Unemployment fell in Scotland on yesterday’s new figures, while it rose everywhere else in the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the difference was caused by the fact that the Scottish government has a (limited) ability to effectively spend forward and thus postpone the results of the Osborne public spending cuts. But the interesting result of that, is that the employment increase in Scotland was in the private sector, not the public sector, while private sector employment fell in England.
The Osborne theory – that public sector employment “crowds out” private sector employment, and cutting public sector jobs will somehow automatically increase the production of private sector jobs – appears, in this large scale example in the actual UK economy – the opposite of the truth. Cutting public sector jobs cuts private sector jobs too. That is intuitively correct – people who have just lost their job, their car and their home are going to be spending less buying things from other people.
As Miliband’s appearance before the TUC reminds us, the truth is that, were New Labour in power, the difference between what Osborne is doing and what New Labour would do is very marginal indeed. Only in Scotland do the voters have a real alternative, and they have flocked to it in droves.
While some old people will die this winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes, the Westminster government has had no trouble at all in finding over £100 billion to burn in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, in the interests of the wealthy elite in charge of a few mega-corporations. These wars have been solidly supported by all the unionist parties, with a brief wobble by the Lib Dems under the good Charlie Kennedy, quickly disposed of.
The SNP have provided the only electable alternative to extreme neo-conservative policy (including neo-liberal economic policy) available to electors in the UK. They have had stunning electoral success as a result. The Lib Dems were perceived briefly in England as opposing the neo-cons, with some justice, but were hijacked by the right wing Clegg, and their wider leadership was bought up by the present and future riches office brings in our corrupt system. But in the period the Lib Dems did seem an alternative to the neo-con Tory and New Labour parties, they rose to new heights of popularity and support.
The almost 100% correlation today between unionism and neo-conservatism among professional politicians and media pundits is why I am absolutely confident Scotland will achieve independence very soon. That neo-con recipe is well and truly rejected by the Scottish people.
But where does that leave a newly independent England? (presumably still attached to Wales, but I leave that and Irish union aside) Political progressives in England have traditionally been the most hostile to English independence because England would have a permanent Tory majority.
Well, I am not so sure it would. Only ten years ago Scotland seemed to have a permanent New Labour majority. Things change. But also, how thick do so-called progressives have to be, not to see that New Labour is absolutely another neo-con party?
Who launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who introduced university tuition fees? Who brought in control orders and 28 days detention? Who sanctioned kettling? Who gave unimaginable sums of your money to the bankers? Who massively expanded the Private Finance Initiative? Who invented Academy schools? Who was complicit in torture and extraordinary rendition? Who presided over the greatest ever growth in the gap between rich and poor in this country? Answers: New Labour, New Labour, New Labour, New Labour, New Labour, New Labour, New Labour, New Labour and
The truth is that, within the union, there is no practical chance for England to have any government other than a government of neo-cons. It needs a seismic shift to break this up. What we have seen is that the party system is resilient even to moments when its corruption is revealed to all, as in the MPs’ expenses and Murdoch scandals. The United Kingdom as an entity is in the power of a corrupt political class controlled by corporations, for whom perpetual war, hydrocarbon dominance worldwide and access at will to taxpayers’ pockets are the necessary conditions of their existence. Only a truly seismic shock in the political landscape can save the English from this. That much-needed shock can be the break-up of the United Kingdom. Who knows how politics in England would fall out afterwards, but it cannot be worse. A shake of the kaleidoscope is a moment of great potential. England needs that.