Posted on 2 Sep 2013 06:47:08 by Jesse Norman MP
Jesse Norman MP

Jesse Norman: Blair's actions on Iraq have plunged Syria – and all of us – into a Greek tragedy

Jesse NormanJesse Norman is the Member of Parliament for Hereford and South Herefordshire. His new biography of Edmund Burke was published recentlyFollow Jesse on Twitter

The Greek tragic poet Aeschylus was not, as far as I am aware, a member of the Conservative party.  Yet his astonishing trilogy the Oresteia—concerning as it does the cycle of blood-guilt and revenge afflicting the House of Atreus, the King of Mycenae—perfectly illustrates the conservative insight that the past conditions the present, and the present in turn the future.

Central to the Oresteia are the ideas of blood-guilt, transmitted down the generations from an original act of folly; and hubris, the individual arrogance which inevitably brings nemesis or retribution in its train.  Atreus quarrelled with his brother Thyestes, killed his children and fed them to him, only to be killed in turn.  His son Agamemnon has sacrificed his own daughter Iphigenia to get favourable winds before the Trojan War.  Now he insults the gods as well and is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra.  She is killed in turn by their son Orestes.  Only a civil hearing, at which the case for and against Orestes is publicly heard and adjudicated, can bring the cycle to an end.

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Posted on 30 Aug 2013 07:19:33 by Iain Dale
Iain Dale

Iain Dale: If I were a TB-riddled badger, I'd rather be shot in a cull

Iain Dale presents LBC 97.3 Drivetime programme 4-8pm every weekday. He also blogs at www.iaindale.comFollow Iain on Twitter.

Iain Dale GraphicThere we were, in the Any Questions Green Room, the panel of four, all cacking ourselves before being called on stage. So we did what anyone would do. We discussed what questions might come up. And to my horror, no matter what the potential subject, we all more or less agreed on the answer. ‘This might be a rather boring programme,’ I thought to myself. So as the programme progressed, I found myself picking a fight with Mark Miodownik, a scientist. I nitpicked and gnawed. The lovely professor Alison Wolf was far too nice to attack, and the NFU President Peter Kendall was so bloody reasonable, I am afraid Mark had to be my target. As it turned out, there was a little more disagreement than I feared. On Syria, I was the only one to oppose military action.  It felt a bit odd to be the most left wing panel member. Unaccustomed as I am… But I soon restored my hardline credentials on the badger cull. I got a text afterwards from Owen Paterson in which he expressed his amusement that I had attacked him for pussy footing around! All I will say is that if I were a badger with TB, about to die a long, painful death, with my internal organs failing, I’d happily be shot in a cull.


Seen this week on Facebook: “So, I've just sent an Email to an MP with the title being 'Panel Discussion', only, in my haste, I missed the ‘P’ off, and my iPad saw fit to change it to something else. Needless to say a correction/apology Email was sent afterwards.”

We’ve all been there. I remember when I was organising a course titled “Public Relations in the Ports Industry”. Only I missed out the L in ‘Public’. I think some of the delegates attended under a slight misapprehension.


My LBC colleague James O’Brien has introduced me to the concept of ‘Newsknitting’, where you knit two stories together. For example, why can’t poor people eat badgers? Should we hold an emergency summit on Kevin Rudd? Basher Al-Assad not convinced by the case for HS2. The list could go on…


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Posted on 29 Aug 2013 07:26:30 by Culture

Peter Hoskin: America according to Preston Sturges

By Peter Hoskin. Follow Peter on Twitter.

Get up on your feet and pour yourself a highball: Preston Sturges was born 115 years ago today. It’s a weird, cockamamie sort of anniversary, I grant you – made weirder by the fact that he died from a heart attack in 1959 – but let’s celebrate it anyway. It seems like the sort of thing the characters in his movies would do. Any excuse to have something strong and fizzy in your hand. Any excuse for a bit of sparkling repartee.

But which of Sturges’ films should we discuss? Which of that glorious run of seven films in four years, from 1940 to 1944, that were all written and directed by him? There’s the sinuous, sexual knockabout of The Lady Eve (1941). There’s that wonderful essay about luck, Christmas in July (1940). But, no, that’s it: let’s talk about The Great McGinty (1940). This is a political website, after all, and McGinty is Sturges’ clearest political satire. It also has the distinction of being the first film he directed himself.

