds favour no-deal Brexit happening anyway, it might be an idea to get something out of it while we’ve still got some bargaining power.

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546 to “Grasping the thistle”

  1. bjsalba says:

    Some items of interest

    Pretty close to Stu’s take said in a different way.
    Johnson’s prospects come in three varieties of Nixon

    Worth watching the video of Slugger – the most interesting bit is from about 2 minutes in.

  2. Colin Alexander says:

    Socrates MacSporran

    Not exactly

    Two methods for a general election (GE) despite The Fixed Terms Parliaments Act 2011:

    1. If two-thirds of MPs vote for a motion to call a GE (450), then that’s a basis for a GE. No vote of confidence required. It’s the method Theresa May used in 2017.

    2. Motion of no confidence, passed by simple majority.

    I believe if Tories moved to hold a GE then Mr Corbyn would agree to it and whip his MPs to vote FOR it, as to not go for a GE would be seen as a surrender; the Opposition would be offering no oppostion to a Tory Govt.

  3. A C Bruce says:

    Peter Bell’s blog.

    Scotland’s seeing a massive increase in investment. Is it because Scotland is about to be put firmly back in its box?

  4. Ken500 says:

    The Tories will lose a GE. A majority of 3? Thirty Tories do not support (a no deal) Brexit.

    Clegg caused the EU Ref going in with the Tories. ConDems. Agreeing 5 year fixed UK Parliament unless a 2/3 majority voted against, Clegg now working for tax evader Suckerman. What a hypocritical liar.

  5. Ken500 says:

    There is more investment in Scotland because it is worth investing in because of the Scottish Gov, More homes are being built because of Scottish Gov policies. Building or renovating over 6,000 affordable rented homes a year. Private builders building 17,000. Other homes coming on to the market. 50,000 keel over every year. 20,000+? Coming on to the market. More homes for everyone. Less shortage. More for sale. Increased market. More business.

    Scotland more likely to stay in the EU or in close contact. More stable economically.

  6. Socrates MacSporran says:

    Colin Alexander @ 8.31am

    Fair enough, but, I still think the arithmetic is a bit tight, and, turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

  7. Ottomanboi says:

    Brexit party is the Tories remorphed. Heads they win, tails they win. Except in Scotland, for the moment.
    I wonder to what extent technology will be used to keep Scots in check. Spy and control tech via phones etc is now very sophisticated. We carry a potentially powerful, default, surveillance device in our pockets.
    The Uyghur people of East Turkestan aka Xinjiang know to their cost how effective such technology can be.
    The Clegg association with Zuckerberg ought to set alarm bells clanging. Less in yer face than the Chinese, ‘The West’ is involved in this stuff too eg Cambridge Analytica.
    Combating ‘terrorism’ has give tech companies and nedia platforms a golden ticket. Scots ‘dissidents’? yay we’ll track ‘em! Inside leg, step count….we got it.

  8. Sinky says:

    On Drugs worth reading this article

    Westminster is clearly deaf to this tragedy. There is only one solution. Declare it Scotland’s problem. Let Scotland decide what to do.

    Same goes with taxation and so called income tax black hole. We need full control of all taxes.

    It’s time the mythical SNP rebuttal team responded to the comments by Liz Truss in Daily Mail and explain in simple terms what the problem is.

  9. Ottomanboi says:

    Further link to Uyghur repression and the hypocrisy of governments in its regard.
    A sovereign Scotland must not be one of them.

  10. Terry callachan says:

    But what else do we have to hold on to if not the SNP ?
    The SNP are the only life raft in the sea of despair .

    Robin Mcalpine makes a very compelling case in this report , I travel abroad six times a year and no matter where I go I look around and say to myself “ why can’t Scotland have that “
    “how come this city town or country has that and Scotland doesn’t “

    At present I’m watching the Tour de France , every town or city it passes through looks better than anything in Scotland better in a way that you can see some money has been spent modernising and preserving what they have whereas in Scotland everything is falling to bits , no preservation of our ancient buildings no modernisation of them inside.

    And travel facilities are thirty years behind in Scotland.
    Much smaller towns and cities than ours have modern tram systems and beautiful train stations the old stations are preserved on the outside but modern on the inside.

