In the wake of the EU referendum, with the government in disarray, one would have thought the Parliamentary Labour Party should be making the most of a wide open goal. Not so, instead, the PLP has chosen to hit the self destruct button, imploding in on itself in spectacular fashion. There is however, a sense of inevitability about it all, given that, even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected, there were suggestions he be immediately deposed, should he win the Labour leadership. The most vocal proponent of this course of action at the time, was former Labour special advisor and unapologetic Blairite, John McTernan.
During the Labour Party leadership contest of 2015, McTernan was unequivocal "I can’t see any case for letting him have two minutes in office, let alone two years in office because I think the damage that will be done to the Labour party to the Labour party in that period makes it incredibly hard to recover". Writing in the Daily Telegraph barely a month after Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour Party leader, McTernan was calling for action, saying "Labour needs competent leadership, and the current team have rapidly shown they are not up to it. How to engineer a change? A coup, obviously".
Labours difficulties stem from the fact that the PLP, has by and large, been hijacked by Blairite automatons. Shiny, shallow crypto-Tories, bereft of principles, who would have power for power's sake. Whilst they were thoroughly unhappy with the election of Mr Corbyn as party leader, the Blairites recognised that an immediate move to overturn such a thumping mandate would be folly. Instead, we were left with the rather peculiar situation of Blairites sitting uncomfortably on the front benches, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who's policies were patently anathema to them. No longer.
Following the coronation of Gordon Brown, as Labour leader and Prime Minister in June 2007, the Blairite grip on the party appeared to weaken. Brown, unsurprisingly, attempted to create distance between himself and the legacy of Tony Blair. The unexpected election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader in 2010, seemed to consolidate this, to the point where in 2013, Tony Blair himself was moved to caution the Labour Party over a move to the left. Blair's comments that Labour risked becoming "repository for people's anger", rather than an alternative to the Conservatives, have been echoed in the last ten months or so, by those who fear that the party has become an instrument of protest, not power.
Jeremy Corbyn's present predicament, displays all to clearly, that the Blairites are still very much the majority in the Parliamentary Labour Party and that they are eager to "take back control". There is a clear disconnect between Labour MP's and the wider party membership. Whilst it is by no means a foregone conclusion, all the signs are, that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected as Labour leader in any forthcoming contest. What then, for the 172 MP's who voted against their leader, in yesterday's motion of no confidence? Do they slink off to the back benches, seething silently, sitting it out till the next general election? Alternatively, do they, having accepted that they do not represent the kind of politics favoured by the wider party membership, break away from the Labour Party, to form a new centrist party? There might even be room in such a venture, for moderate Tories, who fear a shift to the right, in the event that Boris is elected Tory leader.
During the 2015 leadership contest, Andy Burnham took issue with those who did not, and do not support, Mr Corbyn being labeled as Red Tories, saying it "is just outrageous. Every person in this race is Labour through and through". I beg to differ, the abstention of 184 Labour MP's in a vote over the Government's welfare reforms in July of last year, tells a different story. I would suggest, that there is less political distance between a Hilary Benn, Liz Kendall or Chuka Ummua and outgoing Tory leader, David Cameron, than exists between them and Comrades Corbyn and McDonnell.
In the final analysis, the Blairites' concerns that under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party is headed for yet another defeat at the next general election, may be well founded. It is worth remembering that the Labour Party has not won a general election since the departure of Tony Blair as leader. Indeed, the last twenty years or so, seem to demonstrate that Labour are only electable when they assume the form of Tory-lite. It may be that, such is the dominance of the neoconservative hegemony, a true party of the left, in England at least, is seen as being beyond the pale. That being said, assuming Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister and the United Kingdom departs from the European Union, there could well be an invigorated desire for the "new kind of politics", Jeremy Corbyn was overwhelmingly elected to deliver.
