In a post #IndyRef Scotland will ‘form’ trump ideological ‘content’?

2 views

Interesting piece from Torcuil Crichton who is a Westminster lobby correspondent for the Scottish Daily Record, courtesy of Bella Caledonia..

There have been 29 general elections to the Dàil, Ireland’s parliament, since independence. Ireland’s Labour Party have won precisely none.

When socialism goes up against nationalism in a country where all civic politics is about the nation, then Labour doesn’t stand a chance.

What happened in Ireland – in fact Irish leader Eamon de Valera’s specific strategy – was to smother the Labour movement in the embrace of Fianna Fáil.

His nationalist party talked the language of social democracy with enough rhetoric to rob Labour of a distinctive voice, while never delivering the goods.

You find an echo of that approach in last week’s report on how wonderful the welfare system would be in a new Scotland, with none of it practically costed.

If the SNP win the Scottish referendum, they will do so by binding together a nationalist alliance. The party would be mad, their leaders unforgiven, if they allowed that political sheaf to unravel afterwards.

Anyone saying defeat in September will allow the Scottish Labour Party space to rise, phoenix like, as a force for government is just kidding.

Irish history shows how easily social justice can be crowded out in a nationalist arena. When it came to industrial relations, de Valera had a reputation, a strategy, for personally intervening to bring disputes to an end, all for the good of the Irish nation.

Oddly, this is not far short of the pitch often made by one Gerry Adams who consistently argues that Ireland has been caught in the pinch of two conservative parties since partition.

My only strong caveat is that in fact the prime determinant of Ireland’s post ideological politics is more likely the STV PR system, which shreds all policy based platforms.

But in Scotland there is a confusion in the public debate (and perhaps an unavoidable one) between ‘Form’ (critical for the Yes campaign) and ‘Content’ (those under the ‘No’ parties).

, ,

  • Kensei

    “But in Scotland there is a confusion in the public debate (and perhaps an unavoidable one) between ‘Form’ (critical for the Yes campaign) and ‘Content’ (those under the ‘No’ parties).”

    Wa?

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Yes, I’m not sure about the final paragraph either!

    In fact I’m not sure about this “content” stuff at all, which has been the talk of Slugger recently!

    Political choices are made emotionally, pretty much always.

  • Mick Fealty

    Form = Structure. Content is generally dictated by form. If you are a fan of changing the form, you will naturally assume content will change for the better.

    Content = Policy therefore for those who think the current form is fine will want to focus on discussions about content over form.

    Both missing each other…

  • Mick Fealty

    Does that make sense, or am I being delusional?

  • Old Mortality

    This comparison is a little far-fetched.
    At the time of independence and for most of its early history, the RoI had a relatively small urban working-class population. Scotland by contrast has a huge urban working/under class, not to mention a sizeable state-dependent middle class.
    And Scotland does not have a powerful church ever vigilant to the dangers of even modest collectivism.

  • Kensei

    Not really, no. All of these comparisons with Ireland really don’t work. The SNP are a very different beast to FF and FG, plus the economics are very, very different. The SNP seems reasonably committed to Scandinavian social democracy. Certain their policies while in power have been on those lines – and it is worth bearing in mind the Scandivian countries are not really adverse to business interests as is sometimes portrayed in the British (and Irish) left.

    Ireland was also a rural, naturally small-c conservative country at independence and that reasserted itself over dreams of “socialism” quite quickly. The politics of Scotland have been skewed to the left for long enough now that it seems reasonable to assume the natural centre of gravity lives there.

    If anything, all but the wilder voice sin the SNP have seem determined to keep things focused on “content” – small practical policy differences that an independent Scotland might do – free childcare and whatever – and as a whiole it seems a bit technocractic. It’s been the Yes campaign trying to bait identity politics and the like – witness Darling’s rather tasteless suggestion of the SNP being “Blood and Soil” nationalism. Which they are doing, because they think it’ll damage the yes campaign.

    I’d also view Labour as the FF of Scotland – they’ve been embedded into the culture so long I don’t believe you can ever kill them. It’ll take another generation to think that the SNP might have replaced them.

    So I think this is wrong on about every level imaginable, assuming I’m actually getting your point at all.

  • Roy Walsh

    I had a friend from Partick many years ago who described the SNP as ‘Scottish Tories’ but, perhaps unlike Irish politics, Scot’s political parties can change their basic approach.
    As Kensei states, here, regardless of religious background, we tend to be socially conservative after about age 25 so this, more than any other reason, is why the populist Fianna Fail party have trounced the Irish Labour Party for decades. Equally both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael tend to be homogeneous systems, whereas the ILP have tended to be an amalgam of groupings attracting disillusioned classes like the official IRA and, in time I suspect, People Before Profit and Anti Austerity Alliance when they grow up.
    This uncertainty on just whom they are is what creates a distrust of the party amongst those otherwise disillusioned with what we call politics here.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “……Irish leader Eamon de Valera’s specific strategy – was to smother the Labour movement in the embrace of Fianna Fáil….”

    But Labour polled pretty much within the same boundaries before FF arrived as they did afterwards, and embraces can be dodged by moving to a different place, a more consistent presense in Labours history was internal feuding and splits, which more likely impeded any progress

    “… talked the language of social democracy with enough rhetoric to rob Labour of a distinctive voice, while never delivering the goods….”

    Alternatively, Labour went into government with Fine Gael several times…..while never delivering the goods….

    But regarding Scotland and the SNP, the telling bit in the post is “…If the SNP win the Scottish referendum…”

    The referendum is not party political, it’s the economy stupid! a yes vote is not a vote for the SNP, but then the ‘NO’ campaign know that

    what was that about content, or the lack off

  • grandimarkey

    I think this is a fantastic rebuttal to this and other articles that have appeared on Slugger making the comparison between what’s happening now in Scotland and what happened a century ago in Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    Actually, no harm to Gerry, but I thought my own caveat re STV was a stronger objection to Torcuil’s premise…