Sunday, 26 February 2017

And another thing

I was meant to be working this weekend. I've just finished a big, year long case on Tuesday past and I'm meant to be doing the account. Trouble is, it will be an incredibly boring job. So for the moment, I've put it off. But it will need to be done sometime. For my staff won't wait to be paid or my landlords wait to demand their rent. Never mind that, my stomach will not wait to start rumbling. Accordingly the account will have to be done sometime. You can't spend money you don't have.

Anyway, what's all this got to do with me, I hear you, my loyal band of readers, ask?

That lies in the final sentence above. You can't spend money you don't have.

More specifically, the Scottish Government couldn't spend money it wasn't going to have.

According to the Scottish Government's own GERS figures, there is currently an annual £15 Billion shortfall in funding public spending undertaken in or on behalf of* Scotland. £6 Billion of that is our share of the interest on the UK's National debt but the remaining £9 Billion is spent on Welfare Benefits, Pensions, Health, Education and other public services.

Not all of this spending is of course currently undertaken by the Scottish Government. Particularly, the first two big ticket items remain administered directly from Westminster. At least for the moment. But most other public expenditure in Scotland is routed through Holyrood, albeit then being passed on to local government, health boards, NDPBs etc to bring about the actual delivery. And in the process we are receiving, as I say, £9 Billion more to actually spend than we are earning.

Now, £9 Billion is a big figure and people's eyes sometimes gloss over when faced by big figures so I'll try and give that big figure some context. Excluding our share of the interest on UK national debt, the total figure for public spending in Scotland is £62.6 Billion, so that £9 Billion "gap" is more than 14% of the total spent. Put the debt back in and the gap becomes £15 Billion and the overspend percentage jumps to 22%. The total spending managed by Holyrood is £37.1 Billion, so the £9 Billion gap is about one quarter of total Holyrood spending. Total spending on the NHS in Scotland (Holyrood's single largest area of expenditure) is £12.9 Billion, so the £9 Billion gap funding pays for just about three quarters of that total.

But the £9 Billion, although starting as a big figure doesn't remain that. It is not paid out in Billions, And it is not paid out for abstract "public services". It is overwhelmingly paid out in relatively modest amounts as wages, pensions and welfare benefits. And the vast majority of its beneficiaries, even if they are being paid to deliver essential public services, need that money to feed themselves and their families, to pay their rent or their mortgage and to provide heating and lighting for their homes.

After independence that money wouldn't be there. It wouldn't be the abstract Billions that wouldn't be there, it would be the money to pay the wages, pensions and benefits that wouldn't be there. Sure, some of it could be produced by increased borrowing but, even assuming a willingness of the markets to lend, borrowing on that scale, including borrowing to service our share of UK Debt, at 22% of revenue, would never be sustainable. Indeed, for a new State with no credit history, it probably wouldn't even be possible.

So taxes would need to rise (a lot) or spending would need to be cut (a lot). Indeed probably both.

The trick the Nats pulled in September in 2014 was threefold. Firstly they took as the starting point a wholly untypical historic point in Scotland's finances, Secondly, they proceeded on a ludicrously optimistic estimate for the future price of oil and the tax revenues that would consequently produce. But their third prong was the masterstroke. Nothing was to happen immediately. By their hope, by the time the electorate realised the trick that had been pulled on them it would be too late to turn back. The economic consequence of independence would only become clear once we were actually independent. Until then our funding would continue as before.

But why should the residual UK agree to go along with that this time? Why, until they actually left, should they agree to continue to subsidise people who had, by majority at least, decided they wanted nothing more to do with them? If you earn much more than your husband and he announces his intention to leave you for somebody else, you don't keep paying for his fancy car until he actually goes. Not unless you are an idiot.

So why should the taxpayers of England be idiots? They shouldn't.

If there is to be another vote, the immediately preceding UK budget should indicate what Holyrood would receive under the "pooling and sharing" status quo until the vote and indeed in the event of a unionist victory. Separately however it should state what Holyrood would receive on the basis of "you only get what you've earned" in the event of a separatist vote and until actual Independence. And they should state that the second formulation, in terms of actual payment, would start on the day after the vote.

Holyrood couldn't of course be expected to cope with an immediate 25% cut in its revenues, so the Scottish Finance Minister would be given the obligation to specify in advance, so far as competent, in the Scottish Budget and, as required, in the UK Budget what income and other tax rates he or she wished to apply in Scotland from the day after the referendum and what levels of pensions and benefits he or she wished paid. The UK Government would undertake to facilitate that in terms of collection and payment and, to be fair, on the revenue side, cash flow.

