Saturday, 31 October 2015

Failing to learn the lessons of indyref

If someone could persuade me that Britain would be much worse off financially if we voted to leave the EU, I would almost certainly vote to remain. The same argument applied with regard to Scotland during the independence referendum. I was persuaded by the economic arguments, that Scotland would be worse off financially if we chose to leave the UK. But why was I persuaded and why did those same arguments fail to persuade so many Scottish independence supporters? The reason is simple. I wanted Scotland to remain in the UK, no matter what the economics said. Therefore economic arguments could “persuade” me. If on the other hand I had been convinced of the rightness of Scotland leaving the UK why would I have been deterred by mere economics? After all, most countries that have achieved independence have done so by means of some sort of struggle. Some have fought wars. Some have faced all sorts of economic difficulties and overcome them. Have any of these places been deterred by short term economics? Have they even thought about such things?

I’m fairly agnostic about the EU. There are things about it that I like and things about it that I dislike. I’m also rather uninterested. I don’t follow the goings on in the European Parliament. I couldn’t even name my MEP. I find excessive enthusiasm about the EU a turn off, but I also find excessive scepticism distasteful. There are people in the UK who have already made up their minds about which way they will vote in the EU referendum, but I’m not one of them. The same was, of course, the case in Scotland. I was never going to change my mind, but then again neither was Alex Salmond. What matters in the upcoming EU in/out campaign is those who are undecided. My guess is that there are a lot of us.

Every time someone said something negative during the indyref campaign people like me cheered. I was overjoyed when Mark Carney intervened, when George Osborne said Scotland would not be able to keep the pound, when Barack Obama said Scottish independence was a bad idea and when someone in the EU said Scotland would not get to stay. Surely this time, I thought, we will pull ahead. Surely this time we’ll convince those independence supporters of their folly. But all this bad news was preaching to the confirmed. It made me more likely to vote No, but then I was voting No anyway. It had the opposite effect on the people who were inclined to vote Yes. It made them more determined. It also turned the undecided into Yes voters and even turned some wavering No voters into Yes voters. All this negative news didn’t help the Better Together Campaign, it helped the nationalists. If there had been any more advice about the disaster that would occur if Scotland voted for independence, we would have indeed voted for it.

The same pattern is already happening with the EU campaign. Mark Carney has subtly suggested that leaving the EU would be a bad idea. The USA has said they wouldn’t trade with the UK if we left. Standard & Poor have been talking about knocking some points from our credit rating. It’s as if these people have learned nothing. The correct reaction for someone who thinks it is right for the UK to leave the EU is to say so what? We’ll manage.

It was always preposterous to suggest that Scotland could not be independent. In the past thirty years loads of countries in Europe have become independent. Some have set up their own currencies. Some have gone through various economic struggles. But if Lithuania can become independent, Scotland certainly can. I don’t think Scotland ought to become independent, because the UK is my home and I don’t want it to break up. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with my views on whether Scotland could become independent. There might be some struggles, but so what? The best argument for Scottish independence would have been, it might be tough at first but it would be worth it. If you think Scotland ought to be independent, you ought not to be deterred by trivia like economics.

The same obvious goes for the EU. It is simply preposterous to suggest that the UK could not survive outside the EU. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world. Many people predict that soon we will overtake Germany and become the fourth largest economy. For goodness sake, Iceland which has an economy ranked over one hundred places lower than ours and a population the size of Cardiff can function perfectly adequately outside the EU.

It’s perfectly legitimate in a debate for people to list pros and cons. But if someone really believes that the UK should leave the EU, the correct response to the cons is to say, fine there would be some tough times ahead, but it would be worth it. We’ve been through tough times before. No doubt we’ll survive this time too. The danger for those who are desperate to persuade the UK not to leave the EU is that their negativity will backfire. At some point when someone keeps telling you that you can’t do something, you turn around and say just watch me. This is exactly what happened in Scotland. The negative campaigning got people’s backs up. It was Better Together that turned 25% support for independence into nearly 50%. It was Better Together that destroyed the Labour party.

If I were campaigning to keep the United States together, would I talk about the economic advantages of doing so? It’s preposterous even to put the question like that. It would indeed be an economic disaster if California left the USA. There would be all sorts of unpleasant ramifications if the United States became fifty countries rather than one. But there is just no need to point out these obvious facts. Rather to keep the USA intact I just need to point out to Americans that “this land is your land, this land is my land”. I just need to point out the shared identity of Californians and New Yorkers, the shared heritage and history.   Exactly the same point applies to the UK. That was all we needed to say. It’s all we need to say now.

The difficulty for those who want the UK to stay in the EU is that they only have negative arguments. What’s more the correct response for someone who wants the UK to leave the EU is to say so what? A pro EU campaign ought not to be pointing out what dreadful things will occur if the UK votes to leave. Rather it ought to be pointing out what a wonderful thing the EU is and how much we all love it.

There was a time when it was possible to be idealistic about the EU. I once liked the idea of the EU becoming a United States of Europe. It’s possible to be idealistic about bringing down borders and creating one people out of many, one nation, democratic, free, federal and devolved. If the EU were to be a democracy like the USA with a single currency an elected president and parliament that ran those matters that were shared between the states and devolved parliaments in every state, if this were on offer, I think I’d take it. But this isn’t on offer. The UK doesn’t want to be part of such an ideal. It’s not clear anyone else does. We’ve already rejected those aspects of the EU, like the Euro and Schengen that serve to bring about “ever closer union” so we’ve already rejected the ideal. But then so has everyone else. The Germans and other rich northern countries have rejected the condition for the possibility of a currency union that it transfers money freely among all the members. EU countries are in the process of rejecting Schengen too by the simple means of putting up barbed wire fences. An iron curtain has descended across the EU, or it soon will if we're not careful.

The ideal of the EU has rather turned sour. What can I be positive about? Well we have this wonderful European Parliament that flits between Brussels and Strasbourg. We have this delightful unelected European President, Mr Juncker. I absolutely adore the European Commission. What’s not to like about the Common Agricultural Policy? Where would we be without the Common Fisheries Policy? What’s more I just love how the democratic decisions in the various member states keep being overruled. I want people who are unelected to overrule the will of the people. It gives me a warm glow inside.

