Tag Archives: Scottish National Party

“BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH”

One hundred years ago, on this day, March 15th, the “ides of March,” Czar Nicholas II of Russia, under pressure, abdicated, ending the dynasty that had ruled Russia since 1613.   The end result was not the liberal democracy that many hoped for, but, rather, seventy years of communism, a period far worse than anything under the czars. When the czar abdicated, nobody could have foreseen the ultimate outcome. The czar himself brought attention to the fact that the day was the “ides of March,” the day Julius Caesar was assassinated, changing the course of Roman history, ending the Roman Republic, replacing it with the Roman Empire.   The term became popular through Shakespeare’s famous play, “Julius Cesar.”

Today, March 15th, The Netherlands is voting for a new government. It’s the first time ever that Holland has received this much media attention.   Once again, an uncertain future awaits the country and the European Union; that is, if Geert Wilder’s ‘Party for Freedom’ makes significant gains and goes on to form a government.   Mr. Wilders has been labeled Holland’s Donald Trump.   He’s a populist, who wants to restore his country to what it was, ending the multiculturalism that has fundamentally changed the country.   In addition, he wants to leave the EU.   He also wants to ban the Koran and Islamic schools and has called for the closure of all mosques; and end the wearing of burqas and hijabs, requiring people to wear western style clothing.

The election result is likely to have a profound effect on France and Germany who hold elections later this year.   If a populist government comes to power in the Netherlands, then, maybe populism will see gains in the two biggest European countries, France and Germany.   This could make 2017 as significant a year as 1989 and 1848 in European history.   Change is in the air.   But, as with Russia a century ago, the future of change is unpredictable.   Sweeping populism may sweep away the European Union, but what will replace it?   Will liberal social democracy be replaced by more nationalistic forms of government?   Could a swing to the right in the Netherlands lead to similar swings elsewhere on the continent?   The European Union, which turns 60 in ten days, may have to go back to the drawing board.

It’s not just the election that is making news in Holland.   For over four centuries the Dutch, once a great maritime power, have had a peace treaty with Turkey.   But now, the two NATO members are going through a verbal conflict that could easily get out of hand.   The basic problem is immigration.   Millions of Turks live in Holland, Germany and other EU countries.   The Turkish president wants to send members of his government to speak to these Turkish citizens, so that they will vote for Mr, Erdogan in a referendum that will grant the president more powers.   Naturally, Holland does not want the Turkish election to be conducted in Holland.   Allowing Ankara to do so would expose the lie that Muslims are assimilated and are, in fact, Dutch.   They are not, identifying primarily with their own religion and culture, not with that of the host country.

A Turkish government minister was not allowed to address a rally in Holland.   Consequently, relations have been negatively affected.

The Netherlands isn’t the only European country that’s hitting the headlines internationally.   The United Kingdom is also in the news.

It’s taken nine months for the groundwork to be laid for Britain to activate Article 50 and apply to leave the European Union.   It’s been a rocky road, with members of Britain’s ruling elite doing everything possible to undermine the will of the people, expressed in June’s Brexit vote.    The unelected House of Lords was the final hurdle.

As if invoking Article 50 is not difficult enough, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party picked the same time to demand another referendum.

This time, she believes the Scots will vote to leave the United Kingdom as the majority of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

In effect, what Ms. Sturgeon wants is to replace English domination with German domination.   Ignorant of history (except possibly watching “Braveheart” over and over again!), Ms. Sturgeon has no problem replacing London with Berlin.

When the UK completes its negotiations with the EU settling Brexit terms, Ms. Sturgeon’s Scotland will have to act quickly and apply to use the euro.  It will also need massive amounts of aid as Scotland has needed English financial support ever since it voted to join the union with England, over three centuries ago.

Scottish loyalists will have to get used to shopping with a new currency  – and won’t even be able to stay home and watch the BBC!

 

 

AFTER THE VOTE

election-tele_3296186b

The pollsters, the pundits and the commentators all got it wrong!

The British election was not a close call.

All the experts predicted the need for a coalition government, that neither the Conservatives nor Labour would get enough seats in parliament to form a government without the help of at least one other party.   There were warnings of a “hung parliament” and a “constitutional crisis.”   Even the Queen left town, advised that her services would not be needed for a few days, that nobody would be ready to accept her appointment as prime minister.

But the Conservatives easily won.

Consequently, three rival party leaders all resigned within the same hour, an historic first.