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Posted on 28 Aug 2013 07:20:37 by Foreign Policy , Garvan Walshe
Foreign Policy Garvan Walshe

Garvan Walshe: National interest requires more than a symbolic Syria strike

Garvan Walshe was National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party until 2008. Follow Garvan on Twitter. 

Small countries get to win favour by making statements of principle. Permanent members of the Security Council are judged by how they act. 

Had the Iraq invasion been effective: had a reasonably well-functioning Iraqi state been built, and its people notably freer and more prosperous than they had under Saddam, questions about its legitimacy would have evaporated. 

But had the Kosovo air war been unable to dislodge Milosevic from the province and been followed by a ground invasion caught out by a Russian-backed Serbian insurgency, that mission would have been discredited.

The scale of intervention in  Syria has yet to be known, but some rumours suggest a worryingly limited strike using cruise missiles, enough to show that “something” is being done. Let’s hope those rumours aren’t true: a symbolic strike would kill people but achieve nothing of substance.

Continue reading "Garvan Walshe: National interest requires more than a symbolic Syria strike" »

Posted on 28 Aug 2013 07:19:21 by Henry Hill , Red, White and Blue
Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: Separatists warn against ‘flag raising exercise’ as Armed Forces Day returns to Scotland

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Separatists warn against ‘flag raising exercise’ as Armed Forces Day returns to Scotland

Independence campaigners outside the SNP – including independent nationalist MSPs and the Scottish Greens – have voiced concerns at the decision by the Ministry of Defence to host 2014’s Armed Forces Day national event in Stirling, a mere three years after Edinburgh held it in 2011.

Given the potentially sensitive timing – soon after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and close to the referendum – they are wary of an event which will put an emphatically British institution, and likely the British flag, in the Scottish media spotlight.

It isn’t hard to see why: many separatists are hoping to get a boost from building the Bannockburn celebrations into the nationalist narrative. A military event could skew that completely by offering unionists the chance to emphasise that, whilst seven hundred years ago English and Scots young men were fighting each other, they’ve spent the last three hundred fighting side by side in the British armed forces.

Unionists and the SNP administration, on the other hand, welcomed the news.

McConville family suing Ministry of Defence and the PSNI

The family of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was “disappeared” and murdered by the IRA more than four decades ago on suspicion of being a government informant, are suing the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI, the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The family claim that the RUC investigation into the abduction was inadequate, and that the PSNI have subsequently “failed to assist the family’s quest for the truth”. The PSNI replaced the RUC in 2001, as part of the peace process.

The case comes ten years after her remains were finally discovered in 2003, buried on a beach in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland.

Gwent PPC attacks MPs over scrutiny role

Ian Johnston, the independent Police Complaints Commissioner for Gwent, criticised MPs for allegedly treating him unfairly at a parliamentary enquiry into his sacking of his chief constable, Carmel Napier. Johnston claims that MPs had decided to make him the “villain of the piece” before the committee met.

Mrs Napier resigned after being given an ultimatum by Johnston, who took issue with her management style. The dismissal highlights the powers wielded by PCCs – often on very small electoral mandates due to disappointing turnout. Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee were quick to point out that Johnston received only 8 per cent of the vote, and accused him of having “a disdainful attitude to scrutiny by Parliament” as well as “a clear over-sensitivity to criticism”.

Mr Johnston maintains that he obeyed the letter of established procedures, and that PCCs are not accountable to parliament.

Unionist disgust at compensation for family of Real IRA member

Tom Elliot of the UUP and Jim Allister of the TUV are two prominent unionist politicians to express shock at the news that the family of Kieran Doherty, a RIRA member stripped and assassinated by that same organisation three years ago, are to receive “substantial compensation.”

Elliot claimed that the members of some murdered members of the security forces receive a “pittance” in comparison, and that “it really does sicken me to hear the difference. Michael Gallagher, whose son was one of 29 killed in the 1998 Omagh bombing, carried out by the RIRA and called by the BBC “Northern Ireland’s single worst terrorist atrocity”, revealed that the families of children under 18 killed there received only £7,500 each.

Yes Scotland email hacking: ‘Yes’ paid academic for favourable article

Last week, I wrote about the police being called in after an alleged hack of the Yes Scotland email system. What had tipped the separatists off was receiving media enquiries that were, apparently, based on information that could only have come from a private email account.

