Scunnert wi’ politics

“Ye cannae (expletive deleted) score if ye’re no’ on the (expletive deleted) pitch.”

Way back in January 1959, The Times (of London) ran an opinion column dismissing Malta’s campaign for Independence. It was pretty blunt. “Malta cannot live on its own,” it read. “The island could pay for only one fifth of her food and essential imports; well over one quarter of the present labour force would be out of work, and the economy of the country would collapse without British Treasury subventions. Talk of full independence for Malta is, therefore, hopelessly impractical.”

The only thing that was hopelessly impractical was that article itself. As Malta prepares to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of independence later this year, it would be difficult to find the slightest evidence of a flat-lining economy or the high rate of unemployment or a shortfall in essential imports which the newspaper predicted.

Once upon a time, the London Times was nicknamed ‘The Thunderer’ because of the power and influence of its leading articles. Sadly there are times, and this was one of them, when it kowtowed to the establishment line and the thunder emitted no more than an inane fart.

This point was picked up just a few days ago by Kevin Stewart, a Scottish National Party member of the Scottish Parliament, a politician who obviously does his research. He reposted the Times piece, commenting: “The anti-independence supporters were wrong about Malta in 1959 and they are wrong about Scotland now.” No one can question his verdict on Maltese independence. But, with due respect for Mr Stewart’s position as an SNP politician, the issue of Scotland’s independence cannot currently be seen as anything more than a work in progress.

The stark fact is that in 2014 – when Malta had already enjoyed independence for fifty years – Scots were given the chance to vote for their own independent future. Come the day they did not. Why? Obviously there cannot be one simple answer to that. But I believe that one of the most essential issues can be summed up in one straightforward phrase: “the fear factor”.

The Unionist brigade cynically (and, it has to be admitted, skillfully) deliberately drove a wedge between the enthusiasms of younger voters and the innate caution of the so-called grey vote, older people who are instinctively wary of change and supportive of the status quo. The anti-independence lobby took every opportunity to exploit older voters’ concerns about protecting their comparatively higher salaries, their investments, and their pensions. They continually hammered home the “fact” that these benefits could only be secured within a market supported by the stability of long term membership of the EU and they reveled in emphasising that Scotland as a new separate nation would not automatically retain EU membership.

This populist tactic was to rear its ugly head less than two years later when the right wing nuts of the Tory Party drove its own weak and inexperienced government into conceding a referendum on EU membership. Then, in an outstanding display of disgraceful hypocrisy – even by the low standards of British politics – the Brexiteers performed the perfect reverse ferret and suddenly EU membership which, only two years earlier, had been a market strength, became the source of all evil in the UK and the enemy target.

Deceitful patriotism was the order of the day. Sovereignty became the be-all and the end-all. “The British people want decisions taken by elected politicians at Westminster here in the UK, and not by foreign bureaucrats overseas,” the Brexiteers honked. After a campaign based on a misguided nostalgia for a Dear Old Blighty that never really existed (Gawd, we almost had to endure Boris-bloody-Johnson and Nigel-nyaff-Farage duetting from the Vera Lynn patriotic song book of 1943) seasoned by downright racism, the dis-United Kingdom duly slunk out of the EU.

And a fat lot of good it has done. What the Brexit bunch failed to grasp was that their derided foreign bureaucrats were actually experienced and effective while their elected politicians at Westminster were neither, and their much-vaunted negotiations didn’t exactly go to plan. Of course, the Brexiteers cried foul. The EU side was uncooperative, they moaned, their officials were difficult to negotiate with. What the hell did they expect? A slap on the back, perhaps, a hearty handshake, and three cheers at the annual general meeting?

The inescapable facts are that Brexit was a stupid policy in the first place and, having achieved it, the British government has handled the detail of its actual introduction with appalling incompetence. Don’t take just my word for it: here is a selection of quotes which have appeared in the British press over the past few days:

▪️ “Brexit has spectacularly failed”

▪️ “Basket-case Britain”

▪️ “The UK’s becalmed economy policy has lurched violently from one extreme and disaster to the other”

▪️ “The Brexit saga has tipped into the realms of national tragedy – the project has been a calamity”

▪️ “Far from giving Britain back the sense of purpose, unity, and self-confidence, Brexit has profoundly undermined all three”

▪️ “The time has come to cut our losses and embrace the security of the Brussels fold”

and, finally…

▪️ “Britain should just rejoin the EU”

I have to confess here that I have been just a bit misleading. The quotes above are from the UK press, all right, but they are in fact from just the one newspaper – the good old Daily Telegraph, the Tory Party in print, the Brexit broadsheet. When the Daily Telegraph demonstrates despair at the incompetence, the lack of clarity and purpose, the sheer inability of a government driven only by woke group-think and virtue-signaling claptrap to the extent that it has lost all understanding of the simple verb ‘to govern’, then the end of days is indeed approaching at full speed.

This is having profoundly depressing and dangerous consequences for Britain. Many people have become so disillusioned and so angry with the failure of the political system that they are turning their backs on the whole process. I don’t mean by that that they are changing party allegiances. I mean that people – particularly the young – are totally withdrawing from all involvement in the political process, from the very idea of voting. They are so disappointed, so fed up with it all. In short, to use of good old Scottish word, they are simply scunnert wi’ politics.

More politely, it is known as political fatigue. But, whatever name you care to use, it is a worrying development. The right to cast a secret ballot in the privacy of a polling station is one of the fundamental bulwarks of a civilised society. Achieving it has been a long, hard, and sometimes dangerous road: walking away from it is not to be taken lightly!

Failing to vote is not a habit normally associated with the Maltese. But it would be unwise to be overly complacent and assume that these islands are immune to the trend of political fatigue. Significantly, Malta’s new President, in her inaugural address, was at some pains to warn that people were increasingly becoming indifferent to politics, with young people particularly losing faith in the traditional political parties and their ability to make any difference. I welcome her intervention in this matter; I believe it is important. It is also important to recognise that, among the causes for this is that bodies like the European Parliament are too remote and lack the powers they need.

The only way the individual can improve that is by getting involved. In the words of a down-to-earth coach who years ago tried to turn me into a footballer, “Ye cannae (expletive deleted) score if ye’re no’ on the (expletive deleted) pitch.”

Main illustration: iStockphoto

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