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Wings Over Scotland

The lives of others

Posted on June 07, 2012 by

Ed Miliband, the nation was famously told a while back, “gets” Scotland. The Labour leader has done his damnedest to prove that assertion wrong ever since, first telling Scots that they were simply a stepping stone in getting Labour back into power at Westminster – helping the Scottish party to its disastrous defeat in 2011 as a result – and then not being able to remember the names of the Scottish Labour leadership candidates, despite there only being three of them, a few months later.

(To be strictly fair to Miliband, he did also show some perceptive insight in April 2011, noting that “I think people are really focusing on this question: who do you want standing up for Scotland against the Conservative-led Government in London?” just before the Scottish electorate delivered their crushingly unequivocal answer.)

“Definitely not Red” Ed’s latest brainwave to win over the reluctant voters of Her Majesty’s Great Empire Of Britain (Northern Administrative Region) is to tell Scots it’s not just up to them to decide whether Scotland becomes independent or not. Doubtless inspired by a ComRes poll in today’s Independent showing just 30% of English and Welsh voters want Scotland to leave the Union (far fewer than most previous surveys), Miliband will today tell a London audience that England “must have its say”. What isn’t clear is what he actually meant by that.

As far as we know, all five parties represented at Holyrood, and all four with Scottish MPs at Westminster, accept that the referendum is a matter for the people of Scotland alone to decide. It’s difficult to imagine, for example, a scenario where Scotland voted overwhelmingly Yes but England voted No and Scotland was kept in the UK by force, against the express democratic wishes of its people and in flagrant breach of the UN Charter (Article 1.2) on self-determination.

So what DOES Miliband mean? To be honest, we haven’t the foggiest. England is not currently being denied “its say” in any conceivable way. Politicians are free to raise the subject whenever and wherever they like, it’s regularly debated in the press, and there are frequent polls, of which the Independent’s is merely the latest.

In fact, in 2012 we’ve seen more polls concerned with England’s opinion on the subject than Scotland’s. If anything the topic is seriously OVER-exposed south of the border, with the most common cry seen on the letters pages and comment threads of English newspapers (after “subsidy junkies”, anyway) being “We don’t care what you do, just shut up and get on with it one way or the other.”

We’re throwing this one open to the audience, because our powers of analysis have failed us: does anyone have a clue what Miliband is talking about?

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15 to “The lives of others”

  1. douglas clark

    I gather that Miliband is going to make his opening remarks in London. Perhaps that should give us a clue? As he is apparently speaking about ‘englishness’ it is rather obvious who he sees his audience as.

  2. Kenny Campbell

    The rUK get a say on what happens in Scotland when Germany and Spain get a say on whether the UK stays in the Euro. It’s the same.
    Milliband is hamstrung, he can’t offer regional government to England and has been presented a fait accompli on Scotland’s self determination referendum. So he does the next best thing, pretends England should have a say on Scotland. Thus confusing lots of folks in Scotland and England.
    I have less time for Red Ed than I do for Cameron, at least the latter is true to his roots and you get what you expect.

  3. Rolf

    I read the transcript of Ed’s speech. It is trying very, very hard to say something but saying absolutely nothing at all. One of the worst I have ever read. Glad I didn’t have to listen to him reading it out.

  4. YesYesYes

    “does anyone have a clue what Miliband is talking about?”
    It’s a good question Stuart. Ed himself probably couldn’t provide a coherent answer to it. His speeches, though, do have a disarming soporific effect on his listeners. Pretty soon, you stop listening to what he’s saying and start focusing your attention on the slimy complexion, the big hair and all the time, that monotonous nasal whine is droning away in the background, before someone sitting next to you nudges you back to consciousness again.
    I think this speech is just an example of good old-fashioned positioning. He’s clearly responding to the advice he’s been given to ‘lead’ the debate, set the agenda and wrest the initiative from Cameron. So, as ever, this is about the 2015 British general election. Disaffected Tories and Lib Dems in England are registering their protest against the Westminster coalition by telling pollsters right now that they’ll vote Labour in 2015. Ed thinks he’s on a roll. But in truth, even if Labour were being led by Mr Ed the talking horse, they’d be ahead in the polls right now.
    One thing about this English identity theme, apart from the fact that it reflects the reality that Miliband has nowhere else to go on the referendum issue – what can he say, what other distinctive contribution can he make? – is that it’s flattering to the Scottish independence movement. We’ve shaped this agenda but, of course, this is of little more than passing interest to us, we’ve got more important things to occupy us over the next two and a bit years. And while Ed makes his lame jokes about the ‘British’ weather and the stoical ‘British’ Jubilee celebrations, we can anticipate celebrating our independence day. Now that really will be a reason to line the streets, celebrate and wave our true national flag.  

  5. Arbroath1320

    I think the millipede has been spending a wee bit too much time down the same rabbit bolt hole as Jimmie Krankie. Neither one of them EVER talks any sense!

