A message to the people of Scotland – “Tory England” is a wicked lie

9th September, 2014 2:47 pm

With a name like Jamieson, my Scottish ancestry is clearly advertised. I am named after my Fifer Grandfather who left Scotland to work on Clement Atlee’s new nuclear project on the remote western coast of what was then Cumberland. Atlee deemed such a facility necessary after the US withdrew from nuclear collaboration with other nations after World War II. That project became Sellafield.

My Grandfather’s country was my country. I considered myself fortunate to be British and my identity was forged by two countries who combined to make a greater country. Born in England, passionate about Liverpool Football Club, as a child I wanted to play football for Scotland. My national identity? British.

Like millions of others south of Hadrian’s Wall, Scottish blood flows through my veins. The independence debate was always going to be emotional and hard fought; feelings were always going to run high.

800px-Hadrian's_wall_at_Greenhead_Lough

A Conservative government was always going to spur the hopes of Scottish separatists and the particular kind of privileged Conservatives we have been landed with were always likely to turbo-charge negative sentiment. But recently, the ‘Yes’ campaign has sought to conflate England with Toryism. Westminster, and London. Beneath it all, the ugly insinuation is that to be English is to be Tory.

This is a shameful tactic and millions of English people will be rightly offended by it. England, the country of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Clement Atlee, George Orwell, William Morris, William Blake and countless other figures whose lives shaped left wing thought not just throughout Britain but the world.

This knowing lie also suggests that the people of England are content with London’s dominance of the national economy and happy with how Westminster functions. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the North of England, in cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds dissatisfaction with how London runs the show is about to erupt. Westminster is remote and detached? True, but you can get there more quickly from Glasgow than you can from my constituency in England.

They’re dissatisfied in Bristol, too. And Exeter. And Norfolk. And right across the Midlands. Tory England? Get real. And within London, the divisions are astonishing. Whatever the differences between England and Scotland, there is no gap in Britain so wide as the brief walk from Hackney into the gilded streets of the City of London. Far from being an imaginary flat-tax, Home Counties caliphate, England is a country of real contrasts, containing millions of working people who want and need progressive government. The pro-separation camp has caused a lasting distaste with its knowingly false depiction of England and the English.

I’m thankful for those Scots, still in the majority, who understand England as it really is and who refuse to believe the twisted Tory England of Alex Salmond’s imagination. Thankful too for their solidarity with constituencies like mine and the people within them. They know that the fight against poverty and inequality is a collective fight, whether in Carlisle or Cowdenbeath.

In nine days, the Scottish people will determine their own future. That is only right, but in making that decision I hope the wicked lie of Tory England is seen for what it is.

Jamie Reed is MP for Copeland and Shadow Health Minister

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  • Psychjim

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The English aren’t all Tory-loving neoliberals. We do live in a divided country and there is much discontent. But the Scots would be doing us a great service by becoming an independent state. It couldn’t make clearer the idea that neoliberalism has failed. That what we all want is relief from the relentless pursuit of profit before people. This could mark an enormous change in the future political landscape. I hope the ‘Yes’ vote wins it for all our sakes.

    • treborc1

      That change in the political landscape could be the wrong way, it could be pushing the Progress agenda to become more Conservative with a giant C.

      Progress will move to the forefront.

      I do not think we will see labour change very much excerpt that maybe the next time the Tories needs a coalition partner we will see labour applying.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      Don’t want a Yes vote but you’r right 35 years of neoliberalism has completely failed. What the 1970s was for the postwar settlement where the terrible poverty of the 1930s had been sorted out but where the upcoming generation were not prepared to earn £25 a week and live in a council flat for their entire lives so this decade is surely the death knell for a type of capitalism that clearly only really benefits a tiny section of the population and a tiny region of the country – namely London. As the Stranglers so eloquently put it in 1977- ‘Something better change’.

    • PoundInYourPocket

      Sorry Psychjim (see my post below) but sadly I think you’re way off mark. An independent Scotland will come under massive pressure from the markets as it will need huge loans to get going, and similar pressure from the EU which it will need to join. The result will be something like Slovakia or Belgium, a low tax “enterprise zone”. There’s no option for a socialist enclave moored just off the eurpoean mainland. How would they borrow money ? Who would they trade with ? Perhaps it will feel better if it comes fro Holyrood rather than Westminster but the rules of the game will be the same.