The biggest problem of all however is this. I have no feeling whatsoever for the EU. I might see it as advantageous to me economically, but I have no feeling of shared identity with other Europeans. The problem is no-one else does. Every country in the EU thinks only of its own national interest. It’s for this reason that the project keeps hitting trouble. Germans won’t share with Greeks, because they are not Germans. Everyone has their own national identity and this trumps a shared identity, because the shared identity simply does not exist. Europe is a continent. But identity is not about geography. I no more feel European than I feel like a citizen of the world. Does anyone feel Earthian? Does anyone feel European?

Almost none of us feel patriotism about the EU. It’s for this reason that the Pro EU campaign will have to be negative. It has no choice. But what did we learn during indyref? A positive, patriotic Pro Scotland campaign very nearly beat a negative Pro UK campaign. There were two things that saved the Pro UK campaign. One was that there is in Scotland patriotism about Britain. The second is that the Scottish nationalists ran a negative campaign about Britain and British patriotism.  

If the Scottish nationalists had universally been polite, pleasant and positive not only about Scotland but also about Britain and being British, they might well have won. But instead far too many Scottish nationalists came across as obsessives. Far too many were rude and full of hatred. Every time a Scottish nationalist said something insulting about British history or British institutions, they hurt their own cause and helped ours. The mobs surrounding Jim Murphy or demonstrating outside the BBC were what saved the UK. I wouldn’t have voted for independence even if I had wanted it, because I would not have wanted to be associated with those who did.

The lesson is also clear with regard to the EU referendum. People like Nigel Farage are a huge turn off to most people who are undecided. Most UK voters don’t want to associate themselves with obsessives who say nasty things about immigrants. Most of us can see plusses and minuses about immigration. But above all we don’t want to be nasty about our neighbours or those we meet on the bus. The tendency of UKIP to say horrible things about the EU hurts the campaign to leave. A period of silence on the other hand would be most helpful.

The advantage that those who want to leave the EU have is that it is possible for this campaign to be positive in the same way that the Scottish independence campaign could be positive. If it accepts that leaving the EU might involve difficulties, but that with effort these could be overcome, it can use the feelings that most people have about Britain in contrast to the lack of feeling that most people have about the EU. Crucially this also depends on such a campaign being neither overly negative about the EU, nor at all negative about Europe. It is not anti-European not to want to be ruled by Brussels, just as it is not anti-North American for a Canadian not to want to be ruled from Washington. I’m sure Mr Carney would agree.

A positive Pro UK campaign could moreover be the one thing that might change things around in Scotland. The SNP like to give the impression that the UK’s voting to leave the EU makes Scottish independence more likely. Far from it. It’s the existence of the EU that makes sub-nation nationalism possible. I’m still weighing up the pros and cons about the EU, but one of the biggest pros is it makes Scottish independence far less likely.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

If we can win the emotional argument, we’ll need no other.

I keep coming across Scots from both sides who think the present dominance of the SNP is forever and that independence is inevitable. Of course the nationalists have a strategy of talking up their chances. It’s a good strategy too. But SNP optimism is no more grounded in reality than the defeatism of some Pro UK people who should be defending their country rather than helping their opponents. The truth is that we are not all caught up in a Greek play where the tragic outcome is already determined. We are free individuals and our actions determine the future. That’s why it is uncertain and impossible to predict.

There was an election in Canada last week. A couple of points are worth mentioning. Quebec separatists now poll 19%. Not very long ago they had the support of nearly 50% of the population of Quebec. They came within a whisker of winning a referendum on independence. They must have thought it was inevitable. But no. It’s people who control what happens in the future. Above all the people of Quebec have come to terms with the fact that they are going to remain a part of Canada.  Moreover they can be both Québécois and Canadians. Of course they can.

The other interesting point is that the Liberal Party in Canada did terribly in the election of 2011, but then came back to win this time. It moved from 18% to 39%. Things change and a few years is a long time in politics. So who knows who might win an election in the UK or in Scotland in a few years’ time? Who knows what unpredictable events might intervene? Labour might recover in Scotland. So too might the Lib Dems. So too might the Conservatives. We all have one seat at Westminster. But if you believe in your party, campaign for it. Perhaps few others do right now, but that doesn’t matter. Things change.

I’ve recently come out in support of the Conservatives. But that doesn’t mean I’m hostile to Pro UK people in Scotland who disagree. Moreover even when we campaign for different parties, we can still all and always campaign for the UK. But to change things around we need a bit of a rethink. We need to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the Pro UK position. We need to do the same for our opponent.

The Pro UK side is very strong on economics. The case we all made during the referendum was clear and had reason behind it. The argument that Scotland was economically better off in the UK was overwhelming. That argument has become stronger since. From the perspective of rational self-interest no-one would vote for the SNP. Why are they doing so well then? The reason is obvious. While the SNP’s argument is weak in terms of the rational, it is massively strong in terms of the emotional. Most people make decisions not by coldly calculating self-interest. Rather to be human is to be swayed by emotion. Patriotism is a very powerful emotion. It isn’t in my rational self-interest to join the army and fight in a war. But we know from history that frequently an appeal to patriotic emotion can overcome this. When my heart says one thing I frequently will ignore what my head is saying, or rather find facts that support my heart. It is for this reason above all that so many nationalists object to anything in the “Mainstream media” that contradicts what their heart is saying. It is for this reason that they seek out alternative sources of information and alternative facts.  These facts may have soared so high that they've taken wing from reality, but everyone likes to confirm their beliefs rather than contradict them. It's only when the wings get too close to the sun, that we find out what they are made of. 

It is, of course, worth making economic arguments.  But we made the case so forcefully that it actually hurt our position. The nationalist head ignored our argument, or rather preferred an alternative which confirmed what his heart was feeling. But at the same time, the relentless economic arguments offended the nationalist heart. Every time one of us wrote something about how awful Scotland would be if we became independent, it got the nationalist backs up. We’ll show them, they said. Much of what we wrote was dishonest anyway. I don’t oppose independence because I think Scotland would be poorer. I would oppose it even if I thought it would be richer. The reason for this is that I think Scotland is an integral part of the UK. So why give economic arguments when they are not the reason for my support of the UK? Economics is contingent. In the seventies Scotland may have been better off financially with independence. Who knows what the future would bring? In any event Scotland could prosper as an independent country. But that is not the point. So too could California, or Bavaria.

