Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Labour/ Conservative Unionist Alliance?

I thought it was an April Fool joke when I read somewhere on Sunday that the Conservatives had offered to help Labour keep the Scottish National Party at bay.

But according to Ian Bell, writing in today's (not April 1st) Herald, Annabel Goldie is working towards this outcome.

We already have one here in Dumfries and Galloway - a minority Labour Executive propped up in power by Conservative votes.

Here is relevant bit of Ian's piece...


My former colleague Michael Fry, distinguished historian and recent convert to the bright side, used to like to take arguments for a promenade. Before the Tories frustrated his ambitions - such is the fate of smart in the stupid party - Fry used to observe that European conservatives tend invariably towards nationalism. He used to wonder, too loudly for his own good, whether Scots Tories were missing the point.

In those days, I launched a bobbing cliché of my own. "It isn't actually compulsory to have a Tory party," I would write, through the dark years. I suggested that Scottish Conservatives were an accident of history and land-ownership. I forgot about stupidity. I hadn't bargained for Annabel Goldie.

She knows that we know. In the era of the David Cameron quiff, the deputising Murdo Fraser is the next hairstyle in town. Equally, in the intellectually problematic world of modern Conservatism, the sten-torian Fraser will have to sort out what, if anything, the Scottish Tories are for. Ms Goldie says they are not for coalition because coalitions - you know that I paraphrase - are the last resort of very bad lots. First, is she kidding? Our hybrid system demands pacts and deals if government is not to become unstable, and if - a detail worth noting when electoral rumps hope to wag dogs - old political tails need to avoid docking. Everyone makes an arrangement.

Secondly, Ms Goldie has expended a lot of Holyrood time explaining that devolution isn't "working". Scotland's Tories have gritted their teeth, swallowed hard and accepted that their chums in the cutty sark press were wrong: the people do not want to be rid of a parliament. That was a myth. Bury the headlines and stop all the clocks: home rule and democracy are the same. So what follows?

If anything, the people wish to see democracy expand to occupy the available political space. "More powers," in the paraphrase. How is that to be reconciled with a Unionist party declining all responsibility for government just at the moment when Unionism, albeit of a Labour sort, most needs help? Thirdly, how does this abstentionism make devolution, in the Tory styling, work "better"?

Those of us who observe Holyrood, now and then, know what Goldie is about. Here's a minor party, failing steadily, hoping to tease and cajole Labour - dread word - into a marriage of inconvenience and duvet-theft. She hopes that her party will be able to pick and choose, demand legislation, cosset Labour while denouncing Labour and escape all blame.

That sounds like a plan. That sounds, equally, like the sort of plan capable of allowing a minor (very minor) Scottish party to throw Scotland into upheaval for four years, with power sans responsibility, while making home rule work "better".

Only a pair of wholeheartedly Unionist parties survive in this country. They are being picked off, one by one.

The historical interest lies, meanwhile, in the fact that each of these stalwarts has fallen in the self-same, self-determination ditch. The immediate relevance has to do with dim, Poujadist Scottish Tories, and their ineffable impertinence.

Ms Goldie will suck-and-see at legislation, given the chance, thanks to 13% of bothered-to-vote? I don't think so. Ms Goldie will adopt political clients as whim, Cameron, expediency and circumstances demand?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but how does that make devolution "work better"? How does that make devolution work at all?

Seriously: is this the best the Union has got? In my lifetime, the eradication of Scottish Conservatism was the first and greatest straw in the wind. It turns out that Labour now needs ancient enemies merely to shore up the ruins. Yet the old enemies don't, can't, won't see the obvious. Care? I come from another country.



Post a Comment

<< Home