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The Entrails of Empire

Say no more, Nicola.  Preferably ever.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, as quoted in the Guardian newspaper today, apparently thinks Harold Wilson was Britain’s greatest prime minister.  Forget Pitt, Disraeli, Gladstone, Salisbury, Lloyd George and Churchill; they were all poseurs and dilettantes of the Whig and Tory parties, capitalist poltroons and imperialist lackeys every one of them, and so anathema to the deep-fried adherents of a party that wishes to revere the memory of the sainted Keir Hardie, and in the process create an independent Peoples Republic of Scotland.

Sturgeon of course does not honestly believe that Wilson sits astride the British political pantheon like a colossus, she is merely playing to the gallery of Labour voters north of the border, where the Scottish National Party aspires to nothing less than the total wipe-out of Labour in Scotland in the coming general election.  That could well weaken Labour so much as to leave the SNP, in addition to holding power in the Scottish parliament, the balance of power in the new British parliament.

It would be a laughable prospect if it were not such a grimly real one.  And real enough it is, the likelihood that the 300-year union will be governed by a coalition government in which one of the partners seeks to break the country up, apparently by fair means or foul.  Fair would be to observe the results of the recent referendum, in which Scots favoured staying in the union by a decisive margin.  Foul would be to slalom over that decision as if surfing a wave and force on a disabled British government another vote on that single issue.  Referenda are not supposed to be taken like pills, one after the other, at short intervals, until the right result is obtained.  Especially when they represent a mere six percent of the population.

It may not come to that; the Conservative Party, presiding over a (relatively) booming economy, may pull ahead of Labour in the polls, creating a groundswell of English nationalism that counters the tartan brand.  The problem with that scenario is that English nationalists tend to favour not the incumbent Tories but Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, which may be in decline but is still likely to hold enough sway to deny the Tories a decent majority.

So, with Labour assailed from the far left by the SNP and the Conservatives under fire from the far right by UKIP, the likeliest result is that nobody wins and the horse-trading begins. 

Then it will start to resemble the fall of the Roman Empire, as the mob, whipped into a frenzy of revenge by wild-eyed followers of rabble-rousers from the extremes of the political spectrum, picks over the entrails of the corpses of its once revered institutions.

How we came to this sorry state of affairs I am not sure.  But, sadly, Britain right now is not just superficially discontented with its lot but profoundly angry, and determined that someone should be punished.  The mob will get its way, but I am far from sure that it will like the result.     

Anyway, voting day is four months away, time for much to happen.  I hope it does, and whatever it is, restores sanity to the democratic process.   Or is it a new sanity that we are now observing?

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