Just seen a report on Gordon Brown's speech at the Fabian Society New Year Conference. Somehow, the Fabians contrive to put their flagship political shindig at the absolute worst point in the year to do anything at all. Here's the situation: you've been back at work for 2 weeks after the New Year and it's already doing your head in, your attempts to lose weight and stay on the wagon have fizzled out already, the days are interminably dark, wet and windy; is it really the case that the best thing you can do with your Saturday is hang out with a load of Labour hacks listening to a load of clapped out Labour politicians? If so, you're sadder than you realise.
Anyway, if I had managed to drag myself out of bed, I'd have been lucky enough to hear Brown talking complete bollocks about the union between England and Scotland. Brown's stated arguments in favour of continued union are so weak it's actually difficult to discuss them seriously, but I have to try. Appparently the identity of the UK is threatened by "an opportunist group of nationalists"; the UK is a country "built on shared values" of liberty, 'social responsbility' and fairness; and nationalists are agitating for a "Balkanisation of Britain".
This isn't even an argument. To say that would be giving it a credibility it doesn't deserve. It's pure electoral self-interest masquerading as stylised posturing.
What evidence is there that the UK is the only country built on the 'shared values' Brown identifies? There is none. So, therefore, there must be other countries that share these values. So therefore it matters not one jot to our shared values if Britain breaks up. What matters is self-determination. If the people of Scotland want to leave the union (or indeed if the people of England want to leave it), that's precisely what should happen. The idea that a Scottish nationalist, an English nationalist or a Welsh nationalist is in some way an opportunist scumbag whilst a British nationalist is a fine upstanding person is idiotic. And invoking the spectre of the Balkans is so ludicrous it doesn't even mention discussion.
Brown's real concern is that an independent Scotland would probably leave Labour unable to secure a working majority from the remaining English and Welsh parliamentary seats. I'm sure the Scots will be really happy if they're forcibly kept in the union to provide voting fodder for Labour. This kind of talk is precisely what's likely to deliver the electoral meltdown for Labour in the May Scottish parliamentary elections which might well be the first test of Gordon Brown's premiership. Give us a partisan defence of the union (and indeed of the whole first-past-the-post system) on the grounds of electoral expediency if you want, Mr Brown. At least it would be honest. But for f***'s sake don't insult our intelligence.