Scotland has had its referendum and decided to remain within the United Kingdom. The wider implications are enormous, as indeed they would also have been if Scotland had voted “Yes”.
The potential fall-out the UK now faces highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of democracy.
The losing side – or a chunk of its supporters anyway – have laid the blame for the outcome squarely upon the media, and specifically the BBC, for its supposedly-biased, Establishment-supporting, coverage of the campaign. I saw a representative of the BBC defend their approach on the BBC Breakfast Show yesterday. He said that they were obliged to report the facts as they happened – and also ask the tough questions of both sides on the issues as they arose.
Two points today:
Firstly, for me – attempting to be impartial (and possibly failing) as well as insightful – the “Yes” campaign was fundamentally weak on the economic aspect of ‘the future’ because most of its projections were sheer conjecture.
What were the “Yes” campaigners expecting? That the media should report any forecasts they made – however speculative, fanciful or just the product of blue-sky wishful thinking – as if they were cast-iron guaranteed deliverable facts?
It seems as if this is exactly what they were demanding.
But if pundits, commentators, experts and indeed the opposition camp are not allowed to challenge or probe your projections, what’s to stop you (say) doubling your revenue figures and halving your cost ones? Or indeed, multiplying – or dividing – them respectively by a power of ten?
If – for the sake of this argument – it is accepted that the extravagance of electoral promises can actually sway voters, unless scrutiny of them is permitted the whole political voting process is dragged closer to the danger of farce.
After all, what’s sauce for the goose must also be sauce for the gander.
If the “Yes” campaign reserves the right not to have its promises challenged, what’s to stop the “No” campaign promising to provide anyone who votes for it a holiday in Marbella, a Bosch fridge-freezer and washing machine combination, two season tickets to the football club of his or her choice and £50,000 in cash every year, plus the bonus of Alex Salmond’s testicles presented upon a silver platter?
The bottom line, as I (with no particular axe to grind) see it, is that the “Yes” campaign’s economic proposition was full of holes and uncertainties. Sometimes – the “No” campaigners might have said, when you see someone, or a group of people, about to make a catastrophic mistake, you feel it’s your public duty to step in and save them from themselves. Even if they won’t thank you for it.
The alternative would be to simply allow them to make the mistake and discover the consequences the hard way. Which, presumably, is how those running the “No” campaign justified their attempts to ridicule the “Yes” economic arguments, their theme being that the start were too high and far-reaching to allow their opponents to make this obvious cock-up, however badly they wanted to.
Secondly, we shall never know whether the ‘panic measures’ allegedly promised by the three main Westminster parties (as enhanced by a resurgent Gordon Brown) as a bribe to Scottish voters worked or not.
It’s possible that the silent “No” voting contingent would have voted that way in any event.
Equally, it’s just as possible that the bribe did work.
I’m no Tory, but it does seem illogical and incongruous that – once some form of ‘Devo-max’ has been granted to Scotland – Scottish MPs at Westminster should continue to be allowed to vote upon matters that are exclusively English.
The Labour Party are already claiming that the Tories are trying to play party politics in pursuing this argument (and/or allowing the proposition of an English parliament to be raised), but of course they could also be accused of similar because – if it is dealt with – the Labour Party might be in danger of becoming unelectable to government and/or (in government) being unable to govern.
However, if you’re looking at the issue from a purely ‘issue of principle’ angle, surely the West Lothian question is an undeniable case of black and white.
Obviously, you cannot expect turkeys to vote for Christmas. That’s the fundamental trouble with politics. Although most politicians would claim that they are in it for principle and to ‘make a difference and/or improve things for the electorate’, it’s never quite about that.
Or indeed, about what is right and wrong.
It’s actually about doing what is possible that doesn’t undermine your own standing and position.