The Vow can save the UK
Although interesting, today’s smug and self aggrandising leader by Murry Foote of the Daily Record really highlights some of what is wrong with the functioning of the UK state. It tells the story of how the Record was instrumental in the creation of The Vow. It was their idea apparently and they persuaded the politicians to draft and sign it. In the piece, Foote doesn’t seem in the slightest bit embarrassed to be deviating from what his role should be in a properly functioning democracy. The Record should be the Fourth Estate, holding our leaders to account. Not actively making policy themselves. He talks about how he contacted Brown in order to broker the deal and he was able to do this as one of his ex staff members now worked for the great clunking fist. This cosiness within the establishment is bad for the UK. Although, to be fair to the Record, the problems are not just within the media. Large corporations and the super rich have disproportionate access to the levers of power. It is not only media and political jobs that are interchangeable. Our leaders flit easily between top civil service, NGOs and directorships of companies more powerful than nation states, all banding together in tough times to protect their privilege to the detriment of free thought, free expression and properly functioning democracy.
That said, The Vow was undoubtedly delivered. It was always too vague to break, although the duplicitous way the powers that be manipulated the message leaves a lot to be desired. On the one hand there was the printed and signed version in the Record promising nothing concrete. Simultaneously, the words of the ex Prime Minster who brokered the deal were being spun by every media outlet in the land. It was not just more power it was devo max and home rule that was on the table, vote No and you truly will get the best of both worlds. This sleight of hand, whereby the actual offer was eclipsed by the bombardment of a stronger, more dominant message may have had a divisive role to play in the outcome.
Reading The Vow again today I was struck by how the most important part of the declaration is not the promise of more powers. The future survival of the UK will be dependent on how well it can live up to the following:
And it is our hope that the people of Scotland will be engaged directly as each party works to improve the way we are governed in the UK in the years ahead.
We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen.
The UK can survive if it listens and adapts to the growing group of people who would like to see change in the way that we are governed. Not just the majority of Scots who favoured devo max pre referendum, but also the masses who have risen up to support Corbyn. And the substantial supporters of smaller parties whose voices are diminished under the current system. Even if you find UKIP reprehensible, they should have more seats in parliament given their proportion of the vote. So should the Greens, and there are hundreds of other viewpoints that should be given space to debate and grow but are ignored under our current narrow politics.
Despite large media organisations like the Daily Record, dependent on the advertisements of big business, colluding with politicians to tell us how to think and act, the UK as a whole is not a narrow right of centre country. We are much more diverse than that. It is a myth that you have to appeal only to the centre right to be electable. In a game stacked in their favour the conservative only won a quarter of potential voters at the last election.
The same sleight of hand adopted by the proponents of The Vow is used by the media all of the time to sell one powerful version of reality despite the truth staring us in the face. The UK has a myriad of political opinions and for too long we have been told by politicians and the media that there is only one way to think. However, in the last few years we can see people breaking away from this world-view. First in Scotland but now with just as much passion in England.
If the UK adapts and changes to a system that allows this diversity to breathe then it will stay together as this is what the majority of people want.
The more I think about the vote last year the more I realise I didn’t vote Yes to live in a Scottish Nation. I already do live there. Nations are different from States. I voted Yes as it was a fast track way to have a government that better reflects the view of my fellow citizens. If the UK is to survive it needs to become that country. It needs to change the voting system to a form of proportional voting, it needs to reform the Lords to make it less corrupt, it needs to devolve more power to the regions and it needs to strengthen local democracy, to become a place where government is bottom up and where communities take control over their individual lives. If these things are not ushered in soon then the end is inevitable.
Today Sturgeon will tell Cameron that he should listen to the voice of the Scottish people or risk losing them. I would go further, he needs to listen to the whole of the UK. And we need to stop listening to the narrow world view perpetuated by him, big business and the press.
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