Finally, of course, Holyrood would need to be given the right to attempt to set up borrowing conditional on a separatist victory. Although good luck with that if they didn't set a budget even attempting to deal with the deficit.

Holyrood in turn would have to produce a budget setting out expenditure plans in the event of either outcome in the knowledge of what they would have to spend in each eventuality.

There wouldn't be any way of them dodging this because otherwise there literally wouldn't be the money to pay public sector wages in full from the first pay day after a separatist vote. For the Scottish Government couldn't spend money it didn't have. And people would know that when they voted.

So, on polling day, people would vote knowing what their tax rate would be under either outcome: what their pension would be and/or what other benefits they would still be receiving.  Not at some abstract point in the future. At the very next payday.

Who could possibly object to that?

*On behalf of refers to defence; overseas aid, central government administration, consular services and most importantly, interest onthe national debt.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Over to you, Section 30.

It is clear that Nicola has so raised expectations that, at the SNP March Conference, she will have to do something rather than just say (lots) about a second Independence Referendum.

Fortunately for her there is something she could actually do and that is to request Westminster once again cede power to Holyrood under to hold a second Independence Referendum.

Much of the press simply ignores that necessity but buried away in their Brexit paper of October even the SNP concede that point (again).

So it will be over to our Westminster Government to respond.

And that's the thing I want to talk about a bit.

De facto this will be largely Ruth Davidson's call. She is clearly, and reassuringly, the Prime Minister's principal consigliere on all matters separatist.

And there are those who are encouraging an Edinburgh response "You'll have had your referendum."

I see the force to that argument. A second defeat won't stop the SNP arguing for Scottish Independence any more than defeat in the Brexit vote would have stopped Nigel Farage arguing for Britain to leave the UK. Given the opportunity, in the aftermath of a second defeat, there would undoubtedly be nationalists arguing almost immediately for "third time lucky". A blanket concession to the second vote might even be cited as justification that there could be no denying a third!

Yet I think a blanket refusal would be a mistake.

One continuing delusion of Scottish Nationalism is that the Scots are denied self determination. Yet we have actually had self determination as recently as September 18th 2014. They just don't like the way we self determined.

Nonetheless, grievance is the raison d'etre of Nationalism and the refusal of a second vote would feed that grievance in spades. You only need to look at a substantial part of the nationalist's activist base to perceive that this might come with the price of peace in our civil society. Only this past week, the leadership of the SNP were not sufficiently confident of internal support as to be able to deny a woman with tartan terrorism links admitted in court the right to stand for office as an elected SNP representative.

And anyway, a refusal might actually give the SNP leadership exactly what they want. A  perception that they want a second vote without the unfortunate consequence of having (and losing) one. For while grievance is usually why bands break up, in this case it might prove the (only) way of keeping the band on the road. Unless something dramatically changes, that objective is certainly not going to be brought about by relying on the SNP record in Government.

But this does not mean that there should simply be a surrender to nationalist demands.

Firstly, and most importantly, on the franchise.

In 2014, voting was based on the local government franchise. That should be a non starter this time. Only British citizens should have the right to vote. And then, more importantly still, it should be all British citizens living in or born in Scotland. In 2014, with the assumption both Scotland and England (sic) would remain in the EU, free movement was not an issue. This time it would be. And no-one should have the right to return to the country of their birth without a passport removed without having a say in that process. That would obviously involve the compilation of a register of ex pats but in this online age that should be reasonably easily done with the requirement to provide your name, national insurance number and birth certificate reference making you entitled to a postal ballot. 750,000 Scots born people currently live in England. More than live in any single place in Scotland. Who knows what they think of the Country breaking up?  I'm sure the SNP  will make their argument to them.

Secondly the question.

There was a failure to grasp the importance of this the last time. By the time of the Brexit vote however the importance of a neutral choice of options was much better appreciated. Regrettably for my preferred outcome of that vote. Scotland's choice this time however should be on a similarly neutral basis. I'd settle for leave or remain but I'm open to suggestions.

Thirdly, the trigger.

In some way Holyrood would need an express mandate to have a vote. That would, most obviously, be in the form of a requirement to dissolve the current Scottish Parliament with the requirement that a majority Parliament then be elected on a manifesto commitment, or combined commitments, to having a vote. Alternatively we could have a referendum about whether to have a referendum. Scotland loves referendums. They are civic and joyous events.

