Friday, 19 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum: Reaching The Limits of Toryism

To David Cameron watchers, his response to the No result in the Scottish referendum has been entirely predictable, but also a little scary.

Firstly the predictable part; he has waited until after a vote to announce his new policy. This is entirely consistent with the way he went about privatising the NHS. Cameron should thus be accorded all the respect such a politician who operates in such a way deserves. Secondly his policy looks like it was cobbled together on the back-of-an envelope, last night by a couple of spads and Lynton Crosby. This contrast with Labour’s policy of regional devolution, which has been developed by Ed Miliband over a period of years, and which will work well with Devo Max in Scotland.

One also has to expect a great deal of back-pedalling by the Tories over Devo Max; true to form they will try and go back on their promises, just like they did on the “greenest government ever”, on open government and the Big Society.

The scary part is how this is obviously going to be the start of an ugly election campaign in which the Tories recruit a nasty kind of English nationalism for their campaign. They will lurch even further to the right in order to compete with Ukip; expect things to get racist-lite soon…

However the most important conclusion one can draw from all this is that there is a limit to Toryism. The Tories’ manoeuvring and weasel words, little-Englander nationalism and obfuscation about devolution serve only mask the fact that they are slowly coming to realise that the geographical distribution of the anti-Tory vote means that, not merely Scotland but also Wales, Cornwall, the North West, North East, Yorkshire, the Midlands and London could all seek independence if the Tories keep forcing their unpopular and damaging policies on everyone. If they continue as a right-wing party to compete with Ukip they quite literally risk fragmenting the UK, and not just Scotland and Wales. Yes the Tories can muster enough support in the South East and a few shire counties to win 35% of the vote every now and then and impose their nastiness on everyone else, what the referendum has demonstrated is that there are wider consequences of doing so which they cannot control. The limits of Toryism have been reached.

Maybe once that has happened those former UK constituent parts could get back together again, form a new country, leaving a rump South of England and East Anglia to stew in its own Daily Mail petty little-Englander intolerance.