If the passion of David Cameron, the Saltire flying over Downing Street and the threatened departure from Scotland of major business houses do not between them dissuade Scots from their interesting proposal, what remains of the United Kingdom will require a new name. This would not have been a question a hundred years ago. Conservative politicians and journalists for sure, and many others, rarely if ever spoke of 'Britain' or 'Great Britain', still less of the 'United Kingdom' or 'UK'. It was invariably 'England'.
It is fascinating to find as spokesman for Ukip a Leopold David Verney, 21st Baron Willoughby de Broke (creation 1491). His grandfather, the 19th baron, Richard Greville Verney, also held vivid views. He talked of 'fighting Irish Home Rule to a finish' if it couldn't be done in a general election. In a letter of 1913 to the Duke of Bedford, who favoured military training for the upper and upper-midddle classes, he wrote: 'I don't think it would be prudent of me to speak in favour of arming the classes against the masses. I am strongly in favour of so doing, I quite admit.'
Ed Miliband has said with not very much reservation that the idea of getting rid of Prime Minister's Questions is something he 'might be up for'. He would look into it. As political statements go, that is edging on the emphatic. In the same interview he acknowledged public enervation at shouting matches.
The pitiful defence made this morning by George Osborne, that defeat is not defeat and that in offering Parliament a vote on the principle of military intervention David Cameron was showing statemanship, stands high in the chronicles of absurdity. The whistle was blown, the hoop held out, not very far from the ground, and the good old dog sat on his haunches and slowly shook his head. As one of the admirable Tory opponents, Crispin Blunt, put it, our illusion has been that by instant deference to US wishes we function as a great power when we are not a great power. Blunt, an experienced diplomat, was joined by the likes of Adam Holloway, a former serving officer, in speaking a rational language alien to Labour and Conservative governments alike.
We have been here before. I blogged unkind things about David Miliband when he was being log-rolled by the Blairite machine, as bathed in the blood of Tony, so brilliant, so cool, so je ne sais quoi as to be very nigh compulsory. The reality, when he didn't get the assured leadership, has been a sulking minimalist in the Commons, above all that low, grinding trouble.
Steve Hilton’s denunciation of the Civil Service earlier this month should be taken lightly. David Cameron’s former adviser, who in the early days of opposition leadership set his employer on a democratic bike while his shoes travelled behind by Lexus, has made a habit of attacking public servants for standing in the way of government ministers pleasing sectional profit. It is, the argument goes, undemocratic: power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats – the habitual drone of interested parties. This is the language used of the BBC by politicians compliant to the point of servitude with Rupert Murdoch.
I spoiled my police commisioner ballot in North Yorkshire. I wrote: 'This is a very ill-advised idea borrowed from the US and not wanted by the public.' So the results declare it to have been. The primal fault lies in a belief that voting and democracy are the same thing and that more of one means more of the other.
There are people, the Independent’s Steve Richards among them, who while deploring individual fatuous remarks will yet proclaim serious admiration for the mayor of London. Can such indulgence survive his call, amid the froth of Olympic rapture, for 'the kind of regime' he 'used to enjoy, compulsory two hours' sport every day'? My recollection of PE at school is of being shouted at and bullied by men in tracksuits – I preferred algebra – and we had only an hour and a half a week.
When politicians talk about ‘democracy’, what they mostly mean is elections, though they do their best to avoid ones they are likely to lose.
How does it happen that Scottish Nationalism walks and talks as if it’s able to call terms over an independence referendum which opinion polls suggest it would lose? A major reason for the SNP’s sweep to absolute majority last May was the inadequacy of the Scottish Labour Party. At Devolution, such was Westminster complacency, only one first-rank Labour politician went to Holyrood: Donald Dewar. Since his death in 2000, the party has been led by what Scots call numpties, five of them over eleven years, remembered for the impact they didn't have.