Category Archives: UK

Independence Referendum: The Morning After

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First published here.

A win for independence in Scotland would have led to drastic changes to parliament in the UK including the short-to-medium term irrelevance of Labour

A little over half of those who went to bed last Thursday in Scotland, wondering what Friday will hold, woke up to the news that the United Kingdom will remain as it has been for 307 years and that Scotland will not break away to form an independent state. The campaign has been marred by allegations of scaremongering, increased verbosity of the establishment, heated debates on fiscal matters and devolution.

Irrespective of the outcome, it must be concluded that the Scottish referendum was a great celebration of democracy with extremely high turn-outs for voting. Estimates suggest that more than 80 per cent of those eligible to vote turned up for voting, compared to only more than 50 per cent who voted in the Scottish elections of 1999 when powers were first devolved.

The decision to hold a Scottish referendum was made in October 2012, by allowing the Scottish parliament to hold a referendum that was legally valid to confer independence. The terms of the referendum were a matter of great debate, but as George Eaton identifies here, contrary to most observers, it was Alex Salmond in his political astuteness who outmanoeuvred David Cameron – who, according to many, is reflective of a political class that was extremely complacent about the aspirations of the Scottish peoples. There are at least three factors Eaton identifies that helped Salmond outplay Cameron.

Westminster retains the constitutional authority to determine when a referendum can be held, and even though the initial date was September 2013, this date was moved to September 2014 in return for Salmond deciding to allow a one question vote, thereby winning another year’s worth of vital campaigning time for the Yes side of the debate. The second move Salmond made was in determining the wording of the referendum question. By managing to stave off pressure from the recommendation of the electoral commission to have the question read “Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?” having it read instead as “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, Salmond found a much easier way of channelling nationalist energy towards an eventual yes vote. The other vital concession Salmond managed to garner was the right for 16-17 year olds to vote in the referendum, even though voters in this age group do not vote in UK or Scottish parliamentary elections. Young voters are more inclined to vote for independence, as this YouGov poll reveals.

The complacency of the Better Together campaign, headed by Alistair Darling, was evident from the very beginning with Westminster taking for granted that Scotland would vote to remain in the UK. This notion was not without basis, as the opinion polls consistently showed that those in favour of voting No outflanked those in favour of voting yes by a double-digit margin. Then came the disastrous second debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond, where Salmond vociferously and passionately argued about the case for independence, managing to appeal to many of those who were dithering on which way to go. Even though the debate wasn’t the primary reason, it was probably the last straw on the camel’s back. The double-digit lead that the No campaign had held for so long eviscerated over a matter of weeks and panic hit the No camp when aYouGov poll on 6 September showed the Yes camp to be in the lead for the first time.

The panic that set in was probably good for the Yes camp and was just the bad news that was needed to galvanise the whole of Westminster together. All three leaders of the main parties went on a very strong door-to-door campaign, even to the extent of cancelling Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday. Further powers of devolution were promised to the Scottish parliament and last ditch attempts were made to make packages of political appeasement that would swing the momentum from the Yes, back to the No.

It is also worth mentioning here that there were many voters who, indeed, wanted to stay in the union and vote no to independence, but due to the deep involvement of the toxic establishment and their support for the No camp, many of these conscious No voters were deterred. Right-wing media organisations, the BBC, big corporations and banks all fought vehemently against independence and this galvanised many voters to look at this vote as a statement screaming of anti-establishmentarianism. It must be mentioned however, that Rupert Murdoch, that great icon of the establishment is an avid fan of Alex Salmond.

It is also important to note as Owen Jones does here, that the same establishment that put its weight behind the No campaign will, similarly, be taking part in the alleged scaremongering tactics against Ed Miliband and the Labour campaign come the General Election in 2015. Labour, which was complicit at worst and connived at best with these tactics, will have to know that some of their friends in the No campaign will be some of their worst enemies in a matter of a few months.