Those enquiries have since proved to be about the Yes campaign paying an academic to write a comment piece for the Herald newspaper about a post-Union constitution. Controversy has been sparked by the fact that this payment was not disclosed to the newspaper, which published the article under the author’s own byline and mentioned their work at the supposedly-neutral Scottish Constitutional Commission.

Although Bulmer, a PhD student, was writing in a personal capacity, his article thus carried the implied weight of the SCC whilst making no mention that it had been commissioned with political funds. Unionists have called for the resignation of the Yes campaign director and suggested that other pro-separatist articles may also have been paid for by the campaign.

Yes Scotland insist that they have been perfectly open about the payment – a notion disputed by journalists who claim they were told they couldn’t mention it due to the ongoing investigation – and that the fuss being kicked up was an attempt to distract attention from the “assault on democracy” that was their own cyber-attack.

Treasure hunter uncovers Belfast weapons cache

In what police are describing as the largest find in years, a metal detector user has unearthed 16 semi-automatic handguns and over 800 rounds of ammunition at Labreeny Walk, Belfast.

The guns were not buried deep, and suspicion has fallen on loyalist paramilitaries involved in the recent flag protests over Belfast City Hall.

Posted on 27 Aug 2013 06:45:57 by Stephen Tall
Stephen Tall

Stephen Tall: Do you want to be in power? The new politics demands a Tory alliance with UKIP or the Lib Dems

Stephen Tall is the Co-Editor of LibDem Voice. Follow Stephen on Twitter.

Stephen TallBritish politics used to be pretty clear-cut. 'Every boy and every gal / That's born into the world alive / Is either a little Labour/ Or else a little Conservative!', to update WS Gilbert's famous ditty for the post-war era. In 1951, in the last great electoral contest between Churchill and Attlee, 97% of voters opted for one or t'other on a turnout of 83%.

That duopoly crumbled over the next half century, like the dry mortar of a once grand castle. At the last election, just 65% of voters picked either of Messrs Brown or Cameron on a turnout also of 65%. For a while it looked like 2010 might mark the nadir of 'Labservative' fortunes, with the Lib Dems now in government facing a vicious squeeze. The 2011 local elections saw a slight revival in two-party fortunes, to 72%. It looked like they could relax and confidently await the return of business-as-usual.

But it's not quite worked out like that. In the 2012 elections, their combined total dipped to 69%. And then came the Ukip surge. Labour and the Conservatives slumped to a paltry 54% joint share on 2nd May 2013, an historic low. The two-party grip has been fractured for good. There are still some optimists who think the Big Two can turn the clock back to those good old days of the 1950s, and re-capture the binary certainties of 'Clem v Winnie'. They are, I think, on the wrong side of history. Voters are getting more choosy, not less; becoming less tribal, not more. You may as well try squeezing toothpaste back into the tube.

You know the old joke? 'There are only 10 types of people in the world. Those that understand binary and those that don’t.' As a Lib Dem, and therefore de facto third-party fanboy, I've often criticised the media obsession of seeing all issues through a binary lens. Most people's views are more complex than the over-simplicity of 'right' and 'left'. The lefty who thinks Michael Gove's got a point. The conservative who supports EU membership. The liberal who backs Trident. They all exist, they're all real people. But they can't be neatly divvied-up, like sheep and goats, into left and right.

Yet deny it as I might, there is an essential truth underlying binaries: that people can be divided into different and opposite world-views. The best definition of what these are was offered by this site's former owner, YouGov pollster Stephan Shakespeare, in 2005:

We are either 'drawbridge up' or 'drawbridge down'. Are you someone who feels your life is being encroached upon by criminals, gypsies, spongers, asylum seekers, Brussels bureaucrats? Do you think the bad things will all go away if we lock the doors? Or do you think it's a big beautiful world out there, full of good people, if only we could all open our arms and embrace each other? Depending on which side we take, we regard 'drawbridge up' people as unpleasant, or 'drawbridge down' people as foolish.

More pejoratively still, Robin Cook labelled drawbridge up people 'chauvinists' (reactionary, isolationist, anti-European, anti-immigration, anti-asylum, pro-hanging, anti-abortion, convinced ‘prison works’, little Englander, nostalgic) and drawbridge down people 'cosmopolitans' (outward-looking, internationalist, pro-European, pro-immigration, pro-asylum, anti-hanging, pro-choice, believes in rehabilitation, multi-culturalist, progressive, forward-thinking).

I was reminded of these political binaries when I saw the polling relating to the detention of David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the story of Edward Snowden's leaked revelations about the activities of the US and British intelligence services. Mr Miranda was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which gives the police the power to hold any citizen for up to nine hours without any need for evidence or even reasonable suspicion. It's a law with majority support across voters of all parties (tough law-and-order policies generally play well). But look at the the net figures - those who back it less those who don't - broken down by party support and you see big differences emerge. By overwhelming margins, 68% of Conservative and 61% of Ukip voters back Schedule 7; in contrast, net approval is much lower for Labour (29%) and Lib Dems (17%).

It strikes me that we're starting to see the shape of the new politics. On the one side, two 'drawbridge up' conservative parties (Conservatives and Ukip). On the other, two 'drawbridge down' progressive parties (Labour and Lib Dems). Two Party Politics is dead! Long live Two-Party Party Politics. Tribal supporters of each will hate being bracketed with the other, of course, in true Monty Python style ("'Judean People's Front'. We're the People's Front of Judea!"). But their leaders are going to have to get to grips with this new reality.

The problem is especially acute for the Tories. Because while there is probably a 'drawbridge up' conservative majority to be won in the UK, it's very unlikely that the Conservative Party can deliver such a majority on its own. Tory MPs may have enjoyed a harmonious summer love-in, but the electoral maths of their own 35% strategy (about which I wrote here some weeks ago) still points to Labour becoming the single largest party in 2015, especially with Ukip's support likely to spike again at next May's Euro and local elections. The trouble for 'drawbridge up' conservatives is that the first-past-the-post electoral system means even soaring Ukip support is very unlikely to translate into House of Commons seats for Farage & Co.

The time is coming when the Conservative Party is going to have to face an (for them) unpleasant truth: they just cannot win enough votes in the country at large to win a workable majority in Westminster (by which I mean one not reliant on Peter Bone and his fellow head-bangers).

On accepting that truth, a clear choice follows. Those Tories who want to see a drawbridge up conservative majority government should back a Conservative / Ukip alliance as the best way of achieving that. (Of course that also means supporting some form of electoral reform, but I'll leave that bit of persuasion for another day.) However, those who want to see a drawbridge down conservative majority should back a continuing coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems - and start preparing, as Labour has begun to do, for a second hung parliament.

That's your choice. A binary choice. Which is it to be?

Posted on 26 Aug 2013 06:36:46 by Priti Patel MP
Priti Patel MP

Priti Patel MP: The Government must hold firm against anti-fracking extremists

Priti Patel
Priti Patel is MP for Witham, and an elected Member of the Conservative Party Board, the 1922 Committee’s Executive and the Public Administration Select Committee

The recent anti-fracking protests in Balcombe have shown how parts of the green lobby and its eco-extremist followers have lost all interest in reason. Their dogmatic obsession with opposing efforts to take advantage of new fuel sources, threatening behaviour and acts of civil disobedience not only costs taxpayers money in policing costs and property damages, but it also exposes their naivety and the green lobby’s inability to make credible arguments.

If the green lobby genuinely believed in tackling climate change they would be more open minded to the benefits of extracting shale gas in the UK. This country needs to consume huge amounts of fuel each year to power our businesses and homes. Our demand for energy cannot be satisfied by new wind turbines, solar panels and other green technologies alone. Britain’s nuclear power stations, which currently generate 19% of our electricity, are all also scheduled to closedown by 2035, which will affect supply if suitable. We therefore need to be open about the need to secure energy in the long term from a range of sources – including shale gas, oil, coal, nuclear and renewables. But we cannot allow ourselves to take the risk of putting all our eggs into the renewables basket with the significant costs that would entail, as the green lobby demands.

Continue reading "Priti Patel MP: The Government must hold firm against anti-fracking extremists" »

Posted on 23 Aug 2013 06:34:00 by Iain Dale
Iain Dale

Iain Dale's Friday Diary: UKIP - a ragtag and bobtail pressure group of well-intentioned and enthusiastic amateurs

Iain Dale presents LBC 97.3 Drivetime programme 4-8pm every weekday. He also blogs at www.iaindale.comFollow Iain on Twitter.

Iain Dale GraphicTonight I’ll be on Radio 4’s Any Questions. It’s the fourth time I’ll have appeared on the programme, so you’d think I would be used to it, but not a bit of it. It’s one of those programmes where there’s a tremendous opportunity to make a complete idiot of yourself. I have a real fear of opening my mouth and nothing coming out. It’s never happened yet, but you never know. It’s a politician free zone tonight with my fellow guests being an economist, a scientist and the head of the National Farmers Union. I guess I am the light relief!

