27 March 2009

The Consensus Lushes...

Just a small thought about the SNP/Lab (So something like Slab, SlaP, the media will call it) coalition which formed for - oh a goodly fifteen minutes yesterday in the Parliament. I recall a while back a journalist comparing Scotland's electoral arithmetic to Germany's, inferring the possibility of a Scottish Grand Coalition. Naturally, this hasn't terribly appealed to either side - more historically minded souls justifying the visceral hatred that tears through both parties as the natural substrate of the Callahan 'no confidence' vote of 1979 and the SNP's role putative role as handmaidens for Margaret Thatcher.

Of course, the fact that both sides are roughly scooping for the same sort of votes - this hardly helps either - creating the dirks-out, haggis-totting atmosphere which seems largely to prevail. Contra this cheery loathing, however, how rational is it, really? While certainly there are divergent goals - Labour seeming to regard any decrease in taxation for anyone as some sort of uncivic theft, obviously the Unionist cladding proving the tightest straight-jacket to unpick - but mostly, as far as I can tell, Labour's disagreements with the SNP are not grounded in principled objections, while contingent practical objections can mostly be smoothed out by a spot of sagacious adjustment.

I would be delighted to be corrected on this point, however, if evidence can be provided. Note to potential respondents: vague, unphilosophical claims that Labour is for "social justice" don't count. We all (or perhaps, almost all) believe in some concept of social justice: unfold their particular conception, their small-fibered definitions. They are what matter.

It is testament, then, to the depth of that gutsy, gusty dislike between the brace of parties - that the agreement(ish) on alcohol strikes the mind as unusual. One gets so fixed on thinking of parliamentary votes in terms of the magic, minimally consensual number of 65. It is easy to forget that all it takes is for the SNP and Labour to reach quiet agreement, and one instantly achieves the dizzy heights of 93 for.

Not, of course, that I'm advocating a Tubby Coalition. However, in this "parliament of minorities" I think we ought to be mindful that mindless opposition, without alternatives, without grounded objections becomes culpable. Along with emancipation from Westminster's style and forms, all of the parties ought to appreciate that no-longer are the opposition simply entitled to shuffle in shabby columns through the "no" corridor out of a vague and unstructured idea that to do so is "Political" and therefore somehow admirable. Labour "noing" has to be unnaturalised, become more politicised, our coverage and analysis more thoughtful.

At least until 2011. Then the Supreme Lecturer only knows what will transpire.

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