Misjudging the national question…
I wasn’t overly impressed by Ed Miliband’s speech on the national question today. Indeed, in many ways, it an unwelcome appearance by his darkling alter-ego, you know the one who speaks in some of the most inane and vague blandishments you could possibly imagine and comes across as well, a bit of a wonk. Let’s start with his assertion that if they vote for independence, Scotland’s people will cease to be British. I really don’t think emotional blackmail is the best way to present the case that Ed was making. In fact, were I to be Scottish my response would probably be to say ‘sod you then’ and go to the polls and put a X by the independence option not because that would be the best option but just to be awkward.
Other examples of this baneful habit of Ed’s snuck in. I think, for example, most people will see it as pretty laughable that you want to welcome a new English nationalism into the ‘progressive’ fold by simply talking about England an awful lot and not offering the said country an actual Parliament (not that I think Ed actually should do this); similarly, I am actually in favour of more power for local authorities (they have had far too much taken away) but what this means in practice for Ed is anybodies guess. Alot of fluff, alot of flannel and not alot of substance and that is why most people will rightly conclude this is opportunist bandwagon jumping, seeking to capitalise on the Jubilee-Euro2012 outbreak of flag-waving fervour. Ed finds himself in this position too many times, of looking like a bandwagon jumper, and even if that isn’t his actual intent then he really hasn’t mastered understanding the point that perception is 90% of politics.
A more serious contribution from Ed would have recognised the serious democratic deficits in the Union, ones that need addressing because they ultimately lie at the very heart of the national question. He might have work-shopped or at least floated some policies to address these – like the creation of a federal union with Parliamentary representation for the nations in a very different (and renamed) House of Lords. You may not agree with these ideas but at least it would have marked the foundations of a serious contribution to a serious debate. Sadly, none of this actually happened and once again you are left with the impression our leader is lightweight.