Saturday, 20 June 2009
Will he Won't he, Will he Won't he, Won't he be The Last?
Gordon Brown could make history and go down as the last Prime Minister of a United Britain! This would indeed be a lasting legacy for the last Prime Minister.
Another airing of an important constitutional topic raised a year ago.
The Last Prime Minister?
It is an intriguing thought, but there is a distinct possibility that the present Prime Minister of Great Britain could be the last. When Scotland declares its independence, as it surely will before too much time has elapsed, the United Kingdom will cease to be. When and how Scotland will choose to break away from the union is a difficult and delicate question to answer, but on sensing the mood of the people, we shall not have long to wait to find out.
Scotland was not won by conquest but through succession. King James I of England was King James VI of Scotland, and when James succeeded to the throne of England the countries were united. Scotland never had a Queeen Elizabeth I. To the Scots, it is the present queen who bears that title. Wales had already been absorbed, incorporated and annexed, and Britain became one state under one supreme ruler. Yet the people of Scotland continued to rebel against this fait accomplis - religion playing a part as the clans were Catholic - and their hopes were finally crushed at the Battle of Culloden in 1745, the last battle to be fought on British soil. Following this defeat, the clan system was broken up, the wearing of the tartan banned, and tribal lands sequestered and enclosed. Scotland lost its natural leaders, many of whom sought sanctuary abroad, along with their prince and last hope, Charles Edward Stuart, who could have taken London with his doughty Highlanders, but returned to humiliation and defeat.
All this happened a long time ago, we know, but the Scots have never given up their culture and their pride as a nation, their national dress and their pipe bands. Their spirit lives on, and it falls upon the MSP for Strichen, Alex Salmond, to raise and restore the hopes and aspirations of his people, those loyal Scots whose allegiance is to Scotland alone, and to raise the banner, the Saltire of St Andrew, and to sever the links which bind the country to a withering constitution in the throes of decline.
Ireland has shown that it can be done. A country can shake away the fetters and survive, after long years of suffering resulting in massive emigration, and struggle to win its independence from British rule. Ulster too, which yet remains a part of the United Kingdom, will need to reconsider its invidious position following Scotland's declaration, and either opt to join up with the Republic in the south, or possible unite with Scotland, with which it has historical ties.
So will our highly unpopular, and unpalatable Prime Minister prove to be the last prime minister of a united kingdom? Probably not, and it could take another term of government, under the Tories, before this particular scenario is fulfilled. The question is : will this prospect and the advent of a Conservative government at Westminster open the floodgates in Scotland and induce the Scots to push hard for independence, with a vengeance? I think it will!
Could Mr Brown be the last Prime Minister of Great Britain?
by Peter Osborne of the "Daily Mail"
Last updated at 11:35 PM on 25th July 2008
Two consequences, both of huge importance, flow from yesterday's historic by-election victory for the Scottish National Party in Glasgow East.
The first, and most obvious, concerns Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister has been dealt another terrible, wounding blow. The Labour defeat, which was not predicted until the very last moment within the disastrously out-of-touch British political establishment, places Brown's premiership for the first time into genuine doubt.
It guarantees that a question mark will surround Gordon Brown's leadership all summer, dominate Labour's conference in early autumn, and probably reach some kind of crisis early next year.
The likelihood remains that Gordon Brown will survive, but he is gravely weakened and in danger of becoming irrelevant, as John Major was in his final months in office.
However, the feverish discussions of Gordon Brown's political health which have dominated the airwaves over the past 24 hours have obscured a matter of much more enduring significance: whether or not the United Kingdom itself can survive beyond the next General Election.
History may come to view the Glasgow East by-election as the moment the breakup of the 300-year-old British union became inevitable.
One thing is now certain: it will not survive in its present form. This is because the most significant feature of yesterday was not defeat for Labour, important though that undoubtedly was. The really important thing was that each one of the mainstream national political parties was humiliated.
The Lib Dems lost their deposit - a third successive by-election disaster which confirmed how much their pointless new leader Nick Clegg has become a liability. But David Cameron's Conservatives also failed to take advantage of government unpopularity. The brutal truth is that in Scotland Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party now mark the only meaningful opposition to Gordon Brown. And this undeniable fact has deadly serious consequences for the future of Britain.
It means that when David Cameron - as now seems certain - becomes Prime Minister after the coming General Election, he will immediately be plunged into a first-rate constitutional crisis that could destroy his premiership before it has even begun.
Cameron's problem is simple. As incoming Prime Minister he will be able to count on approximately 340 Conservative MPs, giving him a reasonably comfortable majority in the House of Commons. Crucially, the vast majority will be English, and - judging by Friday morning's SNP triumph - only one or at most two will come from Scotland's 59 constituencies. In other words, the new Cameron administration will carry zero legitimacy north of the border. More worrying by far, Cameron will take power at the exact moment when Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, has always promised to unleash his nuclear weapon: a referendum on independence.
The timing for Salmond, who has emerged as a politician of exceptional luck as well as talent since his election as Scottish First Minister last spring, would be perfect. On the one hand, he would be dealing with a Tory government which has lost its Scottish power base. On the other hand, he would be able to challenge a gravely weakened opposition Labour Party, which would be in the thralls of the bloody leadership contest that normally takes place after an election defeat.
Alex Salmond knows that he will never have a better chance of securing his long-standing objective and winning the Scottish war for independence. David Cameron, on the other hand, faces the miserable prospect of securing his lifetime ambition, entering 10 Downing Street - and ceasing to be Prime Minister of all of Britain within months of taking office.
Within the Conservative Party, there are two contradictory attitudes towards this rise of the Scottish National Party and the prospect of Scottish independence. On the one hand, senior Tory strategists are aware that they and the SNP share a common enemy - Gordon Brown and his moribund Scottish Labour Party. They realise that Scottish independence will not merely bring with it the end of Britain, but go a long way to destroying Labour, which has relied on Scotland as its power base for so many years, as the party of government.
David Cameron does not share this view. He is at heart a romantic Tory, which is why in his speeches over recent months he has gone out of his way to emphasise the significance of the union with Scotland. 'I do not want to be the Prime Minister of England,' he told Scottish voters in Ayr last May, 'I want to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom - all of it, including Scotland.' But Cameron is also pragmatic: he understands that the Tories stand no chance of winning the argument in Scotland for the union, least of all against an opponent as formidable as Alex Salmond.
That is why, I can reveal, allies of Cameron have entered into informal talks with the SNP over recent months. Their objective is to save the union by working out a new kind of constitutional settlement for Scotland. Details are sketchy, but it is possible to indicate the main outlines. An incoming Tory administration would need to meet Alex Salmond's demands that the Scottish Parliament should have massive new powers over taxation and public spending.
In domestic terms, a Scottish administration would be entirely self-governing and have complete command over economic policy. And yet the union could be maintained through the retention of shared armed forces, and foreign policy, and the monarchy.
These talks are complex. Alex Salmond is demanding control over business taxation, for example. Yet such a concession would be desperately unpopular south of the border, because it would allow Scotland to attract British firms by offering lower taxation.
Salmond also wants to get rid of the Trident independent nuclear deterrent, which is based in Scotland - unthinkable for the Tories, who pride themselves as the party of defence. Yet a solution must be found. Otherwise Gordon Brown could go down in history as the last Prime Minister of Great Britain.