  • Stan

    I was born in England but my Scottish roots have always screamed for independence. There are no reasons why independence for all the countries of the union should prevent close economic and political co-operation without having to stick to an outdated imperialist structure.

  • roggy1

    Exceptional piece of straw man arguing here, but even if the fallacious premise was accepted, the argument being presented is that people all over the UK are being screwed over by the Tories, so why not stick with us and we’ll all be screwed over together.

    This is the best you could come up with? You won’t change hearts and minds with nonsense like this.

    • Quiet_Sceptic

      His argument makes the case for independence – the rest of England might be stuck with Westminster government but the Scots have been given an opportunity to escape, grab it while you can and don’t look back!

      • RegisteredHere

        A ‘Yes’ vote would necessitate constitutional reform, and that means the the resignation of the PM and opens the door to many other changes in rUK, not to mention a general election. Likewise a ‘No’ vote with devo-max thrown in would reignite calls for and English Parliament away from Westminster or English devolution.

        Westminster seems to be buggered regardless.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          Surely he has to resign if it’s a Yes vote – it’s the Conservative and Unionist Party don’t forget.

          • RegisteredHere

            I think so, although the Conservative Party still seems to be angling to use the referendum to get another year in office. Ultimately it makes no difference, because Cameron replaced by Osborne or Borisconi is all much of a muchness.

  • David Lindsay

    Where is this “Tory England” from which Scotland needs so urgently to secede for her own protection?

    England returns the overwhelming majority of MPs, and the Conservative Party has not won an overall majority in 22 years and counting.

    Yesterday’s Ashcroft poll showed a Labour lead of seven points, which would translate into a famous Labour victory. There was all of a one-point difference between England and the country as a whole.

    In 1964, Scottish MPs delivered a Labour overall majority of four where there would otherwise a Conservative overall majority of one that would not have lasted a year.

    In October 1974, Scottish MPs turned what would have been a hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party into a Labour overall majority so tiny that it was lost in the course of that Parliament.

    In 2010, Scottish MPs turned what would have been a small Conservative overall majority into a hung Parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party and with David Cameron as Prime Minister, anyway.

    On no other occasion since the War, if ever, have Scottish MPs, as such, influenced the outcome of a General Election.

    For that matter, where is this “left-wing Scotland” that so needs to secede? The above facts, and the common or garden neoliberalism of the SNP, tell a very different tale.

    As does the rise of the Labour Movement simultaneously in England, Scotland and Wales. If there really was some proto-Socialist paradise rooted deep in Scottish culture, then why did anyone in Scotland feel any need of the trade unions, the co-operatives, the ILP, and all the rest of them?

    All polling shows that political attitudes in the three parts of Great Britain are practically interchangeable.

    The difference is that Scots think that those in Scotland are well to the left, even if their own, as individual respondents, are not. The English, especially, think of their own views as out of step with a right-wing polity at large.

    But in fact, those individual views are entirely typical, and effectively identical. On both sides of the Border.

    • John Ruddy

      You’re forgetting 1951. England voted Labour. But got a Tory Government. Courtesy of Scotland.

  • PoundInYourPocket

    It may be a perceived Tory England they wish to reject but the Tory/Labour policies are really those of neo-liberalism that pervades all economies of the western world. Will the Scotts free themselves from Westmnster just to find that their policy making hand is now guided in just the same direction by the EU, the US and the “markets” ? Any notion that they can escape from the World and live on a socialist island, as Benn wanted to in 74, is nonesense. But really, who could resist the temptation to say Yes and create a Tory free zone even if they do end up with the inevitable Scottish-neo-liberalism.

    • RegisteredHere

      Do you think it’s inevitable? It seems to me that the whole neo-lib-Randian thing is unwinding. It’s even possible that a Scots’ ‘Yes’ vote would be the final straw…..which might explain the otherwise unfathomable decision to send Westminster’s elitest and effetist to Scotland….

      • PoundInYourPocket

        I think they’ll be very dependent on the EU which they’ill need to join ASAP at any cost. The EU rules are austerity and neo-liberal policies as dictated by Germany and the ECB – no choice. Smaller countries seem to take them on wilth full gusto , like Slovakia , as they are desperate for cash. I don’t see how they’ll be able to buck the trend and introduce any radical leftish policies. And has been said elsewhere when you look at the social attitudes survey the Scotts are not really more left-wing than the rest of the UK, they just don’t like the arrogance of the english Tories. Best case would be a kind of Denmark or Sweeden, which would be far better than Toryland so good luck to them.