So cease making relentlessly negative economic arguments. They don’t help the Pro UK position, they hurt it. The same goes for all the other negativity. We should never have said you can’t keep the pound. We should never have said the EU won’t let you in. All we needed to say is that these matters are uncertain. They are. Uncertainty is our friend, like a cheap forties horror flick that can’t afford to pay for the monster’s costume, but instead shows only shadows.

Where the nationalists are strong is on patriotism. The problem we have is that patriotism trumps everything else. They have succeeded in connecting Scottish patriotism with Scottish nationalism. Scottish nationalism is the desire for independence. But huge numbers of patriotic Scots now think that in order to be patriotic they have to support the SNP. Patriotism as a force will crush nearly anything in its path. It will certainly crush the idea that we are better together, or that we might be a bit poorer for a while in the future. It was patriotism that crushed Labour in Scotland. No other force could have done so.  It is for this reason also that the SNP are covered in Teflon. If they are the patriotic party, what does a nationalist care how they run the country? The answer is they don’t. They will keep voting for them, for they think it is patriotic to vote for independence and therefore patriotic to vote for the SNP. 
As I’ve said before. The SNP has only got one argument for independence, but it is a very good one:

Scotland is a country,
Countries ought to be independent,
Therefore Scotland ought to be independent.

Time and again I come across nationalists who implicitly make this argument. It’s worth remembering that such arguments are inevitably rather circular. What is contained in the premise implicitly will come out in the conclusion. But the point of analysing such an argument is that it can bring clarity to the meaning of the words we use.

The Pro UK person is left with a choice. Either we deny that Scotland is a country, or we deny that countries ought to be independent. The first is not very promising because everyone in Scotland thinks Scotland is a country. I frequently argue that Scotland is only called a country. What this amounts to is that Scotland was a country, until 1707 or perhaps 1603. I think this may well be the truth, but again I will have a problem convincing a patriotic Scot who fervently believes that Scotland is a country. It is for this reason that they frequently react with such fury to my logic.

Most Pro UK Scots would, I suspect, reject challenging the first premise. After all isn’t this why Pro UK Scots continue to support the Scottish rugby or football teams? They must think that Scotland is a country, that’s why they support the team, but that we ought not to be independent, for which reason they voted no. But do they really think that countries ought not to be independent? What about France, or Japan? Is it merely that although they think countries ought to be independent, they ought not to be so if it would make me personally poorer. If that is the nature of your argument it is very thin gruel indeed.

But I don’t think this need be the nature of the argument. There are after all in the world such things as multi-nation nations. There are rather a lot of these. They include Russia, the UK and Canada. What this means is that someone can support two or more nations existing at the same time. I can then support both Scotland and the UK and can describe them both as my country. The difference between this position and the position that Scotland is only called a country is very small indeed. But perhaps this position is more persuasive. As multi-nation nations exist it is perfectly possible to argue that Scotland is not merely called a country, but is in fact a country.

Some nationalists maintain that the UK is not a country, but rather some sort of construct. This puts them into an unfortunate position for two reasons. Firstly it denies that all sorts of places like China and India are countries. You try telling that to the Chinese. Secondly if the UK is not a country, then by definition Scotland is already independent. Why then campaign for something that you already have?

The crucial point however, is that the existence of a multi-nation nation is incompatible with the independence of its parts.  If all the parts of a multi-nation nation became independent the whole would, of course, cease to exist. It is therefore logical for me to argue that not all countries ought to be independent, namely those which are parts of a whole. There is nothing inconsistent with someone from Quebec, being both patriotic about Quebec and about Canada. Far from being consistent, this way of feeling is common all over the world.

It is this that Pro UK people need to work on. We already have Scottish patriotism. There is a temptation to get into a competition with the SNP over who is most Scottish. But this is to battle on ground on which they are strong and we are weak. Rather we must change the nature of the battle. Our task over the next few years is to point out the truth that there is nothing incompatible about being patriotic about Scotland and wanting the UK to continue. On this ground the nationalists are very weak indeed. Each of us in fact is a British citizen. No matter how much a Scottish nationalist denies this fact it nevertheless is true. But it is odd indeed not to feel something that you are. If I am cold, it is strange indeed to say I don’t feel cold. Likewise if I am British it is strange indeed to say I don’t feel it.  

There is a tendency in Scotland to deny our Britishness. Which of us has not at some point or other corrected someone who has called us British? I'm Scottish we maintain, even if we voted No. Well at some point we have to hear the cockerel crowing. That point is now. We must be comfortable with our dual identity. We must live it each and every day. Don’t think of our compatriots as somehow different. Don’t think of Scotland as something separate. Think and act as a person with two identities. Sure we have our own laws in Scotland, sure we have our own bank notes and our own football teams, but that is not a reason to break up our multi-nation nation it is an expression of it.

All over the world there are countries that are able to express difference within a whole. If they were all to break up into their various linguistic and ethnic groups there would be chaos. Quebec has got over its bout of nationalism and has settled down into being a part of Canada. People there can express their difference as well as their similarity. We in Scotland are far more similar to our neighbours than a French speaking person from Montreal and an English speaking person from Vancouver. Far less separates us in terms of language and in terms of distance. The nationalists in Scotland will continue to deny that they are British. Their movement is not founded on truth therefore and so will in time topple. We can bring that day nearer by expressing both the fact that we are Scottish and that we are British. But please put a little feeling into it. That is what our campaign has lacked for too long. If we can win the emotional argument, we’ll need no other.  

Sunday, 18 October 2015

In Scotland we admire the things that don’t work

One of the odd things about political discussion in Scotland is our attitude to the EU. During the Referendum it was accepted by both sides that it would be some sort of disaster if an independent Scotland were not to retain membership of the EU. There was therefore lots of speculation as to how or when or on what terms Scotland would be a part of the EU. The underlying assumption was that being part of the EU was obviously a good thing and indeed that the EU itself was clearly wonderful. Contrast this with Scottish political attitudes to the UK. SNP supporters are clearly hostile to the UK. They want to break it up. While even many No voters are at best lukewarm about the country in which we live. They may accept the benefits of the UK, but often do so rather grudgingly. There’s little actual positive feeling for Britain.

Contrast the reality however. I recently got back from a trip to Spain. I usually go to a small town on the north coast of Tenerife. This town is beginning to die. Everywhere there are signs on homes or former businesses that say “Se Alquila” [for rent] or “Se Vende” [for sale]. This town used to be popular with Germans and there were loads of German bars and restaurants. But many are now being sold. There is a market twice a week where people turn up to sell what they can. Some of what people try to sell can only be described as rubbish. People are desperate to sell a video from the 1980s for one Euro or some children’s toys that nearly everyone in Scotland would simply put in the bin. I contrasted this with my local Red Cross shop in Scotland which is given almost brand new clothing. There are still a lot of tourists like me who go to Tenerife. It’s warm in the winter. But it’s obvious from the beggars on the street and the general look of dilapidation that even this relatively wealthy part of Spain is struggling badly. It sometimes feels like one more step down and they’ll be in the Third World. I haven’t been to mainland Spain for a while, but I imagine off the tourist route it is still worse. Greece, of course, is in a much worse position than Spain.

The EU for quite a long time worked well for Spain, but it is obvious now that it is harming the Spanish people very badly.  The only real benefit they are getting from membership is the right to live and work in a country like the UK that has the jobs that they do not. Why is Spain being harmed by the EU? The answer is obvious.  The Euro is acting like some sort of depression machine and is preventing countries like Spain from recovering. Spain desperately needs to devalue in relation to countries like Germany. But of course it can’t so long as it remains in the Euro.

As an ideal I can see the attractions of a United States of Europe with a single currency and a fully democratic system of government with each member state having federal membership. Bringing down international borders is fine as an ideal. However, it has consequences, which when spelled out few of us would choose.  But whatever the ideals, it has to be recognised that the EU at the moment simply is not working. It’s working well enough for Britain and to a lesser extent for northern European countries like Germany and Denmark. But it is creating economic catastrophe in countries like Spain and Greece.

There are lots of positives about EU membership. Access to the EU single market is vital to the UK’s economy as is the fact that EU citizens can freely travel and work here. People from places like Poland who fill our job vacancies create economic growth in the UK rather than in Poland. The UK has an aging population and we desperately need these people. The downside is not for us, but rather for Poland. Older people living in a Polish village in the countryside where there are no longer any young people may not be quite so positive about this exodus.

The trouble with the EU is that all of the things that I like about it were already there when we joined. A group of European nations working together to achieve free trade is a great idea. But why didn’t we just stop there? Why for the last twenty or thirty years have we been turning what was a good idea into an economic nightmare. It’s the continual attempt to create “ever closer union” that is causing such harm, not least because the logic of this is not followed through. If the EU is on the road to becoming a United States of Europe, then it has to start treating everyone as countrymen rather than as foreigners. If that were the case the Eurozone crisis would be solved in an instant. Germans would transfer money to Greece in the same way that they transfer money between Munich and Dresden. But we’ve learned that Germans and other northern Europeans do not view the matter in this way. It is this above all that makes the Eurozone the worst of all worlds.

No-one in the United States would accept that there could be a higher court than the Supreme Court. It is a fundamental part of democracy that ‘we the people’ have the power by means of democracy to change laws that are unpopular. What I find strange is that we in Scotland have an endless debate about sovereignty, while apparently being indifferent to the fact that unelected bureaucrats and judges already control so much of our lives. Human rights must be underpinned by democracy. The debate about independence in Scotland suggests that people care about sovereignty. But then it is time to reflect on what the EU at present is doing to the sovereignty of a country like Greece. I didn’t see much sovereignty being exercised there during the recent crisis, nor much independence. It is simply perverse for people in Scotland to be so desperate for all decisions to be made in Edinburgh, while being indifferent to the fact that most of them are already made in Brussels. No-one suggests that in order to be a good Asian, Japan has to be ruled by Beijing and form an ever closer union with North Korea et al. Why then in order to be a good European must our island be ruled from Belgium or rather Berlin?

What’s peculiar is that attitudes in Scotland simply do not reflect the reality. But then this has become the pattern of Scottish politics lately. The EU which is becoming more and more dysfunctional is universally supported, while the UK which is one of the few EU member states to have actually recovered from the crisis in 2008 is disliked by large sections of the population.

The problem in part is that the UK which worked well for centuries has been destabilised politically by lopsided devolution. It is this above all that has created the conditions where nationalism has grown in Scotland and where Scots have begun to feel ever more that they don’t live in the same country as people elsewhere in Britain. At the same time the condition for the possibility of nationalist independence movements in the EU is the existence of the EU. The EU which was supposed to erase nationalism from Europe instead fuels it. The reason for this is that if both Spain and Catalonia are in the EU, Catalan nationalists can argue that Catalan independence does not radically alter the rights of Catalans in  relation to Spain. After all, even Finns have much the same rights in Madrid as Spaniards. The same, of course, applies to Scotland. Far from Brexit leading inevitably to an independence referendum, it in fact makes such a referendum impossible. 

Why is it that Scotland is better off than so many other parts of Europe? It is in part because, despite the advice of Alex Salmond, the UK stayed out of the Eurozone. But it is more than that. The UK at present is acting like an offshore USA. We are attracting poor people from all over the Europe and the world, because we have a system of business and economics which makes us prosperous. This system is the very one that vast numbers of Scots would like to overthrow. Overthrowing it is the motive for many of those who want independence. It’s because Britain has a relatively free market that businesses are able to create the jobs for the rest of the world to do. The consensus in Scotland is the opposite. The one thing that makes us a prosperous part of the UK is the one thing the majority of politicians in Scotland look on with distrust. Free market capitalism is what makes poor people richer, but politicians in Scotland always think the state knows better. Most Scots agree. 

The SNP and indeed the whole of the Scottish left is the one thing that is preventing Scotland from arriving at the condition for the possibility of independence, which is that Scotland more or less breaks even. So long as the SNP remain in power we will under-perform in relation to the other parts of the UK, because we reject the free market solutions to the problems of education, health and welfare that might actually bring more prosperity to Scotland. The biggest hindrance to independence turns out to be the SNP. 

People voted for independence because they hoped for the Scottish government to share more of Scotland’s oil wealth. They hoped that the Scottish government would raise other people’s taxes in order to pay them more. Now the oil looks more like a liability. It will cost more to decommission the rigs than we’ll earn from now on. But nothing changes. Instead of realising that our path to prosperity is making the UK work better, we strive for ever more power to make it work less well. The thing that makes us prosper we reject, hoping beyond hope to turn our country away from capitalism so we can look on smugly as the English engage sordidly in trade. We admire what does not work, whether it’s the EU or state socialism, while we can’t stand what does work such as the UK and free market economics. It’s almost as if whatever the English do we have to do the opposite. Well that might make us feel unco Scottish, but it’s unlikely to make us unco successful. 