Fourthly, the democratic process.

Apparently, no less than 42% of the Scottish electorate went to the polls in September 2014 believing that there were secret oil fields, the existence of which would only be revealed after a vote. This was in fact a complete invention by the nationalist side. Not a difference of opinion, or interpretation. A complete invention. And it was by no means the only one. Since then we have seen similar exercises in the Brexit Referendum and, perhaps most calamitously, with the Trump campaign.

The internet age makes "fake news" of this nature impossible to prevent from being disseminated. And those who benefit from it don't need to endorse it, they just have to remain silent.

That right to silence should be removed. There should be independent monitoring of the campaign with a legal requirement in the eventuality of a falsehood becoming sufficiently prevalent that the respective official campaigns place prominently on their campaign websites a refutation of it.

Finally, Section 30 should be repealed altogether......

And it should be replaced with a right in the Scotland Act for the Scottish Parliament to have the direct right to hold a referendum on Independence, conditional on that referendum being no sooner than twenty years after any previous poll.

All of these things should be essential requirements of a s.30 negotiation.

And if the Nats say they don't want a vote on that basis? Then. but only then, the words of the late Windsor Davies should come into play. "Oh dear, how sad, never mind."

Tuesday, 24 January 2017


What happens next kind of depends on how much Nicola Sturgeon personally is prepared to risk on the turn of a card.

Nobody in the leadership of the SNP thought Leave would win the EU Referendum. That's why they put such an eventuality in their 2016 Scottish Parliament Manifesto. It kept the zoomers happy that there might be an early second referendum in certain circumstance while the leadership could remain confident that this circumstance would never actually arise. To be fair to that leadership, David Cameron had made exactly the same miscalculation, with a different group of zoomers, almost precisely a year before. 

So the result was....a surprise. 

But it wasn't just the narrow result in the UK that was a surprise. It was also the result in Scotland. 

England Leave, Scotland Remain was meant to be a dream result for the SNP. Except it wasn't meant to be on the basis of an essentially split decision north of the border. 

Nobody, nobody in Scotland was meant to support a Leave vote. Not one of the gang of five did. Not Nicola, Ruth, Kez, Patrick or Willie. Sure there was Coburn but it wasn't just his politics which made him a joke figure. And then (very) latterly there was Tom Harris for the Leavers, but even he would hardly claim to carry in much of a personal vote.

Yet 38% of the Scottish electorate voted to leave. Not just on the North East Coast, where there has been long resentment of the Common Fisheries Policy,  but in parts of urban Scotland where it transpired people were not much more enthusiastic about uncontrolled immigration than their demographically similar counterparts in the North of England.

And that's without the narrative of the English always dictating to the rest being spoiled by the Welsh. The bastards

Politics turns on moments. And in one moment, on the morning of 24th June, Nicola made a fatal mistake. She forgot that 38%. And she didn't pause to think who they might be.

She kens noo.

For it is increasingly clear that they were substantially those who were no more keen on the European Union than they had been, thirty months before, on a different Union.

Yet by the time that slowly dawned, the die was cast. "Scotland" had voted to remain in the EU. So, zoom, that meant that everything was up for grabs. 

And of course Nicola found a willing audience for that. English Remainers prepared to indulge her assertions that the Union itself was at stake as a mark of their own frustration with a vote they felt had not been properly thought through. Even the occasional rag tag and bobtail European politician happy to suggest Les Anglais would need to pay a price for their lack of solidarite communitaire.

The problem was that this audience, true believers aside, wasn't in Scotland.

And it most certainly did not include Mrs Theresa May.

Yet by the time that became clear it was too late.

Since 24th June threats of a second Independence Referendum have become almost a weekly headline. There is no good way out of this now. 

The Prime Minister and her allies having essentially told the Nats to va te faire foutre ailleurs si tu veux, Nicola has suddenly had to have regard to the retort from her electorate "Don't look back, we'll be right behind you."

Yet what credibility would she now have if what follows something that has been "More likely", "Ever more likely" or finally "Even nearer" eventually turns out to be "Not anytime soon"?

The Nats are in a hole. They have no coherent offer: on currency; on the deficit: even, bizarrely, on the EU, to place before the electorate. 

At least in 2014 they had the semblance of one.

Yet they have threatened a a vote nonetheless in the spirit of the man who points a gun to his own head and threatens to pull the trigger. Over an issue on which a good one third of their own support wouldn't entirely mind them getting shot.

But what now is the alternative? That the Empress herself admits to having no clothes?

And this is where it comes down to a personal call. 

If there was another Referendum now, the Nats would almost certainly lose. But nothing is certain.

And yet if their isn't a referendum now?  Nicola Sturgeon personally could never threaten one with any credibility ever again.

So what does she value most? The post of First Minister or the "Cause of Scotland"?

Oddly, having not wished to be where she is, I don't rule out the latter. For the alternative can only be long years ahead defending the failure of Scottish public services while being gently patronised by her own hated British establishment. 

"First Minister! It's Boris on the line. How's the referendum thing going? Anyway, I've got a stag do in Glasgow next weekend. Any chance you could recommend a decent Curry House?"

As the poet has it, perhaps sometimes "One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name".

So I don't rule out an attempt at a second Referendum. After Trump, and Brexit, I don't even rule out an unanticipated result. 

But, let's be honest, it appears to be Nicola herself who is most upset that events seem to bringing that test "ever closer".

Sunday, 15 January 2017

What is Independence?

Just over two years past we had a referendum.

On the one side was the status quo and on the other the proposition set out in the Scottish Government's notorious White Paper. I say notorious because that document was clearly "informed" by a number of financial assumptions that were tendentious at the time and which, with the benefit of hindsight,have been shown to be the entirely wishful thinking that my side then accused them of being.

And it wasn't just the economics that demonstrated a degree of wishful thinking. It was also the assumptions made as to the response of others to a Yes vote. Whether that being the English, prepared to risk the stability of their currency because, while we'd have demonstrated by our votes a desire to have nothing to do with them, they'd still hold a residual affection towards us. Or the Spanish, who'd welcome us into the European Union irrespective of the consequence for their own polity because, being Scottish, we were special. Actually, the whole document proceeded on he basis of us, the Scots, being special, but I suppose that's the view of all nationalists in any nation since the beginning of history.


At least then there was a proposition. Scotland and England would go our separate ways but still share a Head of State and a currency. We'd both be in the European Union, so our citizens could continue to live without restriction in either country and indeed, since we'd also remain in the common travel area, we'd also be able to cross the border with any passport control persisting in being at Dover rather than Gretna. Oh, and since we'd still be in the EU, we'd also still be subject to the two European Courts who'd protect us if required from the authoritarianism and worse which almost inevitably becomes the by-product of over enthusiastic nationalism.

So, even accepting the criticisms of the White Paper which I make above, Yes voters in 2014 knew, or at least thought they knew, what they were voting for.

The people who gathered in Glasgow yesterday to advocate a second referendum have no idea what they'd be voting for. Although they'd still vote for it. What currency would this new nation state use? They have no idea. That doesn't matter. Would we be applying to join the European Union? They have no idea. That doesn't matter. Is the plan still to have a constitutional monarchy? They have no idea. That doesn't matter. Above all, how would they address the unprecedented international deficit identified by the Scottish Government's own figures? They have no idea. That doesn't matter.

And how would Independence actually improve health, education, the economy........indeed anything at all? No idea. That doesn't matter.

Utilitarian nationalism always was a farcical proposition. It can only proceed logically starting from the assumption that in certain circumstances its alleged adherents would not be nationalists at all.  But those people preaching "utilitarian" nationalism yesterday as an alternative to the Tories would, strangely, still be preaching "utilitarian" nationalism in the, admittedly improbable, circumstance that Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister and engaged in the socialist transformation of society (sic). For nationalists aren't just "utilitarian" nationalists when Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May was/is Prime Minister, they were equally "utilitarian" nationalists when that position was occupied by Clement Attlee or Gordon Brown.

A month ago they were "utilitarian" nationalists so as they could remain in the EU. Following Nicola's declaration that there will, at the very least, be no vote in a timescale that will permit that to happen they are nonetheless still "utilitarian" nationalists. Indeed, as they consider whether their own electorate might require a complete rethink on "Independence in Europe" altogether, they remain "utilitarian" nationalists. Even if the utility is difficult to articulate.

