Current Affairs Politics

An IKEA Britain?

Interesting article in the Scotsman on the electoral troubles of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland (that I previously discussed here) and one possible solution from journalist Brian Monteith:

‘I wrote before the May election that the Liberal Democrats should launch their manifesto using the name Liberal Party so that they could call upon their fine tradition as a truly radical Scottish party, and to differentiate it from the party down south.

While the Liberal Democrat party operates in a federated manner this is not the perception that the public holds – for what it sees is Nick Clegg or even Vince Cable making the decisions and everyone north of the Border falling into line. Redefining the Scottish party as its own master with its own distinct name would help reposition perceptions.

It should then build upon this by working out a clear strategy to lead from the front on the independence referendum.

Leave big business to the Tories and leave the unions to Labour for now – the Liberals can give a voice to the articulate and moderate professional classes that is warm and reassuring to voters that are nervous about what independence might mean. They should not play on fear but argue the benefits are greater through partnership and widening opportunities and the downside less daunting through the sharing of risk.

They also need to do more with their own proposals for greater powers for Home Rule – a term they should also revive and define themselves through. Cunningly they should, on their commitment to federation, start to explore a workable idea for a single English Parliament drawn from existing English MPs sitting in Westminster and able to deal with English only matters. A solution that would not require extra politicians and devolved greater authority to local councils would surely appeal to Liberals north and south of the border?’

Interesting, and something I hinted at earlier, though in the long run I suspect an entirely separate Scottish Liberal Party may be the best hope for Lib Dem types north of the border.

Meanwhile some wondering aloud by the SNP’s Pete Wishart in an article on the Better Nation blog has further muddied the waters over the constitutional question, in what is beginning to look like something of a new SNP strategy in the lead up to a referendum on Scottish independence. According to STV:

‘Writing in internet blog Better Nation, Mr Wishart discusses what he thinks will happen to the concept of being British as Scotland moves towards independence.

He said: “Firstly, I suppose Britishness is as much about geography as it is about identity and history. Coming from Perth in the northern part of the island of Greater Britain, I am as much British as someone from Stockholm is Scandinavian.

“If Britishness is to work as a cultural idea, a shared story as well as a shared geography has to be constructed. And that’s the hard part: no one has ever come up with a convincing definition of Britishness because there probably isn’t one.

“But there is absolutely no doubt that people indeed do feel and identify themselves as British, even in Scotland. For me, Britishness is so much more than the usual confused descriptions. For me, cultural Britishness isn’t one thing but is the sum of the 300-years journey that we have enjoyed and endured on this island. It is what we have achieved and secured together in this partnership.”‘

The Scandinavian comparison is a clever one, pointing to a region of Europe comprised of several nations that share a common sense of history and identity while still being independent of each other (though not everyone agrees). As a way of reimagining the political future of the island of Britain and the nations that share it, the concept is one that might strike home with some wavering voters in Scotland come referendum day. After all, even in these tragic times, what could be more pleasing than emulating the seeming placidity and happiness of the Swedish, Danes and Norwegians? An IKEA-fit Britain?

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