    Hotels that are modern and beautiful

    Municipal facilities that are well cared for

    And housing as Robin says in his report that puts us to shame

    Setting targets to build 500 or a 1000 new houses in a year when a million are required shows just how silly things are here in Scotland, why are we building flats all the time what we need are houses with gardens small or large we have the room, why are rooms so tiny in new houses and how come nine out of ten people will never be able to afford one

    Sad sad sad that we have come to expect so little

    So many people respond to Scotland’s straightjacket economy by saying yes but there are people worse off than me , it’s not enough

    Why aren’t we on the streets protesting every week exposing the people that hold us back and disrupting their cosy lives

    This cuddly soft quiet and orderly Scottish independence campaign isn’t working
    everyone just wanders quietly along to a march now and then and quietly marches through streets well away from the city centre where it can’t be seen
    and if confronted by aggressive abusive Union Jack britnats just blow a whistle at them

    And when you are on your way home fold up your saltire hide your Scottish independence paraphernalia and don’t talk openly about Scottish independence in the street on the bus or the train in case someone hears you

    When you get home celebrate a great day out with likeminded people but it won’t be on tv your neighbours won’t know about it they won’t know you’ve been

    There are hardly any posters or stickers or anything at all to be seen anywhere highlighting Scottish independence walk down any street in Scotland , NOTHING

    The britnats are so confident they have you in your straightjacket they just sit back and say nothing and do nothing confident that BBC and the newspapers will brainwash you everyday into submission and that’s exactly what they are doing

    England has us in a tartan box

    I read weegingerdug a clever man and very fair too but he often says everyone in Scotland is a Scot ?
    WHAT ?
    No they’re not, I hate it when people in Scotland just airbrush my identity as if being Scottish is so meaningless so cheap a giveaway product all you have to do is be here !!

    The first thing we should be doing is defining what being Scottish is,
    It’s great to include everyone living in Scotland in terms of services and equal rights but let’s stop this pretence that everyone in Scotland has changed their nationality and is now a Scot just because they are living here, they are not, people from other countries are proud of their nationality it doesn’t change each time they move house to another country.

    Let’s have a Scottish government initiative to allow people to apply for Scottish citizenship
    At present they can only apply for British citizenship
    How can we claim to be a separate country with pride when people coming here can only apply to be British which we know that british actually means English to the the world at large

    First in line should be all the English welsh or Irish people living in Scotland who want to become Scottish , there won’t be many

  11. Ottomanboi says:

    Tech repression in action. More detail here.
    Please read. Coming to your phone soon too….

  12. Petra says:

    Happy Birthday Nicola from your supporters on Wings XX

  13. Republicofscotland says:

    Meanwhile as Boris Johnson looks all set to become British PM, he’s snubbing our FM by vowing not to meet with her at Bute house.

  14. Capella says:

    Russell Brand quote on gateway drugs should be on a big poster:

  15. Welsh Sion says:

    Onwards and upwards …

    Gwynedd council votes to back Welsh independence

  16. Welsh Sion says:

    Mike Cassidy

    I have found the Football Act of 1424 that you were looking for on an old, moth-eaten piece of parchment in my attic. Eureka!

    I transcribe it for you here …



    YE FITBA ACT, 1424


    (1) Ther shall be known as a game yclept ‘fitba’.

    (2) That ye game of fitba shal involve twa teams o’ eleven (XI) men each.

    Ye Auld Firm

    (3) That in ye first instance ye teams shal be yclept Rangers and ye Celtic (Henceforth, yclept ‘Ye Auld Firm’).

    (4) That ‘Ye Auld Firm’ supporters will aften (although not exclusively) contain sectarian bigots who have less interest in ye fitba than fighting each other.

    Ye National Fitba Team

    (5) That ther shal also be ye national team of fitba yclept ‘Scotland’ (Henceforth, also yclept ‘Yon Loosers’).

    (6) Yon Loosers shall endeavour at all times –

    a) to loose as many fitba matches as possible

    b) to seize defeat from ye jaws of victory as often as possible

    c) to never qualify for ye World Cup nor ye European Championships o’ fitba UNLESS
    i) it be aided to do so, by yon hand of Joe Jordan or
    ii) it does so qualify, on ye solemn and sincere undertaking no’ tae proceed further than ye first round matches

    (7) Yon Loosers shall be supported a’ aw times by ye Tartan Army, who will support said team through thin an’ thinner.

    [SEAL] Ye seal of ye King of Scotland, dated this 1st day of April 1424

    [SEALION] Ye sealion of ye First Minister of Scotland, dated this 1st day of April 1424

  17. Graeme says:

    @ Welsh Sion

    Thats brilliant 🙂

  18. Ottomanboi says:

    There is in German a concise term for the British Unionist cultural process, VERMASSUNG: loss of identity or individuality, stereotyping, de-individualization.
    There is always some economic reason for sticking with nurse, there is never a cultural reason for doing so. Nanny Britannia has infantilized Scotland for far too long.

  19. Dr Jim says:

    The Scottish government are building in excess of 20.000 affordable homes per year with more than 7.000 of those for social rent

    Not 500

    There has been no such amount of house building by any political party since the 1960s and at that time most of those were private dwellings

    Be careful of listening to people like Robin McAlpine if these are the numbers he’s quoting, he’s either mistaken or *accidentally* mistaken

    There’s a lot of that going around these days

  20. Ian Brotherhood says:

    Did anyone else hear Gavin Bowd on CallK (with Stephen Jardine) abot an hour ago?

    Basically, the SNP can/should be viewed as part of rising Fascism.


    Who is that guy? Name’s familiar but I dont know why…

  21. Welsh Sion says:

    Ian Brotherhood @ 11.34 am

    Not heard the broadcast but is this your man?

  22. call me dave says:

    Prof Colin Jones: His work was to stoke up fear and doubt says ‘The National’. There is a lot of it about.

    FM birthday.

    Radio shortbread Do you remember the moon landing day? Aye I do.

    50yrs ago: It wasn’t like this! 🙂

  23. A C Bruce says:

    TC @ 9.33 am = “The first thing we should be doing is defining what being Scottish is,
    It’s great to include everyone living in Scotland in terms of services and equal rights but let’s stop this pretence that everyone in Scotland has changed their nationality and is now a Scot just because they are living here, they are not, people from other countries are proud of their nationality it doesn’t change each time they move house to another country.”

    I worked with a European man who has lived in Scotland for 10+ years, had his family here and appears to be permanently settled. When referring to something pre his move to Scotland, he referred to it as when “he was Polish”. In his mind, he was now a Scot and he was welcomed as such.

    If people are settled here, build a life here and want to make Scotland as good as it can be, then they are Scottish.

  24. Golfnut says:

    @ Terrence Callaghan.

    McAlpine, like so many in politics is comfortable spreading misinformation for the purpose of point scoring. He is also criticising the SNP for not embracing the ‘ Green Deal ‘ because they won’t be including it as a topic at their conference.
    The Green Deal is a UK gov initiative promoted as a energy and cost saving program which uses solar panels, cladding, smart meters. These are separate from the Scottish Gov initiative.
    The UK initiative, because of poor legislation, poor licencing and a deaf or paralysed Secratary of state, has left hundreds of households in Scotland in debt, shoddy installations, no certification and the inability to sell their homes without serious loss.
    My wife and I are part of a focus group lead by the SNP at Holyrood that are trying to get this sorted out, the focus group is sesperate from the Parliamentary committee set up to bring together all the stakeholders including the UK gov.
    My wife has done most of the lifting on this since I been in and out of hospital for the last 2 years, and along with others on the focus group has been trying desperately to get some action from the UK gov that doesn’t focus on the interests of investors instead of those who have been seriously damaged financially.
    The SNP have repeatedly raised this issue at Westminster, including asking that the new roleout was stopped until all the issues had been resolved.
    So no, they aren’t very keen on promoting the ‘ Green Deal ‘

  25. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    You’ve just gotta laugh. The behind the scenes right wing cartel that actually runs the UK and owns all the media put up with “Labour” Gordon Brown as long as he was doing their bidding as Chancellor and Prime Minister. Like Tony Blair,next best thing to a Tory running the country, but when it was time to get rid of him and get the real Tories back in again he was savagely pilloried and relentlessly parodied.

    Then they send him up to give Scotland advice…………. because they think we’re all daft.

  26. manandboy says:

    Someone should ask Boris Johnson if he would wish Scotland remain a Colony of the British Empire for the next hundred years.

