UK

Farewell to the United Kingdom – TARIQ ALI

The British General election was dramatic. On the superficial level because three party leaders— Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal-Democrat) and Nigel Farage (UKIP—a racist, right-wing populist outfit)…resigned on the day following the Conservative victory. On a more fundamental level because the Scottish National Party took virtually all the Scottish seats (56 of 59) wiping out Labour as a political force in the region where it had dominated politics for over a century. Scotland was where the Labour Party was founded. Scotland it was that gave Labour its first leaders and Prime Minster (as well as the last one). Scottish working class culture was in most cases much more radical than its English equivalent.

It was Labour’s 1945 victory and social-democratic reforms that had made Home Rule, leave alone independence, an abstraction. It was Margaret Thatcher’s triumph in 1979 that was the first nail in the coffin of the United Kingdom, not because she stigmatized the Scots as some of her successors have done but because the majority of Scots loathed her and everything she stood for. She boasted of putting the ‘Great’ back into Britain, not realizing that the unintended consequences of her policies would be the ‘break-up of Britain’ as the title of the ultra-prescient Tom Nairn’s book had suggested even before her election triumph.

A large majority of Scots never voted for her. They reached breaking point under Tony Blair and New Labour. It was the proudly vaunted Thatcherite politics of Blair, Brown and their Scottish toadies that accelerated the rise of civic nationalism and fuelled desertions from Labour to the SNP that realized the only way to defeat Blairite Tories was by positioning themselves to the left of Labour on every major issue: the SNP opposed the Iraq war, defended the welfare state, demanded the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil and slowly began to build up support. Labour remained in denial. The first tremors were ignored. The tectonic plates shifted last week and has destroyed them. It will take time but Scottish independence is now assured and a damn good thing too as it will weaken the neo-imperial and military pretensions of the UK state and could open a real debate (not the fakery witnessed on the BBC and other networks) in England leading to constitutional reform (including a written constitution and a democratic electoral system) and the emergence of a radical alliance in England, an insurgent force that breaks with the decaying Labourism that has crippled the Left for a century, first the official Communists and later their Trotskyist offspring. Remnants of both ended up in New Labour (the thuggish Stalinist John (now Lord) Reid and the creepy Alan Milburn who as Health Secretary opened the doors to privatization and is now a well-paid consultant of private health firms and a virtual Tory. There are others.

Read more