Just a normal weekend of campaigning. Except not quite…

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.

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25 thoughts on “Just a normal weekend of campaigning. Except not quite…

  1. I think some ideas (& ideals) are truly cross-party and I like it when people of all parties and none can unite in a mature way to put the case for the things they can agree on.

    This, to me, is the ‘New Politics’ that everyone was hoping for, but which somehow never arrived with the Coalition government.

    It is the sign of a mature, level headed and responsible person, IMO, if they can say, “OK, you and I will not agree on much. But the things we DO agree on, we may do better with if we work together.”

    So congrats, Jim, to you and all those other MPs, party workers and others who are smart enough and sensible enough to think as you do. Good luck!

    (Sidenote: welcome back LabourHame. good to see you active again!)

  2. It’s good to see LabourHame back after such a recess. I know many others who, like me, have been feverishly wearing out our mouses and keyboards refreshing the front page in vain.

    The tribalism of political parties can be a double edged sword. One the one hand, we obviously have to win democratic elections versus the “enemy” in order to achieve what we want as social democrats, but on the other there is the danger that we instinctively lash out and see them as a colour or a logo instead of another human being with rather different means of achieving (ultimately similar) goals.

    Jim is absolutely right when he says: “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.” It’s an issue of maturity and being able to understand that you can (and are compelled to) work to build a consensus on issues that you agree with your ‘enemies’ on.

    The future of Scotland, and our Union, is much too valuable for petty party squabbles. It is about our commonality and brother/sisterhood. It is about the fact that despite harsh electioneering and the rough-and-tumble of democracy, we share goals and values that can transcend it.

  3. what i find interesting is that labour and tory views seem united in support of the union within the u.k.however when that other union is debated,the e.u.,a spectrum of views are aired.from closer ties to getting out. can this be explained? have we not shared values common causes with our fellow europeans.such beliefs are surely not restricted to to national boundaries.

    1. For me, it’s like the difference between two ships:

      The good ship UK has weathered many storms and though it’s battered and has seen better days, it remains strong and sea-worthy. The crew may squabble a bit (Or sometimes a lot! :D) but we all bring different strengths to the whole and, by and large, we respect each other and respect those strengths. Our shared history has been one of successfully working together for the last few hundred years.

      The UK is not the most modern ship in the Earth Fleet, but we tend to muddle through together. There’s just no point in sinking a ship that still floats.

      The good ship EU, on the other hand, is fatally holed below the waterline and has been for a long time. It is not only totally undemocratic, but the Euro is an active destroyer of lives and nations. The common traditions of law and custom that bind the UK do not bind the EU in the same way. There is no common language, no slightest hint of a common identity and no shared sense of destiny. Most of the peoples of the many nations of Europe simply do not think of themselves as ‘European’ except in the geographical sense.

      And even if they did, the peoples of Britain do not. Our entire heritage (Both good and bad) is one of global rather than continental engagement. We simply have more in common with the Anglosphere and Commonwealth nations than we have with continental Europe.

      Even if the EU were totally right for the peoples of the many nations of Europe (Which is for them to decide), it is not right for Britain.

      But to return to my analogy: the UK is not perfect, but every nation in it has prospered more over time than any of us would have alone. I truly believe that, which is why I am a Unionist. The ship floats.

      The EU does not work. The death of democracy within it should have told us that long ago. It is a political dream that has no basis in who or what the peoples or the nations or Europe are, as evidenced by the way the Euro is clung to desperately in spite of every new disaster it brings to those countries unfortunate enough to be a part of it. In ship terms, it is sinking while the ship’s officers go around reassuring everyone that the water rising ever higher will soon recede and the ship miraculously rise up from the depths and restore its shattered hull.

      The UK works. The EU does not. Thus the difference.

  4. Aye all well and good for Scotland I don’t think so ,I reckon there wont be a Scotland in 60 years,it will be part of a greater England as the name Great Britain will not be used either.This country is no longer a country.So give up the tall tales and just try saying it how it will be.I remember when a child at school in the fifties and we got maps of Great Britain but all it said was England from top to bottom that is how Westminster wants it and so do those who have taken the Westminster shilling.Its only the loud cry of the SNP that has kept Scotland as a country,we will no longer exist and if you cant see that then the brain washing has worked.

  5. I don’t understand.

    You say:
    “…I am not and never have been a Unionist. But I fundamentally believe in Scotland being part of the UK.”

    When someone asserts a simple contradiction like this as though it isn’t one, what are we supposed to make of it?

    Political scientists describe Unionism as the form of United Kingdom nationalism.

    It is just unarguable that a fundamental belief in the UK Union that is both personal and political, is simply to identify oneself as a Unionist in this respect.

    Why attempt to distance oneself from it by such a transparent contradiction?

    What is wrong with being a Unionist?

  6. I should point out here that I’m on the fence about independence, as it goes.

    “It’s the values, the people, all that we have in common and what we have achieved together.”

    – The people will still be the same if there was independence. So would the values, things we all have in common, and all the achievements/disappointments of the past are written in history. Why does this matter when choosing if you want Scotland to be controlled by people in Scotland or in Westminster?

    “The UK is the most successful union of nations in the world”

    – Yes, because over time most other union of nations have reverted to their natural states, that being independence. We’re the most “successful” by default.

    “I’ll be subjected to another round of insults by SNP supporters on the internet (known as “CyberNats”)”

    – Why bring up a ridiculous tag name for people on the internet who don’t agree with you? Why not mention the larger amount of people online who despise and slate Alex Salmond simply on his weight, for example? I don’t think anyone is trying to silence you, I think they just want to point out inconsistencies and get actual answers to questions.

    I think above all else, writing a post like this ripping into your Conservative colleagues while pretending you’re right up for fighting alongside them is not going to help much. It’s not very positive at all, is it? What you think of the Tories and what they’ve done in the last couple of years, and what they think of New Labour and their efforts since 1997 should have no bearing whatsoever on the long-term future of Scotland and the rest of the UK. You did bring it up there in the post, but yet it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned. Stick to the issues and not petty squabbling, please.

  7. What is wrong with being a Unionist?
    ———————
    Nothing but it’s not essential to be a Unionist to believe Britain is better together. Unionists believe in the idea of the United Kingdom as being inherently good; social democrats believe in the union as a formal expression of people joining together to gain the synergies which come from cooperation & collaboration.

    And as the SNP independence debate has trundled on, every month which passes seems to throw up more things which we’ve achieved together. The open border; the British passport, the embassies & consulates which back it; the strength & flexibility of the pound; the affection for our current monarch; the security of a shared defence force & our membership of NATO; the BBC. What will be the next joint achievement or institution which Alex Salmond admits we’ll want to keep or copy? I’m quite looking forward to finding out. 🙂

    So union for union’s sake is not Labour’s position. But for retaining the ability to achieve more together than we would apart, we’re for that!

    1. Amber Star said: “And as the SNP independence debate has trundled on, every month which passes seems to throw up more things which we’ve achieved together. The open border; the British passport, the embassies & consulates which back it; the strength & flexibility of the pound; the affection for our current monarch; the security of a shared defence force & our membership of NATO; the BBC. What will be the next joint achievement or institution which Alex Salmond admits we’ll want to keep or copy? I’m quite looking forward to finding out.”

      I think it is quite sensible when a country becomes independent to keep continuity with the good institutions or traditions of the past as much as possible, but dump the bad and harmful ones. The United States based much of it’s constitution on the English Bill of Rights, and it’s system of government shared much with the British model – but they got rid of the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament, primogeniture, titled aristocracy, and were no longer ruled from Westminster by people who did not care about them – and so they thrived. Likewise the Irish Free State kept many of the traditions of British governance in the structure of it’s civil service, etc. but was no longer ruled from Britain by Westminster, and their society, in terms of both prosperity and culture, benefitted hugely from this and still does.

      The same could easily be true of Scotland. Keep the good, dump the bad. Isn’t this how countries improve over time? Unfortunately the Westminster seems incapable of enacting even the most miniscule and necessary reforms (such as to the Lords) so we will just have to do it ourselves.

  8. Still there’s a taboo over campaigning with the parties and activists to our left, however. Shame that.

  9. All for cross party unity when required – but only if it’s genuine. Jim Murphy says he’ll stand next to a tory but he’ll stab him in the back at the same time. He does just that in this article. Thats has the danger of then not coming across as genuine and the voting public will see that.
    In reality, there’s no need to share a platform, the message being given by individual parties is just as strong as all standing up there together, and it’s a lot more genuine. Massive own goal being played here guys, we need to sort this out.

  10. Amber Star

    That’s a very clever response, thank you for that 🙂

    I would say, though, that your pragmatic unionism differs from Jim’s.

    Jim’s is of the order of a fundamental belief. He says that himself in the article.

    Yours clearly isn’t. You differentiate your own unionism from that of the order of an “inherent good”. Manifestly, Jim’s Unionism is of the order of an inherent good, because it is ‘fundamental’.

    By your definition, Jim is a Unionist. Yet he still does not wish to identify himself as such.

