Should disagreement between parties prevent their activists from uniting to campaign for a common cause? JIM MURPHY doesn’t think so
This weekend I’ll do something I’ve never done before. That makes it sound like I might be going sky-diving or white water rafting but no it’s something more unlikely and, for a Labour MP, potentially more dangerous: I’m going to go campaigning. And the Tories will be there on the same side.
It’s all part of the Better Together campaign to support Scotland remaining part of the UK.
How does that make me feel? I’m not sure until it’s done, but it’s the right thing to do. I really hate much of what the Tory Party has traditionally stood for. Growing up, I accurately identified them as the selfish party who made the poor poorer under cover of personal responsibility and individual freedom; people all around me suffered and I will neither forget nor forgive. The current Cameron government will be regarded in the same way by a new generation of Scots who believe in something more optimistic and inspiring than the Coalition’s austerity pessimism.
As I’ve said before, I won’t be campaigning alongside David Cameron. But I will be standing at a street stall with members of his party. In other constituencies where the Tories don’t really exist as a force, Labour members will perhaps be campaigning with Lib Dems or non-aligned campaigners.
In this debate I am not and never have been a Unionist. But I fundamentally believe in Scotland being part of the UK. I think that it’s the right deal for Scotland and for the other nations of the UK. But for me it’s not the flags and symbols of the Union that gets me going; it’s the values, the people, all that we have in common and what we have achieved together. The UK is the most successful union of nations in the world. In good times, being part of the UK makes us more prosperous; in tougher times it makes us safer.
For those reasons and more I will find common cause with people in other parties and no party as part of Better Together. Of course I’ve worked with other parties before on Scotland’s constitution. On the successful devolution referendum I worked alongside the SNP when they eventually fell off the fence and decided that they were in favour of devolution. That didn’t make me a Nat and this won’t make me a Tory.
But this weekend I’m certain I’ll be subjected to another round of insults by SNP supporters on the internet (known as “CyberNats”) who want to silence their opponents. But those tactics won’t work. This debate about independence is too important to be silenced by those who shout the loudest. And Scotland’s future is too important for me to be precious or squeamish about the fact that the person standing next to me handing out leaflets might not be a member of the same party as me.
I hope it’s not raining.
The Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy is MP for East Renfrewshire, Shadow Defence Secretary and a former Secretary of State for Scotland. Follow him on Twitter at @jimmurphymp.