While David Cameron is pleased with the result, Nicola Sturgeon is likely more pleased.   Her Scottish National Party won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.   Independence for Scotland is back on the table.   56 out of 59 does not mean that the majority of Scots want independence.   What it means is that the SNP candidate in each constituency got more votes than anybody else.   This will not, however, deter the SNP from taking the opportunity to bolt as soon as it presents itself.

Labour was the big loser, losing big in Scotland, where it previously held most seats.   Ed Miliband, Labour leader, said his party faced “a surge of nationalism.”

One newspaper described it as “an electoral tsunami” (Independent).   Of note, Mhairi Black defeated a Labour heavyweight and became, at age 20, the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667.

In fact, the single most significant development in the election was Scottish nationalism.

English nationalism was also evident.   Although the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) only won one seat in the new parliament, they received 13% of the popular vote.   That means that more than one in eight voters wants the UK to leave the European Union.   That’s not all – the Conservatives are promising a referendum on the issue.   Many of their supporters also want to exit the Union.

Nick Clegg, outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats, summed up this rising tide of nationalism by saying, “Fear and grievance have won.”

The Stock Market soared at the news that the Conservatives are back in power and, this time, without the need of support from the Liberal Democrats.   The Conservative – Lib Dem Coalition of the last five years took a near bankrupt economy, turned it around and made it the fastest growing major western economy.   The surge in support for David Cameron’s Conservative Party likely came from voters who didn’t want to risk a return to the economic disaster of the post-2008 crash.

HISTORIC ELECTION IN UK

British elections

Growing up, I always knew exactly when World War 2 ended.   It ended on my mother’s birthday, the 8th May.   On that day in 1945, she turned 19.   She was 13 when the war in Europe began. Her teenage years were lost to war!

If she had not said anything, I would still have a rough idea of when the war was fought and when it ended.   During my childhood, I played with friends on bomb- sites.   It took England some years to rebuild.

World War 2 wasn’t the only conflict I heard about.   My grandfather (my father’s stepfather) had been wounded in World War I and would show us the bullet wounds in his lower arm and wrist.

At least we knew that England had won both wars and that we were now safe from the threat of German conquest.

Friday marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.   It ended with Germany’s surrender.

Seventy years later, Britain’s relationship with Europe is once again center stage in the UK General Election taking place today, May 7th.

There is more choice in this election than there has ever been.   There is also more uncertainty – nobody is willing to stick their neck out and predict the outcome.

What is clear is that there will have to be another coalition government, as neither of the two main parties will have enough seats in parliament to form a government.   The two main party leaders will spend Friday and maybe a few more days (or even weeks) haggling, while trying to put together a majority to form the next government.   (British politicians take note – it’s just taken seven weeks for Benyamin Netanyahu to put together a coalition government!)

The uncertainty of a hung parliament is one problem with this election.   There are two others that have graver implications.

One is that the unity of the kingdom is at stake.   Although the majority of Scots rejected independence in a referendum just a few months ago, the pro-independence Scottish National Party may hold the balance of power in a coalition government, thereby boosting their cause.

The other monumental matter is a possible referendum on leaving the European Union.   The Conservatives have promised this for 2017, but UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) wants it sooner.   If they enter a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, the price they will demand will be a referendum by the end of the year.   This will make a “No” vote more likely as hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe keep arriving and every one of them can vote.   By 2017 their votes would likely result in “yes.”

If England votes to leave the EU and the majority of Scots don’t, there will be a major constitutional crisis.   It’s likely such a scenario will cause the United Kingdom to fall apart.   The end result would be an independent England surrounded by not-so-friendly powers, all a part of a German dominated European superpower.   How ironic just seventy years after Great Britain and its allies defeated the Third Reich!

So, it’s an above average interest election this year, with repercussions beyond the UK’s borders.

 

UK ELECTION – SECOND TV DEBATE

Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincolnshire
     Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincs – Grimsby fishing port at the height of its glory

I first saw BBC World in Uganda back in 1993.   I remember then expressing the hope that we would soon have it in Michigan.   I did not expect it to take 22 years, but we do finally have it, thanks to AT&T.   However, I’m not sure it’s worth over $100 per month.   This includes a zillion other channels I have no desire to watch.   CNN International is also good and comes with the package.

However, thanks to BBC World I’ve been able to keep up on the British election, which takes place on May 7th.

The first live televised debate was between seven leaders of seven political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.   The debate was very interesting.

It was followed by a second debate last week, this time without the prime minister and his coalition ally.

