In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The Scottish referendum and the decentralization of Britain

Posted by seumasach on September 28, 2014

The election result yesterday reinforces my analysis, below, of the 2014 referendum campaign. So, after having won an election on the basis of opposing “the break-up of Britain”, David Cameron can proceed with the break-up of Britain. It took some deft maneuvering to get to this point but the coup de grace was delivered, with an air of complete innocence, by Ms Sturgeon in the form of her pledge to keep the Tories out by allying with Labour. This was a red rag to a John Bull and provoked massive tactical voting against Labour in England. It also helped top up the SNP vote in Scotland as many fell under the spell of this mythical “progressive coalition”. And so the Tory/SNP axis has come into being and it will indeed dominate British politics for years to come, or, at least, until 2020 which is a very long way away in political terms.

Cameron’s first move will be to shore up the position of the SNP by bringing  substantial devolution, greater, he claims, than that existing anywhere in the world, which presumably will mean full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. This will in turn trigger English devolution including restrictions on SNP voting on English affairs. England will be divided into “city/regions” after the pattern already established with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Cameron has pledged to renew Trident and hold a referendum on European Union membership. Both proposals are unrealistic oand destructive. The SNP opposes both and has suggested that a “no” vote on Europe would justify a new referendum on Scottish independence. Could they help Cameron get off the hook on counter-productive electoral pledges?

Far from being “anti austerity” as the Scottish electorate have been led to believe, devolved power will end forever neo-Keynesian deficit financing and inaugurate a period of structural austerity- local  or regional bodies lack the credibility for deficit financing, hardly surprising since central government already does too, hence quantitative easing. Despite the SNP’s clear commitment to balanced budgets, a policy once associated with the likes of Newt Gingrich, they were very generously given a free run on a completely imaginary “progressive, anti-austerity” agenda by the media and their rivals. On the other hand, their very positive programme of bringing foreign, mainly Chinese investment into Scotland was not , to my knowledge, given a mention. They will be betting that the ensuing economic growth will save their skins when the reality of devolution sinks in.

I see no grounds for dismay in this outcome- there is everything to play for. The Tories have always showed themselves capable of adapting to new global realities and despite the reappointment of hotheads like Hammond and Fallon and the consequent torrents of hot air and bluff and bluster, they know that Britain is no longer in a position to dictate to Russia or anyone else. The  bottom lines are that Britain must remain in Europe (for the sake of incoming investment), Trident must be scrapped since, amongst other things it is unaffordable and the people, already suffering under perpetual austerity must unite to defend basic, decent living standards for all, especially the most vulnerable.

Cailean Bochanan

28th September, 2014

When Nicola Sturgeon spoke back in January of the inevitability of change whatever the outcome of the referendum and appealed to the “No” campaign to come forward with their proposals for further devolution to Scotland she must have known that a response would be forthcoming. All political parties had been focused for some time on the issue of the decentralization of the British state and the referendum was to be the cue for these ideas to come to the fore. However, from the point of views of both campaigns this issue was to become the elephant in the room that no one wanted to see. The “Yes” campaign , notwithstanding Sturgeon’s remarks, continued to insist that it was all or nothing for Scotland, that not only was further devolution not on the agenda but that a “No” vote would see the rollback of devolution already conceded. The “No” campaign evoked the enduring stability of the union and an era of innocence in which good old Great Britain was not about to be eviscerated. As a result, it was only when “panicked” representatives of the leading UK parties came to Scotland late in the campaign, following polls suggestive of a “Yes” vote, that it became evident to all that further devolution was indeed on the agenda. The “panicked” UK leaders, far from making up policy on the hoof, were, however, merely putting forward what they had always intended in an opportune manner which would give themselves credit post-referendum. They were also shoring up the position of Alex Salmond and the SNP post-referendum who could claim that their campaign and a surge in support had forced the hand of the Westminster establishment.
That major constitutional change was on the cards was made clear in a speech in April by Labour leader, Ed Milliband, a speech which was studiously ignored by everyone. In it he blamed overcentralisation for all Britain’s ills and promised to devolve power and spending to English cities and regions. He also revealed the real point behind this “bringing of power to the people” as the Tories like to call it:
“With power of this sort comes responsibility.
These changes will only bring new jobs, greater prosperity, if the towns and cities are willing to put the private sector at the heart of decision making.”
Welsh Conservative leader Stephen Crabb was to pick up on the same theme as he launched the pre-panic, Tory devolution response in July,:
“I am very comfortable with the way devolution is developing. It is quite an exciting landscape that is emerging for devolution. So fiscal devolution I see as particularly important because of strengthening accountability for devolved government.”
This, he thought, would help to “challenge socialist orthodoxy” citing the influence of leading Thatcherite ideologue,Lord Brian Griffiths, in his conversion to devolution.

Any doubts about major constitutional change were dispelled in Cameron’s speech following the announcement of the referendum result. He called for English votes on English issues, effectively a call for English devolution. It also launched the 2015 election campaign with a shot across the bows of the Labour as Cameron sensed blood and seized the moment when the Labour/Tory duopoly gives way to a Tory/SNP axis which could dominate Britain for a long time to come. Labour’s hesitancy regarding English devolution doesn’t mean they won’t support it: they have no choice, but they wish to delay it beyond the next election. If Milliband has written their suicide note in the above mentioned speech they can be forgiven for pacing the room in a state of high agitation before finally putting the bullet through their head.
The British ruling class have embarked upon a major transformation of Britain. Milliband’s speech gives an indication of what they have in mind. The essence of this change is more easily grasped within the context of US politics and the politics of the Republican right. The goal is the end of Big Government. As Britain heads towards another crisis resembling that of 2008 it will face similar dilemmas to those they faced then. In 2008 they bailed out the banks without taking control of them. This time overwhelming popular pressure could force their hand and result in nationalization. Similar pressures could lead to renationalization of the utilities and even land and the housing stock. These measures are unacceptable and dangerous to the post-Thatcherite oligarchy. By devolving spending and tax raising powers to the regions they are vetoing that particularly noxious, in their view, outcome. Admittedly, the state is bankrupt anyway but they will not be presiding over the bankruptcy of Britain with the tax-payer as the priority creditor, the state taking on our assets and our debt to our international partners being resolved through intergovernmental negotiation as I have been proposing for some time. Instead, they will proceed through “the market”.
It could be objected that there is little left to privatize. But Britain’s privatization programme is really just a corporate welfare scheme whereby public funds are transferred to private companies. The companies would not otherwise be making money. This process is inordinately expensive to the British state and is not sustainable. The British state will then withdraw its largesse and as it does so foreign states or their agencies will take its place. This process is already well underway as James Meek has documented and is about to accelerate dramatically. The British oligarchy instead of going down for a very, very long time have opted to be bought out by the Chinese and retired to the Cayman Islands.
It is a great irony that the “yes” campaign regard further devolution as a well earned consolation prize and continue to shout betrayal in the form of its non-implimentation. They have been joining in the fun too, dancing on the the grave of the Labour Party but it is also the grave containing the corpse of their neo-Keynesian spending strategies. The active component of the “yes” campaign is basically on the left, contemptuous of Scotland’s national status except when referring to it, hilariously, as “one of the richest nations on earth”, and these heady days have been like the last faint echo of Blair’s, 1997 “Things can only get better” surge, before we finally sink into the abyss. So they’re celebrating their own demise too: it’s just one internal contradiction too far.
That the coming crisis of Western imperialism will have a neo-liberal solution is at first sight dismaying but it has its logic. I was a struck by the insistence of a Chinese academic, speaking at at Glasgow University’s Confucius Institute, on the resolution of Britain’s debt and current account deficit with China via the market. What, I thought, did we have to sell back to them. Not much, but we can let them relocate factories which produce for our market to Britain. That way, they don’t have to accept sterling fiat money in payment and we can start to correct our trade deficit. That is definitely win-win. They can also facilitate this by taking control of our utilities and building other essential infrastructure. Finally, they can take over our banking system, after its major shareholders and creditors have taken the hit,opening up control of a significant portion of Britain’s land and real estate for re-industrialization. The British government has already taken us some way down this path and we have signed a formal strategic partnership with China and are now proud issuers of Renminbi-denominated UK government bonds. Other sovereign wealth funds will, of course, participate. Just as free-market ideology furnished us with a cover for imperialism in the 18th and 19th century, so it now provides a cover for a policy for end of empire. This is anxiously sought by the Chinese and the Global South and their investments will not be just about profit but drawing the sting out of Anglo-American imperialism. In exchange for life-saving inward investment Britain will de facto renounce its imperial or hegemonic project and become a neutral, demilitarized state. Perhaps Scotland could become a Chinese concession just as we once had concessions in China. That would be poetic justice and leave us staring survival in the face.
The constitutional transformation will go through and it will also be as many have pointed out a dog’s dinner. But the goal is purely negative from the point of view of the British oligarchy: to veto Big Government. However, it contains other potentialities as Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein was quick to grasp when he pointed out that, despite the “no” vote, “the British state is not static”. Britain is not suitable for federalisation and the regionalization of England is a completely synthetic agenda which is being foisted on a reluctant people. Hence another irony: the “No” vote may be the real “break up of Britain” agenda. The constitutional agenda compromises Britain’s sovereignty and at a certain point when all the wars and tumult of empire are a fading memory that issue of sovereignty will return and, in all likelihood, resolve itself as four sovereign nations in these islands.

Posted in Constitutional change in Britain | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama extracts GCC support for Iran deal

Posted by seumasach on May 20, 2015

M.K.bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

The summing up of the meeting at Camp David on Thursday between President Barack Obama and “Heads of Delegations” of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] member states couldn’t have been an easy job. To begin with, the planned summit didn’t quite happen in the absence of several key leaders from the GCC side. Except for the leaders of Kuwait and Qatar, the other 4 declined the US invitation. Funnily, the king of Bahrain, an important regional ally that houses the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, preferred to instead visit a horse show in Britain.

Read more

Posted in Global peace process, Iran | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

EU/UK/US – union, dislocation, reinvention: The great systemic transformation of the West

Posted by seumasach on May 17, 2015

GEAB

15th May, 2015

For the fourth consecutive month, accompanied by all the usual precautions, our team continues to believe that the crisis’ peak is now behind us. It’s clear that two photos taken five minutes before and five minutes after this peak can be identical. On the other hand the film isn’t comparable; it’s that the perspective is radically different. The mountain walker knows, after crossing the pass that the descent seems easier than the climb: clear direction, gravity on one’s side, shelter in sight… But be careful all the same, before reaching the tarmac road obstacles and risks of a fall are still very present, perhaps even aggravated by the comfortable feeling associated with the fatigue of the climb. This impression of the end of the walk is exactly what our team feels after four months now. Some of our readers are surprised to see us put on rose tinted spectacles; are the spectacles rose tinted or is it really this crisis’ setting sun shining through?

Read more

Posted in Multipolar world | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

U.S. wakes up to New (Silk) World Order

Posted by seumasach on May 15, 2015

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times

15th May, 2015

The real Masters of the Universe in the U.S. are no weathermen, but arguably they’re starting to feel which way the wind is blowing.

History may signal it all started with this week’s trip to Sochi, led by their paperboy, Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Foreign Minister Lavrov and then with President Putin.

Read more

Posted in Coup d'état in Ukraine, Disband NATO!, Global peace process, Iran, Multipolar world, New Cold War | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. puts Russia-China entente to litmus test

Posted by seumasach on May 15, 2015

Just when the left intelligencia thought they had found a Manichean struggle they could really get their teeth into Kerry goes swanning into Moscow to exchange high fives with Lavrov, metaphorically speaking, and in the blink of an eye the much-vaunted New Cold War is dead. The conflict with Russia was invaluable in covering the retreat in Syria and Iran: now a bit more rough wooing of China with some gratuitous and utterly vacuous threats thrown in is covering the retreat from Moscow. Obama really wants a close engagement with both Russia and China and the capital inflows and the easing of the military budget which will flow from it, buts wants to make it clear that there will be “consequences” if his overtures are rejected. He also has one eye for the various dead-enders and nostalgics at home, in Wall Street, in the military-industrial complex, the lobbies and, above all ,the media who still haven’t grasped that the unipolar moment has passed. All in all, Obama is playing a masterful game in steering the good ship America and, consequently, the whole of humanity to safer waters, a journey which could culminate in new beginnings and much needed national and global reconstruction.

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Asia Times

14th May, 2015

There is no need to second guess the identity of the third party present in the room in Sochi on Tuesday when the U.S. secretary of state John Kerry met the Russian leaders. Most certainly, if a strong stimulus is to be accounted for as working on the U.S. president Barack Obama’s cerebral mind prompting him to break the ice in the relations with Russia, it is the Sino-Russian entente that has emerged in global politics. See my blog Obama’s overture to Putin has paid off.)