They've only gone and done it. Those plucky Brits have taken their country back. Except they haven't. Quite the opposite, in fact. Despite what Farage, Gove and Johnson told us, the United Kingdom was never in the hands of the European Union. The bitter irony is, that the very people from whom 'our' country needed taken back, have only tightened their grip as a result of Brexit. In reality, the country has always been in their hands, it's never really been the people's to take back. Some say that the EU referendum result was the working class giving two fingers to the establishment. If that is true, the prongs have been delivered to the wrong establishment, the patsy has taken the rap, whilst the real criminal has gotten off scot-free.
In the cold light of day, fantasy island doesn't seem quite so appealing to many of those who voted for it. The land of milk and honey appears to be rather short of both the former and the latter. The mythical £350 million per week, promised to the NHS, has turned out to be just that-a myth. Of course, anyone with half a brain cell knew this, nevertheless, it is astonishing that Nigel Farage had the gall to admit as much, within hours of the result being declared. The would-be architects of fantasy island, have also begun to backpedal on immigration, with Tory MEP Daniel Hannan acknowledging that many people's expectations are about to be dashed.
The dust hasn't even begun to settle, yet already, the EU seem to be making it clear, that they not keen on the Little Engladers dictating the timetable of the United Kingdom's departure. In stark contrast to calls from senior Tory Brexiteers for a period of calm reflection, the message from the EU is that delay fosters further uncertainty, in other words, Britain needs to get a move on and get out. Calls from the German Foreign Minister for the EU not to "go looking for for revenge", and Chancellor Merkel insisting the EU has "has no need to be particularly nasty in any way", are unlikely to prevent the terms on which the UK leaves the EU from being as unfavourable as possible, to dissuade other disgruntled members from contemplating a similar move.
Little over a year ago, David Cameron stood outside 10 Downing Street triumphant, having secured, albeit unexpectedly, the first Tory majority government in almost 20 years. Now, as a result of taking a wreckless gamble he really didn't have to, he too, is headed for the exit. I have always been of the suspicion that Mr Cameron probably made the promise to hold a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, believing he'd never be in a position to carry it out. The Prime Minister, foolishly opted to play with fire, and he got burned. Badly. Worryingly, he may well have burned the rest of us in the process. It remains to be seen, whether or not the Tory Party will reward Boris Johnson for his efforts, by handing him the keys to number 10. They may well prove true to form, declining to elect the heir presumptive, instead choosing a rank outsider, or perhaps someone who remained relatively neutral during the Tory civil war.
Our outgoing Prime Minister, has not only brought the house crashing down on his own political career, he may also have inadvertently put the final nail in the UK's coffin. Although Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, has said that a second independence referendum is now "highly likely", it is unclear just how much, if any, support for Scotland remaining within the EU, will translate into sustained support for independence. In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, there are many who voted no in 2014, now saying they are reconsidering their position. It may well be , in the short term at the very least, that this doesn't happen in sufficient numbers, to reverse the outcome of 2014. Even so, holding a second independence referendum too early, only to fail, may prove less punitive than was previously the case. The full extent of the ramifications of Brexit, will probably not be felt until some time after the UK has fully withdrawn from the EU, meaning that whilst a second referendum held in the next two years might fail, there could well be a clamour for Scottish independence in say, five years time. Another unintended consequence of Brexit is the calling into question of Northern Ireland's relationship with the UK, with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness calling for a border poll on Irish reunification. As events unfold, this option could well become more attractive to the people of the island of Ireland.
It goes without saying, that no one is possessed of a crystal ball, with which to foresee exactly how everything pans out. What is clear, is that Brexit is going to have lasting and serious consequences that go far beyond the confines of the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union. It is crucial that the politicians keep in mind that Brexit is not simply an abstract political concept, it affects real, living, breathing human beings. I sincerely hope that whatever the political fallout of the result of June 23rd 2016, it does not include undue suffering visited upon those least well placed to weather the storm.