In all of this, one thing that is glaringly evident is the second coming of Gordon Brown. Brought up by a father who was a Church of Scotland pastor, Gordon Brown is also the author of Courage, a compilation of eight biographies of those who have shown resolve and courage during times of difficulty. Sadly for many on the left of the spectrum, Brown got lost in Tony Blair’s New Labour, and many wonder what would have become of Labour if Brown inherited John Smith’s leadership of the Labour party as he was touted to, instead of Tony Blair.

It is widely thought that this passionate speech by Gordon Brown, on the last day of campaigning tipped the undecideds (about 14 per cent at most times) in favour of voting no and that it was this momentum that helped carry the No camp along.

What would have happened if the Yes camp had won?

The No camp won, and all is well. But what may have happened if it went the other way? David Cameron had made it clear that he would not resign if Scotland decided to vote in favour of independence, and indeed he would not be constitutionally obliged to resign.

I am of the opinion that New Labour’s advent in 1997, which led to the negligence of the welfare of the working class and, therefore, the erosion of Scottish Labour – which gave rise to an otherwise emasculated Scottish National Party (SNP) in the Scottish parliamentary elections that followed – is more to blame. Those who wield the knife out to Cameron as the prime minister who potentially oversaw the end of a 307-year-old union should have a memory that stretches far beyond 2010 when he became prime minister.

If Scotland had voted in favour of independence, there would have been a Tory backbench revolt that may have culminated in Cameron resigning. This would mean that Theresa May or George Osborne would have most likely become Tory leader, unless William Hague would have been recalled as a caretaker leader to steady a wobbly Tory ship. What is less spoken of is that Scottish independence may have also ended Boris Johnson’s leadership ambitions, if not delay them. Of course, this uncertainty in the Tory camp would translate into voter discomfort and Labour would have solidified its current lead to land Ed Miliband in Downing Street.

However, if Scotland legislatively moved out of the United Kingdom in 2016, it would have nullified the mandate of Labour MPs representing Scottish constituencies. Going by the current electoral standings, Labour would lose more than 40 MPs in Scotland, whereas the Tories would lose their one MP (as the joke goes – there are more pandas in Edinburgh than there are Tory MPs in Scotland). Thus, with such a colossal haemorrhage of MPs to independence, Ed Miliband would no longer be the leader with the largest party, and parliament would have to be dissolved, and General Elections will have to be recalled. When this happens, the Tories will romp home to what most analysts believe will be a clear majority, coupled by the fact that Labour will be electorally and arithmetically much weaker without the legal recognition of Labour in Scotland. As such, Labour will be transformed into a mere ideological sister party and the Labour coffers will be much weaker than the Tory funding to refight in a general election. It must be noted that this current electoral status quo remains only due to the currently incumbent culture of hung parliaments.

The Tories would then have proceeded to change electoral boundaries to suit them and that would cast Labour into the wilderness until it found inroads back into the mainstream.

Thus, should Scotland have become independent, we may have been looking at an increasingly right-wing England in the medium to long term.

What happens now?

Scotland has however voted against independence, and the speculations made above will not come to fruition, yet. Therefore, political life in the union will go on as it has been for the last three centuries.

However, the three party leaders have to make sure they do not renege upon the promises made to give increased powers to the Scottish parliament. Tory MPs are already preparing to revolt if greater devolution packages are showered upon Scotland. In his speech on Friday, Alex Salmond referred to the fact that Scotland isn’t independent “yet”, leaving room to speculate that if Westminster breaks its promise for greater devolution in Scotland, the SNP may perhaps take the route Quebec took when there were successive referenda that plagued Canadian politics in the mid-to-late 1990s.

As a friend of mine specialising in constitutional law noted, “This may have been a defeat for secession but it was definitely a victory for self-determination,” and the Scots as a people should be proud of this.

Image from here.

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Rewind Youtube Style 2012

I have a deadline today so I can’t spend more than ten minutes on this post. I was meant to do a year end post on 2012 which I may do soon. But for now, this new video by Youtube I think may go viral.

The reason I post this however is that Jehan of Sri Lankan English fame is on it, not that I am too much of a fan of his, I am barely – but kudos to him for getting in to this, unless this is a video manipulation.  If he in this, he has been in a production featuring PSY and many others, definitely an achievement. A video well done of course highlighting many salient features of 2012, by that I mean Kony and Felix Baumgartner, though I won’t subscribe to all the visuals.

