danny phillipsDanny Phillips reminds us that nationalism is not a battle of big ideas but a settling of old scores, no matter how or by whom it is sold.


I have often wondered what a modern revolution might look like. Turns out we do not need to storm a palace or take the post office. Just vote leave.

I could not give a flying pitchfork that money traders are screaming blind panic. If anyone had it coming, it’s them. These are the first class plutocrats who queue for nothing and get posh-brand loyalty cards. From the day they enter private school they live in parallel universe protected by get-away-scot-free employment contracts. They should just be thankful it was peaceful.

Our working classes gave up voting a long time ago. Whatever the result they were rushed off their feet, running around making ends meet, worrying about an insecure job and whether they could afford their home.

Well, no longer. The table’s just flipped. You think leavers care that the IFS predicts trouble ahead or the City of London lost a $zillion, or that bemused experts say they don’t know what to do? Sure its scary, but now the plutocrats know how it feels.

That’s twice I have had to rise at the same time as our office cleaner rises daily to check whether my identity’s changed. No doubt I will rise early again to see if the mother-of-all make-my-country-great-again populists Donald Trump gets elected. I am now less convinced that sanity will prevail in that one.

I have always thought that our nationalism was more dangerous, as it has the support of so much of our middle class intelligentsia. They have bought into the idea that some nationalisms are better than others, no doubt persuaded by the abolition of the graduate tax, a closed higher education system, and jobs on expert panels.

Oxford and Cambridge voted remain for an open inclusive outward looking country. Not so, Glasgow’s west end. They argue we must vote to take back control of Scotland, so Scots can make their own decisions and build a fairer country. Heard that before?

Sturgeon says Scots are being dragged out the EU against their wishes and it’s her duty to stand up for their democratic rights. Conveniently forgetting that the EU fucked the Greek economy, dismissed an Italian elected government and left 50% of Spain’s young people jobless.

One million Scots and 37% of SNP supporters voted leave. Thirteen million English voted remain. It’s complicated. And Scots don’t have to vote leave to let them have it. Sturgeon asked them to save that for the big one.

Sturgeon’s key weapon is the racist leave campaign. Scotland is a white country. Waves of immigration never impacted us. Black people never moved even to the second city of the Empire. I leave you to work out why. So we don’t blame brown people. Most Scots never see one. Race rarely enters our politics except to prove what a lovely nationalism we are. Instead we blame people south of the border.

Nationalism’s long march is far from over. We’re seeing it across the world. But this is not some global movement for justice or a battle of the big ideas; it’s the settling old scores, elites vying for power, and anti-establishmentarianism. There is no way on earth I am voting for a continuation of this. I’ll have nothing to do with it.

Nationalist movements don’t have history of ending well, especially ones that carry their arts and crafts and academic class. If I thought for one minute this was about a re-balance of power between plutocrats and pitchforks I would re-consider. But of course its not. Like all popular nationalism its about which plutocrats rule over us. My guess is that the clever people in Glasgow’s west end have high hopes who that might be.

The truth is we’ve built yet another system that only works for some people. Our global economy brings high profits for plutocrats and EU free movement of labour meant their children could take up opportunities in 27 countries. For the rest it brings insecure employment, low wages, and their grown up children can’t afford the deposit on a flat to leave home.

None of these populist nationalists, including our own, suggests we challenge this. When given the opportunity to raise the smallest top rate of tax rises on 17,000 Scottish plutocrats Sturgeon supported Osborne saying it would be ‘reckless and daft’ to raise taxes on the rich. “We don’t think people in Scotland should have to pay more than the rest of the UK.”  We truly have swapped being tribes of the big ideas, for tribes of nations.

Of course there are no guarantees and I would not bet on a Yes 2 vote just yet. Sturgeon is worried as she has some explaining to do. Borders and currency just got very real. And why would separating from 40 years of the EU be a messy disaster leaving us economically and culturally poorer, but separating from 300 years in the UK could be concluded in 18 months and leave us culturally and economically richer? And if she loses this one, it will probably go Justin Trudeau.

But never have the cards been more in her favour. No longer does she need to sell a radical future. Farage and Gove made sure of that. Now she is the status quo. No longer does she need to persuade the sceptical suburbs to have faith and take a risk. She will tell Scotland that to keep things the same, to go back to normal, to end the worry, we should just follow the pitchforks (and their academic advisers) and this time, just do it. Vote yes.

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20 thoughts on “The end of ideas

    1. It’s a bit of a rant right enough. I think he is pro-brexit and anti-nationalist. Though that is an ironic combination as brexit was as nationalist (albeit British nationalist) a campaign as you can get.

      Brexit was an inward looking, exclusive, blood and soil nationalism that left a bad taste in the mouth. Scottish independence is an outward looking, inclusive, civic nationalism. Those who oppose independence refuse to make a distinction between the two as it suits them. However, it flies in the face of the vast majority of people’s experience.

      The author comes across as rather bitter. His assertions will only alienate more people from his views.

      1. Me Mungo Pony,
        I dont dont agree with the distinction you articulate between Scottish and British nationalism; that Scottish is good and British is bad. It is not that simple.
        The distinction I find interesting and which I think requires to be repeated as it seems to have been brushed over is that when we Scots were offered the chance (of independence) we declined, whereas the English and Welsh took it.

        1. Perhaps the reason for that is the reason why Cameron screwed up so badly over the EU referendum. He went into it clearly wanting to stay in and he thought, following the Scottish referendum example, that he could rely on the machinery of state and the mass media to pull the same kind of Project Fear stunts that were pulled during 2013/2014.

          What he forgot was that while 90 odd % of the MSM lined up on the No side in 2013/2014 the bulk of the English tabloid press was pro-Leave as far as the EU were concerned. The broadcast media, particularly the BBC couldn’t be as biased as it was in regards to Scotland and the roughly 50% of his own MPs wouldn’t let him use the civil service as the attack dogs they were used as in the Scottish referendum.

          He badly miscalculated and was defeated by the Leave side’s own Project Fear built round immigration and Turkey.

  1. I’m pretty sure you don’t Duncan, but if you pay your contributors you probably want to ask for your money back, this is pure unadulterated drivel.

  2. Davy,
    Danny Philips piece is not meant to be coherent. How can it be? He is a full time trade union official. His organisation is a relic of another century. So how can he justify himself to his memebrs? He has to be seen to be doing something. He has no answers, no positive ideas that might help in some small way to improving the quality of life for his members, his party, his movement, his working class, but he does’nt and so he puts on the angry face with a little subliminal threatening in its tone. He has to be seen to be doing something and anger and pointing the finger is all he can think of. It is all he has left. I dont blame him. I would probably do the same if I were in his job. He is a full time trade union organiser. That is his job.

    1. look Richard I’m a union member myself, but that article is nothing but a nonsensical rant.

      1. Davy,
        I know it is. The title tells you that. “The End of Ideas”.
        But you have to understand the position Danny Phillips is in. He is totally bereft of anything positive to say. His employer Unison backs a party that is about to split in two. Its leader is supported by the members but despised by his MPs. Labour is out of power in Scotland and in England. Wales is almost gone. Next year in Scotland will see a wipe out of the remaining Labour councils. When Danny opens the curtains in the morning his political landscape looks like the Somme battlefield.
        And yet Danny has to do something to justify his existence. On the Unison Scotland website he is assigned to the “Communications and Education” team and I would guess that as a Unison staff member this will mean a good salary.
        So as I say Davy, Danny is in a bit of a predicament. What to do? Nothing to communicate except anger and blame.

      2. Davy,
        With regards your union membership. My advice is get out. If your good at your job you dont need a go between to speak to your boss.
        I was a member of the NUR way back in the 70s. Sid Weighell was the general secretary. He went to a Labour Party conference I think in 79 with 3 million railwaymens’ votes in his pocket. Although mandated by his union to oppose a Jim Callaghan resolution he ignored his members and supporterd Sunny Jim. His reward was a knighthood. That was it for me. I resigned and it never did me any harm.
        Trade unions are a relic of the last century. Nice number for a few well paid officials but completely useless to their members.

        1. Richard, I am a member of the RMT my union is a fighting union. With Bob Crow as our president we took no shit, with his demise its abit harder but we still have a union that stands up for its members

          I don’t agree with everything they do, but I am far better off in the union than out of it. And remember the RMT allowed only its Scottish members to decide whether to support independence or not in 2014.

          We voted YES to independence.

        2. I suspect in your world, there is no such thing as victimisation, intimidation, exploitation and discrimination.

          Is it a soft, fluffy world where bosses are kindly old buffers looking benevolently over their beloved and adoring workforce.

          It is certainly not the real world where workers terms and conditions are being steadily eroded back to “Victorian values”.

          Trade unions help even the playing field between the powerful bosses/organisations and the “little guy”. Unionised workplaces are better paid, safer and have better conditions than equivelant non-unionised workplaces.

          Your painless renunciation of union membership would be down to the fact the vast majority of your co-workers remaining in the union gave you “herd immunity” ….. all the benefits of a unionised workplace whilst contributing nothing.

          Unions are not an anachronism. They have just been the victims of the neo-liberal consensus that puts profits over people. People like you are god-sends to those who would gladly return us to the “good old days” of pre-war Britain . A time when poverty was rife, workers were little more than serfs and “everyone knew their place. That consensus has been maliciously neutering unions for decades now. It is NOT a good thing.

          We need unions in the workplace to keep bosses honest. A good boss has no more to fear from a union than a good worker has to fear from good boss. A bad boss will fear a strong union but will have no qualms about intimidating a good worker. That is reality.

    2. That’s incredibly scarey!

      As a union official surely his job is to discuss and disseminate the views of his members, but I’m unclear how he can do that when he has difficulty articulating and discussing what’s in his own head.

      If this is the standard of union officials today it may go a long way to explain their declining membership figures.

      1. Jam,
        You have hit right at the heart of the matter.
        Thats what union officials do, they scare people into remaining members. In the 70s you had to join a union, it was part of the conditions of getting the job. Margeret Thatcher sorted out that anomoly. Union reps tried intimidation after that, but workers especially in the private sector saw through that. Workers in the private sector that are good at their job negotiate their own pay rates. Now trade union organisers have only the public sector pool to swim in. Their only tactic now is to scare their members into remaining.
        Another thing to note about trade union organisers, they will never get into an open discusion with members or reply to comments on websites. An open forum is a dangerous place to be for someone with no ideas.

        1. Absolute and utter bunkum. I’ve rarely heard such hogwash that is either naive in the extreme or simply dishonest. I suspect the latter.

          1. Ive been accused of lots of things in my time but ‘bunkum’ and ‘hogwash’ is a bit below the belt. I must insist Mr Pony lets keep to Quennsberry rules.

  3. So, British Nationalism —GOOD.
    Scottish Nationalism—Bad.
    Is that it?

    I am well into my sixties. When I was growing up, we always had a prime Minister of “England” ( like Harold MacMillan), Queen of “England” (and future King of “England”), we lived in a country which was often just called “England”. In tennis it was always lamented that it was …….years since an “Englishman” won at Wimbledon. Its no longer widespread, but we still have the odd person talking about “England” when they mean Britain (or should that be the UK?).
    So things change. The politics of Scotland are now diametrically opposed to England’s, with the present Government at Westminster attracting only 15% of Scottish voters. That, within a margin of a few percentage points, would seem to be the future, given Labours meltdown, first in Scotland, now in England.
    I cannot see that as a viable system of Government for either Scotland or the UK.
    Since there are no real alternatives being seriously proposed, I think independence is inevitable for Scotland.
    We should do it quickly, as that still gives us a chance of remaining in a union of 500 million people. Before BREXIT.
    As for borders. Does Labour still propose armed guards at Scotland’s border? Or would we be treated as the Irish will be?—Just curious.

  4. Will you give it a rest with this Nationalism pish! FFS There is nothing wrong nothing immoral nothing unusual nothing extreme nor nothing fearful about a National identity. I don’t know if there is anybody in the world who doesn’t have one. Jesus H Christ this pathetic Brit Nat mantra telling us only the Scottish National identity is bad because well it is see is nothing but a puerile petulant childish foot stamping tantrum.

    Get over yourselves Rule Britannia died at the turn of the last century.

  5. As a former member, the Labour Party astounds me. The U.K. establishment, the posh (mostly) boys who govern this country in Westminster/Whitehall, the B.B.C, the banks and hedge funds whom you affect to despise are ar war with each other. The tories are knocking lumps out of each other. All Labour had to do was let them get on with it. Instead, a bunch of embittered old Blairites try to engineer a palace coup without the inconvenience of a democratic mandate, or even a candidate. So the U.K. drifts on in a state of paralysis.
    Meanwhile, your correspondent’s only response is nationalism is about blaming others, S.N.P. bad and self determination and the wish to escape from the maw of the U.K. establishment doesn’t appear to have occurred to him. There are none do blind as those who are blinded by hate, Danny

  6. What a strange article. I had no idea who as to whose nationalism the author was referring to until it clicked..Scottish nationalism or British nationalism ?
    British and English nationalism can’t be swept under the carpet any more, and to be honest a civic Scottish nationalism is far preferable to an arrogant English nationalism.
    Some SNP party members might be knuckle draggers, but to be fair, their leading politicians have no truck with racism of any kind.

    To be honest, I am surprised that as many as 64% of SNP voters voted Remain. They are an independence party with many working class voters.
    So Sturgeon did a good job in convincing many of her party that our place in Europe was beneficial, and so was England alongside us. To her credit she campaigned full heartedly for England to remain in Europe as well.

    Far more visible than Corbyn, whose latest remarks make pretty clear that he was likely a leave supporter all along. So much for international solidarity. British nationalism runs deep.

    So if we have a second referendum, let’s not pretend it won’t partly be a battle of conflicting nationalisms.

  7. Actually, RMacK, the majority of “we Scots” voted for independence. “We Scots” under 65 voted quite decisively for independence. It was the overwhelming NO vote among resident EU nationals and “other British” that put NO over the top.

    Consider the absence of recriminations in Scotland despite this. Compare it to the reactions of BritNats after the Scottish referendum (George Square) and the EU referendum (several hundred per-cent rise in racist incidents).

    You may not see a distinction between the two, but it is pretty plain to the rest of us.

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