It has become commonplace, in these last hours, for the great and good to praise the the Scottish referendum campaign, or more precisely the people who live in Scotland, for a great revival of politics.
And it is true. Millions of people grasped at the idea that they could have a decisive say in the way they were governed. Most particularly young people, including those will be deprived of the vote in the forthcoming election but, through Alec Salmond’s crafty manoeuvre, were able to vote in the referendum, have displayed a passion, engagement and maturity that stands in contrast to the lacklustre nature of routine parliamentary politics.
People were presented with a clear choice, a binary division, a yes or no. And while it is true that the SNP’s offering contained no substantial element of popular sovereignty or genuine independence – how could it when Salmond had already surrendered control of currency, accepted the Royal Prerogative, embraced NATO (and its missile submarines) and, critically, the European Union of bosses and bankers – the popular mood is for change.
This is dangerous for the establishment, both the British establishment and its Scottish outriders.
Labour calculates that, with the independence bubble burst, they have a generation in which to cement the voting loyalty of a Scottish working class that is no longer unproblematically loyal.
But the working class mobilisation that gave a massive vote for this simulacrum of independence in Glasgow, Dundee and other areas of proletarian concentration, contains real dangers for a Scottish Labour leadership that is a mediocre as it is is right wing.
A good part of the drive for a yes vote lay in the implicit promise, heralded in a handful of Holyrood measures, that a return to the kind of concessions that a capitalist class might allow a social democratic government to concede was possible.
This is not on offer. The financialisation of the British economy, no less the Scottish economy, has stripped out the basis of full employment, stable work, productive labour and manufacturing profits that underpinned the integration of the British working class as a whole, and the Scottish working class no less, into the imperial consensus.
It is to the New Statesman, in a piece published days before the vote, that we owe this clear signal that imperial ideas remain deeply rooted.
In a piece that cemented the Staggers role as praise giver in chief for Gordon Brown it was argued thus:
“If the Westminster establishment is serious about far-reaching reform of the kind being proposed in a blind panic and about addressing the decline of parliament, then Alex Salmond, whose political mission from the outset was to break the Union, might end up creating the conditions in which it could be remade and thus saved. For now, as we enter the last days of the referendum campaign – perhaps the last days of Great Britain – those of us who do not have a vote, who loathe neoliberalism but who feel culturally British and believe in the multinational ideal of the United Kingdom, for all its flaws and incongruities, can only watch and hope that pragmatism will hold sway so that Scotland is not lost as Ireland was before it.”
But Ireland was not lost, except to British imperial rule.
Indeed, from the standpoint of the working class, British, Irish and Scottish, Ireland’s independence was a victory.
Thus in a piece that ostensibly is critical of Scottish nationalism we find the clearest expression of imperial British sentiment, as equally national in content as it is reactionary.
Meanwhile, the New Statesman and the Labour right is promoting the New Labour warmonger, Jim Murphy, as potential leader of the Scottish party.
Ed Miliband needs to find a way to connect with a Scottish labour movement tradition that can recover the lost working class voters. He will find this impossible with a bomb-happy imperial warmonger like Murphy in command of his Scottish cohorts.