More on this later.

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Tom Watson vs Andrew Neil

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I am actually very busy these days with quite a few things to get out of the way, but this twitter exchange between Andrew Neil of the BBC and Labour MP Tom Watson caught my eye.

It started with Andrew Neil tweeting the following :

This promptly got a response from Tom with the following –

And Andrew replied –

There is a validity in what Andrew says when he questions the effectiveness of the petition, I would have thought it may have been more prudent for Labour to influence the lodging of a government e-petition than promote the petition by Hacked Off. But perhaps the reply is in the following tweet –

Of course Tom Watson’s questioning of Andrew Neil is quite sound here despite the sarcasm, it can sometimes not feature in political discussions that Neil used to be editor of the Sunday Times and was appointed by Murdoch, a post he held for more than a decade.

Then –

And then –

And then former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott joined the party –

Image from here.

And John Prescott stayed in the party,

Both Tom and Andrew seem to have since deleted their tweets, well they aren’t appearing in my browser at least.

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When Louise Mensch wished me for Eid!

Today is Eid here in the UK. After the longest days of fasting I have ever fasted for 30 days, today I celebrate Eid.
It is a bit sad that I am not celebrating Eid with family, I used to go to a park in Colombo every Eid with my family and how I miss it. Today I will be celebrating Eid with no family but with a lot of great friends, and how thankful I am that I have them.
Anyway, last night I had even more reason to be much chuffed (spiritual reasons aside), one of my favourite Tory MP’s Louise Bagshawe now Mensch (not to mention one of the prettiest) sent me a personal tweet wish for Eid!  How class is that!
I am not a Tory fan, indeed the Tories are considered much less pro-Muslim than say the Labour Party. Irrespective of faith, minorities in the UK tend to be more Labour leaning than voting for a Tory.
Oh, if it appeals to any of you Metallica fans, her husband is a Metallica person.
Above is a video of Louise, have a look at it. I am sure you will like her personality too, for a woman of forty, she looks remarkably schoolgirlish.
This is her tweet – @aufidius the co-Chairman of our party is a Muslim! hope you have a wonderful Eid”

In hindsight, this post looks very unlike me and very juvenile, but heck – I don’t do this always.
Hope you have a wonderful Eid, please do remember me in your prayers.

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Of Royal Weddings and War crimes

Last Friday was the Royal Wedding, that of Prince William and Kate Middleton of Britain. No, this is not another post about the Royal Wedding, I am sure you have had enough of it already.

Anyway, I went to Buckingham Palace with some friends on the day of the Wedding, I was not necessarily interested in the occasion, but I did go for photographic purposes. Does that qualify as having been part of the Wedding proceedings from a ‘commoner’s point of view ? yes it does, I was about 10 meters away from the balcony that the newly married couple kissed – except that they kissed in the morning and I was there with thousands of others at about six o’ clock in the evening. Still, there was a lot of pomp and pageantry, I can only imagine how it would have been in the morning.

As I said, this post is not about the Royal Wedding.

This week has been about the Royal Wedding, the blood bath in Syria, Nato attacks in Libya and the release of the UN SG Panel report on alleged War Crimes in Sri Lanka.

The War crimes allegations in Sri Lanka are serious indeed, very serious. The atrocities allegedly committed by the LTTE and the GoSL are extremely heinous and painful to fathom. Those accused if guilty must be brought to justice and penalised as deemed fit.

This post is not about war crimes in Sri Lanka either, that too has got a lot of attention.

I watched Democracy Now the other day and Johann Hari, a British Journalist who writes to the Independent was hosted on the programme.

He went on to expose such atrocious war crimes committed during the time of the British Imperial empire that it overshadows many of the war crimes that the West peeks into. (Imperial)Britain though not as nosy as the USA and with a better human rights record, has committed a significant amount of War crimes that need to be discussed if a future sans such heinous acts can even be contemplated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lived and studied in Britain for the good part of five years now, I have never had tertiary education outside Britain, and after Sri Lanka I love Britain the most, and after Sri Lankans there are no peoples in the world I love more than the British. Some of my closest friends are British, regular readers may have read this post here. This is not an emotional rant either.