        • RegisteredHere

          Absolutely good luck to them.

          It would be cruelly ironic if Scottish independence crashed the London markets and England moved away from neo-liberalism as a result.

          • treborc1

            If labour moved that would be a good result.

          • RegisteredHere

            That would be some sort of Opposition at least.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            Yup- they’re worried about the calamitous effects on the markets of a Yes vote.

          • RegisteredHere

            They should be more worried about banks being replaced wholesale by crypto.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      Isn’t this the kind of thing Tories always tell us? – namely, ‘this is the way things are and always will be’ but we know from history that societies experience serious disorder and even revolution when political, economic or social elites ignore the concerns of large swathes of the populace.
      Neo-liberalism looks to me to be in trouble.

      • PoundInYourPocket

        So how do you explain europe ? Following the crash the ECB/IMF and EU have set policy for the “PIGS” with scant regard for democracy. Italy has had three prime ministers with no intervening election. Youth unemployment in Spain has long been running at 50%, riots in the streets in all countries, yet no change of policy. Looks to me like neo-liberalism is just getting under way. What cracks can you see ? The only ones I see are being plastered over as democracy in europe is being disregarded and replaced by “the needs of the market” or TINA as they like to say.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          France, Greeks nearly putting in a Syriza government, important intellectual work by the likes of Pikkety & co, Catalonia + Scotland maybe voting for independence, the meteoric rise of food banks, poor turnouts at elections- OK I’m clutching at straws but history shows that vastly unequal societies are unstable and crises prone. Inequality in the UK is now at Edwardian levels and we are galloping back towards Victorian levels of inequality. This referendum illustrates that we are a very divided society. In 1970 nobody would have believed that the postwar Butskellite consensus would be dead by 1990- the calm before the storm and all that. Besides which we have to be hopeful that there is some alternative to the current garbage we are being served up otherwise we might as well all pack up and follow the advice of Doug Smith and vote UKIP.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            I agree with you that some of the uber-wealthy are getting worried about the levels of inequality as the billionaire Nick Hanauer said “the pitch forks are comming” and that they need to give a few crumbs away to keep them at bay. (LeftFutures pitchforks and inequality 30/06/2014) and David Hare keeps wondering why their isn’t a revolution. But I don’t see any unsheathed pitchforks. As long as people feel comfortably off they don’t seem to worry about inequality. And as long as the poor are blamed for their own poverty and are politicaly disengaged then poverty isn’t an issue either. So I don’t see any source of instability in the UK. When I listen to debates on the referendum I get the feeling they blame Westminster for what are really international issues, issues that they will have to face anyway, such as globalisation and the markets. At least by voting yes they’ll know that their problems are not rooted in Westminster. But the rhetoric I hear about a socialist Scotland that can buck the austerity trend is hard to believe given that they will be forced to raise capital on the markets, to attract international investors and businesses and compete with the rest of the world. They’ll experience the same pressures and will end up with the same solutions as Westminster are being blamed for albeit a more leftish version of neo-liberalism than we might have to suffer under the Tories. It’s interesting that their best option for “socialism at home” would probably be under devolution and the protective umbrella of the UK. Alone they’ll be forced into free-market competition just like Slovakia, Ireland etc.

          • RegisteredHere

            I don’t think enough people see an alternative to the status quo (including the Official Opposition).

        • RegisteredHere

          Iceland is quietly breaking some rules in that regard.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            Yes – I agree – but they told the banks to ****** and so weren’t saddled with the massive debts most other nations have as a result of bailouts, and as a small country they’ve bounced back quickly.

          • RegisteredHere

            We should take note.

            Dissolve the constitution (easy if the Scots vote ‘Yes’ as we’ll have to do it anyway), reconstitute UK/rUK without the Cities of London and Westminster, (odious) Debt stays in the Olde Cities, UK is debt-free?

  • Dan

    I kind of agree with the premise, in that Northern England is almost as left-wing as Scotland is. There was a Social Attitudes Survey earlier this year which showed the North was much closer to Scotland on most issues than it was to the South of England (I think immigration and the EU were the only exceptions).

    But it seems pretty obvious now that the diehard jingoistic Scottish nationalists only make up a part of the “Yes” vote. Many people are voting Yes simply as a means to an end — getting rid of the southern rightwing Westminster clique.