    After that, the same question might profitably be asked of the Scottish Electorate.

  27. Ghillie says:


  28. Macandroid says:

    @ Ottomanboi 09:20

    Everyone who uses the internet, either on a phone, tablet or PC should install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which keeps your browsing private.

  29. Dr Jim says:

    Sky news reports

    Scotland will need £billions of extra investment because education is failing and the SNP have underspent, mental health, achievement, blah blah blah

    *Experts say*

    Do you know what I’m an expert in Sky news? *Smells*

  30. Jack Murphy says:

    My Scotland Tory MPs/MSPs, Ladies and Gentlemen Tory Members, I here present unto you, your undoubted Leader:

    “Boris Johnson reportedly asked aides whether Angela Merkel was in the Stasi and questioned why Leo Varadkar isn’t “called Murphy like all the rest of them?”

    The comments were made while he was foreign secretary, according to the Financial Times.

    Johnson has previously called the French “turds” and compared the EU to the Nazis.

    The revelation comes as Johnson prepares to replace Theresa May as prime minister next week.”

    Pleased and proud of yourselves ?

    MSN News,Business Insider:

  31. Capella says:

    Ian Brotherhood says:
    19 July, 2019 at 11:34 am
    Did anyone else hear Gavin Bowd on CallK (with Stephen Jardine) abot an hour ago?

    Basically, the SNP can/should be viewed as part of rising Fascism.

    I actually regard the BBC as a fascist organisation, being the propaganda wing of the undemocratic Westminster system. Call Kaye is a good example of that. I remember her anti-democratic antics during the Independence Referendum, along with all the other propaganda outlets in the media.

  32. Ian Brotherhood says:

    @Welsh Sion –

    Dunno if it’s the same dude. The one who was on CallK has authored books about Fascism and I don’t see any on that guy’s publication history.

    The clip will surface in due course. It really is quite shocking.

  33. Effijy says:

    Scottish Education in crisis. What crisis?

    95% of Scottish kids going on to further education, jobs or apprenticeships.

    I saved £27,000 when my daughter didn’t have to pay for her University Degree.

    England sees schools closing on Fridays as they can’t afford to stay open and University Students leaving with £40,000 of debt.

    You can see the state of English education just by the idiots with degrees that Sky employes and the fools down there who think
    Murdoch has any interest in the woking classes or the truth.

  34. Jack Murphy says:

    A hurried Addendum to my Post at 12:25pm:

    “Johnson was also filmed referring to the French as “turds,” in comments which were removed from a BBC documentary.

    The remarks are the latest in a long-line of offensive comments by the former foreign secretary.”

    ” In the past Johnson has called black Africans “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles,” referred to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and suggested that former US President Barack Obama had a “part-Kenyan… ancestral dislike of the British Empire.”

  35. Legerwood says:

    Welsh Sion @ 10.37 am


  36. Dr Jim says:

    Todays SNP bad stuff is brought to you courtesy of Liz Truss and the Daily Mail

  37. Colin Alexander says:

    Dave McEwan Hill @ 12.03pm

    Good comment.

    To remind Scotland what GB said about the GB Union:

    Labour’s proposals to the Smith Commission:

    GB’s later assertions and appeals to sign a petition to keep the devolution promises:

    GB’s speech suggested Home Rule.

    “These are big changes that we are proposing. To strengthen the Scottish Parliament… ”

    One example: Was the Scottish Parliament strengthened?

    Labour’s proposals included: “We also recommend that the “Sewel convention” should be given a statutory basis. This should be enshrined in law to give effect to the convention that the UK Parliament regards the right of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for the matters it properly controls, and that its powers cannot be changed without its consent”.

    Remember, the UK party leaders all gave their backing to GB’s plans, aka The Vow. It was suggested this was a done deal.

    Yet, despite giving a few extra powers, the UK state robbed more devolution powers than it gave. The Sewel Convention was shown to be worthless when the UK robbed devolved powers (reserved them to WM) by means of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 .

    The Scottish Parliament did not give assent for these changes which affected the Scottish Parliament’s powers (if Brexit goes ahead). The UK simply ignored this.

    The UK shifted the goalposts when the Scottish Parliament tried to have the Continuity Bill become law.

    Either Mr Brown was deliberately deceitful or was a patsy, used to sell a con. He even admitted the Vow was not being delivered. So, clearly he recognised this fact. Despite all the broken promises and disgraceful treatment by the UK State, he tries to sell us the same rubbish yet again.

    Clearly, the man has no shame in again trying to sell another huge con to ALL the people of Scotland, not just pro-independence supporters. The UK state had it’s chance to reform this Union, to save the Union. It had it’s chance and blew it.

    Gordon Brown is not a patsy, not a fool: he is not a unionist either: he is a British Empire colonialist.

    The UK state has clearly demonstrated that it regards and treats Scotland as its colonial possession. It revealed this is NOT a Union of equals; it is a Union of British Empire and Scottish colony.

    If Indyref2 happens, the real question should be: Should Scotland remain a colony of the British Empire? Yes or No?

  38. Ottomanboi says:

    @Macandroid @12:14
    Unlikely to be any use in the Chinese context and not much protection outside either.
    Best action disable cookies. If compelled to allow, clear regularly. Disable any gps and ‘tracking’ and stay off social media. ‘They’ can still get you. AI is THE tool of people control. Loads a dosh in it too!

  39. North chiel says:

    “ Republic of Scotland @0950 a.m.” perhaps our FM could offer him “ Bannockburn “ instead. Boris might fancy his chances on his trusty steed ( if he doesn’t fall off as soon as he gets mounted) ?however my money is on our FM who could prove too nimble & fleet of foot on her steadfast pony .

  40. CameronB Brodie says:

    Ian Brotherhood
    Given the simplest definition of fascism is the authoritarian opposition to self-determination, I’m 100% confident that Gavin Bowd is blowing it out his arse. For an academic who is publicly funded, that is a disgracefully dishonest opinion he is touting as fact. I hope his employer takes note.

  41. CameronB Brodie says:

    @Gavin Bowd
    Contemporary British nationalism is an expansionist form of authoritarian English nationalism. Better luck next time in your attempts to deflect your team’s authoritarian populist nationalism, on to our team’s rational liberalism. Wank.

    The Rise of the Right
    English Nationalism and the Transformation of Working-Class Politics

  42. CameronB Brodie says:

    @Gavin Bowd

    Th e politics of affect
    Perspectives on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism in the West


    This article is based on the transcript of a roundtable on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism held at the AAA Annual Meeting in 2017. The contributors explore this rise in the context of the role of affect in politics, rising
    socio-economic inequalities, racism and neoliberalism, and with reference to their own ethnographic research on these phenomena in Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the UK and Hungary.

    inequality, neoliberalism, politics of affect, right-wing populism, the far-right

  43. CameronB Brodie says:

    The full-English Brexit is an expression of populist English nationalism, though some would call that Britaish Political Tradition. It obliterates any claim of ethical balance in the practice of British constitution law, and will harm Scotland’s public health and economic well-being. Scotland is facing an existential crises created by English nationalism, and we need honest accademics now more than ever.

    Sorry for the length of this post but I thought it about time for some proper academic insight. St. Andrews University, if Gavin Bowd is your employee, please take note.

    English Nationalism and Brexit: Past, Present, and Future

    English Nationalism and Euroscepticism

    So far, this review of the literature on English nationalism has sought to provide an historical overview of the sheer complexity and dangers of over simplifying what English nationalism represents. In this section of the literature review, this study will seek to unpack the relevant literature surrounding the complexity English nationalism in its interconnected relationship with Euroscepticism. Ben Wellings defines Euroscepticism generally as “resistance to European integration” (Wellings 2012). But the term in academia has been disputed and thought of, at times, derisively as a journalistic media label rather than a precise academic term (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013).

    C. R. Aguilera de Prat’s book, Euroscepticism, Europhobia and Eurocriticism: The Radical Parties of the Right and Left vis-à-vis the European Union (2013), provides a broader supranational argument linking the radical parties of both the left and right in a common narrative of political opposition towards the European Union. In this light, the author provides a key insight into the term ‘Euroscepticism’ adding thoughtfully to the literature on what defines

    Rodriguez-Aguilera notes that ‘Euroscepticism’ arose as a media label in the UK during the 1975 referendum on the European Economic Community (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 21). The author argues that “Euroscepticism is not just a phenomenon of certain elites, some mass media or voters who protest: it is a more complex phenomenon that interacts with all these elements in certain contexts” (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 21). The author argues that Euroscepticism is better understood when viewed as one opinion on a continuum of positions towards European integration (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 25).

    The author argues that this may range from rejectionist sovereign nationalist positions (e.g. UKIP) to supranational federalist policy positions (e.g. The Liberal Democrats) (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 25). Rodriguez-Aguilera
    makes the informative conceptual definition of Euroscepticism that “in all its forms – is a transversal ideological phenomenon that crosses the left/right axis and is clearly present even within the parties themselves” (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 25).

    In other words, that ‘Euroscepticism’ should not be narrowly seen as a term which purely occupies the political right, but rather, a process found in parties across the ideological spectrum. Rodriguez-Aguilera goes on to provide a useful conceptual framework to distinguish the varied political views on European integration. The author suggests that grouping all ‘Eurosceptic’ parties under the same banner of ‘Euroscepticism’ is not entirely helpful for academic enquiry (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 42). The first group are Europhobic groups, such as UKIP, who are interested purely in withdrawing membership to the European Union and are against any form of integration (Rodriguez-Aguilera 2013, 42).

    The second are anti-integrationist groups, who do not explicitly reject integration but reject it in its current modality. Thirdly, Rodriguez-Aguilera defines a third It is also important to delineate in the literature what distinguishes English nationalism from Euroscepticism and how these two ideologies are related with one another. Ben Wellings book, English Nationalism and Euroscepticism: Losing the Peace (2012), unpacks these two interrelated terms and places them in their historical, cultural, and political context.

    Wellings’ central thesis argues that “resistance to European integration has conditioned contemporary English nationalism” (Wellings 2012, 5). Before delving into the reasons why this conditioning has takenplace, Wellings presents a balanced view of English nationalism and its relationship to British sovereignty.

    Wellings’ argues that the difficulty in explaining English nationalism for Kumar and those concerned with the historical foundations of English nationalism is due to a matter of theoretical perspective (Wellings 2012, 19). Wellings’ argues convincingly that to fully appreciate English nationalism one must look at both the historical structures of English nationalism as Kumar and others adroitly do, and via the conception of English sovereignty (Wellings 2012, 27).

    Turning to the role of historical structures first, Wellings in line with the arguments made by Kumar (2003), argues that English nationalism arose in the eighteenth century. For Wellings, the historical event of importance was the period of state consolidation after the Act of Union in 1707 which led to the creation of the United Kingdom as one knows it today (Wellings 2012, 38).

    Wellings adopts the phrase “Crown-in-Parliament sovereignty,” or to put more simply parliamentary sovereignty, to argue that this represents a core ideological component of English nationalism (Wellings 2012, 38). According to Wellings, symbolism matters a great deal, notably that Parliament through the consolidation of power after 1707 became a visible symbol of sovereignty and became “a totem of Englishness in its own right” (Wellings 2012, 39).

    The second major argument put forward by the author makes the argument that an essential component of nationalism and particularly relevant to English nationalism is “the legitimization of a particular location of sovereignty, be that sovereignty vested in the people or the state or both” (Wellings 2012, 37). This conception of nationalism is pertinent given the debate surrounding Brexit, which questioned the role of European integration and whether
    Parliament was sovereign or bound to the rule of law of a larger supranational body.

    Wellings’ goes on to discuss an area of weakness in Kumar’s scholarship on English nationalism. He argues an essential structure which “helps condition contemporary English nationalism is ‘Europe,’” (Wellings 2012, 43). Wellings makes this the focus of his research, understanding the interaction between European integration and contemporary English nationalism (Wellings 2012, 43). Proponents of European integration, argues Wellings, present an integration narrative whereby Europe integration has the unique ability to accommodate “all differing historical experiences” of member states (Wellings 2012, 44).

    Wellings’ argues that this perspective is the central myth of European unity. (Wellings 2012, 44). Wellings’ argues that this contemporary relationship began in July 1961 when Britain’s chose to apply for membership to the European Economic Community (EEC) (Wellings 2012, 91). This marked an end of what had then been a European Free Trade Area (EFTA) which the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Portugal were signatories to, and instead represented a pivot towards Europe (Wellings 2012, 92). This reached an apex in 1975 when the first nationwide UK referendum was held on whether UK should remain a member of the European Community (Common Market).