People always ask if we have any clue as to what the questions are going to be, but no matter how many times I protest that the first time we hear the question is when we are on air, people give you a knowing look. In fact, of the six or seven questions asked, if you have half a brain you can normally guess the subject area of three or four of them due to the week's news. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out there will almost certainly be a question on the detention of David Miranda, and also on the fracking protests. But there’s always a googly that they like to throw at you – something so unexpected that provokes a reaction similar to that of a gulping goldfish. Each panellist is desperate to come out with the answer that makes the audience laugh loudest but you have only a split second to formulate your hopefully incisive and witty answer. It’s that question we all dread the most.


The stupidity of the fracking protesters in Balcombe knows no bounds. The usual professional green activists, who we no doubt fund through the benefits system, have gathered at a site where no fracking is taking place, nor is it likely to. These are the same people who no doubt pitched their tents at Greenham Common, supported Swampy and have hitched their skirts to the great global warming swindle. If they think fracking is so terrible, why haven’t they protested at the hundreds of other sites in the country where it has been going on for years? I’ll tell you why. Because they don’t give a damn about fracking. All they care about is rebelling against society and attaching them to the latest leftist-green cause. They’re the true watermelons - green on the outside, red on the inside. And Caroline Lucas is the perfect exemplification of this. I’m all in favour of people’s right to protest, but at least have the decency to have the vaguest idea what you’re protesting about.


The resignation of UKIP’s chief executive after only eight months in the job tells us a lot. It got a lot of media coverage, which shows how far UKIP has come. If this had happened a year ago it would have barely merited a line in the Daily Telegraph. But it also tells us UKIP is still a ragtag and bobtail pressure group of well-intentioned and enthusiastic amateurs. There’s a lot to be said for harnessing a revolutionary spirit and appearing slightly disporganised, and you can get away with it when you are recording a couple of per centage points in the polls. But when you’re in double figures people’s expectations change. I like Nigel Farage and admire him, but he continues to treat UKIP as his personal, private property and despite protesting that he has let go the control he has traditionally exerted, you get the feeling that he protesteth too much. UKIP’s biggest problem has always been that it is nothing without Farage, but if he is to show true leadership he has got to allow other people to get on the with the job. If, as is rumoured, Neil Hamilton, takes over as chief executive, he’ll need to assert himself very vigorously right from the start. I don’t envy him, or anyone else, the job.


Talking of UKIP, I have been looking through their MEP candidates. The challenge for UKIP MEPs is to actually last the course of a parliament without being put in prison or defecting. So far, 20-30 per cent of their MEPs seem to do one or the other. There is quite a bit of scrapping going on following the publication of the shortlists, and now those on the lists are at the mercy of the UKIP membership who will cast their vote, so there's lots of grievous self-promotion going on. What are we to make of the fact that rent-a-gob Jon Gaunt didn’t even make it onto the shortlist, or indeed outspoken columnist James Delingpole? But it is those who make it that bear a bit of scrutiny.  Many are scratching their heads as to how Tory Europhile turncoat Janice Atkinson (nee Small) is seen as the third most competent MEP candidate behind Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. She spent years working for Tim Yeo and was always seen as on the dripping wet side of the Tory Party, and yet here she is, a dead cert to become a UKIP MEP. It’s a funny old world. She is two places above Easteligh by-election candidate Diane James, widely considered to be the best candidate UKIP has ever put forward.

In London, current incumbent Gerard Batten is placed second on the shortlist behind Paul Oakley - Oakley is a former chairman of the London Young Conservatives. Batten will not be happy.

