Sunday, 15 January 2012

A busy week in politics

Last week saw two significant political developments.  Firstly, the intervention by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government into the issue of a referendum on Scottish independence showed the British establishment still look on Scotland as the Empire’s last colony.  Secondly, the Labour Party completed its journey to becoming a clone of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Almost completely unnoticed due to wall-to-wall media coverage of Alex Salmond running rings round David Cameron and his Westminster colleagues, Ed Miliband addressed a Labour event in London and confirmed the party originally set up to give a parliamentary voice to the working class was now committed to “building a better, more responsible capitalism.”

The Labour Party ceased to be a socialist organisation a very long time ago.  It’s more than 30 years since the party, under the leadership of Neil Kinnock, expelled socialist members for actually attempting to protect public services and defend communities from devastating cuts being imposed by the Tory Government of Margaret Thatcher.  Around the same time, Labour also refused to back striking Miners as they fought pit closures and pitched battles with ranks of police officers sent by Thatcher to crush what was then the UK’s biggest trade union.

John Smith followed Kinnock as Labour leader and continued the party’s movement away from its working class, socialist roots.  It was under Smith that Labour also ditched its long-held opposition to nuclear weapons.

Then, on Smith’s death, along came Tony Blair, and the Labour Party’s movement to the right of the political spectrum became a mad dash.  Blair couldn’t wait to ditch any remaining socialist ‘baggage’, like Clause 4 of the party’s constitution – the core principle of the Labour movement that enshrined a worker’s right to receive in payment the full worth of their labour; the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange; and the best obtainable system of administration and control of each industry and service.

What the Labour Party scrapped along with Clause 4 was its commitment to end the capitalist system that allows a tiny minority to accrue fabulous wealth by exploiting the majority.  The political movement that once prided itself on being the People’s Party turned its back on ‘the people’, courted the capitalist bosses, and confirmed its transformation into the Tory Party MKII when Peter Mandelson stated ‘New’ Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

Between them Tony Blair and Gordon Brown pandered to the capitalist ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the City of London, infamously introducing the light-touch regulation of banks and financial institutions that ultimately led to reckless gambling, toxic deals and privately-owned banks being bailed-out using public money...our money.

Ed Miliband’s statement of last week simply confirmed Labour had dropped even the pretence of being a party of the Left.  The Labour Party of old, the one that did actually care about the working class, is not stunned, nor is pining for the fjords: the Labour Party for which so many people in Scotland have voted in the past is no more, it has ceased to be, it is bereft of life, it rests in peace.

On the same day that Miliband confirmed Labour was now committed to the capitalist system that actively works to make the rich even richer and the poor even poorer – UK Government Ministers were telling Scots we are so insignificant, in their eyes, that we can’t be allowed to run a referendum on the constitutional future of our own country.

Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore, the Colonial Governor General of Scotland (oh, okay then, Secretary of State at the Scotland Office), was on his feet in the Imperial Parliament in London, telling the Jocks not to get ideas above their station.  The Right Honourable Mr Moore said the democratically-elected Scottish Government did not have the right or the power to hold a referendum on whether or not Scotland should assume the status of a normal, independent nation.

While Moore was on his feet, doing the Tories’ dirty work for them, Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, sauntered in front of a BBC camera and simply said, “We’ll hold the referendum in autumn 2014.”

British Unionist parties – Tory, Liberal Democrat and Labour – say the Scotland Act 1998 places a legal bar on the Scottish Government holding a referendum on ‘the constitution’, which is an area of legislation retained by Westminster.  It was British Unionist lawyers that wrote the Scotland Act, so they know there is a clause barring the SNP Government from holding such a referendum – just as there are clauses allowing the Westminster Parliament to overrule any decision taken by Holyrood, and even allowing the UK Parliament in London to abolish the Scottish Parliament, if it sees fit.

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond is confident there is nothing, in international law, to prevent the democratically-elected Scottish Government from consulting the people of Scotland on their preferred option for the constitutional future of their own country.

So, who is right?  If only there was an independent and globally-acknowledged expert on such things.  Actually, there is.  Step forward Dr Matt Qvortrup of Cranfield University, author of ‘A Comparative Study of Referendums’.

Dr Qvortrup says, “The basic principle in international law is that the seceding country (in this case Scotland) decides whether it wants to become independent.

“To use but two examples, Montenegro did not have to ask Serbia to secede in 2006, nor did Estonia seek the Soviet Union’s permission to become independent in 1990.

“The fundamental rule is that countries become independent when they are recognised by the international community.  According to the so-called Estrada Doctrine, if Scotland votes for independence (and if the government is in control of the territory) then the international community will in all likelihood recognise the new state.  Just like the case of the former Soviet states in the 1990s.

“Of course, it is possible that only a narrow majority votes for independence.  But this need not be fatal.  When Malta voted for independence in 1965, only a little more than 50 percent voted to sever the ties with Britain, yet Westminster still accepted the outcome.”

Only by re-taking the full sovereign powers of independence can we begin to put first the interests of the Scottish people.

Autumn 2014 – when we will finally be given the opportunity to get off our knees and become a normal, independent matter what the Imperial British Parliament in London thinks.

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