  6. R Louis

    Apparently, Miliband in his speech,  will also once again, play heavily on the ‘my daddy was an immigrant’ line.

    Getting tedious and rather nauseating the way Miliband keeps playing such an approach, in order apparently to make political points on just about any subject.  Mr Miliband needs to realise such an approach becomes less effective, the more it is used.  We’ve all heard it before, Ed.


  7. DougtheDug

    A quick summary of Ed’s speech.
    Wonderful memories of Coronation of Elizabeth II right across the UK.
    Sports events this year which will involve Team GB and England.
    But we’re stronger together weaker apart.
    My dad’s refugee story and memories of the Blitz.
    Lots of regional identities in Britain
    Scottish nationalists don’t care about the poor in England.
    We’re stronger together weaker apart.
    Let’s have Englishness
    But not like narrow Scottish Nationalists
    Englishness is lovely
    Heart-string tugging story of Englishness
    Warm Labour aspirations
    Localism for England
    Stronger together weaker apart.

  8. Domhnall Dods

    he’s right in so far as he says people an have multiple layered identities. Most of us have long got used to the fact that while we are Scottish, we also have (for now) a British identity, and a European one. 
    So why do we think the boy Ed was at pains to stress his Englishness, his Britishness but did not dare mention his European identity?
    Because it wouldn’t play well in xenophobic middle England? Because it might highlight the fact that you can be independent as a country an still have a part of a bigger union (ie nationalism is not separatsim at all)?

  9. James Morton

    Well I have read it a few times now, trying to glean something from it. It’s sterile and non-offensive & in my honest opinion, the closest thing to a positive vision of the UK you are likely to see. But seems too much like a box ticking exercise trying to placate the differing identities in the British isles. I suspect he is trying to reach out to Scots in the hope we will stay and at the same time to the English; in the event we do go our separate ways,  and prevent a Tory led one nation state.

    This is narrow minded party politics, nothing more.

  10. Domhnall

    *can have i meant obviously

  11. Cuphook

    I think Ed’s speech is much like John Major’s “the country of long shadows on cricket grounds” one, where he went on to quote Orwell’s old maids on bicycles. Both speeches are essentially about evoking a dream of England (though Major said Britain) and both were delivered with the soporific cadence required to induce REM.

    Ed wants to tap into English nationalism but not to empower it. “For me, it’s not about an English Parliament or an English Assembly. The English people don’t yearn for simplistic constitutional symmetry.” Of course, all the opinion polls show that the English yearn for a complicated asymetrical constitutional settlement and the only reason they have never taken to the streets is the difficulty with the chanting “What do we want?”.

    Ed’s speech feels like it’s been written by a committee who think that they get the meme. They obviously don’t trust the voters with English nationalism though. The number of contradictions in the speech are incredible and suggest no encompassing view of the subject.

    I find this bit where he’s going on about his dad interesting:

    “At another level, he was very suspicious of narrow nationalism.
    Scarred by wartime experience.
    An avowed internationalist.
    As I have grown up, I have realised that the two emotions are not in contradiction.”

    It’s the old Labour canard “Nationalists are Nazis and we’re good internationalists” but then he goes on to accept that nationalists can also be internationalists too, though he really should have said “ the two emotions are not [always] in contradiction”.

    I think Ed’s just looking for support in unfamiliar places and is making a brazenly opportunistic approach to English nationalists while at the same time explaining to The Left that they’re not going into BNP territory. Whatever it is I don’t think this is Ed’s Gazimestan speech.

  12. YesYesYes

    The irony of all this as well. Two tory toffs – Miliband and Cameron – recruiting the meaningless anniversary of a monarchical relic of a feudal age, to lecture us, the great unwashed, about what’s best for our future. 

  13. charlie

    I think notRed Ed has been tipped the wink that there is some kind of association football tournament going on and the marketing dept at Labour Central has said get down with those people who watch football.

    They may also have said – No Ed we don’t understand either but get down with the English electorate outside of Islington while we can.

    Note to Ed Milliband, if he’s reading, Lampard’s injured.

    You’ll need to know that.

    As the best Ed

  14. You are asking us if we know what Milliband means ,does he know what he means?Now yesterday (Thursday) he declares that if we vote for independence then we would be Scottish,(we already are ) and could no longer be British what rubbish.Now we will always be British,just not in a political union with England ,Wales and N. Ireland.That is what we seek,political independence,he does not understand it,he does not “Get” Scotland,nor it seems our votes.

  15. Doug Daniel

    I could punch that face until I’d broken my hand, and it still wouldn’t be nearly enough.

     Totally agree with Kenny Campbell – I hate Milibean far more than I hate Cameron. Cameron is a transparent PR man, but Milibean is a different beast altogether. It’s like he was bred as a leader, but just as a joke or an experiment, to see if it was really possible to get an electorate to elect such a wet fish as their leader.

    There is but one word for Milibean: dweeb. 

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