Is Miliband the New Blair?

I was in Malawi when news of Tony Blair’s first general election victory arrived, and there was jubilation amongst the expats there. At last the Tories were out, and surely Britain would recover from Thatcherism. But the PPP/PFI scams continued, anti-trade union legislation was not repealed, and the rich kept getting even richer. Then Tony Blair told Parliament lies to justify participation in an illegal war. According to opinion polls, there are some people who will vote No to independence if they expect Labour to win the next UK government, in the belief that Labour will cure Britain’s ills. The lesson that should be learned from history is that a New Labour government will continue Tory policies, and its Prime Minister will be a liar.

Ed Balls has declared his opposition to a currency union, and Ed Miliband has threatened to impose border controls, in the event of Scotland becoming independent. Either of these measures would have negative consequences for the rUK as well as for Scotland, raising the question as to why they are being proposed.

One obvious answer is that these are merely empty threats, intended to scare timid voters out of voting Yes in the referendum, and that following a Yes vote they will be quietly forgotten about if Labour win the general election next year. Surely a Labour government at Westminster will have enough problems on its hands in any case; why would they want to create more by stirring up trouble with Scotland and damaging trade between the two countries? If Miliband and Balls are making empty threats, which they have no intention of ever carrying out, then they are liars. If so, they are not by any means unusual at Westminster.

If Miliband and Balls are not liars, then the next question is why they would be prepared to act in a way which is likely to be harmful to both Scotland and the rUK. There are no border controls between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which has its own immigration policy, nor have there been any calls to implement such controls. Why should Scotland be treated differently from Ireland in this respect? If an independent Scotland were to be excluded from the current British Isles common travel area, I can see no reason why Scotland should not sign up to Schengen; if so, would IrelandĀ perhaps follow suit, leaving the rUK isolated within its own border controls? Also, as the Wee Ginger Dug has pointed out, the basis for the UK’s opt-out from Schengen (the lack of a land frontier with any state within Schengen) would be demolished – not that this would matter if (or rather when) the rUK flounces out of the EU because the rest of Europe will not do what Westminster demands.

The cost of of UK government borrowing – the interest rate on UK government bonds – has recently been edging upwards, while the UK national debt is also rising inexorably. This is a toxic combination. Scotland has a higher per capita GDP than the rest of the UK. If an independent Scotland leaves the sterling zone (basically the UK plus odds and end such as the Channel Islands), then the sterling zone’s debt to GDP ratio, which is already alarmingly high, will increase even if Scotland takes on a per capita share of the UK national debt. This is likely to affect confidence amongst foreign investors in the rUK’s ability to repay its debts. At the least, this will lead to a further increase in the cost of borrowing for the rUK; at its worst, this could trigger the kind of economic collapse that Greece has suffered. A currency union may be desirable for Scotland, but it would appear to be essential for the rUK.

If there is a Yes vote in September, there will not be enough time for negotiations over independence to be finalised before the UK general election next May, and so it is possible that the final deal will have to be agreed with a Labour government at Westminster. Perhaps that government will behave as Miliband and Balls are implying it will. However, if Westminster insists on border controls, refuses to negotiate a currency union, insists on being the continuator state of the present UK (perhaps essential if they are to keep their important – to them – permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and denies Scotland an equitable share of the UK’s assets, then Scotland will have no moral or legal reason to accept any responsibility for any part of the UK national debt. Could the rUK avoid a catastrophic loss of investor confidence if their national debt to GDP ratio jumps by several percentage points overnight?

Let us assume that the Labour leaders are not barking mad or complete imbeciles. Then surely they will recognise that it is in the best interests of the rUK to be a good neighbour to Scotland, and co-operate with the Scottish Government to the mutual benefit of the two countries. If they nevertheless choose not to co-operate, then presumably it will be because they are determined to punish Scotland for choosing independence. Why would they wish to be vindictive towards Scotland unless they hate not just Scottish independence, but Scotland itself? Perhaps they are pandering to the increasingly vocal xenophobic element in England – it is not just the Tories who have lost voters to UKIP, after all. Given the portrayal in some of the media of Scots as ungrateful, English-hating subsidy junkies, a bit of Scotland bashing could be a vote-winner down south.

One can therefore conclude that Labour’s leaders are liars who make threats they would not carry out, or vindictive people who will try to harm Scotland if we should dare to assert our right to govern ourselves, or selfish people who are willing to harm Scotland and the rUK to win votes, or idiots who do not understand the implications of what they are saying. I certainly would not like to live in a country governed by such people, which is one of the many reasons I will be voting Yes to give Scotland a chance of a decent future.

PS – I know that much of what I have written could very easily be modified to apply to the Tories and their junior branch, the LibDems. As has been said by others, at least with the Tories you know where you are, even if it is somewhere very unpleasant. With Labour, you may be in a marginally better place, but it will still be nowhere near as good as they have promised. I do not want to even think about where we would be with UKIP.