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.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Let's try again: It's 'No' for positive reasons

In these final few days of the Scottish referendum, there is still hope that a slow, tawdry, over-confident 'No' campaign can finally see the wood for the trees and make a coherent argument. But it'll have to move fast. It has been hopeless in making the case for union and tolerably useless at opposing the 'Yessers' in their own terms. Partly this is the result of a comprehensive failure to understand the terms of political rhetoric in Scottish politics. Scottish politics is, whatever Mr Salmond may say about 'progressive vision', very much rooted in the collectivist mindset of the early 20th century (no complaint about that from me, a liberal) in which it is possible to feel a victim in the morning and a hero in the afternoon - a victim of distant, self-interested government remote from oneself (because it happens to 'do something I don't like') and a hero of collective struggle and a bright (probably socialist) vision of the future (because life is bound to be better because people like me rather than 'them' are in charge) after that. That rhetoric is solid, immutable and wrong, but it is the rhetoric of more than just the far left in Scotland. What the 'No' camp needs to do is to espouse a vision - a genuinely positive vision - for the FUTURE of the union. Political unions across the world can and do evolve, discovering things that don't work gloriously well (like fiscal federalism in Canada) and things that do. The 'No' guys have to show - actually show - that the emotion of the Yes rhetoric can be turned off course not by denial (which won't work, and will play to the victim theme) but by positive statements about where union might take us (which won't). Like the possibility that in a complex economy such as the UK, regions can work together to maximise the benefit of belonging to the Uk in the same way they currently benefit from working together with other regions of the EU. Like the possibility of a union in which the planned further devolution of powers is not some grudging token gesture, but a constructive way of enhancing regionally distinct voices - a northeast that desperately wants investment on terms not dictated by London bankers, and a southeast that is not, inevitably, seen as a concreted-over hole in which ever more bodies jostle and fight for space. Like the intention to create a regionally differentiated, but inclusive, economic policy in which the choices of Wales are echoed and balanced with the intentions and aspirations of the northwest. All of that would be easy enough, but there is a more profound problem here: 'No' can't offer the CERTAINTY of such an inspiring vision since, frankly, the parties who support 'No' are implacable enemies in the run up to what will be a fiercely contested 2015 election. Heads will have to be banged together - and that takes more leadership than we see in the main parties at Westminster. But, 'No' camp, you must TRY!

No comments: