Ten months after Boris Johnson led his Conservative Party to an epic election victory in the United Kingdom, surveys are showing an increase in support for Scottish independence — literally, the break-up of the British state.
Enthusiasm for ending Scotland’s 313-year-old union with England has spiked in the past, notably in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum, when it looked, briefly, like the Scots were going to vote in favor of leaving the UK. (The final result was 55 percent to 45 percent against.)
Nationalists have long believed in the inevitability of Scottish independence; now unionists are beginning to believe in it, too. “It’s over,” one former Better Together figurehead told The Spectator, anonymously, in July. “The horse has bolted.”
The recent string of opinion polls showing, for the first time, sustained majority support for separation has spooked the British political class. Boris Johnson’s panicked sojourns north of the border, and the hastily-arranged decapitation of Jackson Carlaw as Scots Tory leader, suggest unionism is a cause in search of a strategy – a point underlined by the absurd idea, floated last week by the FT’s Sebastian Payne, that Britain’s future rests exclusively on the shoulders of Richard Leonard. Read More
In Twilight of Democracy, Anne Applebaum charts the fracturing of the Transatlantic right. The book is part-memoir, part-polemic. Over the past 20 years, the conservative movement has split into two factions, Applebaum contends: traditional neoliberals, who believe in free-markets, democratic institutions, and the rule of law, and populists, who thrive on division, confusion, and nationalist paranoia.
Applebaum – a journalist and academic based, variously, in Poland, Britain, and the US – belongs firmly to the first faction. A veteran contributor to the Spectator, Sunday Times, and Washington Post, she has enjoyed ringside access to rightwing elites for decades. Until recently, she was on good terms with Boris Johnson, a man she now describes as an “all-consuming” narcissist with a “penchant for fabrication.” (“Nobody serious wants to leave the EU,” she quotes the future prime minister as saying in 2014. “Business doesn’t want it. The City doesn’t want it. It won’t happen.”) In 2008, she broke with the Republican Party after John McCain added Sarah Palin – “a proto-Trump” – to his presidential ticket. McCain “never spoke to me again,” she writes. In Poland, Applebaum and her husband, the politician Radek Sikorski, have become targets of anti-Semitic propaganda linked to the country’s ruling Law and Justice Party. “Whether I like it or not, I am part of this story,” she laments.
Modern Scottish nationalism was born in the pages of the New Left Review, sometime in the mid-1960s.
That’s the bold claim at the heart of Ben Jackson’s excellent new book, which traces the intellectual origins of contemporary nationalist politics through the work of writers like Tom Nairn, Neal Ascherson, George Kerevan, Isobel Lindsay, and my own late dad, Stephen Maxwell.
The constitutional future of the United Kingdom has never looked less certain.
According to the latest polling data, 54 per cent of Scots want Scotland to become an independent country, compared to 46 per cent who back the Anglo-Scottish Union.
A week before he was replaced by Keir Starmer as leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn gave an interview to the BBC. The coronavirus pandemic has discredited a decade of Conservative Party-imposed austerity, Corbyn claimed, and vindicated the case for the kind of expansive public spending he had called for during the 2019 U.K. general election. In an article for the Guardian published on May 2, less than a month after suspending his campaign for the presidency, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, writing with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, echoed Corbyn’s sentiments.
Corbyn’s crushing defeat at the hands of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the general election on Dec. 12, and Sanders’ subsequent inability to consolidate control of the U.S. Democratic Party primary race, might have marked the end of the democratic socialist movements that have emerged in Britain and the United States over the past five years. Instead, as the coronavirus crisis has deepened, forcing more and more people out of work and onto the benefits system, leftists on both sides of the Atlantic see radical political space opening up in front of them.
Six weeks ago, Boris Johnson dismissed the idea of using spending cuts to pay off Britain’s rapidly-inflating coronavirus debts. “I’ve never particularly liked the term that you just used to describe government economic policy and it will certainly not be part of our approach,” the prime minister told a reporter during a Downing Street press conference on 30 April. “Austerity, by the way, was the term you just used.”
At first glance, the explosion of state expenditure triggered by COVID-19 seems to have been embraced by the Conservative Party. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s deficit will hit 15 per cent of GDP by the end of 2020 and public debt will top 115 per cent by the middle of 2021. These are staggering figures — at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, Britain’s deficit didn’t exceed 11 per cent of GDP.
Nicola Sturgeon is having a good crisis — on paper, at least.
According to an Ipsos MORI poll published on May 26, 82 percent of Scots think the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader — who heads up Scotland’s semi-autonomous government in Edinburgh — is handling the coronavirus outbreak well and a further 78 percent believe her administration at Holyrood has made the right decisions over the course of the pandemic.
Compared to the sweeping liberal romanticism of Barack Obama and the raw political cynicism of Bill Clinton, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is a void. There is simply nothing there. The figure that emerges from Yesterday’s Man — Branko Marcetic’s biting profile of the former senator and vice president, and now presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — doesn’t have a transformative national vision or an eye-catching policy platform or even a particularly interesting personal backstory to sell. At some point in the early 1970s, Biden decided that American elections were won and lost in the dead centre of the ideological spectrum — and that is precisely where he has stayed for the full span of his 50-year political career.
As Marcetic — a staff writer at Jacobin magazine — argues, being a centrist in American politics doesn’t make you a moderate. It just means that you’re prepared to strike legislative compromises with the hard-right, or with uniquely predatory forms of capital, in order to burnish your institutional credentials. Biden has done this time and time again in the US Senate, to the extent that ‘working across the aisle’ in a ‘bipartisan fashion’ is all that meaningfully exists of the 77-year-old’s political identity.
Climate change has traditionally been a cause for the left. In recent years, the right has begun to take it seriously, too. “Borders are the environment’s greatest ally,” Jordan Bardella, a spokesman for France’s ultra-conservative National Rally party, remarked last year. “It is through them that we will save the planet.”
In his new book, Climate Change And The Nation State, the journalist Anatol Lieven develops a response to the environmental crisis that draws on both the radical social democracy of Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal and the burgeoning ‘eco-nationalism’ of European populists.
The rapid ascent of renewables in recent years has eaten into an ever bigger share of the global energy market.
Even back in 2018, think tanks were projecting oil price declines, increased competition, and stranded assets.
The Alex Salmond case has revealed deep-seated issues with Scotland’s ruling party, which could have serious ramifications for his successor as first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
On Monday afternoon, Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was cleared in an Edinburgh courtroom of a series of alleged sexual offences against nine women.