    As Wellings and Vines have noted in their article on the subject, the lasting significance of the vote was that it signalled that Britain’s place in Europe was a matter of such supreme national importance that conventional measures for resolving the issue were inadequate” (Wellings and Vines 2016, 316). For Wellings, the decision to move “towards Europe” had a “profound effect on the shape of English nationalism in years to come” (Wellings 2012, 92).

    For one British politician helped to catalyse the essential conditions for what contemporary English nationalism means today and its fervent resistance to any European integration efforts: the controversial politician, Enoch Powell (Wellings 2012, 102). According to Wellings, Powell, “had a lasting impact on the emerge of contemporary English nationalism through his deployment of race and xenophobia…Powell sought to articulate a new vision of England based on race and eventually resistance to European integration” (Wellings 2012, 103).

    Wellings’ makes the crucial point that Powell’s prominence in conservative circles arose in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a period in which England was transitioning into a post-imperial era (Wellings 2012, 107). This is an interesting point made by Wellings, linking the role of decline of the British Empire to contemporary English nationalism. This echoes the comments made by Kumar who argues that nationalism and imperialism are conceptually incompatible with one another (Kumar 2003, 32).

    Wellings’ references a speech by Powell made at the Royal Society at St. George on 22nd April 1961, in which Powell expressed his vision for England and for ‘Crown-in-Parliament’ sovereignty:

    To embrace and express the qualities that are peculiarly England’s: the unity of England, effortless and unconstrained, which accepts the unlimited supremacy of Crown in Parliament so naturally as not to be aware of it; the homogeneity of England, to discover the difference and assert the peculiarities; the continuity of England, which has brought this unity and this homogeneity about by the slow alchemy of centuries. (Wellings 2012, 107).

    In just this short paragraph, Powell has expressed what Wellings refers to as the “key elements” of nationalist opposition to the signing of the Treaty of Rome (Wellings 2012, 107). Wherein he traces, “the supremacy of the Crown in Parliament; the homogeneity of the English nation; and most importantly, its long historical continuity” (Wellings 2012, 108).

    In other words, that European integration meant a direct threat to English sovereignty in Powell’s view. Several questions of historical scholarship arise during Wellings discussion of Enoch Powell. Firstly, if contemporary English nationalism arose during the post-war era, how did decolonization and the end of Britain’s imperialist project alter English nationalism? Secondly, how did the decline of the empire affect Euroscepticism?

    Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon’s recently published book, Continental Drift: Britain and Europe from the End of Empire to the Rise of Euroscepticism (2016), adds cogently to the dialogue on the questions left with us from Wellings work regarding the impact of the post-imperial order on English nationalism and Euroscepticism. He argues that Euroscepticism has become intertwined with English nationalism due to a “nostalgic rendering of Britain’s past, from a desire to return to the ‘golden age’ of British history – an age that was defined by British imperialism, even if present-day Eurosceptics do not call the Empire by name” (Fitzgibbon 2016, 468).

    Fitzgibbon provides a useful lens of analysis by this statement in viewing any key political debate regarding Europe and the United Kingdom as a question of whether it promotes or hinders returning to that ‘golden age’ of British history defined by empire (Fitzgibbon 2016, 468). Consequently, unpacking other moments in the chronology of Britain’s relationship with European integration can be analysed through the lens of nostalgia of political independence and sovereignty as Fitzgibbon underlines as an essential aspect to Euroscepticism and English national identity. (Fitzgibbon 2016, 468).

    ….Emma Vines in her article “Reframing English Nationalism and Euroscepticism: From populism to the British Political Tradition” (2014), seeks to place Ben Wellings scholarship into the broader context of the British Political Tradition (BPT). Vines’ agrees with Wellings position that Euroscepticism is the most coherent expression of contemporary English nationalism today (Vines 2014, 256).

    However, the author takes issue with the argument made by Wellings that English nationalism has become populist in nature (Vines 2014, 256). Instead, Vines seeks to reframe “the case for Eurosceptic English nationalism in terms of a continued adherence to the British Political Tradition” (Vines 2014, 256). BPT is a term to describe an ‘elitist view of responsibility and tradition’, according to Vines (Vines 2014, 256).

    Vines’ is sceptical of arguments made by Wellings (2012) that the rise of the fringe populist parties, British National Party (BNP) and the United Kingdom Independence Party
    (UKIP), indicates a populist trend in British nationalism (Vines 2014, 257). Vines’, however, views the rise of Euroscepticism as an expression of English nationalism as an example of political tradition, not populism. Vines’ defines ‘political tradition’ broadly as a tradition which “encompass particular beliefs, discourses and practices…as capable of constraining, without determining, actors’ behaviour and political decisions.” (Vines 2014, 263).

    Vines argues that British political tradition is marked by a political class which operates largely outside of interference from the electorate, providing a centralized form of governance through the Westminster model (Vines 2014, 264). Vines’ critiques Wellings argument that the use of referendums signals a sea change in British politics, moving away from parliamentary to popular sovereignty (Wellings 2012, 147). For Vines this belief in the power of referendums to shape popular sovereignty in the UK represents a “narrow understanding of responsibility and representation at the heart of the BPT” (Vines 2014, 267).

    Vines’ argues Wellings fails to grasp that referendums are only called for when it serves the interest of political parties (Vines 2012, 268). Vines’ article raises a vital question in terms of the literature: how have political parties affected English nationalism? Secondly, what does the advent of fringe political parties, notably the BNP and UKIP, mean for English nationalism?

  44. Gary says:

    What the analysis of most of the political pundits seems to ignore is the fact that we are dealing with politicians and not logic.

    Boris SAYS he’ll leave in October, but to others he says he will not leave without a deal. The “do or die” quote ISN’T a quote, it was an interviewer who said it TO him, although he didn’t disagree, he failed to actually agree either (being a politician)

    So the EU will refuse to take the backstop off the table but, as we all know, this doesn’t preclude simply leaving by default. Leaving by default does (depending on how you feel about it) have some advantages. It means that you can take ’emergency measures’ and these are unlikely to have to be voted on in parliament. Boris can ‘try’ to negotiate all the way to the end and sound like he has a deal if he wants then default out and begin emergency measures immediately afterwards, no need to get votes or prorogue parliament. And THAT would suit him as the dynamics of parliament won’t have changed, they’ll STILL be a bag of cats!

    But any GE will be to no one’s advantage. It’s likely another hung parliament. Many predict the Brexit Party to do well, especially in English Labour heartlands that voted Leave but I don’t see it. In preparation for the next GE Farage’s party are moving from a single issue party to one with a range of policies for their manifesto to get seats in Westminster. This is a huge mistake for them. In local council and Euro elections they did well in those areas precisely because they had no policies. As a single issue party Labour voters could vote for them. But when they become more right wing than the Tories with their new manifesto those same voters will revert to type leaving Farage with a result perhaps similar to UKIP at the height of their popularity ie NO Westminster seats at all.

    Labour SHOULD be happily in opposition watching the Tories making a mess, they won’t want to encourage a GE either. Bad enough watching it unfold but imagine actually being RESPONSIBLE for it. The resulting mess of Brexit will be absolute GOLD for Labour in the decades to come as they blame it all on the Tories!

    The other thing often forgotten however is the fact that whilst approx. 17m voted Remain, they are not ALL on the streets protesting and wanting to overturn the referendum result. Being decent democratic types they respect the result, they may even AGREE with the result but have been a little nervous about voting for it. Even THESE people who voted Remain would lose confidence in democracy if the referendum result was overturned in any way by an incoming Labour Party as seems (maybe?) to be their policy (perhaps if you listen to Tom Watson?)

    The only way Scotland could democratically avoid Brexit is to have a second Independence Referendum which respected OUR result. This would then leave England & Wales as they are (fair enough) and Scotland gets what it wants too.

    But for those in SLAB, they cannot POSSIBLY be BOTH Unionists AND Democrats whilst calling for a rerun of a referendum which THEIR OWN PARTY voted to respect the result of in Westminster. They have completely lost respect for themselves and those who vote for them…

  45. James Mcgovern says:

    Is there any rule that says SNP cant have MPs in England_?If not im pretty sure Nicola could be next PM and then offer England a referendum on> Do you want the world of the Non-extremist( as long as you are white, English and have money) or Do you want to be sensible and understand that the people telling you you will be better off actually mean we will be better off while you suffer?

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