Watching “Question Time” on BBC last night, I have to say that I was disappointed in Andy Burnham who is a leading member of the Labour Party. Indeed, he might well be a future Deputy Leader or even Leader of the Labour Party.
Burnham is usually my kinda Labour guy. He may not have had a real job…spending his post Cambridge University life as a political advisor and from 2001, a Member of Parliament but the Cambridge University degree is not exactly privelege. He is the son of working class parents, his father worked for the Post Office, born in Liverpool and he is MP for Leigh….a solid Labour town in the old Lancashire mining area. He is still loyal to his South Lancashire Catholic background. He is a convincing supporter of Everton Football Club.
He is probably the most authentic and highest ranking politician from that solid Labour demographic. He has certainly made mistakes in his career but at least he is a Labour man with whom, I can identify.
And yet last night, he was making ferocious attacks on the Scottish Nationalist Party and nationalism in general. Even in the context of the Question Time programme being broadcast immediately after Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Natalie Bennett (Green Party)….note all WOMEN had basically destroyed David Cameron (COnservative), Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Burnhams Leader, Ed Miliband.
The strong performance of SNP in particular means that Labour faces near wipe-out in Scotland and Plaid Cymru can take votes, if not seats off Labour in Wales and the Green Party can do the same in England. These left-leaning parties can offer alternatives to Labour deserting their roots for Focus Group Politics. And deprive Labour of the majority it seeks.
While Burnham launches into making rarified statements about a world without borders…and a Britain without borders…and parochial politics of nationalists….he misses the point.
The point he misses is that Nicola Sturgeon is a nationalist….a SCOTTISH nationalist. He misses the point that Leanne Wood is a nationalist….a WELSH nationalist. But Andy Burnham is a nationalist ….a British nationalist.
It is a strange thing about the “British” mindset. Whether conservative or liberal minded, they feel that nobody has a right to be nationalist except of course a British nationalist. The narrative is that Scottish and Welsh nationalism is a relic from the past and not acceptable in the 21st century. British nationalism is …its supporters would claim “progressive”.
Irish? Well nobody in England gives a damn about Norn Iron. Routinely,the English unionists of three parties talk about “the success story of the United Kingdom”. Hmmm nearly 4,000 killed in Norn Iron…hundreds of British soldiers….that’s hardly the case.
While Conservative, Labour and Lib Dems lied thru their teeth to keep Scotland in the Union last year, nobody will be care about keeping Norn Iron in the Union.
The British parties fight in Scotland and Wales. They dont fight in Norn Iron because Norn Iron is toxic.
Actually not standing in Norn Iron is not strictly true. The Conservatives were linked to the Ulster Unionist Party but the link was broken as the Tories had to appear as honest brokers during the conflict. Post-Conflict attempts to revive the link have failed. There IS a rump NI Conservative Party and no doubt they will field three or four candidates in the upcoming Election and no doubt, David Cameron will make a visit to Belfast in the next few weeks. It will be a photo-opportunity but the Tories wont get 5,000 votes.
The Liberal Democrats, the wishy washy Party in Britain have a relationship of sorts with the Alliance Party. Clegg will make a visit. But curiously the only Alliance MP sits on the Opposition benches at Westminster. Even more curiously an Alliance hopeful, Paula Bradshaw for the ill-conceived UUP-Tories in 2010.
Labour….well there are a bunch of local eccentrics who call themselves Labour NI or some such and they demand that British Labour organise here. It is, they claim their right. British Labour wants little or nothing to do with them. To patronise them, they will send a junior spokesperson to the Belfast Partys so-called conference but will send the senior spokesperson to the SDLP conference.
Currently sending three MPs to Westminster, the SDLP is much more important in British Labour planning. SDLP is the franchise holder of the Party of European Socialists …and yes the SDLP is nationalist….Irish nationalist. Andy Burnham would hardly be one of those pathetic Labour MPs like Kate Hoey who want Labour to organise here.
SDLP and British Labour are “sister parties”. Labour NI is a joke.
The great problem with British unionist politicians is that they dont understand Nationalism. I think it was the novelist brother of Sinead O’Connor who said that the British cannot understand anyone not wanting to be British. Thats the great advantage that Nicola Sturgeon has.
The Westminster Establishment thought that the Scottish Nationalist Party was neutralised by granting limited Home Rule to Scotland, two decades ago. In fact they only provided SNP qith a bigger platform. They actually empowered and enabled the SNP to flourish. Likewise the unionist “victory” in the Referendum last year comes with the price tag of more concessions. Thats how Nationalism works. NIneteenth century concessions to Irish nationalism…..the policy of “killing Irish Nationalism with kindness” did not work. A fairer franchise, a fairer land rent system, universal education all made nationalists stronger.
The only winners in May will be the Scottish Nationalists. They more than anyone will hold the balance of power. A Tory Government suits SNP….the SNP need Injustice. Nobody does Injustice like the British Conservative Party. And it seems unlikely that Labour will be able to form any kind of government without a formal coalition with (maybe Lib Dems whoring themselves again) or an “arrangement” or “understanding” with SNP ….a Party that hates the “United Kingdom”.
Nicola Sturgeon knows her History. Andy Burnham hasnt a clue.