Saturday, 17 October 2015

Capitalism with a human face

I spend a lot of time criticising nationalism and the SNP. This is primarily because of experience. I’ve seen the power of nationalism in Eastern Europe. It destroys lives and divides people. I’ve also experienced a government that tried to impose socialism on a human nature that opposes the attempt. I can assure you first hand that it leads to poverty and a loss of freedom. It would lead to that here too. But it’s all very well constantly criticising. Some of the more reasonable people I discuss these sorts of issues with quite rightly ask me what I am for? Well I can answer them. I want Capitalism with a human face.

I voted for New Labour in 1997. It’s rather hard to get across to younger people what that moment felt like. Tony Blair has an absolutely terrible reputation. His interventions over the summer didn’t go down at all well. The New Labour candidate (Liz Kendall) got 4% of the vote in the leadership election. Yet New Labour won three elections in a row. An awful lot more of the British people voted for New Labour than 4%.

What did we like about New Labour? We liked that we weren’t going to get the seventies all over again. We weren’t going to get the “Winter of Discontent” that had so damaged Old Labour’s reputation. We liked that over a period of many years under leaders like Neil Kinnock and John Smith, Labour had reformed. We liked that Labour had ceased to be a socialist party and had become Capitalism with a human face.

The vast majority of UK voters are capitalists. We accept free markets are the best way to obtain growth. We accept inequality of outcome so long as there is equality of opportunity. But we don’t want ‘tooth and claw’ capitalism even if it would make us richer. We want universal free healthcare. Personally I’m not bothered about the method by which this is achieved, but I never want a UK citizen to be denied treatment because he can’t afford it. We want a welfare state. All of us have known people down on their luck and many of us have experienced that position ourselves. We don’t want someone who is struggling to be cast to the four winds. We want to have a degree of security in work, so we want workers to have rights as well as responsibilities. We want to have the right to paid holidays and to continue to be paid when we are sick. We nearly all of us like to get some things for free, or rather to be paid for by the tax payer.

What we want is the Holy Grail of British politics. We want the Government to run the economy successfully so that it grows over the long term, but we want them to use that economy to make everyone’s life more pleasant. This can be described as being fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. Another way of describing it is Capitalism with a human face.

The New Labour project failed. There’s no point going into the reasons. Perhaps the problem in the end was that the ordinary members of the Labour party just didn’t have their heart in it. They didn’t want Capitalism with a human face, they wanted socialism.  That’s why all those long years of reform have in the end come to naught and we’ve gone back to 1983 or is it 1917? The idea of New Labour being a new danger may not have applied to Blair himself. I don’t believe that his eyes were really red. But socialism never went away from Labour. It was there in the hearts of all too many MPs and supporters who waited through the dark years for their moment to come.  That moment is now.

New Labour didn’t work out and it isn’t coming back any time soon. The membership doesn’t want it. But the British people still do. The party that best presents the Holy Grail of British politics, sound finance with compassion will win and keep on winning. Where does someone who voted New Labour go now? Well you can still vote for Capitalism with a human face. Will you find that with Corbyn’s Labour party? No. Will you find it with the SNP? No. But why is that?

Imagine I used my savings (capital) to start a sweet shop. My aim would be to provide a service and to bring some happiness into the world, but I would also aim to make a profit. Not to make a profit is not to be a capitalist at all. A country is not a sweet shop, but a country that continues to make a loss is not going to be prosperous long term. The British people want prosperity, because it increases the standard of living of all of us and it allows us to spend some of this profit on the things we like such as healthcare and the welfare state. Not to make a profit is long term not to be able to provide those services.

What do capitalists do when they are making a loss? They try to increase profits and cut down on expenses.  They try to run their business more efficiently. Which party in the UK at present is trying to do this? The Conservatives. The method by which they are doing it is to very gradually try to make the UK make a profit (cutting the deficit) and then very gradually to pay back our debts. They are doing this because they are capitalists and that is how any capitalist would behave. Both the Labour party and the SNP at present oppose these measures. They oppose austerity. But anyone who opposes austerity, by definition doesn’t want the UK to make a profit at all. So they can hardly be described as capitalists at all, let alone capitalists with a human face.

Cutting expenditure is tough, but not cutting it is tougher still. If you disagree with this you really ought to visit somewhere like Greece. When a government tries to make a country live within its means hard choices must be made. Unfortunately any policy that applies to 64 million people will give rise to situations that are very difficult for some. But the correctness of a policy cannot be judged by isolated examples. Rather we must consider whether the policy generally is having a good outcome for the country as a whole. 

No capitalist country can continue to see the solution as raising taxes ever higher. If you raise the taxes that my sweet shop must pay beyond a certain point I can hardly expect to be able to make a profit. At some point I will vote with my feet and go to somewhere where I can. Again if you disagree you are simply not a capitalist at all.

Rather than try to reform human nature through re-education, capitalists accept human nature as it is. What that means is that we accept that people respond to incentives and disincentives. Britain would be a much healthier and happier country if all those who could work did so. But all of us have the temptation to prefer idleness. How many of us would continue to get up and go to work if we didn’t have to? The incentive to do so is usually called ‘wages’, the disincentive to leaving work is that I would be poor.  But this situation also benefits millions of us in the following way. Even if work is sometimes a chore, working makes our lives more fulfilled. It is therefore kind for a government to encourage people to live fulfilled lives. It is good for a government to discourage people to live without work. Moreover, as more and more people find work in a UK which is creating jobs at a miraculous rate, we will be able to be more generous to those who are identified as really being unable to work. Again if you don’t believe in incentives and disincentives, you can hardly describe yourself as a capitalist at all, because that is how capitalism works.

Imagine if the UK could get to a position where there was no debt at all. Imagine the money we would save on interest payments alone. This is a prize worth having. It is a goal worth reaching. But only one party is even trying to get us there. It’s not Labour and it’s not the SNP.

Lots of New Labour people are on a journey back to Capitalism with a human face. It will take time for them to realise where their journey is leading. Why? Because of prejudice and tribal hatred of a word and the memory of a lady who haunted their childhood. I’ve been reading certain New Labour journalists who in their youth hated Tories, but who now can no longer hate them. The reason for this is that they agree with them. They are far closer to the politics of David Cameron than to the politics of Jeremy Corbyn. Only prejudice stops them making the next step. But isn’t the left all about trying to abolish prejudice? Well there is one prejudice left in Scotland especially that is allowed and even encouraged. It’s OK to hate Tories, because they are Tories. There's a word for a hating someone for what he is. It's not a very nice word.   

New Labour voters are correctly called “Red Tories”, so really it’s a small step to becoming a blue one. If you believe in Capitalism with a human face that’s what you are.

The battleground of British politics over the next few years is back to be a debate between capitalists and socialists. In Scotland the SNP is full of socialists. They despair of ever bringing socialism to the UK, but they think they can bring it to Scotland. It is for this reason primarily that they support independence. New Labour voters in other parts of the UK are going to desert Labour in droves for the simple reason that they want Capitalism with a human face not socialism. With a gradually improving economy the Conservatives have the argument to win, not only in the UK as a whole, but also in Scotland. The vast majority of Scots also want Capitalism with a human face. They are not going to get it from Corbyn and they are not going to get it from the SNP. It is for this reason that all of us who think breaking up a successful capitalist country in order to live in an unsuccessful socialist one must join forces. Socialism does indeed make you “too wee, too poor and too stupid”. The SNP is the anti-Tory party, but that equally makes them the anti-capitalist party and indeed the anti-prosperity party.

Capitalism with a human face is the argument that can defeat nationalism in Scotland. There is one thing that hinders it. It’s the word “Tory”. Scotland isn’t in reality 88% left wing we just think we are. But it is this that creates the division between England and Scotland, because in England most people are happy to admit what they are and be that. We can never heal the division in the UK until people in Scotland get over their hatred of Tories. It drives voters into the SNP. The folly is that the huge numbers of SNP voters are also Capitalists with a human face, ex New Labour voters who would find their natural home with the modern Conservative party. Nearly all of us in the centre ground of UK politics want the same thing. It’s time to vote for a party that agrees with you.  There’s only one remaining, which has any chance of winning. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Do we want borders?

It’s perfectly possible to imagine an EU without borders. It’s even just about possible to imagine a world without borders. But do we want it? Many people like to give the impression that this is indeed what they want. Strangely some of the people are precisely the same as those who are campaigning to erect an international border between Berwick and Gretna. But it is very easy to signal how virtuous you are by offering your cloak if you don’t actually have a cloak. It’s very easy to say I would offer my home, if you know that no-one would actually come and anyway you didn’t really intend to offer it. It’s also very easy to shout down those who follow through the logic of a position and try to come up with practical solutions to difficult problems in the world. But that is the difference between gesture politics and real power and influence in the world.

The EU is apparently moving towards ever closer union and to bringing down borders. But the two main means of bringing about these goals (the Euro and Schengen) are failing. They are being tested to destruction at the moment because they are coming up against an immovable object. Ideals are wonderful things. Which of us has not idly thought sometimes ‘wouldn’t it be great if …’. But the thing that always prevents Utopia is the same, whether it is socialism, a world without borders, or indeed building the Tower of Babel. The immovable object is human nature. Your human nature, my human nature everyone’s human nature, which in the end finds a limit to showing how virtuous we are. Some of us try to hide this fact by calling others names. Some of us try to close down debate in order to stop people thinking for themselves. But it doesn’t matter. Utopian experiments don’t lead to Utopia, they lead to Dystopia. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you take a break from showing how virtuous you are in order to read one or two history books.

The Euro is failing for the fundamental reason that Germans are unwilling to transfer vast sums of money to Greeks. The Euro needs a transfer union, but in order to have one everyone would have to think of the Eurozone as being a place without borders, just like, for example, the Poundzone. But this is not how human nature in Germany sees the situation. It would be hugely unpopular if a German government announced that it would transfer money to Greece et al. without limit. Why is this? The reason is that Germans think there is a border between Greece and Germany, indeed many borders.

At the time of the last Eurozone crisis the Germans may have appeared mean to the rest of the world, but the policy of not sharing with the Greeks was hugely popular in Germany. We in Scotland may have felt virtuous in comparison, but of course Scottish nationalism was founded on the idea that we would not share our wealth with the English, on the fact that there ought to be an international border between these two places that at present lack one.

Human nature is strange however. Mrs Merkel was unwilling to share wealth with Greeks in July, because there was a border, but because she felt mean about this she, later in the summer, declared that Germany in fact didn’t have a border at all. She was desperate to show how virtuous she was after her spat of meanness. She was desperate to take off the Pickelhaube of the Iron Chancellor and exchange it for something less prickly and more soft. But strangely and rather contradictorily she still thinks there are multiple borders between Germany and Greece even if there are none between Germany and Syria. This may be the sort of thing that might make you a contender for winning the Nobel peace prize, but it won’t win the Nobel prize for logic.

Anyone who has a reason to claim asylum and who can reach Germany will get to stay. Faced with a crisis, faced with human suffering why shouldn’t we simply open our doors and let all come who wish to do so? But there was suffering in Greece too. Perhaps not on the same scale, but there is extreme poverty, there are suicides. Why if we are willing to allow suffering people to come without limit are we unwilling to transfer money?

But let’s reflect on the consequences of our being virtuous and follow through the logic of our goodness. Only in this way can we discover what we actually want. What we really, really want. Is there a limit to how much we wish to show how nice and good we are, because the difficulty we will then face is that there isn’t a limit to the number of people who would like to benefit from our displays of virtue. The number of people in the world who can justly claim to have a well-founded fear of persecution is practically speaking boundless. In a world without borders, which helped according to need, every rich part of the world would have a duty of care to tens of millions. How many would come to escape persecution if we decided that the EU and other wealthy regions had no external borders and anyone with a just claim could come? Well so, what? What do numbers matter when we are faced with suffering and something must be done. There is a certain justice in bringing down borders. Why don’t we do it everywhere? We are, after all, the same. We are all just people. Why not treat everyone in the world equally. Why indeed limit our duty of care to those who suffer persecution? A person living in extreme poverty is equally liable to suffer. Such a person may have a life limited by disease or hunger. Why limit our generosity. Let us open our borders to all come what may. Do you feel virtuous yet? It’s a good feeling isn’t it?

Imagine someone in a poor country earning a dollar a day with no benefits and no healthcare. If the rich world shared, we could all be equal. Isn’t this the goal of the EU? After all the anthem ends “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” [every man becomes a brother]. Is this poor, suffering person not my brother? To fail to treat him as if he is rather suggests that I don’t think he is a person at all. But everyone who lives in the world is a person.