But a spade has to be called a spade.

Of war crimes and atrocities, this is true – the order and instructions for war crimes come from a negligible fraction of a population at the upper end of the political hierarchy and for this, the whole nation should not be held to account.

The British people should not be held directly accountable for the war crimes committed in their name by their leaders. This applies to any people, the people of imperial powers such as America, France, Italy, or people of developing nations such as Sri Lanka or the countries in the Middle East for that matter.

One may argue that an order for a war crime to be carried out cannot come from the top without the connivance of the people that elected them. This is also true, but the instances where a whole populace disapproves of the war crimes committed by their leaders far outnumber the instances where a whole populace approves of the war crimes committed by their leaders.

Again, there is another twist. There are instances where imperial powers committed war crimes, but importantly that has almost always been against peoples of other nations. Not to suggest that this somehow dilutes the crime. But war crimes against one’s own people is a far greater crime indeed. We have seen that in history again and again, and I fear we may not have seen the last of that phenomena.

I have posted the video above where Johann Hari very eloquently discusses war crimes committed by the British Imperial empire where millions of people died, including the British instigated famine in India in the late 1800’s where more than twenty million people died. Well worth a watch.

On that sombre note, have a great week everyone!

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Muslim-friendly writers in the British media

To say Muslim-friendly is technically incorrect, as that suggests a hint of hypocrisy in that it speaks in favour of Muslims or Muslim issues by being unfair to the other side.

However, the current mainstream media dominated by the pro-Zionist Murdoch block has been so far away from neutrality and have succeeded in diminishing any sense of fairness towards either side of the divide. In almost every instance the writings are unfair in that the present the muslim case in a very condescending and negative manner or they are unfair in that they present the non-muslim case with extra emphasis.

In such a context, when I say Muslim-friendly I am referring to writers who in some of their writing take up the Muslim cause whilst not being unfair to anyone or anything concerned.

One such writer is Peter Oborne of the Daily Telegraph. This paragraph written by him taken from here is particularly resonant of his understanding.

“Muslims are fair game in British public culture. Polly Toynbee, of The Guardian, is regarded as Britain’s most politically correct columnist. “I am an Islamophobe and proud of it,” she once wrote. These sentiments were echoed by the rather less politically correct polemicist Rod Liddle: “Islamophobia: count me in.” Let’s imagine for one moment that Toynbee had written instead: “I am an anti-semite and proud of it.” She would at once have been barred from mainstream journalism because anti-semitism is rightly regarded as a noxious, evil creed. With Islam, by contrast, any insult is tolerated.”

Another writer and documentary film maker known for his balanced attitude is Robert Fisk of The Independent. He says here

“In other words, while we claim that Muslims must be good secularists when it comes to free speech–or cheap cartoons–we can worry about adherents to our own precious religion just as much. I also enjoyed the pompous claims of European statesmen that they cannot control free speech or newspapers. This is also nonsense. Had that cartoon of the Prophet shown instead a chief rabbi with a bomb-shaped hat, we would have had “anti-Semitism” screamed into our ears–and rightly so–just as we often hear the Israelis complain about anti-Semitic cartoons in Egyptian newspapers.

Furthermore, in some European nations–France is one, Germany and Austria are among the others–it is forbidden by law to deny acts of genocide. In France, for example, it is illegal to say that the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian Holocaust did not happen. So it is, in fact, impermissable to make certain statements in European nations. I’m still uncertain whether these laws attain their objectives; however much you may prescribe Holocaust denial, anti-Semites will always try to find a way round. We can hardly exercise our political restraints to prevent Holocaust deniers and then start screaming about secularism when we find that Muslims object to our provocative and insulting image of the Prophet.”

In a world where Islamophobia is deeply ingrained to the point that it is unconsciously perceived to be normalcy, these are two writers that are brave enough to challenge the status quo.

If there is anyone else you know of, please do let us know.

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