The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Friday, June 18, 2010

UK Breaking Up?
Maimon Schwarzschild

Enoch Powell's reaction to Tony Blair's (and New Labour's) election in 1997 was "They have voted to break up the United Kingdom".

Now David Runciman writes a fascinating piece suggesting that, well, last month's election in Britain really might mean the end of the United Kingdom.

Runciman's piece is in the London Review of Books, which is usually numb with leftism (and obsessively anti-sem..., um,  "anti-Zionist").  But this is a shrewd, witty, and all too plausible analysis: both of the voting patterns, and the potential implications.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that England has a solid Tory majority (overwhelmingly so outside the "ethnic" inner cities, i.e. apart from the massive immigration, much of it Muslim, that the Labour government engineered over the past decade and a half).  In Scotland, on the other hand, the only live political parties are Labour and the (more or less separatist) Scottish Nationalists.  The Tories are almost non-existent in Scotland: they scarcely even rank as a minor party.  As Runciman says, "at present Labour [could] only govern England from Scotland, and the Tories can only govern Scotland from England".  So:

[T]he United Kingdom [is now] more or less ungovernable. It is very hard to imagine how a Conservative administration in Westminster, even with the support of the Liberal Democrats, will be able to impose painful spending cuts on Scotland and expect to survive there as a political force. Alex Salmond, the SNP first minister, is already cranking up the moral outrage at the mere thought of it. The Liberal Democrats do give the new government the ballast of some Scottish MPs (11 in all), but in reality it was the Lib Dems who suffered most in Scotland at the election – it was the only major party that saw its share of the vote drop significantly. Even its traditional gripes about proportional representation don’t hold in Scotland – there they get exactly what they deserve (just under 19 per cent of the votes, just under 19 per cent of the seats). However you juggle the numbers, in Scottish terms this new Westminster government really is a coalition of losers. But in the end it was even harder to see how that other possible coalition of losers – a Labour/ Lib Dem alliance – could have forced through tax rises in England, where the Tories have a clear majority of seats and had a margin of victory over Labour in the popular vote of more than 11 per cent. Politics in the UK is now comprehensively out of sync. If the public finances were in better shape, this might not matter so much. But with horribly difficult choices to be made by whoever is in power, the pressures are bound to build.

The whole article is extremely shrewd about electoral behaviour (not only in Britain) as well as about what the British election might mean.  There is a lot of unravelling going on around the world, isn't there, under the gentle ministrations of our wonderful post-1960s generation?  Anyway, read Runciman's article.

 

https://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2010/06/uk-breaking-up-maimon-schwarzschild.html

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Comments

Aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers are the only justification for the state. Once a people has given up and turned its defense over to others, exchanged real submarines for the Yellow Submarine, then they may as well be as small and weak as they see fit.

Think of our own history, and the vision of Jackson, putting down theh "devolution" of his time with authority. So it was that the power was there to be wielded by Polk, as the power preserved by Lincoln was there for McKinley and his successors down to our own day.

Go ahead, little Hobbits. Make yourselves into the Shire: Gondor will be there to save you again.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Jun 18, 2010 3:04:46 AM

This sounds something like the US - with the urban areas totaly in the D camp and the rural areas solidly R, battling over the suburban areas for who comes out on top.

Posted by: km | Jun 18, 2010 8:54:46 AM

Given that the UK has a long and noble history of fudging the issue I think the union will survive, probably with a little de facto federalism. As evidence that a regionalized polity can survive, we have Canada, which shows every indication of creaking along, and is even less politically coherent. There are also the examples of Belgium, which has been imploding for decades and Switzerland which is a loose coalition of cantons that lead me to believe that the Early 21st century socioeconomic divisions of the UK will not amount to much in the long run.
More interesting is the first part of the essay, which basically suggests that we could call our own 2010 election based on todays' polls, which suggest a serious GOP advance that fails to take either house. The GOP might win in 2012 but that will turn on future events, like no obvious economic expansion, a major corruption scandal, or perceived failures in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Molly | Jun 18, 2010 2:20:36 PM

The piece has the characteristic flaw of almost all English political writing from the Oxford-Cambridge-London golden triangle - it is routinely too lazy to get the facts right about Scotland. "The Tories are almost non-existent in Scotland" is true of Tory representation in the UK parliament, but not of Tory representation the the Scottish parliament, where the seats held are currently SNP 47, Labour 46, Tory 16, Lib Dem 16, Other 4. He really should learn to use Google.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 18, 2010 3:33:22 PM

To Dearieme: I'm not sure that for the Tories to eke out 12% of the local Scottish Parliament is hugely encouraging for them, seeing that they (the Tories) have - by contrast - an absolute majority in England. But it is true that the picture is even worse for the Tories in terms of Scottish seats in the UK Parliament: there they hold just one seat (out of 59).

Posted by: maimon | Jun 18, 2010 5:10:35 PM

If Scotland severs itself from GB, won't they be forced to address the ruinous reality of their politics, and isn't this a good thing for everybody?

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