Saturday, 13 September 2014

ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS*: FINESSING THE UNION



“I had rather be with you,” he said, “in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch people, whom I do not know…”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
 
One of the greatest of Englishmen, Dr Johnson, used to tease his Scotch friend and biographer, Thomas Boswell, by informing him that the greatest thing to come out of Scotland was the road that led to England. This week, for our triumvirate of leaders – who look like some ghastly boy band reforming for a comeback tour – the greatest thing to come out of England appears to be the road to Scotland.

Of course, the ‘No’ campaign may be justifiably horrified that three of the kingdom’s most unpopular men are en route to the land of heather and deep-fried Mars Bars to add their wholly unconstitutional weight to the debate. On a personal note, I don’t believe that my tax money is supposed to pay for a coalition of parties to send their woeful leaders to campaign on the same side for an outcome which ought to be left to the Scottish people. But if there is one thing the European political class believes should be outlawed, it is the referendum. If it were an EU process, a ‘yes’ vote would simply lead to the nation being invited to re-sit the examination, as with Ireland.

On the issue of Scottish independence, I don’t have a dog in the fight, not so much as a Highland terrier. It would be pleasant to see the rictus faces of the Maoists running the EU if the Scots decide to go it alone, but it’s nice not to care about an issue, marooned as we are in these days of hashtag activism, morality by T-shirt slogan, and the penny arcade of compulsory opinion that the internet has become. Concerning the referendum, as Bertie Wooster would say, one simply shakes one head and passes on.

The interest, as ever, lies in the narrative. Why are the ruling class and their attendant media so appalled by the idea of Scottish independence? The media class despise England, and one might think that plucky little Scotland snubbing the imperial host might appeal. But this has not been the theme of endless column inches warning off the Scots from voting yes which have super-saturated news coverage this past week.

Islamic State’s press officer must be at his wit’s end. No one’s returning his calls and, despite cutting off heads at a Stakhanovite rate, they just can’t make the UK front pages. Personally, I miss my quota of bloody murder in the name of political ideology, but made up for it by reading Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s masterful biography of Stalin, In the Court of the Red Tsar. Did you know Vladimir Putin’s grandfather was a chef who cooked for Lenin, Stalin and Rasputin? Well, there we are. You do now.

But to return to the media offensive against the potential audacity of a Scottish ‘yes’ vote. The headlines rang with the kind of Biblical imperatives usually reserved for climate change. ‘Ten days to save the Union’, ‘Fly the flag to save Scotland’, ‘One last desperate plea.’ You don’t have to search for a sub-text here; the text itself is riding around in a brightly coloured clown car for all to see.

This issue of Scottish independence has divided the online community, as you might expect, along sectarian lines. Broadly, the Left are against it and what I think of as the dissident Right (with apologies to John Derbyshire), as well as Libertarians (within which I broadly include myself) are for it if it is the democratic expression of the Scots. And democratic expression is what a referendum is, which is why the ruling class finds it all so pesky. What on earth, they think, are the great unwashed doing getting involved in political decision-making? Demos may mean 'people' and kratos may mean 'power', but ‘democracy’ is a portmanteau word that the elites would like to see go the way of ‘antimacassar’ and ‘stagecoach’.

As for the sudden panic at polls indicating that the ‘yes’ campaign has recently narrowed the gap to near-parity, we simply note Peter Hitchens’ insight that opinion polls are as often as not designed to engineer voting behaviour and not to record it.

In passing, who maintains a calm dignity above the melée? Why, the same woman who will reign on once Cameron has left number 10 for the first of his lucrative and bland post-prime ministerial speaking engagements, and Nick Clegg – a man there is no excuse for – has left the country he hates to enjoy his EU pension pot; Queen Elizabeth. The Palace issued a wonderfully starched snub to those media Johnnies who were impertinent enough to suggest that the monarch was somehow fighting for the union (and the Queen has a well-documented fondness for Scotland). The Queen, leading by example as always. And that, gentle reader, is why I’m a monarchist.

And so the political class continues its deranged odyssey, in thrall to the Guardianistas of Islington, believing that it believes, sewing together patches and scraps of ideology into a raggedy man of conviction. What it is that it thinks it wants from the union is beyond me but, like a child grasping at a toy which lies out of reach, want it they do.

To return to where we started (although not necessarily to know the place for the first time) with the man who should be England’s patron saint, Dr Johnson. The big man was fond of quoting Piozzi on the subject of Scotland;

“Knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful.”

Whichever way the Scottish electorate decide to use their knowledge (and I imagine that the nation’s sub-editors have been banned from allowing the word ‘canny’ to appear in print), it is their choice, and they should treat the English media, as well as the three stooges of Westminster, like the bampots they are.
 
* Title of a poem by Lord Byron, as I’m sure you know, you literary eggheads, you.

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