Again, I found it very interesting but, at the same time, quite disturbing.

Each party leader was making promises.   The four left-of-center party leaders were all promising more and more, competing with each other on how they would improve this or that service, spending more millions (or was it billions?) on this, that or the other.   Only the leader of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) seemed to have any sense of the need to balance the nation’s accounts.

The Coalition has been trying to do that since austerity measures were introduced almost five years ago.   Their policies stabilized the country while some continental nations were in a rapid downward spiral.   Now, the other leaders feel it’s time to ditch austerity and throw a big, no-expense-spared party!

Two members of my family in England sent me a rather long article in the London Review of Books about the election in my hometown of Grimsby, on the east coast of England.   Once the world’s premiere fishing port, the town fell on hard times after the country joined the European Common Market (now the EU).   It’s revived somewhat, but is still way behind when it comes to economic development.   It has been a Labour Party stronghold since 1945. There is a connection!   No matter who wins, the next representative for Grimsby will be the first woman, as both leading candidates are women.

The Conservatives never stood a chance of winning the seat for parliament.   David Cameron’s posh accent did him in!   But a new party may actually take the electoral cup from Labour.   That party is UKIP.

Resentment against the EU is so great that working class voters seem just as inclined to vote UKIP as they are to vote Labour.

It’s not just the EU, which is the problem.   Immigration is another concern – and the perception that, in an area of 10% unemployment, jobs are being lost to immigrants, both legal and illegal.   UKIP is promising to pull Britain out of the EU and to do something about immigration.

Unlike the other left-of-center parties, UKIP does not look upon the English tax-payer as a cash cow, or a bottomless pit, whichever metaphor you prefer.   I think you get the picture.

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, makes Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, seem positively restrained, in her enthusiasm for spending other peoples’ money.   In her case, although she would never use the terms, all the money she is demanding for Scotland and Scottish development would come from the English taxpayer.   None of the others participating in the debate commented on this, perhaps because they all (except for UKIP) were looking to get more from the English taxpayer themselves.

The British (read, the English) are upset because they subsidize much of Europe through the EU.   How long is it going to be before there is a tax-payers revolt against all the subsidies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, none of which pay their own way?

Ms. Sturgeon is also enthusiastic in her desire to see Britain scrap its nuclear weapons in order to partially pay for all this largesse.

Of greater concern is her insistence that, if David Cameron’s Conservative coalition is returned to power, and the promised referendum on EU membership is held, Scotland must have the right to remain in the EU, if England votes to depart.   This would automatically give Scotland independence, even though voters rejected independence in a referendum last September. Independence is what she and her party are committed to.

But how would they pay for it?   Scotland depends for roughly 10% of its expenditure on the English taxpayer.   This will only increase if the SNP joins the Labour Party in a left-wing coalition.

If Scotland remains within the EU and England withdraws, Scotland will need all the help it can get . . . from Germany, Europe’s other cash cow!

PS:  I thought you would all appreciate the following letter which appeared in the conservative Daily Telegraph of London. It’s a very astute observation on the British election campaign:

British election question

UK ELECTION SET FOR MAY 7th

Signpost, political parties

A turbulent six weeks lies ahead as Britain prepares to vote on May 7th.

Americans are already in the midst of electioneering, for an election that’s still 22 months away.  They can be forgiven a case of envy when they learn that the United Kingdom’s election period will only last 38 days.

Elections used to be fairly routine, with either the Conservative or the Labour party winning.

In 2010, that changed.  Neither party won a majority. David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party agreed to form a Coalition government.   Later, the two had to agree on austerity measures to get Britain out of the international financial crisis.

Today, the country has the fastest growing economy out of all the major western democracies.   Austerity seems to have worked better in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

This time, there are a number of parties campaigning to win seats in Britain’s “first past the post” system.

The country has 635 constituencies.   Whoever gets the biggest number of votes in each of these, is elected to parliament.   The leader of the majority faction then becomes prime minister.

This time, however, there are more than three parties.

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties will all be putting up candidates.   In addition, there’s a fairly new party called UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), which is campaigning for Britain to withdraw from the EU and to do something about immigration, which many see as out of control.

Their leader, Nigel Farage, has already said that if David Cameron, the current prime minister, needs UKIP’s help to form a right-wing coalition government, he will insist on a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU by the end of this year.   Mr. Cameron wants to delay it until 2017 when more Europeans will have moved into Britain, making it more likely that a “yes” vote would be returned.   Anybody from the EU can vote in referenda, though not in general elections. That requires full citizenship.

On the left of the political spectrum, for Labour’s Ed Miliband to form a government, he will likely need support from the SNP (Scottish National Party), Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists) and even the Greens (environmental party).   All of these parties will want government spending to increase, thereby jeopardizing the recovery the present coalition has engineered.

There are also smaller parties representing Northern Ireland, which may be needed to form a coalition.

It’s all suddenly become very complicated, but the old days of two-party politics seem to be over for good.

The next occupant of 10 Downing Street will be the man who can successfully haggle with other party leaders to reach the magic number of 318 – that’s just over 50% of all the seats in parliament, without which governing would be almost impossible.

 

COUNTDOWN TO DISUNITY

Scottish Nationalism

Paul Johnson, the prolific British historian, made the following very perceptive observation about his own country:

“Disunity has always proved fatal to the Offshore Islanders.”

The offshore islanders he was referring to were the British. He wrote a book of that name in 1972, the year before Britain entered the Common Market (now the EU). The book was a history of Britain’s relationship with the European continent.

Great Britain is facing that same disunity in exactly nine days.

September 18th is the date of the Scottish referendum, when people residing in Scotland have an opportunity to vote on independence from the United Kingdom. The vote will be legally binding.

It’s a countdown to chaos.

This all started with “Braveheart,” a movie about William Wallace, a Scot who was executed by the English in the late thirteenth century, over 700 years ago. The fact that the movie has been labeled the “most historically inaccurate movie ever made,” with 87 historical errors, doesn’t alter the fact that it stirred emotions in people of Scottish descent around the world.

When the new Labour government led by Tony Blair took over the reins of government in 1997, they gave both Scotland and Wales their own national assemblies, a parliament that was designed to appease the Scottish and Welsh nationalists. The British of all people should know that appeasement never works – all it did was fuel the nationalist fires, particularly in Scotland.

The Scottish National Party is led by Alex Salmond, who has been described as the most brilliant politician in Britain. He has seen opinion polls progressively move in his favor – the vote is set to be really close.

Only residents of Scotland can vote. Sean Connery, the first James Bond and an ardent supporter of Scottish nationalism, cannot vote because he now resides in the Bahamas. However, 120,000 people from various EU countries can vote because they live in Scotland. This includes thousands of Germans who may see an opportunity here to take Scotland into the eurozone and orient it more toward Germany and the continent.

16-year-olds can also vote. These are more likely to be influenced by the emotion of the movie and have no personal experience of history and the benefits of the Union.

Only nine days before the vote, there is still no answer to the big question of money. What currency will Scotland use? A preference has been stated for the British pound but London says this will not be possible as it would mean that two national governments would be trying to control the currency. The logical alternative is the euro. An independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU and all new member countries must adopt the euro. This could mean instant austerity as Scotland depends on England for 10% of its expenditure.

A precedent here is the Republic of Ireland, which broke away from the UK over 90 years ago. For some time it had to maintain close financial ties with London but today Ireland is very much a part of the eurozone. Ireland’s national government is increasingly subject to Berlin, which calls the shots. Even road construction signs have “Achtung!” at the top, reflecting closer ties with Europe’s new superpower.

“Don’t let me be last Queen of Scotland” ran the banner headline in yesterday’s Daily Mirror, a British national tabloid. The Queen is said to be very concerned about the kingdom breaking up. Following the announcement of the Duchess of Cambridge expecting a second child, Prince William said he was mostly concerned at the international and domestic situations at this time, a clear reference to ISIS and Scotland, two separate issues.

The Scottish leader professes to want to retain Queen Elizabeth as Head of State. But this may not last. When southern Ireland broke away from the UK in 1921, the Irish Free State retained the British monarch as its own king. But, in 1949, they severed the tie with the crown and became the Republic of Ireland. In more recent years, it has been able to distance itself further from London, thanks to closer ties with the EU and membership of the euro currency.

Independence for Scotland is the logical, though sad, end to the British Empire. In the last 70 years the British have given independence to over 50 countries. It’s as if history is in reverse. Following the full union of Scotland and England in 1707, the British Empire grew in leaps and bounds. In the last seven decades it’s fallen apart even more rapidly. Now Scotland seems set to leave the union with England, with potentially disastrous consequences for both.

Even if the vote is to stay in the UK, it will not be long before there will be a demand for another vote. The nationalists won’t stop until they achieve their goal, which is complete and total independence.