All things considered, I am in favour of the United Kingdom remaining a member of the European Union, despite the best efforts of David Cameron and George Osborne to convince me otherwise. The incessant negativity of their supposedly pro-European campaign has been a massive turn-off, as was the relentless doom-mongering and threats of Better Together in 2014. Back then, 'Project Fear' caused me to question why it was, I believed Scotland to be better off in the UK. Ultimately, I came to the opposite conclusion, that the UK was broken, beyond repair, in the vice-like grip of a narrow elite who governed for the few. Scotland's best hope for a better, fairer future, I reasoned, lay outwith the the UK. Unlike the Scottish referendum, where 'Project Fear' was met with the largely positive Yes campaign, Vote Leave has been an even greater turn-off than 'Project Fear MK2'. Between the overt racism of UKIP, and the fantastical economic claims of the wider Leave campaign, we have something altogether less palatable than the Tory driven negativity of Remain.
Tory negativity is not the only element of the Remain campaign that I find rather distasteful. There is to my mind, a whiff of condescension about Remain, as if they believe themselves to have the moral high over those who would see the UK leave the EU. It is both subtle and sneering. Though never said, it is implied that there are no 'valid' reasons for someone to support Brexit, that to do so makes them anti-European, backward looking and even racist. It is prejudice in reverse. Granted, the likes of Nigel Farage do no favours to those who simply believe the EU to be a busted flush, that the United Kingdom's brightest future is to be found free from the limitations of the European Union. Just as it is possible to be in favour of Scottish independence without harbouring ill will towards England and the English, it is quite possible to favour Brexit without questionable motives.
Most recently, we have witnessed the rather unedifying spectacle, of the Remain campaign resorting to near emotional blackmail. Yesterday, MP's gathered in Parliament, to pay tribute to murdered Jo Cox, and rightly so. Jon Bercow led, saying Mrs Cox was " fuelled by love for humanity" adding that she was a "a relentless campaigner for equality, human rights and social justice". When Labour's Stephen Kinnock raised the issue of UKIP's loathsome, anti-immigration 'Breaking Point' poster, stating that Jo Cox would have "responded with outrage and a robust rejection of the calculated narrative of cynicism, division and despair that it represents”, the implication was clear. Wouldn't it be a fine tribute to Jo Cox, if we could all go out on Thursday and vote remain? It could be that this was a happy coincidence, I however, found it to be brazenly opportunistic. Just this morning, we had the Prime Minister, making a direct appeal to older people, perhaps inclined to vote no, urging them to " think about the hopes and dreams of your children and grandchildren". I suspect Mr Cameron's plea may fall on deaf ears. Whilst recognising that as the campaign goes into its final day, the stake are high, politicians are pulling out all the stops, I can't help but feel Remain have surrendered their dignity. Perhaps it was necessary, we'll know, come Friday.
On first seeing the now infamous anti-migrant poster unveiled by Nigel Farage earlier this week, I must confess, I thought it was a spoof. My instant, uninformed assumption, was that someone had cleverly put together the sort of poster that certain elements of the leave campaign, would dearly love to employ, but daren't, knowing it to be unacceptable. Much to my horror, I was wrong. Nigel Farage and UKIP, it seems, are quite willing to use just such a nakedly racist, detestable poster, and don't appear to realise it is just not on. It could be, that they are all too aware that this crosses the line, but don't care, so keen are they to tap into, and stoke anti-immigrant feeling, wherever it is found, across the UK. Stoking anti-immigrant sentiment is tantamount to inciting racial hatred, is therefore a criminal offence and should be treated as such.
Boris Johnson, speaking for the official Vote Leave campaign, was quick to put distance between themselves and the UKIP poster, little wonder. However, the cynic in me can't help but think, "isn't it rather convenient, that there are ostensibly several leave campaigns, one of which is more willing to overtly push the immigration envelope that bit further"?. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking it might well suit Gove, Grayling, Johnson & Co, to have Nigel Farage do their dirty work for them. Indeed, one wonders just how serious the Tories are, about reducing immigration at all. For as long as immigration continues to be perceived as a problem, it serves as an ideal scapegoat, on which to lay the blame, for all our social and economic woes. Bringing immigration 'under control' runs the risk that people might have to look elsewhere, probe a little deeper, as to the true source of the UK's problems. The establishment could well be left exposed, without the immigration smokescreen, as the true perpetrators of inequality, poverty and injustice in this country.
Let's not pretend, that whilst the UKIP poster is utterly vile, it is unique. Far from it. The steady stream of inflammatory, front page headlines, run by the likes of the Daily Express, Daily Mail and The Sun 'newspapers' in recent years, are every bit as blatantly racist and contemptible. The right wing media in this country, are every bit as complicit as UKIP and their ilk, in perpetuating their anti-immigration agenda. David Cameron's, long forgotten, talk of a 'swarm' of people coming to Britain, betrays the Tory mentality regarding refugees. The media are equally keen to demonise benefit claimants, deliberately blurring the lines between benefit fraudsters and legitimate benefit recipients, inferring all are scroungers. We've had numerous television programmes such as Benefits Street and Big Benefits Handout, exploiting the poor and vulnerable. Yet, no TV show called Billionaire Non-Dom Tax Evaders, depicting the lives of the real parasites in society has been forthcoming. Similarly, the Tories, with their constant references to 'hard working families', insidiously maintain an artificial divide between ordinary, working class people. All of this, is of course, classic divide and rule. That there are many who cannot, or will not, see through it is utterly dispiriting. I for one, feel I have far more in common with most people who come here from within the EU, outwith the EU, be they migrant or refugee, than I do Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the so-called elite.
As the EU referendum campaign enters it's final 10 days, are Cameron, Osborne and the other Tories campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union about to take a back seat?
Throughout the EU referendum campaign, those Tories, who are for remaining in the EU, have been totally incapable of making their case, by highlighting the overwhelming positives of EU membership. Instead, they resort their default setting-negativity. They seem to believe, it is more effective to terrify people into voting to remain in the EU, by predicting post Brexit apocalypse. Today David Cameron sank to new depths in his campaign of fear. Today, he directly threatened vulnerable pensioners, who rely on the meagre state pension to live. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Prime minister said " leaving Europe would mean some invidious choices" and "One area we’d be forced to look at is pensions". Truly, deplorable, despicable tactics by any standard. Not that we in Scotland, are in the slightest bit surprised, we've seen and heard it all before, in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Project Fear redux.
There have been suggestions in parts of the media, that as the campaign enters the final stretch, Cameron & Co, are set to take a back seat, with the Labour Party taking the reins. Concerns were raised last week, that many Labour voters had no clear idea of where the party stands in relation to the EU referendum. In reality, there is a perception among the wider working class, that those who are campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, are simply not addressing their concerns and fears about immigration. This plays directly into the hands of those who would have the UK leave the EU. Indeed, whenever immigration takes centre stage in the campaign, there appears to be a corresponding increase in support for Brexit. More, much more, needs to be done, to promote the positives of immigration and to counter the anti-immigration messages put out by the Vote leave and Leave.EU. There also needs to be a concerted effort to dispel the notion that a post Brexit UK would be much better placed to control immigration. Similarly, there is work to do to promote the positive impact that EU regulations have had on workers rights. It makes sense that this message, when directed at working class voters, in England at least, needs primarily to come from the Labour Party. Very few working class voters after all, would believe that the Tory's, are genuinely concerned with workers rights.
The whole EU referendum campaign, has turned out to be something of a dogs breakfast. This stems from the fact that, on both sides of the argument, there are disparate voices, campaigning for the same things, in quite different ways from one another. Whilst the official remain campaign is Britain Stronger in Europe, there are also, Labour in for Britain and Conservatives In. Additionally there are the Liberal Democrats, who's official stance is pro-EU and in Scotland, the SNP, who are strongly in favour of remaining within the EU. None of the other pro-EU parties, are willing, understandably, to share a platform with the Tories. Labour and the Liberal Democrats suffered badly at the ballot box, partly for standing shoulder to shoulder, with the Tories, in the Better Together campaign, during the Scottish independence referendum. It is a mistake they are all too keen not to repeat. On the other side of the fence, we have the official campaign, Vote Leave, led primarily by anti-EU Tories like Michael Gove. Then there is Leave.EU, who are perhaps keener to play to peoples fears over immigration, than their counterparts at Vote Leave. What Vote Leave and Leave.EU have in common however, is that they are both vociferously peddling the £350 million per week myth and share an arguably delusional belief that the worlds major trading Blocs will be falling over each other in the race to sign up for trade deals with a post Brexit UK.
It is hard to see where things might go from here. Neither side of the argument has the singular focus enjoyed by Yes Scotland and Better Together in the 2014. The problem for those campaigning to remain, is that a purely positive campaign, highlighting the benefits of EU membership, might not be enticing enough, especially in comparison to the post Brexit 'Fantasy Island' promised by those who would have us out of the EU. Equally, it is possible that to continue with an overly negative campaign, turns off as many voters as it terrifies into voting to remain. At the same time, there are serious credibility issues with some of the wilder claims made by those campaigning for Brexit, that need to be exploited further. The polls have shown, by and large, a fairly consistent lead for remain and the occasional lead for leave. How accurate the polls are however, is a matter of conjecture, as there is little or nothing by way of recent precedent at a UK level, to compare and contrast with. It may well be the great undecided, those who admit to being none the wiser, having listened to and watched the numerous debate that have been broadcast on radio and television, who ultimately decide the outcome.
Finally, let us not forget the all important Elephant in the room-turnout. Despite a concerted, last minute effort to get people registered to vote, we have no way of knowing just how many of us will actually make it to the polling booths, come the 23rd of June. This is a worry, a very great worry indeed.
Call me paranoid, but in recent years, we seem to be bombarded with pro-Royal media coverage, to a greater degree than ever before, as far as I can remember. I should make it clear from the outset, that I consider the Princess Diana phenomenon to be quite different, as it was largely focused on the individual.
On Monday, June 13th, I shall turn 40 years old, for the first and last time. There will be no second, or 'official' birthday, and as far as I am aware, no street party to mark this milestone, in an otherwise unremarkable life. For that, I am truly thankful. This, I couldn't help but notice, due to media saturation, is in stark contrast to the "three days of events to mark the Queen's official birthday celebrations" as the BBC put it. Nor, could I help but think, that it seems only a short time ago, that the media was dominated by QE2's last birthday. That would be, because it was in April, the month in which Saint Betty was actually born.
It feels as if barely a month goes by, without some reason or other, for the media to extol the virtues of Her Majesty. We've had her surpassing, Queen Victoria as not only the longest- lived, but also the longest- reigning British monarch. On top of all that, she's also the world's oldest reigning monarch. In 2012 there was all the fanfare of the Diamond Jubilee and even a star turn as 'Jane Bond' or Uber-M, for the London Olympics. The Golden Jubilee of 2002, seemed a damn sight less than ten years earlier, thanks to the media taking every opportunity to remind us just how wonderful QE2 is. We are constantly told how remarkable this woman is, when in reality, all that she has achieved, has been as a result of simply growing old. We are expected to swoon in astonishment, that this redoubtable old trouper has reached the grand old age of 90. Really? It's hardly surprising, given that there is even doubt, as to whether she's ever had to so much as wipe her own backside.
Conveniently forgotten, or at the very least, played down, is the hostile public reaction QE2 and the Royal Family received, for their perceived indifference, in the wake of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Nor, is much coverage given to the fact that she raised, or rather, oversaw the raising, of four children, who have turned out to be totally dysfunctional. Rarely mentioned, are the string of adulteries, affairs, broken marriages, questionable associations and dubious financial arrangements of the Queen's offspring. Instead we are to celebrate, to love and to bow and scrape before this shining beacon of dedication, hard work and resilience. Of course, this all fits in rather well with the Tory agenda; we must all strive to be like QE2, i.e work yourself into the ground, until you drop. Dead.
In recent years, the Royal propaganda machine has expanded, adding a second channel, on which to heap praise and adoration upon the monarchy. The stars of this second outlet, are of course, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Wills and Kate. What is in actual fact, a rather pedestrian story, man meets woman, falls in love, gets married and reproduces, has been transformed by the media, into something akin to the second coming. Wills and Kate's wedding in April 2011, didn't quite match the hysteria that greeted the ill-fated union of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981, but it wasn't too wide of the mark. The Daily Express, Daily Mail and Telegraph, seem determined to make Kate Middleton, into something of a Princess Di mark 2. I'm not sure they've succeeded quite yet, the Duchess of Cambridge doesn't, as far as I can tell, inspire the same sycophantic adulation bestowed upon her husband's mother, during and after her lifetime. Still, they persevere, never a day goes by, without some article or other, fawning over whatever outfit the Duchess has seen fit to wear, whilst carrying out her Royal engagements. The Royal couple's recent tour of India was a perfect example of the propaganda machine in full flight, with near, real-time updates, being placed disproportionately and ludicrously high up on the various British television news channels agendas.
Pregnancy and childbirth, predictably, increased the value of the Duchess of Cambridge's stock considerably. She was hailed as a veritable superwoman for enduring a severe case of morning sickness, in a way that no mere mortal could hope to emulate. On the 22nd of July 2013, Kate gave birth to a son, Prince George, who turned out, naturally of course, to be the cutest baby the world had ever set eyes upon. That was until, on the 2nd May 2015, when Kate surpassed herself, by giving birth to an even cuter baby, Princess Charlotte. According to a woman called Sophie, who it seems, is the wife of an obscure Royal cousin, Prince George is a "very clever, articulate little boy". How marvellous. How wonderful. How odd, given that his father and grandfather have always struck me as being somewhat deficient of the grey matter. Thinking about it, there no recent members of the Windsor clan, who are, or were, renowned for their keen intellect, who spring immediately to mind.
Even Prince Harry, once depicted as the Royal wild child, the playboy younger sibling to the heir of the heir, has undergone something of a transformation in the media. Now portrayed as something of a Wunder Prinz, Harry is widely praised for his military service, charitable pursuits and is credited with creating the Invictus Games in 2014. Fair play to him.
Of course, it isn't all one sided, well not entirely at least. In order to be seen to be even handed (something in which they have failed miserably), the media produce the occasional negative story, usually involving minor a Royal. Prince Andrew is something of a source of embarrassment, in recent times, there have been his controversial stint as The UK's Special Trade Envoy, his friendship with Jerry Epstein described on Wikipedia as "a man with a conviction in Florida for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution" and sex abuse allegations made in the USA by a woman called Virginia Roberts. Similarly, Andrew's daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie are often portrayed in less than flattering light. Indeed, the Royal sister's seem to have made something of a profession of being princesses, drawing negative copy for their numerous annual holidays.
None of these intermittent, negative headlines, come remotely close to derailing the Windsor Express. The media never miss the slightest opportunity to produce a glossy souvenir magazine, six page centrefold or vomit inducing documentary. Now, even I, who believe that the Monarchy should be wound up when the Queen passes, can see that Her Majesty represents continuity, reliability and reassurance to many people in these otherwise turbulent times. As the Queen gets older, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are being increasingly promoted as the future of the monarchy. It is both interesting and quite telling, the way in which Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, are increasing ignored and overlooked by the media as the months roll by, but that's another story. Meanwhile, the glut pro-Royal media coverage, is, for me at least, not unlike being force-fed a rather stale Christmas cake, that is well past it's sell by date.
