Sunday, June 12, 2005

Comment: Independence and the House of Lords
Kenny Sheerin

There's a standing joke somewhere that as soon as a politician succumbs to old age and starts dribbling into his Frosties, you do one of two things for him. You make him a Judge or a Peer.

The "open debate" (make's a nice change) inside the SNP over whether they should be participating in the House of Lords is characteristic of a party morally, socially and politically bankrupt. They seek to legitimise their party in the eyes of their (ahem) peers in the hope they can talk the Liberals into a coalition come some future election.

Crucially, Salmond reserves criticism, rightly, for those who buy their Peerages and those got them because mummy couldn't think up an excuse not to be in the same house as daddy that night. But I stop being impressed when he alludes to what happens if the House of Lords
miraculously becomes fair and equitable for everyone. On that day, your humble narrator will pogo stick naked up the Royal Mile for all the chance it has of happening.

But let's go with it: Why shouldn't Scottish Politicians take part in an Upper House, duly elected, smelling nice with a suit from some Oxbridge tailor? After all, if the SNP wins enough seats in Scotland at either Holyrood or the Commons to merit a Referendum, isn't getting that referendum a mere trifle?

No, it's not. The policy of the Labour Party, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats always involves the Union. I've always believed the option of a referendum for Independence is naive at best, and hideously negligent at worst. Even if you matched the SNP lords member for member in the Upper house with the Commons, they still aren't going to allow a referendum or at the very least defer it "to allow more important matters" to proceed.

Do you really think a group of English lords, even with SNP representation, will give us a referendum? Of course they aren't. Politics is about what you can achieve, and what you don't want someone else to achieve. That's why the European Referendum was delayed for so long, because senior Labour Party members KNEW it couldn't be won. When the French had a hissy-fit over the issue, they must've been sighing in relief at avoiding the bullet which would've killed off Blair.

It works like this: SNP, SSP and Greens win 51% of the Scottish seats at either Holyrood or Westminster. Next step is a referendum. It will only be allowed legally, if the current government thinks it has a chance of winning the "no to independence" vote. If they don't, sorry they're too busy right now, but they'll found you some form of Crown Commission to investigate the "Scotland Issue" or something. In actual fact, they're going to bury it for a further two years while the Brit parties work out some form of policy to win back votes while the media has the biggest tantrum in modern times to further erode the issue. Since we don't have any pro-independence media outlets, publicly, there's little we can do.

You aren't going to get your Independence Referendum. And there's little point of taking seats in the Upper House because you are merely legitimising the authority you are trying to break away from.

This isn't really about "participation" as Alex Salmond says, it's about cementing a Political career for prospective SNP MPs. The current SNP are playing a long ball game, accepting the Union and wanting to reform it from within and getting a velvet-revolution divorce settlement in the long term.

Salmond and Swinney both have similar aims, and that involves aligning the SNP as a mainstream Political Party and aiming to get the donors and money that goes along with being a mainstream party. The SNP is the biggest fringe party of British Political History and wants some megabucks, clearly thinking that to outperform Labour in it's heartlands it needs the money to buy Lanarkshire.

If the SNP were serious about Independence it wouldn't be hiring people to work out facts and figures, it would trying to build a mass membership organisation on the ground to agitate and campaign like it had the 60s and 70s. But the difference between that SNP and this SNP is that the current Independentistas aren't freedom fighters in Kilts, they're professional political performers in it for the money and the fame and know that only the idea of Independence is required, not actually any physical committment to try and get it.

On a more positive note though, I do believe Alex Salmond a hell of lot more than I ever believed Walter the Softie. But the problem isn't whether or not you believe Alex and Nicola are sincere about Independence. It's whether or not you believe the mafia who run the part behind the scenes are.

So in my view, the arguments regarding the Lords aren't as important as it's a symptom of a party which has lost it's view of it's founding principle: i.e. that the power lies with the people and it is to them you must appeal. Clearly some SNP MPs have chosen the view that the Lords are far more important to them to the rest of us smelly neds are.

I hope they spend their thirty pieces of silver wisely.

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