Will Westminster’s crisis be Scotland’s opportunity?

JACOB REES-MOGG: brushin’ off his tails

by Ken Ferguson • With each passing day the multi-sided crisis racking the May government throws up another issue and another bout of speculation about the Prime Minister’s survival.

Casting aside the supposed discipline of collective cabinet responsibility her ministers take to the airwaves and print to lobby for their views on Brexit—hard, soft or somewhere in between—amidst a chorus of calls for “decisive” action.

No wonder May looked more at home with the leadership of Communist China than her own MPs!

Like sharks smelling blood this is driving the largely right wing press to a frenzy fed by a heady cocktail of racism, the stand alone “bulldog” 1940 myth, and great power delusions of a world panting to buy British when we “take back control” and shake off the EU chains.

Of course this leads to a relentless search for traitors—Chancellor Hammond a key suspect—looking to subvert the sacred mission to restore England—and they mean England—to its rightful leading world role.

The fact that this has resulted in a fossil such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and the self-obsessed Boris Johnston tipped as potential Prime Ministers is a gauge of the ascendency of the Tory right and the chilling implications for the future of the UK.

However while all this makes for good copy for political journalists, the ups and downs of individual MPs is simply the outward signs of a much deeper split which, while most evident in the Tory party, goes well beyond it.

In essence this is about the central direction that the UK should take to ensure the interests—in the first instance—of the financiers and speculators at the heart of todays British capitalism and the wider business interest in all other sectors.

Rees-Mogg and Hammond may diverge on how this is to achieved, whether by breaking totally with the EU to make England great again or in close harmony with Brussels but they share the objective of keeping capital in the saddle.

When viewed through this prism the focus moves beyond the Tory splits into the wider question—which view has dominance and what are the possible political consequences?

Under the Corbyn leadership Labour has relied on letting the Tory splits make the headlines and offering vague slogans about a “Jobs First” Brexit and so far this has just about kept the peace in the party.

However it stretches credibility to believe that the serried ranks of anti Corbyn MPs who worked to force him out and are overwhelmingly pro-EU have changed their basic views on both issues.

As is clear from the words of leading pro EU MPs such as Chuka Umunna—also a bitter anti-Corbyn figure—there relative silence is purely tactical and they are biding their time to strike.

Similarly in Scotland the ever more hapless Richard Leonard—despite including his neo-Blairite opponents in his team—faces a hostile parliamentary group.

As the political scribes play who is in and who out in both parties another scenario has started to resurface as an answer to the Brexit paralysis.

This posits that a coup by the Tory hard Brexit group in Westminster deposes May and seizes power finally splitting the Tories and opening the way to new pro-EU capitalist group.

This could be akin to what happened with the SDP split from Labour in 1981, only this time originating in the Tories.

Some ideological outriders such as Chris Deerin have already suggested a new party and under the cloak of the “national interest”.

Such a pro-business essentially Blair/Cameron formation could tempt right wing Labour MPs to desert Corbyn-led Labour.

This would offer a second EU referendum and pose a “moderate” third way. Such a move has, for the establishment, the twin attractions of neutralising Corbynism and negating the impact of Brexit.

Fanciful perhaps but in these extraordinary times such a development—aligning pro-market Labour MPs and soft Tories needs to be at least considered.

For Scotland such a move would pose some big questions for the SNP, whose leadership have said they would “sup with the devil” to halt Brexit.

Would they ally with such a formation aimed at keeping the UK safely in the grip of the city financiers or would they, in such a crisis, take a different path leading towards independence?

For the left it is increasingly clear that whichever side of the Brexit battle comes out on top, the interests of the working class majority will be at best be a footnote in an inter-capitalist war.

Like the SSP, the Voice backed a reluctant Remain vote foreseeing Brexit—as it has turned out—as sparking a carnival of reaction.

For working people whoever floats to the surface of the Brexit pool the issues of jobs, wages, housing health and poverty will remain.

In the fight for a more just, ultimately independent Scotland, less attention needs to be paid to the siren voices of big business and the City bankers and more to the multiple needs of working people.

These needs cannot wait for the outcome of the Brexit battle but must be the central concern of campaigners now.

Winning on jobs, wages, housing and other issues can build the confidence of Scotland’s working class majority who are key to creating a different country which puts people before profit in an independent, modern democratic republic.

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