I have a confession to make. Despite, from an early age, having had a keen interest in politics, I have only ever voted in Westminster general, or Scottish parliamentary elections. To this day, I have never once, cast my vote in either a local election or a European parliamentary election. My abstention from both local and European elections were, largely as a result of, prejudicial views I used to harbour about local government and the European Parliament. Probably as a result of Thatcherite media propaganda. I viewed local government as incompetent, inefficient and wasteful. If a task required one person to complete it, the council would allocate three, or so the stories went. My view of local councillors was equally negative, I regarded them as fourth rate politicians. As for the European Parliament, I regarded it as toothless and remote, of little or no importance and certainly not worth voting for. MEP's, like local councillors, were a sub-species of politician, simply not up to the task of being the real deal, i.e an MP.
It would be foolish to deny that there is indeed, a lot of inefficiency and waste that goes on at local government level. However, the same is true of just about any large, bureaucratic organisation. Central government is arguably one of the worst culprits, one had only to look at Ministry of Defence procurement as an example of total and utter incompetence and grotesque waste. Similarly, the EU, has very real issues regarding accountability. It's structures are overly complicated and insufficiently democratic. Many councillors and MEP's are inadequates, who need to feel important, but that applies equally to a number of MP's and MSP's. What I have learned, as my world view has evolved and grown, is that despite their flaws, local government and the EU matter, therefore, so do elections to those bodies. I've come to believe that a huge contributor to our problems, is that our governmental structures are heavily top down. For true democracy to exist, it needs to be brought as close to the people as possible. If not quite direct democracy, policy needs to be at least originated and developed at the bottom, then pushed up. Power should be devolved as locally as is practicably possible.
European and local government election turnouts are notoriously low. For example, at the 2014 European parliamentary elections in the UK, turn out was a paltry 35.6%. The real danger is that in the imminent EU in/out referendum low turnout could have a catastrophic effect. In the last few days there has been a concerted effort to get those who are not already, registered to vote. Recent figures point to the majority of last minute applicants falling into the under 35 age group. If you are in favour, as I am, of remaining a member of the EU, getting the young, not only registered to vote, but to turn out on polling day, is paramount. This is because, as a result of having grown up in a 'global village', whereby the world made smaller through the Internet and social media, they are largely free of the prejudices held by many, though by no means all, older people. In turn, this would suggest, younger voters are more inclined to vote to remain in the EU.
Now, I do not expect the EU referendum to emulate the relatively spectacular turnout of 84.6% achieved at the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. By comparison, turnout at the 2015 General election was 66.4% and the 2016 Scottish parliamentary elections just 55.6%. That being said, I strongly believe, the higher the turnout come June 23rd, the greater the chances of a vote to remain. If turnout is dismally low, it is likely to be the die hard, eurosceptics, racists and xenophobes who make up the majority. Regardless of whether you believe that the UK should remain a member, or opt to leave the EU, it is imperative that you cast your vote. The result, whichever way it goes, will have serious and lasting effects on the future of the UK. The EU referendum is very important and it matters a great deal. Let's give it the turnout it deserves.
Fascinating, isn't it. You lead your party into government, as the senior partner in a coalition, after thirteen, long years in the wilderness. Five years later, you confound the pollsters, your party, yourself, just about everyone else and win an overall majority. All this, yet little over a year later, there is sustained talk, of your leadership coming to an end. How did it come to this?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I never believed for a minute, that David Cameron wanted this referendum. He made the pledge, firstly, to placate the restless, Tory eurosceptics and secondly, in an attempt to prevent a mass exodus of Tory voters, to UKIP. Nor do I believe, that David Cameron expected to be in a position, to deliver on his promise to hold an EU in/out referendum, that is why he made it. For a considerable time, everything pointed to the 2015 general election, producing another hung parliament.