    So, again, I have to ask, what is wrong with Unionism that he simultaneously, and contradictorily, wishes and does wish to be one?

  11. Good to see some activity again on Labour hame. Also hope comments will be allowed a good degree of freedom as they were for a while before.

    One question… given that Labour seem adverse to devo max/FFA even though it has up to 7 in 10 support in Scotland according to polls, how will you (Labour)deal with the Tories/coalition offering this to Scotland? This offer is likely to come in the next year or so. For them, Scotland is lost electorally, yet Devo Max would be a way to save the union (at least in a new form), boosting them ahead of 2015, removing Scots MPs (and the large Labour component) from Westminster, whereby giving the Tories good shot at a rUK majority if they can get the economy back on track by then.

    The Tories predicted back in 1997 that devolution would lead to the SNP getting a majority at some point, what they did not say at the time was because they knew this would likely occur suddenly if they came back to power. They also know fine well that Scotland is only likely to stay in the union under some form of devo super duper if they are in power at Westminster in majority. Dave is getting it tight from his back benchers over this, many of whom would like to see the back of Scotland, revenues or not. Devo max would also be a good way for them to get around the concerns over the G8, trident, UNSC seat etc, at least temporarily. Some breathing space anyway…

    How can Labour counteract this? Dave knows 2014 is just the first constitutional battle, with 2015 and 2016 to follow in short succession, all of which could end the union unless the appetite for significantly increased powers for Scotland is satisfied.

  12. @ OrpheusLyre

    I love your ‘name’, by the way.

    I can’t speak for Jim but I interpret his fundamentalism as being rooted in the people of these island nations; I think what he is saying is that the ‘fundamental’ social union, which the SNP admits exists & admits will continue to exist post independence, deserves to continue to be ‘formally’ acknowledged – as it currently is – in some sort of political union.

    But you never know, Jim might be along at some point to explain it himself, so Jim, if you read this, my apologies for perhaps not doing justice to your position. 🙂

  13. “In this debate I am not and never have been a Unionist.” I don’t follow, are you suggesting you are supporting the union out of pragmatism rather than any inherent support for Britain, and would be willing to vote for independence instead if sufficiently convinced it were the practical thing to do? Perhaps then it is more accurate to say that you are not a british nationalist, just as someone who supports independence only out of pragmatism and would be willing to vote No instead if sufficiently convinced is not a scottish nationalist.

    Since I’m welsh, scottish independence is not my issue though I am concerned over what it will mean for Wales, especially if it gives rise to more nationalism here. I have no qualm with anybody who supports independence out of a genuine belief that it is the practical thing to do, but I can’t bear the thought of our country being divided simply due to as disgusting and repugnant an ideology as nationalism. (To that extent I’d be just as disappointed in anyone voting ‘no’ purely out of british nationalism, but I suspect they’re a negligible amount of people).

    I can’t even fathom the logic of bringing the option of scottish or welsh independence to the table, what need is there for it? The SNP, plaid and others have correctly identified a number of problems with politics and governance in this country (specifically the centralised nature of it), problems that are not unique to scotland but affect people all over britain. They could have chosen to propose a solution to these problems and to make the effort to see them implemented, which would require relatively little time, effort or money and would benefit all 60 million people in britain. Instead they have decided to go straight for the very expensive route of independence which would only benefit the 5million strong population of scotland (assuming it will actually bring benefits) while still leaving the rest of us with those problems and either making us suffer with an even weaker voice of opposition or leading to efforts to solve the problems anyway and bring about reform – the end result being a country divided, a considerable amount of time, effort and money gone into creating a new state and plunging it into an uncertain future, and a smaller united kingdom with people still suffering that the snp could have helped and flat out refused to, or reformed such that scotland could have been accommodated in it quite happily anyway. It just defies all common sense.

  14. Well, I think it is unarguable that is you favor Scotland staying in the Union, then you are a Unionist. To argue otherwise comes across as flim flam.

    Anyway, that is a small point. The key to a win for the NO campaign pivots on convincing folks that tomorrow will be better and brighter with Scotland in the Union than without. I’ve read arguments that no positive case need be given since Unionism is the status quo and it is for those who want to change that to demonstrate we’re better out than in.

    That is a canard. Where the debate is between to alternative systems of governance, both sides need present a realistic vision of the FUTURE that substantively addresses matters of economic security, social justice, and the sustenance of the Scottish social compact.

    Given the above, could Jim Murphy articulate his substantive positive case for Scotland in the Union over (say) the next 25-30 years? What is your vision Jim, and how, practically, can we get there in the context of a United Kingdom?

  15. James said: “The SNP, plaid and others have correctly identified a number of problems with politics and governance in this country (specifically the centralised nature of it)….They could have chosen to propose a solution to these problems and to make the effort to see them implemented, which would require relatively little time, effort or money and would benefit all 60 million people in britain.”

    The solution was proposed in 1888 by Kier Hardie, in the form of full Home Rule for the constituent nations of the UK, particularly Scotland. It took over 100 years of political struggle from that point onward for Scotland to get so much as a devolved Parliament. Ireland had to fight to free itself – considerable effort, considerable cost, but much hard-won benefit in the end.

    If Westminster was responsive to what people want, open to fundamental systemic reform, and willing to enter even the [i]twentieth[/i] century by having it’s second house fully elected by the people, then there would perhaps be no real pressing need for full independence from it. But that’s not the situation we’re in.

    1. It took over 100 years of political struggle from that point onward for Scotland to get so much as a devolved Parliament.

      “Home Rule”, as proposed by Hardie, was a devolved Scottish parliament within the UK, which Labour delivered in 1999. Keir Hardie was never a nationalist and never supported independence. When Nats belittle the achievement of the Scottish Parliament, they belittle Home Rule.

      1. I was not belittling the Scottish Parliament or Home Rule, I was just pointing out that it took over a century and several Labour governments to achieve it, despite it having been a stated policy of the Labour party since it’s inception.

        James said that it would be easier (and quicker!) for Scotland (and Wales) to stay in the union and change it from within, seek a fairer settlement from Westminster within the UK framework, as if that has always been an easy thing to do – it never has been. Even something as simple as gaining women the right to vote took decades of struggle against the UK authorities, who have never “granted” anyone anything. Every right and freedom we have in the UK has been wrested from the Crown in Parliament by long and often bloody struggle, not given freely.

        The Scottish Parliament by contrast is modern, responsive, has a much fairer voting system, has no legislative input from unelected aristocrats or senior figures in the Church, is not obsessed with rank or royalty or tradition, etc. For these reasons I want it to be the only Parliament that gets to decide what happens in Scotland.

  16. Amber Star

    Thank you very much for your further elucidation of Jim’s fundamental belief.

    I think you have emphasised the extent to which Jim’s Unionism simply is Unionism, and of a particularly fundamental kind, despite his insistence that it is not.

    By your reference to the uniformity of social and political union in his view it also makes explicit that part of the definition that political scientists use that I made earlier, that Unionism is the form of UK state nationalism.

    So, to be specific, Jim is a Unionist, and Unionism is a form of nationalism. And Jim speaks officially for the Labour party.

    But the problem is not in getting the definitions clear. The problem is why Jim is compelled to assert an outright contradiction – that he is and is not a Unionist. Why does he apparently feel so uneasy about his fundamental belief in the Union that he is prepared to adopt such an irrational and childish argument? Again, the question here is – what is wrong with being a Unionist?

    p.s. I like your ‘name’ too 🙂

    1. @OrpheusLyre

      Why does he apparently feel so uneasy about his fundamental belief in the Union that he is prepared to adopt such an irrational and childish argument? Again, the question here is – what is wrong with being a Unionist?
      ———————-
      Maybe because he’s a Catholic he just dislikes the term Unionist because it has been used as ‘short-hand’ for the Ulster Unionists over many years. Perhaps that’s irrational from a purely analytical position but politicians are people too. 🙂

  17. @ Bob Dobbalina

    Geographically speaking, at the time it happened, America was a long way from its government when it was a British colony. And to address your point, I am not sure it has thrived as well as it should have when measured in social or cultural terms.

    I have a soft spot for Ireland & think they’ve done very well for such a small state. I’d have preferred that we had resolved our differences & stayed together but that’s probably too romantic a notion.

    As to Scotland keeping the institutions which have worked & dumping what hasn’t, I think my comment was drawing attention to the fact that even the SNP seem to be acknowledging that there are a great many things which do work.

    I have yet to see their list of things which don’t work & would be dumped or replaced by something better. Lots of things which they used to say didn’t work e.g. the pound (we were going to have the euro), NATO (we were coming out of it), multi-lateral disarmament (we were going to be unilateralists & get rid of Trident); all these things were scheduled for dumping but have now been cited as ideas & institutions which shall be retained. And the social union will continue too, according to the SNP. So everything will be the same except….?

  18. “In this debate I am not and never have been a Unionist. But I fundamentally believe in Scotland being part of the UK.”

    Jim, in this sentence you claim not to be a Unionist, then you proclaim the very belief of Unionism.

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