But how practically speaking could we bring about this brotherhood of man? Well we could do so in the following way. We could tax average UK earnings so that half of everything we earned went to the poor person earning a dollar a day. If someone earning say £25,000 pounds gave away half, they would still have quite a lot and the man in the poor country earning a dollar a day would have the same. This sounds fair. It would also have the consequence of bringing about  true equality. Imagine how good we would feel if we made this gesture.  Why don’t we all contact the Government to insist that we each want to give away half of our money to the poor whether they are in the UK or elsewhere. Well, why don’t we? In fact nothing is stopping you from doing so today. Why wait for a government when you can act individually? But now it’s no longer a gesture is it? This would have real world consequences for each and every one of us. Think for a second. Do you really want this?

The same consequences would, of course, also occur if we allowed unlimited migration either because people were poor or because they feared persecution. The number of such people who can justly claim our help is without limit. It amounts to the population of every country run by a tyrant. All of these people justly fear persecution. Why should we not help them all? Moreover why limit our help to those who reach our shores. Why not pay their plane fairs, or indeed send transport planes to bring them here? If instead of using our defence budget to fight and prepare for war, we used it to transport the poor and persecuted to Britain, think how much suffering we could alleviate. We could increase migration ten or twenty fold. But do we really want this?

I wrote recently about the imaginary situation of five million English people moving to Scotland. It was a sort of joke, a sort of trap. I wanted to see how Scottish nationalists might react. The result was illuminating. I was accused of all sorts of things including advocating cultural genocide. OK, then let’s keep out the English, but allow five million people with a well-founded fear of persecution. Scotland could easily find room for an extra five million people. We have lots of room. What’s more we are wealthy enough to share, and nearly all of us vote for political parties that say we have a duty to share. Well let’s do it then.  

What would be the consequences if Scotland displayed our virtue to the rest of the world and made this unilateral declaration of brotherhood? There would be linguistic, cultural, political and economic consequences. It’s not clear who these people might vote for. Moreover, if, for instance, the majority of the population of the Highlands ceased to speak English as their first language, they might decide that they wanted to secede from those who did. They would, of course have the right to do so, wouldn’t they? But in the meantime, the most immediate consequence of removing Scotland’s border with the outside world would be that we would all have to share our wealth with those who have newly arrived. We would have to take the same pay cut that I imagined earlier in order to bring about the equal Scotland that we are all dreaming of. Someone arriving here with nothing can only become equal with me if we meet in the middle. That is if I give him half. There would be less public spending for all Scots as we would have to share it with the new Scots who have just arrived. But we'd all be equal and would all feel equally virtuous.

I propose setting up a political party to challenge at the next election. It will be called the “I will give away half my income party” or the Equality party for short. I will propose unlimited aid for the poorest around the world and in the UK and I will propose unlimited migration. How many votes do you think I will win?

It will turn out I suspect that there will be a limit to our virtue. There may not be a limit to how some people like to feel good about themselves by making empty gestures, but the reality is that nearly all of us want borders.  But what is a border? A border is something that limits. It has real world consequences. A border is the limit of a nation state. Without borders there would be no nations at all. Even if a border is unmanned it has real world consequences. A nation state relates to all other nation states with self-interest, while it relates to the citizens within the nation state with duty.  It is for this reason that Germany transfers money within Germany without limit, while it has no such duty to Greeks. A country is not so much a place as a collection of people to whom I have a special duty and responsibility.  This is the consequence of erecting an international border, even if it is unmanned. You cease to be part of the family and instead become a citizen of a foreign land just like any other foreign land. You may not notice a border, but it is there.

What this means practically is that while most sensible people are happy that people from elsewhere come to live here, we set a limit. Not to set a limit is not to have a border at all. But where do we set the limit? Unfortunately you can’t set it by need. There are literally hundreds of millions who need our help. They each have as good a claim as each other. Unfortunately we must limit even those who can justly claim asylum. Why? Well if we didn’t we could easily double the population of Scotland tomorrow. Again, shall I try to set up the “I want to double the population of Scotland party?” How many votes would I get?

What this means is that we have to maintain a border. If we don’t someone else will. The second means by which the EU wants to progress towards European unity (Schengen) is failing because of the failure of Germany to maintain a border. Border free travel within the EU has begun to collapse, because one border was perceived to be without limit. If Germans bring down their border, Hungarians will re-erect theirs.

We feel sad about people who are in trouble, we try to help them, but I’m afraid it is contrary to human nature to open our borders completely. Why should there be countries at all, rather than one world without distinction. Why don’t we all speak the same language, have the same culture, the same God? Perhaps it goes back to when we were living in caves. We defended our patch of land against our neighbours. We grouped together with those who seemed similar. It would be better if we did not act in this way. It would be better if we simply had our common humanity. But if that were so, we would not have countries at all.

A country is a place where people are broadly similar. They probably speak the same language, share a history and have similar attitudes. People, of course, can move between countries. The UK is a nation that benefits from immigration. I am personally grateful for this as my husband is an immigrant. I have been an immigrant too. But the crucial point is this. Even someone whose parents came from elsewhere must realise that we must set a limit. I don’t have an answer to what that limit should be. If it were one million a year, we would increase the population of the UK by ten million in ten years. If the limit were one hundred thousand a year, we would still increase the population by one million in ten years. There needs to be a sensible debate without mudslinging and without name calling and most certainly without people trying to show how virtuous they are. They are not virtuous. For the most part they are hypocrites who fail to follow through the logic of their "virtue".

We can and should help. We must allow people to share our country. But there is a limit and that means maintaining a border and also it means rejecting some of those who desperately need our help. This is awful, but it is also true. If you don’t agree with me then by all means campaign for a world without borders, but accept the consequences of doing so. But above all if you don’t want borders, don’t campaign for one between England and Scotland.  That is to make your gesture politics look simply ridiculous.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Come on in the water’s lovely

What’s the difference between a moderate Labour Party MP, a Lib Dem and a moderate Conservative? Not much. I agree with David Cameron on most things, but I also agree with Danny Alexander and Liz Kendall. This similarity is often used by Scottish nationalists as a stick with which to beat their opponents. They are all red, orange or blue Tories.  Far too many people in Scotland use the term “Tory” as a term of abuse. It’s used as a way of expressing prejudice. It’s used with hatred, by those who should know better. It’s deliberately used in this way to discourage people from supporting a party they agree with. It’s used, in fact, as if the accent were from the Mississippi rather than Scotland and the word began with “N” rather than “T”. Think twice before you once more use a word in such a way.