How could anyone have predicted, that the pundits and pollsters, would get it so spectacularly wrong? Dave's gamble, a sure fire winner on the face of it, proved to be a dud. The newly re-elected, Prime Minister's primary concern, was quite simply, how to hold an EU in/out referendum, without the Tory party imploding.
It would seem that he couldn't. The much vaunted, EU/UK renegotiations, turned out, as expected, to be something of a damp squib. To be fair, even if our European partners had been significantly, more generous, this simply would not have satisfied the eurosceptics. Cameron then found himself, in a classic catch-22 situation. He could either, allow Ministers, against convention, to campaign based on their conscience, rather than in line with official, Government policy. Or, alternatively, compel Ministers to toe the official Government line, thus risking high profile Cabinet resignations. Cameron opted for the first option, in the vain hope that it would prevent a party split, instead fostering an amiable, intra-party debate.
As it turns out, there was and is, no amiable intra-party debate. Instead, we have the civil war David Cameron, was so desperate to avoid. With bells on. To be fair, I never really expected an inspiring, grown up debate. The eurosceptics, were always going to make fantastical, inaccurate, lurid and misleading claims. What I wasn't quite prepared for, was just how utterly inept, the campaign to remain in the EU, would prove to be. Rather than opting to extol the virtues of EU membership, they've inexplicably chosen to repeat the mistakes of Better Together, preaching death and destruction, in the event of Brexit.
It may well be, given that it's the pro-European faction of the Tory party, that is running the remain campaign, that negativity was inevitable. The Labour Party, peculiarly silent up until recently, presumably through sheer terror of a repeat of the catastrophic results, of standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories, during the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, have started to stir. Just two days ago, Jeremy Corbyn, hitherto famously lukewarm towards the EU, was stating the "overwhelming case" for the UK remaining a member of the EU.
None of this, in any way, helps David Cameron. Should voters opt to remain in the EU, the eurosceptics will make life a living hell for the Prime Minister for the remainder of his term in office. With a slender majority, it may prove more palatable to Mr Cameron, to fall on his sword, rather than lurch from one crisis to the next. If Fantasy Island becomes a reality, and voters opt for Brexit, Cameron would almost certainly have to resign. It would be preposterous, to have a Prime Minister, who lead the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU, then negotiate the UK's exit from that institution.
Even if the result were close enough to warrant further negotiations with the EU, presumably resulting in more concessions in the UK's favour, followed by a second referendum, Mr Cameron, would not be the man to see the process through.
It is difficult to see where it will all end, this Old Etonian Punch & Judy show. I fear this melodrama may have some way to go. One thing is for certain, the predicament David Cameron finds himself in, is entirely self inflicted.
Now I am all for Scotland, sorry, the UK remaining in the EU because on balance, culturally, economically and politically I believe we're better off in than out. However, this 'Meme' or whatever it is they're called really irritated me on two counts. Firstly, it's negative, it plays on people's fear of the unknown, a tool all too readily employed by the Remain campaign in the EU referendum and the No campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
The second is this 'big player' tripe that keeps getting trotted out. It is this very British/English, post imperial delusion, that is largely the reason we are having this referendum in the first place. It reminded me of when in November 2015 talking about the UK's new aircraft carriers George Osborne said;
"By 2023, we will be able to have these jets - some of the most powerful in the world - the F35, on the decks of these carriers and Britain, second only to the United States, will be able to project power abroad in order to defend ourselves at home."
A little after Parliament voted in favour of Syrian air strikes Osborne talked of how Britain has "got its mojo back". During the Scottish independence referendum, speaking of the implications of a 'yes' vote , John Major said of the UK, "we would lose our seat at the top table of the UN". Crivens. Help ma' Boab. Catastrophe.
It it is precisely this type of macho posturing, strutting peacock politics, that played a part in my coming to the conclusion that Scotland was and still would be, better of outside of the UK. We would be free of all that grandiose egotism of being 'one of the big boys' at the 'top table'. And what a relief that would be.