Shackled to a dysfunctional political system
Ben Bradshaw, former BBC Radio reporter who during his career covered stories such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, has been Labour Member of Parliament for Exeter since 1997. From 2009 to 2010 he was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. So perhaps a man who knows how to grab a headline.
This he has certainly done with his recent interview headlined “Scotland becomes independent” in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. Equality Nation used a translation by Google Translate.
Bradshaw foresees stormy times ahead with Brexit, both in his own party and in Scotland. In the December general election Labour suffered its worst defeat for decades. This he attributes to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn whom many Labour voters apparently didn’t trust so turned instead to the Tories. He feels new leadership provides an opportunity to rebuild the party, with the possibility of even winning the next election, by which time the grim downsides of Brexit will have become apparent. He believes most Labour members and supporters are reasonable, and their ability to put four painful election defeats behind them shouldn’t be underestimated.
Corbyn, Bradshaw believes, will be succeeded by Keir Starmer, in his view the only candidate with a chance of winning an election. Starmer (with 69 leadership endorsements to date) is the one candidate running for the leadership that can be envisaged standing on the steps of Number 10. He has the gravitas, background (a human rights lawyer) and experience in the House of Commons. And he appeals to voters. Starmer, he believes, can unite the fractured party.
Although regretting Brexit, which according to opinion polls most of the public are now against, Bradshaw said it was now necessary to ensure that leaving the EU resulted in the least damage possible. Leaving, he said, was merely the beginning of a process during which a free trade agreement would required to be negotiated in an 11 month transition period that was far too short, with the UK likely to be again facing a cliff-edge crisis and potential no-deal Brexit come the end of the year.
Agreement or no deal? The procrastination of the last three years must end. The choice must be made between capitulating or ruining the economy and bringing about the disintegration of the UK.
Bradshaw, who is married to a Scotsman, believes that whatever happens with Brexit and trade deals Scotland will become an independent country. To him, as to the Scottish Government, it is unsustainable for the Tory Westminster government to deny Scots the right to self-determination. Scots, he said, expressed in the 2016 EU referendum and the two subsequent general elections that they do not want to leave the EU. “It is important to understand,” he said, “that the UK is based on the consent of all parts of the country.”
He goes on to cite a number of family members who voted No in 2014 but in the December election voted SNP for the first time, and will now, come a referendum, vote for independence. Bradshaw is 100% convinced that Scottish independence will happen.
Return to the EU?
Asked if he thought it possible Britain could, at some point in the future, rejoin the EU, Bradshaw responded that anything was possible, though re-entry wasn’t an issue in the near future. Brexit has dragged in its wake a baggage of unaddressed problems requiring to be dealt with and will bring further difficult decisions which may change the narrative, perhaps leading at some point to a desire for re-entry. The EU itself may also change. There have been suggestions of a two tier EU, with a hard core around the countries using the Euro ringed by other counties with a looser connection to the bloc. He could imagine England and Wales in the outer ring (comfortably, he said, but for now there surely has to be a large question mark over that), with Scotland and Northern Ireland together with Ireland at the core.
Shackled to a dysfunctional political system
Interestingly Bradshaw was not the only Labour MP this week to publish his belief that denial by Labour and Westminster of Scotland’s right to self-determination is unsustainable. Yesterday (Thursday) in The National Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South since 2015, and a Labour leadership candidate (with a mere 4 endorsements to date), had an article (Leader hopeful: Labour must not oppose indyref2) in which he said people in Scotland should not be dictated to by English politicians, but should have the right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.
Many Scots, Lewis said, saw themselves not as equal partners in the union but as a country shackled to a dysfunctional political system that costs them dearly. With a Brexit Scotland didn’t vote for being imposed on them, and five more years (at least) of rule by Tories they didn’t vote for, he considered a second independence referendum inevitable.
However Lewis stopped short of backing independence, himself preferring what he called “radical federalism”, something which in 2014 people in England made very clear they were not in favour of and did not want. To many, federalism would break up England and harm their sense of Englishness. With Brexit and the buy-in to “taking back control” it’s highly unlikely this feeling will have changed as federalism would see England losing some control to the other nations in the UK.
Lewis, prior to his attempt at wooing endorsements and votes in Scotland, might have been better to read up on Gordon Brown’s trundling utterances, and watch some of the video clips from 2014, when Brown guaranteed Scots the sunny peaks of the strongest federalism possible if they voted No. And we all know where that led via the Vow.
Scotland has trodden that bumpy and circuitous road and it hasn’t taken us where we want to go. So now it’s time to take the independence route.