The thought of Boris Johnson becoming the next prime minister and driving the country into a no-deal Brexit has struck fear into the hearts of the establishment, who are increasingly worried about the unity of the United Kingdom.
Officially the Tory Party is called the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’. And yet, a recent survey of Tory members found that 63% would sacrifice Scotland leaving the UK in order to ensure that Britain leaves the European Union. 59% said the same in relation to Northern Ireland.
It seems that rabid Brexiteers will stop at nothing to achieve their dream – even if it means seeing the breakup of the United Kingdom. Far from being a party of Conservatives and Unionists, the Tories today are a frenzied mob of English nationalists.
“The mood in the [Conservative] associations has hardened; it’s in the land of make believe,” remarked one influential Tory MP. “The extremes seem to be holding all the levers. That’s a big concern.”
And it is to this reactionary rabble that Boris Johnson – the likely next occupant of Number 10 – is pandering when he threatens to run down the clock and allow Britain to crash out of Europe without a deal.
The establishment is now terrified about the existential threat to the Union that a victory for Boris Johnson would present. “Johnson could be the midwife of Scottish independence,” declared the Sunday Times, commenting on the results of a recent opinion poll that showed how backing for independence amongst voters north of the border would jump to 53% with Boris as PM.
The Scottish Tories are up in arms. And alarm bells are ringing across Westminster and Whitehall. Leading Tory figures have therefore been lining up to caution about the risk to the UK’s unity that Boris and his insatiable supporters are posing in their pursuit of a ‘pure’ break with Europe.
Amongst these was none other than outgoing prime minister, Theresa May. Talking to an audience of Scottish Conservative supporters, May stated that “a lot of people have taken the Union for granted over the years”.
These comments were quickly echoed by other senior Tories, including David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, and David Mundell, the secretary of state for Scotland. The latter warned that “a difficult no-deal Brexit would not only damage our economy, it would fuel nationalist claims of a UK that is insensitive to Scotland’s needs”.
Out of touch
It is amazing that – five years after the Scottish independence referendum – certain layers of the establishment are only just waking up to what lay behind the massive YES vote in 2014.
Scottish workers and youth who support independence do not do so due to Saltire-waving nationalism but as a kick-in-teeth to the out-of-touch elite in Westminster; as a rejection of the Tories and their programme of austerity.
Of course, this lesson has not been learnt by the Blairites in the Labour Party, who continue to conflate the anti-establishment sentiments of Scottish independence supporters with the reactionary English nationalism of those who back Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
This was seen recently when Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, lectured about the “divisive nationalisms” that are “jeopardising both the unity and integrity of the United Kingdom” and its “shared values of tolerance and diversity”.
This is sheer hypocrisy from a man who once parrotted the racist slogan “British jobs for British workers”, and who was a key architect of the New Labour project, built on the pillars of privatisation and war.
This is the ‘unity’ that big business politicians like Theresa May and Gordon Brown defend: the unity of the capitalists against the working class. But these are precisely the ‘values’ that workers on both sides of the border are looking to reject.
Socialism and internationalism
SNP leaders such as Sturgeon, however, do not offer a genuine alternative. Their ‘independence’ is built upon support for capitalism, the archaic English monarchy, and imperialist clubs such as NATO and the crisis-ridden European Union.
Such an ‘independence’ cannot solve the problems facing the working class. This can only be achieved through revolutionary means, with the creation of a Scottish Workers’ Republic. Such a development would reach out to the working class throughout Britain and internationally. It would lay the basis for a Socialist Federation of these islands.
The crisis of the Union is a reflection of the crisis of the capitalist system. This can only be resolved on a socialist basis. That is the real lesson we must learn.