But is the fact that moderate politicians agree on most things such a terrible thing? Do I mind that I can well imagine a cabinet meeting functioning well with moderate Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives? Far from minding I’m grateful that many politicians in the UK are still moderate, because too many have gone to the extremes of nationalism (SNP), socialism (Corbynistas) and populism (UKIP). I want none of these things. The world does not need extreme solutions. By the way, breaking up the UK is about as an extreme a policy any political party could put forward. Can you think of another policy that would bring about more change to our lives? Something that brings about the most change is by definition extreme. I have seen what nationalism did to Eastern Europe. I have seen how socialism makes the poorest poorer. If you don’t believe me, compare living standards of the poorest in Eastern Europe with Scotland. I have seen how populism leads to a people preferring a strong leader to democracy. Save us from extremes.

Sensible modern political parties ought to agree on much. This reflects the fact that in a globalised economy there is only a certain amount of room for manoeuvre. The UK economy is part of a whole and that whole is usually called free market capitalism. To deviate too far from the rules of the market, puts you out of the whole, indeed it puts you out of the western world. Call us Tories if you will, but you’re really calling the whole of the West Tories.

Everyone in the centre, whether it’s the centre left or the centre right believes in capitalism or the fact that more or less free markets are the way the world’s economy works. We agree that this is the way to obtain growth and prosperity. Everyone in the centre also believes that government has a duty to try to help the poorest in the UK. There are some sensible disagreements about the ways to do this. Some would like rather higher public spending, some would like rather lower. This is the room for manoeuvre. But ideologically this is only a matter of degree. That ideology is fundamentally Tory. If you disagree with it, then you are not a Tory, but you’ve also just gone East to dwell in the Land of Nod. You’ve also just left the mainstream, there to find solace in populism, socialism, nationalism, or indeed all three.

UK politics has changed however recently. The Labour party has elected someone who does not believe in free markets. His goal is not to make capitalism work better, but rather to propose an alternative system of economics. Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist.  I could never vote for socialism. I’ve seen what socialist ideas can do to a country. I’ve heard stories from relatives whose parents and grandparents were sent to the gulag because of socialism and because they had the wrong name. There is a difference in means between Lenin and Corbyn, but not really a difference of aims. If he could introduce true socialism into Britain, he would do so. I oppose this as I believe it would make the poorest poorer and all of us less free. 

Mr Corbyn may be pleasant company. He may even appear kind. But I find his views not merely extreme, but quite literally immoral. Morality depends on the ability to choose between right and wrong. Socialism attempts to make virtue a matter of law. I do not have the choice to share, if the law makes me share. A truly socialist state therefore would have neither freedom nor morality. This is not an accident, nor a fault in implementation. It is a necessary feature. Socialism requires force in order that it might work. It needs to change human nature from Tory to socialist. It starts by making 'Tory' a dirty word. That’s the first stage of re-education. The second stage is happening in our primary schools right now.

Labour’s journey to the extremes is not merely a matter of a leader. It’s a matter of a leader who the vast majority of Labour members support. Was it always so? Was it the case that New Labour was a front for what the supporters really believed. Let’s pretend we’re something that we are not in order to get elected. I voted for New Labour, because I thought they were in the centre. Recent events have made me wonder. After all Jeremy Corbyn was an MP then too.

I think Mr Corbyn’s Labour party is very far indeed from the views of someone on the centre left. In fact the difference between Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn is far greater than the difference between her and David Cameron. I don’t understand why people stay in a party, or indeed continue to vote for a party that they fundamentally disagree with. I understand the emotional reasons. I understand the sense of loyalty to the team. But let’s put it this way. If the Conservatives were led by someone on the far right, I would not stay in for a second. I would immediately jump ship and be grateful if I could find something more moderate. Where can Labour supporters who support, albeit regulated, free markets find a safe haven?

It’s necessary to face facts. The Lib Dems were destroyed at the last election. Even if a miracle occurred and they doubled their number of seats at the next election, they would still only have sixteen. It’s clear now that if you want to be involved with a party that has a chance of ruling, the only safe haven is the Tory party. After all if you believe in free markets, if you fundamentally think the way the economy works in the Western world is the best option available, then you fundamentally already are a Tory. If you are not a Tory, then by all means go to the extremes.

The best chance of keeping the Conservative party, moderate and liberal is if moderates from Labour and the Lib Dems help to keep it that way. The Conservatives during the coalition showed that they can work well with people from the centre left. The Conservative party today is right bang in the centre of UK politics. If the only thing that is stopping you is the word “Tory” then it might be best to reflect on the morality of the Western: “A man’s got to be what he is, you can’t break the mould”. Only extremists try to break the mould.

Do you want to lower the deficit? Do you have the long term goal of lowering the national debt, or even eventually eliminating it? Do you want to do these things, because it would raise everyone’s standard of living by allowing us to spend more on the things that all of us want. Well then you should vote Conservative. They have these goals too and they have the best chance of fulfilling them. The country is in much better shape than in 2011. This is not accidental. It's due to good choices that were made in the last few years. 

I understand the reluctance. The playground chants of “Tory” are too much for some. But this is to treat politics like football. But really, it’s OK to switch political teams when the alternatives are so extreme. Moreover, if we could only get the majority of Scots, who support the free market, to realise that they are in fact Tories already, then we would have secured Scotland’s position in the UK. We have the best arguments. The prosperity of the western world, after the war, came about because we repudiated the ideologies of socialism, nationalism and populism.  What Scotland desperately needs now is an alternative to the story Nicola is telling. If you want to defeat the SNP, don’t agree with them on everything but independence, rather attempt to show our neighbours that what we love about Scotland and the UK is that we have an economic model that gives us not only prosperity and freedom, but the means to improve the lives of everyone. That’s a great story. Start telling it.

The difference between politicians like Liz Kendall, Danny Alexander and David Cameron is a “waffer thin mint”. They could work together and if you support either one of them, then best to accept the label of “Tory”. Wear that badge with pride, because that’s what you in fact are. That’s where the centre ground lies today in Britain. Come on in the water’s lovely.