Read more

Posted in Global peace process, New Cold War | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

George Osborne offers devolution route to cities with elected mayor

Posted by seumasach on May 14, 2015

The Tory program to end “big government” nows goes ahead although, of course, it was scarcely discussed in the election campaign. Central government will no longer be able to play its traditional role in terms of spending and, at least potentially. standing as a barrier to oligarchy.

Guardian

14th May, 2015

George Osborne will on Thursday invite England’s big cities to join Manchester in bidding for devolved powers, as long as they agree to be governed by a directly elected mayor.

Read more

Posted in Constitutional change in Britain | Leave a Comment »

US admits that Kiev fails to honor Minsk accords

Posted by seumasach on May 13, 2015

“I think Kerry’s visit was intended not just to signal a shift in the US stance but, above all, to try to partially restore the dialogue that had been practically severed. Naturally, if the United States wants to resume dialogue, it must take into account Russia’s stand, at least on some issues,” Pushkov said. 

TASS

13th May, 2015

MOSCOW, May 13. /TASS/. The United States has acknowledged for the first time that Kiev doesn’t comply with the Minsk agreements, Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Alexey Pushkov told reporters on Wednesday. He commented on the remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry, which he made following talks in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Read more

Posted in Coup d'état in Ukraine | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

India flaunts strategic autonomy on Red Square

Posted by seumasach on May 12, 2015

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

6th May, 2015

The seventieth anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany falls this weekend. The World War II erupted when India’s freedom struggle was nearing the high noon and the demand was rising to a crescendo that Britain should “quit” India. There were two opinions in India at that time as to who was India’s bigger enemy – Britain or Japan. Unsurprisingly, in zero sum terms, it appeared to many that Britain’s defeat meant India’s victory.

Read more

Posted in Multipolar world | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Is Wi-Fi making your child ill?

Posted by seumasach on May 10, 2015

Powerful interests are behind the role out of Wi-fi in schools but the interests of children’s education and health are not one of them. Despite overwhelming evidence spanning over 50 years the likes of Dr Simon Mann can still come out with this:“We do not think the balance of available scientific evidence on radiofrequency has shifted and, as such, our position remains that PHE [Public Health England] sees no reason why Wi-Fi should not continue to be used in schools and in other places,”

Dr Erica Mallery-Blyhte is a brave woman who deserves the support of all right-minded people

Telegraph

9th May, 2015

Six years ago, Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe moved to the country, stopped carrying a mobile phone and sacrificed a successful career in emergency medicine to focus on a new medical interest – radiation emitted by Wi-Fi, mobiles and other wireless devices.

She is now one of the country’s few professional advisers on medical conditions related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation and other electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

Read more

Posted in Ecological and Public Health Crisis | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Will spying for US be the end of Merkel?

Posted by seumasach on May 9, 2015

Russia Insider

8th May, 2015

The blame game has long since begun in the German capital, as have efforts to determine who knew what and when and who misled which supervisory authority and when. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has become entangled in inconsistencies. Chancellery head Peter Altmaier and several of his predecessors are under fire.

Read more

Posted in Battle for Europe | Leave a Comment »

Kerry ‘issuing a warning’ to EU on Russia sanctions

Posted by seumasach on May 5, 2015

It is hard to see what Kerry expects to achieve from this other than another own goal. At it’s height the US empire didn’t threaten, they acted- everyone who mattered knew why. Now they are highlighting division and almost encouraging the breaking of ranks.

RT

30th April, 2015

John Kerry admitted the EU and the US have disagreements by issuing a warning and letting them know that if Europe doesn’t keep the sanctions against Russia “there is going to be something to pay,” Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Peace Institute told RT.

Read more

Posted in Battle for Europe | Leave a Comment »

‘Italy can’t afford to close doors to Russia’

Posted by seumasach on May 5, 2015

RT

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said that “Italy can’t afford to close the doors to Russia” and “can’t cut ties” with Moscow. His statements come just days after Italian officials postulated that the sanctions against Russia may be lifted.

Read more

Posted in Battle for Europe | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 997 other followers

%d bloggers like this: