Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Doing my bit to save the union

I've been thinking for some time about starting blogging again.  When I put the blog on hold last October, I said that the level of interaction no longer  justified the effort, and to be honest I don't expect that to change in a hurry.  But I have missed having an outlet for my thoughts on the political scene, and the current state of play in the Scottish independence debate, with the United Kingdom facing a real threat of break-up, means it's all hands to the pump as far as I am concerned.  And while I am not expecting the traffic on this blog to reach the levels it achieved eight years ago when political blogging was all the rage, if just one person - just one - reads anything I've got to say over the next eight days and votes no as a result of it, then it will have been worthwhile.

Why do I care about this? Well, fundamentally because I consider myself to be British.  Indeed, with Highland Scots ancestry on my father's side and Jersey ancestry on my mother's, I think my antecedents can claim a fairly wide geographical spread of Britishness!   But it's also because I believe in the idea of Britain - not just as a geographical entity but as a political union.  And as a man of the centre left, I believe the Scots - as well as the Northern English - bring something to the UK politically - not just Labour MPs, but a belief in the value of collective effort that helps to balance out the more individualistic culture prevalent in London and the South.

It is the juxtaposition of these essentially contradictory values that makes Britain what it is, but the problem is that those on the right of politics have by and large failed to appreciate this for the past 35 years. What we are seeing with the way the referendum debate is playing out is the outworking of the abandonment of the post-war political consensus after 1979 - the imposition of free market ideology by the Tories with no thought for how this would be perceived in Scotland, Wales and the North and seemingly no regard for how it would affect the fabric and essential political unity of the UK

I gave an example of this on my Facebook page today in a link to David Cameron's otherwise welcome defence of the union in today's Daily Mail. I wrote:
Welcome from Cameron, but if he really wants to save the union, he should announce the immediate repeal of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act which potentially paves the way for the future privatisation of the NHS and make clear that a future Conservative-led government would never do this. It is clear  to me that it is fears about the future of the NHS - particularly among traditional Labour voters - which is driving the Yes campaign and has brought this country to brink of disintegration.
I don't really expect Cameron to do this of course, but the point is that he should have realised that the NHS is part of the glue that holds this country together, and that embarking on a road which seems likely in the end to turn it into no more than a brand operated by multifarious private providers was always likely to weaken those bonds.

I will develop some of these thoughts this weekend in my column in The Journal - still going strong after 17 years but still only available in the paper's print edition - and this will also be posted here.

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