Tuesday, 25 May 2010

David Cameron's Stroke of Genius

Yes, you read aright. It may not be one for the purists. But it is a brilliant piece of tactical politics.

There are elsewhere areas at least as remote as anywhere in Scotland, and areas poorer than anywhere at all there. So there has never been any moral case for what, in that context, are the obscene levels of public spending in Scotland. Far from being integral to the Union, that arrangement was devised by a man who is still alive, and who is flabbergasted that it still exists after all these years, as was never remotely the intention.

Its continuation was fundamental to the success of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, which for some reason receives little or no credit for this, in convincing Margaret Thatcher that Scotland was so "special" and "different" that almost all of her agenda could never be given effect there. In reality, it was that near-total exemption from Thatcherism which made Scotland significantly different, as had not previously been the case unless one happened to have had much to do with the legal system, or with the more institutional aspects of the Established Church, or to an extent with the education system.

Yet that same continuation was also demanded successfully by the Scottish Labour Party as compensation for the Thatcherite onslaught to which Scotland had never been subjected. There was no compensation for those who really had had to endure it. Like Thatcher, and indeed even more so, Blair had enough Scottish connections to know that he was being spun a ridiculous yarn. Unlike her, he was a County Durham MP who knew exactly who had really suffered in the Eighties. But neither of those facts ever made any difference.

Well, it can't last in the present climate, obviously. So the Scottish devolved body is to be given greater tax-raising powers, along with borrowing powers. Then, when the cuts come, Alex Salmond can be told to replace them by means of taxes raised solely in Scotland, or borrowing to be paid off at a later date out of taxes raised solely in Scotland, or both. Which, in the circumstances giving rise to the cuts in the first place, is hardly likely to go down very well. Is it?

Sometimes, people should get what they wish for...


  1. Scotland, not subject to Thatcherism?

    Hmm. Poll tax, ahem, Community Charge, the final shot of Thatcherism seemed to have been born prematurely there.

    And before that....well industry certainly got the full monty treatment, be it Ravenscraig or the Fife coalfields...

    While the urban regeneration of Glasgow (Smiles Better, remember) from the mid-80s could reasonably compared with that of Liverpool. And the development of the Silicon Glen with that of the equivalent areas around the Thames Valley or outside Cambridge.

    Sure, municipal socialism was not banished in Glasgow (and look at how corrupt it has become), but in part that must be because it lacked a provocative Hatton- or Livingstone-type figure to act as a lightning rod upon which her wrath would be unleashed.

    But untouched by Thatcherism, Scotland? I really, really, think not.

  2. The Poll Tax was by popular demand, and primarily designed to address a Scottish problem. It was never remotely as unpopular in Scotland as it was in England.

    The deindustrialisation was hardly peculiar to Scotland, and was more than cushioned by the continuation of the Barnett Formula, which was more than enough to cushion anything.

    None of the rearrangements of the NHS. No National Curriculum. No compulsory competitive tendering of council services. Not even any withdrawal of free school milk. One could go on.

    England and Scotland had become barely distinguishable until the Eighties, when the Scottish Tories saved post-War social democracy in Scotland even while voting to dismantle it in England. The hoodwinking of Thatcher into that one was a true masterstroke. She had precious little excuse for falling for it. Yet she did.

    And Blair had no excuse whatever for believing anyone who portrayed the Scots as pre-eminent among the victims of Thatcherism. Yet he did, even while sitting for a seat full of the real ones.

    Oh, well, it's all over now. Like so many other things. The money has run out. So, over to Alex Salmond. Which is it to be? More tax, in Scotland alone, now? Or higher borrowing, in Scotland alone, now, leading to more tax, in Scotland alone, in the future?

    I think we all know to where either of those will drive back the SNP vote, middle and upper-middle-class that it is. Back to where it came from.

    David Cameron may not be a Unionist purist. But, armed with a posh Scot's appreciation that SNP voters are Tartan Tories rather than people who have ever been anywhere near Labour or would ever go there, he is one hell of a politician.

  3. Dominic

    We all know that Lindsay the lesser Anglo-Scot is the great anti-Scot. He still lives in a Victorian-Edwardian-1950's la-la-land with maiden aunts bicycling to Evensong, a big map in every schoolroom with much of the world coloured red etc.

    And his views are more viscious towards the Welsh. Lets make him angry. Senedd. Senedd. Senedd.
    Ty Hwel. Ty Hywel. Ty Hwel.

    Even the Beeb in its English broadcasts refer to the Senedd.

  4. That's because is so very metropolitan. Eighty per cent of the Welsh wouldn't dream of calling it that. Probably more, in fact. How many Welsh-speakers speaking English would do such a silly thing? Few, if any.

    Enjoy watching Salmond get out of either taxing more or borrowing more in order to replace the cuts. I certainly will. Few enough people any longer vote SNP as it is; Salmond is only still Leader after this month because there is no one else. Will anyone at all vote SNP after he has put up the tax today, or put up the tax tomorrow, or both?