  • Simon Gardner

    Just wondering what happened to the 1997 Labour manifesto promise that it was “committed to a referendum on [a proportional alternative to] the voting system for the House of Commons” – which would have ended Tory England – or at least its power.

    • treborc1

      With Progress being a power base within labour they worried that people might think they were the Tories so they dumped it.

      • Simon Gardner

        And that particular betrayal of 1997 is why I stopped ever voting Labour. If implemented, it would have blocked almost all possibility of any more extremist Tory Governments. So sad.

        • treborc1

          I suspect a lot of us feel the same.

      • Rollo10

        Didn’t they also dump the Social Chapter?

  • Chris Wilson

    “England is a country of real contrasts, containing millions of working people who want and need progressive government”
    In which case it’s a pity that they’ve only got the Labour Party. Maybe you’d like to explain why Labour accepts austerity, accepts the framing of welfare as being about workers and shirkers, and accepts that there is no need to do anything about too big to fail banks.
    The reason Scotland is pulling away is not that the Conservatives are right of centre free marketeers, its that Labour are right of centre free marketeers. There’s now no route to social democracy through Westmister.

    • RegisteredHere

      Well said. Cameron could have been a national hero if he’d sent tanks into the City of London on his first day of office, but a Conservative PM was never going to do that. Nor a Labour PM by all the evidence.

    • Derek Robinson

      Simple … none of your claims about what ‘Labour accepts’ are true.
      Please stop quoting these untruths and take a closer look at what Labour have actually said and committed to.

  • flicktokick

    The thing is Jamie, if Scotland doesn’t like Salmond and his ‘neo-liberalism’ they can get rid of him (and perhaps would not have voted him in in such numbers had Scottish Labour offered something more akin to a socialist programme) But that is the point. Scotland will have the opportunity to have the government it votes for.
    From 1979-97 it got a Tory government that it did not vote for and the damage is still driving sentiment. Obviously this is true of the North of England and of Wales, but they do not have the opportunity to make sure that it can never happen again.
    Of course Labour could have taken steps to ensure that by looking at an electoral system which bestows total power with little more than a third of the vote,. However instead of wishing to protect the country from such a future aberration by making a radical change to the electoral system, New Labour chose the expedient option of ‘what’s good for the Tories is good for us’. Which means it could certainly all happen again, and if it does, then the damage would be just as profound. Why should Scotland take that risk, when they have the opportunity to prevent it once and for all?

  • Celticchickadee

    But it might as well be if your country has one Tory MP but ruled by them anyway. That’s the point.

  • Gordon Craig

    I agree and you don’t have to scratch the Yes campaign very hard to expose the real anti English undertones to their campaign. Salmond very cleverly rarely uses the words English or England but each time he uses the word Westminster just think England or English and you will get my meaning. Today he described the Yes campaign as “Team Scotland” and the three party leaders who were in Scotland as “Team Westminster.”
    You get my drift?
    Gordon Craig

  • SidneySnott

    Hadrian’s Wall is not the border and it is a Roman Wall built in Celtic Britain. The Antonine Wall is not a modern border either by the way.

  • David Powell

    Excellent article

  • It’s not just the north of England that’s dissatisfied with the UK parliament it’s the whole of England. It’s not just the north of England that gets a raw deal from the UK parliament it’s the whole of England – with the exception of London. The solution is not to divide the English against themselves, the solution is English unity and an English parliament well away from London – York or the midlands I would suggest. One that devolves power back down to either the shires or the “regions” or however else the English want to devolve power within England. The English need a say on England – why can’t Labour embrace this?

  • LiverBob

    You have a damned cheek speaking of England now. Your New Labour Party has been at the forefront of an anti-England propaganda campaign. Who was it who said “the English as a race are not worth saving”? Who was it who said “there is no such thing as English nationality”? Who said “England is not a nation, it is simply a collection of regions”? All three were Labour cabinet ministers, and the attitudes exposed in the comments above run right through your party.
    I am a white, working class Englishman, and hell will freeze over before your Anglophobic party gets my vote.

  • Yes England is divided and there are ‘millions of working people who want and need progressive government’. The failure of the Labour Party to articulate and promote their aspirations has been a gift to the SNP.

  • AuthorAl

    A considered message back to you – Jamie Reed MP – from an Englishman in Scotland.

