Blogging is a strange occupation - a solitary writer in search of the sort of communion with others that used to happen in the pub, on the corner, on the bus is now engaging with others electronically instead. So much for progress.

THIS blog is about ideas - big and small - connected with one of the things I care about with a passion, namely the future of liberal thought in this country. I am instinctively a radical liberal, with a grudging belief in the value of markets but an abhorrence of statism and indifference, and a strong belief in social justice. I find Labour bankrupt of ideas, and the Tories intellectually flacid. This is my response.

I am intending always to stick to the point: there will be no rabble-rousing talk, and no wasted jibes at other parties and political philosophies.

Comments will be moderated, but anyone can leave one.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

What the 'No' campaign needs to say, and say now..

I haven't blogged here for a long time. Liberalism being eroded by the Orange Bookers within the Libdems, a contagion of 'shootings in the foot' by the Liberal Democrat party (the handling of the Rennard case, for instance, makes the blood boil) and the failure of the liberal case to be heard on the broad left explains that. But there is a reason for blogging today about a very liberal issue, the issue of the Union and the threat to it from the Yes campaign for Scottish independence. For while liberals should, and do, cherish local democracy they oppose politics on the cheap, placing the destiny of a nation on a wing and a prayer, and threats and cajoling others to get your own way. The Yes campaign in the Scottish independence referendum have been allowed to get away with all this, and more, by a quite frankly hopeless 'Better Together' campaign. 'Better Together' has been fronted by a good, credible and serious politician in Alistair Darling, but it has been managed ineptly and produced little of the case for the union that ought to be offered to the people of Scotland. The case for No has rested on quite accurate statements about the paucity of truth in the Yes case - that Scotland can't be independent without control over its currency, that jobs and welfare are a risk from withdrawal, that Yes would have Scots bet the future of their nation on the likelihood of oil reserves somehow being eked out beyond 2030 and the oil price remaining high - but the response of Salmond and his co-nationalists to that case wins attention every time. 'It's all threats', they say, 'wicked threats by wicked people down south who would deny you your future'. That's because Better Together has accepted that the 'victims when it suits us' rhetoric of the SNP is unchallengeable. The 'Yessers' say that 'Project Fear' is the enemy - and in Scottish political culture the idea of 'outsiders' "telling us what to do" is supposedly unassailable. Better Together needs to start a new campaign, now. Call it Project Reality. Project Reality is that rUk WILL treat and independent Scotland as the easiest target for a trade offensive. It'll take Scottish jobs and capital not because the demon evil people in London are out to wreck independence, but because we'd be mad not to do so. Scotland would be easy pickings. Project Reality is that no-one in rUk intends allowing Scottish banks and Scottish government deficit spending to determine by one iota the level of rUk money supply or interest rates; we'll set our rates, and Scotland (using the £) will have to like it or lump it, and again we'll do so because it is in our interests and not because of some malign dislike of Scots. The key point here is that the motivation will not be malice; it will be inevitable because of defection from the Union. You go, you become a competitor. But Better Together has to make a REAL case for Union too. That political unions can take many forms, and that ours has evolved to date from where it was in 1707 and can do so again in future. That political union (in Europe, Africa, Asia) is a growing trend for a reason - it works. That our differences are small: the rhetoric of nationalisms divide us, and that crushes rather than liberates. That our Union is not perfect, and that (and the SNP has this absolutely right) our political system requires fundamental reform, but that this is a better starting point than 'wing and a prayer' Salmond promises and hopes. Moreover Better Together needs to tackle head on a problem at the heart of this cross-party campaign. It needs to recognise that the Union IS dominated by southeast England, to the disadvantage of all of us. Decisions are all too often 'southeast/London favouring'. Crossrail, all £15 billion of it, will benefit Scotland not one bit, and that is wrong. Equally though it will, while whisking rich bankers from Berkshire to Canary Wharf a whole 6 minutes quicker, benefit the people of Cornwall, Wiltshire, Brecon and Antrim to an equal degree, i.e. zero. It's part of a political mindset that views 'rebalencing' the regions as being about 'spreading the benefit of the southeast a little more widely' rather than investing where investment is best made for our union as a whole. That is wrong, and the Better Together team need to acknowledge it. Better Together, you need in these closing weeks to make a better case, and make it quickly. The people of the whole of the UK, and particularly the people of Scotland, deserve it.

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