BY GARFIELD KENNEDY
As the General Election approaches, the chaotic nature of the British political system is exposed for what it is – broken, tired and in need of radical change.
Last September Scotland was on the verge of precipitating a bloodless revolution that could have refreshed our national politics, not just in Scotland, but also throughout the whole of the UK.
I was at a posh wedding in Edinburgh the week before the referendum and found myself arguing for the “Yes” side with anyone who would listen. Like many others, I felt that we Celts were being patronized by bankers, the EU and Westminster politicians of all shades, and the claims about the iniquities of devolution were becoming increasingly hysterical and smelt of bullying.
I serve as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Somerset (where Tessa Munt is our Lib Dem MP in a precariously held seat). Yet despite the party being on the “No” side, I found many English Lib Dems to be quietly in the “Yes” camp! Like me, they could see that the electorate are searching for something that none of the existing parties is offering and the whole system deserved a cataclysmic shock.
First-past-the-post elections are filling the House of Commons with MPs elected by a minority of voters. Politicians are despised and mistrusted and the country is in danger of becoming ungovernable. UKIP purports to be the answer – but Mr Farage’s backward-looking, slippery policies make it entirely the wrong rabbit hole to dive down.
Anyone who watched Michael Cockerell’s “Inside the Commons” four-part documentary on BBC2 last month, had his or her worst fears confirmed that Westminster is not fit for purpose. This old-fashioned “boys’ club” could be seen drowning in archaic, time-wasting, and pointless tradition that has nothing to do with running a modern democracy.
Despite all the dire warnings and threats that were bandied around last year, an independent Scotland would not have slipped down a plughole in the Atlantic.
Even the threats of no pound and no EU membership would have been exposed for the tactics of fear that they really were. It was never in England or the EU’s selfish interest to put up trade barriers or cut off social ties with Scotland.
Had the vote gone the other way (and perhaps it would have done without the hysterical scare-mongering of the last few days of the campaign) then the rest of Britain would be going through paroxysms of self-examination where every facet of the way we govern ourselves would be under scrutiny. I suggest it would have been a blessing.
Some pundits predicted that England (with or without Wales) would be Tory for the next 100 years if Scotland left the Union. I’m certain that would not have happened.
If “Yes” had won, undoubtedly there would have been a period of political chaos – near to a full-scale revolution – and David Cameron would no longer be Prime Minister. Instead there would have been a massive re-jig of political parties where clear distinctions between left and right would have re-emerged eventually.
While bankers and industrialists rattled their cages and dished out dire warnings about Scotland’s future fully free of Westminster, what are we actually left with? – Continuing uncertainty, the very real threat of the lot of us leaving the EU, the rise of reactionary UKIP, and the increasing popularity of the SNP as Scots have woken up to the way they were conned into voting to stay attached to England.
All the main parties have allowed the gap between rich and poor to grow ever wider since Thatcher preached greed to be a virtue. They have allowed London to thrive, leaving the rest of the country to pick up the crumbs.
The problem stretches beyond these little islands. Politicians still see endless growth (making more things we don’t really need, ignoring global warming and plundering our finite resources as if our grandchildren’s lives don’t matter) as the only yardstick of success.
Last September, we missed our chance to have a once-in-a-millennium shake up of the system of government across the whole contiguous landmass of these islands, and yes, there would have been uncertainty and political turmoil, but I doubt that it would have involved bloodshed.
What we are left with is ongoing uncertainty that has all the potential to lead to another Scottish referendum sooner rather than later. The English obsession of becoming a little Britain outside the EU could well leave the whole of the UK looking directionless and in permanent decline.
Could a successful “Yes” vote in Scotland six months ago really have done any more harm than this?
Belfast-born Garfield Kennedy ran television and film production companies in Glasgow and London and has lived in every country in the Union at various stages of his life. He is currently working as a professional fundraiser for a national charity and is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Somerset.