Daily Express political commentator Patrick O'Flynn is top of the Eastern shortlist and many believe rightly so. The man who helped mastermind the paper's 'UK out of the EU' campaign is a solid and decent bloke and would do UKIP proud.  Michael Heaver, a 23 year old, also makes it onto the Eastern shortlist in fourth place. The feeling is he should be placed higher as he is exactly what the party needs - a young, fresh face, who is informed, intelligent and does very well with his radio and TV appearances. The membership would be foolish not to back this lad.
Finally, will UKIP get a MEP in Scotland? In 2009, they got around five per cent of the vote; to get an MEP in 2014 they need 10 per cent. The Tory vote is in a political coma in Scotland. Could UKIP benefit in the year of the Scottish independence referendum? The party is opposed to independence. Top of the Scotland shortlist is the inimitable David Coburn. A born and bred Scot, gay, and with the ability to give very good media and public speaking performances, he is the best hope UKIP have of getting a MEP in Scotland, though will Farage's recent troubles north of Hadrian's Wall provide him with a handicap?
It's now up to the membership to cast their votes. Closing date is the day before the start of UKIP's Autumn Conference. The stringent assessment programme has meant some good characters have made the shortlists, but will the talent be enough to give a UKIP victory in the European Elections?


On Wednesday night I went onto the Broadland District Council website to order a garden waste wheelie bin. Unbelievably, there didn’t seem to be a way to do it online, so I emailed them to ask how I could do it. I then got an autoreply which said they would do their best to reply within ten working days – ie. two weeks. Well, thanks a lot for that. If I answered emails after two weeks, my company would go down the pan. What gives local councils the idea that they can treat their customers with such contempt? I expressed my displeasure on Twitter, and to be fair, they responded by tweeting that they are reviewing their ‘auto-replies’. Well, at least I have achieved something. Still haven’t got an answer on the bin, though.

Posted on 22 Aug 2013 06:29:15 by Foreign Policy , Garvan Walshe
Foreign Policy Garvan Walshe

Garvan Walshe: The Foreign Office should stop fiddling with the peace process - and attend to the burning Middle East

Garvan Walshe was National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party until 2008. Follow Garvan on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 06.25.20What do they put in the tea at King Charles Street? In January, as Syria’s civil war got bloodier, and Egypt’s constitutional crisis worsened, William Hague was persuaded to tell the Americans that a two state solution should be “highest priority” for foreign policy. Now, as Egypt stands on the brink of its own civil war, the same substance must have been deposited in State Department’s urns, spurring John Kerry to pile up untold air miles as he superintend s negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la politique étrangère.

Unlike the excellent and courageous staff in the field, diplomats at foreign ministry headquarters remain inexplicably attached Israeli-Palestinian peace not merely as good in itself, but also of the highest strategically importance.   This is a grave mistake.  It’s not the peace process, but the chaos in Egypt and Syria, that should be the highest priority in the Middle East.

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Posted on 21 Aug 2013 07:13:26 by Henry Hill , Red, White and Blue
Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: McLeish supports the Union - but not if it includes Conservatives

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Henry McLeish supports the Union - but not if it includes Conservatives

Henry McLeish, formerly Labour First Minister of Scotland, has claimed that with “Tory extremism” in control south of the border Scots might reach the ‘tipping point’ they need to vote for independence.

The tone of his contribution is very much “a Labour Britain, or none”, with the idea of having to accept being outvoted by other members of a larger polity an unacceptable state of affairs. In line with this thinking, he condemns the ‘discredited’ Westminster system and opines that a Tory majority is the “nightmare scenario” that might push Scots into voting against the union. Following that logic, he has called on Labour to withdraw from the ideologically impure Better Together campaign.

Coming from a self-identifying unionist, that position is scarcely tenable.

The fact that Scotland may well end up sometimes seeing a British government that didn’t win a plurality in Scotland (very possibly a Conservative government, even) is a fact of the Union. The legitimacy of a government elected on a pan-UK vote to govern reserved matters in Scotland is something that anybody who purports to oppose independence (as does McLeish) has not only to accept but to argue for in public debate.

The essence of union is the pooling of sovereignty and yes, that means that sometimes ‘you’ (whichever smaller collective you identify with) will lose out. Selling this notion is the big challenge that might throw unionist politics into McLeish’s supposed ‘crisis’.

McLeish, on the other hand, takes a different tack. The rules for his fantasy-land, hyper-conditional unionism are simple: no cooperation with the Conservatives in Scotland, and no Conservative governments in London – or else. His approach to the knotty issue of persuading Scots of the legitimacy of institutions shared by people with different inclinations is not to attempt persuasion at all, but instead attempt to wish those differing inclinations out of the picture.

Labour being part of Better Together is nothing less than a concession of the blindingly obvious: that maintaining the Union involves sharing a house (whether a campaign or a country) with Conservatives. If McLeish can’t reconcile himself to that, the utopian-socialist wing of the nationalist movement would doubtless be happy to have him.

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