    Most people up here are entirely comfortable with England and the English. They are most welcoming. However the constant barrage of biased media, veiled establishment threats, two-faced machinations by Miliband, illformed timetables from BT for ‘Devo-More’ – that will come to naught as the tories and Labour & Lib Dems all have their own weak proposals…Who wants the ability to be double taxed anyway?

    Threats to leave from the Banking establishment that we all know will want the business of 6 million people after the vote…Implications that the scots can’t wipe their noses without help…All this is giving Scots food for thought. The polls from England already suggest that ‘the scots need to be brought into line’ if there is a No vote. There is a proven financial imbalance between what Scotland gives to and gets from the city state of London. The Scots are in deficit here…

    Devo max should have been on the table but Cameron prevented it, yet he can tear up the Edinburgh Agreement and get the Treasury to brief against the YES campaign. Seriously, the anti-YES media bias up here is incredible. The papers – owned by the usual city types – are not giving out a fair view of what the YES campaigners are saying and doing. Money, Big Business, Self-Seeking CondemLab politicians etc are all attempting to exert the establishment’s will.

    SNP is essentially doing what Scottish Labour should be doing – looking after those in need, providing welfare support, good NHS etc. Labour up here is a disgrace. Miliband just wants to protect his seats down south. The funny thing is that if there were to be a YES then within a few generations labour would be in power throughout England/Scotland. Of course, I am English – proud to be it too – but I am sick of the way that opportunistic MPs and Media have turned this into a farce.

    Salmond has his weaknesses and is arrogant, but he at least is trying to get more – justice, support, business, Norway type socialist welfare help – for the people who elected him. He has an elected mandate – Cameron & Clegg do not. I am an observer drawn in to this by my disgust at the way Labour has forgotten its roots. Clement Atlee would be turning in his grave at the thought of the creeping privatisation of the NHS. Salmond knows that this policy is -thanks to westminster – UK wide so it will have an impact on the Scottish NHS. He is wise to try and protect it.

    This is a considered view from the West Coast of Scotland by a lifelong Labour voter who feels unrepresented by Scottish Labour, and targeted as a political pawn by Labour down south. It is hard reading – taken from what I am experiencing – make of this what you will.

  • AuthorAl

    A message back to you – Jamie Reed MP – from an Englishman in Scotland.

    Most people up here are entirely comfortable with England and the English. They are most welcoming. However the constant barrage of biased media, veiled establishment threats, two-faced machinations by Miliband, illformed timetables from BT for ‘Devo-More’ – that will come to naught as the tories and Labour & Lib Dems all have their own weak proposals…Who wants the ability to be double taxed anyway?

    Threats to leave from the Banking establishment that we all know will want the business of 6 million people after the vote…Implications that the scots can’t wipe their noses without help…All this is giving Scots food for thought. The polls from England already suggest that ‘the scots need to be brought into line’ if there is a No vote. There is a proven financial imbalance between what Scotland gives to and gets from the city state of London. The Scots are in deficit here…

    Devo max should have been on the table but Cameron prevented it, yet he can tear up the Edinburgh Agreement and get the Treasury to brief against the YES campaign. Seriously, the anti-YES media bias up here is incredible. The papers – owned by the usual city types – are not giving out a fair view of what the YES campaigners are saying and doing. Money, Big Business, Self-Seeking CondemLab politicians etc are all attempting to exert the establishment’s will.

    SNP is essentially doing what Scottish Labour should be doing – looking after those in need, providing welfare support, good NHS etc. Labour up here is a disgrace. Miliband just wants to protect his seats down south. The funny thing is that if there were to be a YES then within a few generations labour would be in power throughout England/Scotland. Of course, I am English – proud to be it too – but I am sick of the way that opportunistic MPs and Media have turned this into a farce.

    Salmond has his weaknesses and is arrogant, but he at least is trying to get more – justice, support, business, Norway type socialist welfare help – for the people who elected him. He has an elected mandate – Cameron & Clegg do not. I am an observer drawn in to this by my disgust at the way Labour has forgotten its roots. Clement Atlee would be turning in his grave at the thought of the creeping privatisation of the NHS. Salmond knows that this policy is -thanks to westminster – UK wide so it will have an impact on the Scottish NHS. He is wise to try and protect it.

    This is a considered view from the West Coast of Scotland by a lifelong Labour voter who feels unrepresented by Scottish Labour, and targeted as a political pawn by Labour down south. It is hard reading – taken from what I am experiencing – make of this what you will.

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