There is only one sort of nationalism. Suffice to say utilitarianism forms no part of it. Nicola herself described the alternative type as existential. That's one way of describing it I suppose. As I say above, whatever type it is, the eight hundred gathered in Glasgow yesterday will vote for it. The problem for them is that nearly four million people would vote in any future referendum and a large number, even of those who voted Yes the last time, would expect some idea of what they were voting for. Which is why Nicola has taken the decision that there is to be no vote in the foreseeable future.

You can't help feeling that from the perspective of the survival of her existential cause, that is an altogether more utilitarian decision than anything discussed yesterday

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Fur Coat

January is an odd month. At the start the festive season isn't quite over and thereafter there is a brief period of optimistic renewal until towards the end of the month, in Scotland at least, there dawns the slow realisation that the Spring is still a good three months away. If we're lucky.

But in that brief period of renewal there are inclined to be certain traditions and in this house at least this includes a purge of the wardrobes. Clothes are gone through and those beyond further use: whether by reason of, long should have been appreciated, wear and tear; or a realisation that, if they've not been worn in the previous twelve months, it's unlikely they'll be worn again; or a recognition that a particular item has long been replaced without being discarded; or, most mysterious of all, the discovery that the clothes appear to have succumbed to the phenomenon of shrinking, while hanging on a rail and not being worn at all.

That has been my task this weekend.

Since Maureen has been ill, I  have applied myself to our collective wardrobe, and, since that time at least, I have faced the dilemma of the fur coat.

It's not even Maureen's fur coat, or even one she ever wore. It belonged to my mother, who has been dead for nearly thirty nine years. And, to the best of my knowledge, no one has so much as tried it on since.

I must have taken it with me when we cleared the family home after my mother's death and then again when Maureen and I first moved in together. I have no recollection of that, or even as to how it then came to this house. Let alone of it being placed into the little used part of the wardrobe within which I make my annual encounter with it each January.

I don't know why I keep it. I'm not a particularly sentimental person and even if I were I have other mementos of my mother somewhat more significant, never mind more easily retained.

I'll never have anybody to give it to. I have no daughters, and all my nieces would probably be horrified that I even possess  a fur coat, let alone be willing to accept it off me.

I'm kind of conscious that if I simply hang on to it forever then no-one lives forever and that, some day, somebody will do what I should have long since have done and dispose of it. If not to the bin then at least to a charity shop where it might raise a few quid for a worthy cause.

Every year that rational part of my brain says that's precisely what I should do but, strangely, every year I am ever less inclined to do so. Not least as it would constitute an admission that it is something I should have done long ago.

Why am I writing this? Partly it's because it's New Year and you are meant to be miserably reflective. Again perhaps particularly in Scotland.

But it's also perhaps because the place this fur coat holds in my life increasingly parallels my relationship with the Labour Party. There is a bit of me that is conscious that the Labour Party was once as fashionable as no doubt was the fur coat but that fashions, and mores, change. Increasingly it looks as if no one will ever wear it again. Be clear, Corbynism may be a by product of this unfashionability but it is not its cause. If no-one wants to wear you anyway, what matters the length at the knee, or the width of lapel?

They say that if you wait long enough all fashion comes round again. But the codpiece won't. Or the bustle. Or, I strongly suspect, the fur coat.

Yet I cannot quite bring myself to throw it away.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Nobody has a clue

For the entirety of my adult life, somebody has had a clue. By somebody, I mean one or other of our major political Parties. And by a clue, I mean a clear way forward, even if you don't personally agree with it.

The fag end of the 1974-79 Labour Government didn't have a clue, but Mrs Thatcher did. The fag end of the long Tory supremacy which followed didn't have a clue, but Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did, Yet when Brown finally inherited not only the Premiership but the financial crash, it was clear that having weathered the latter, he didn't have much of a clue as to the way forward either. Although the odd centre right coalition that followed at least sort of had. I might even grudgingly conclude that until September 2014 the SNP in power in Scotland at least had a little  bit of a clue, even if the proposed solution, Independence, was pretty clueless.

Today, nobody has a clue.

The Government kind of treats Brexit as if it was some sort of natural disaster, rather than an event the Tory Party's own hubris as to the state of public opinion brought about. It's not that we, the public, are left to guess as to whether they seek a hard or soft Brexit. It's increasingly clear that they genuinely don't know themselves. And even if they called it one way or another? What would be the consequence? They don't have a clue.

As to my own Party? Well, even if you write off the bizarre Corbynista view that people are voting for far right racist Parties because the centre left isn't left enough, you are still left (sic) with the question of what our line would be if possessed with less deranged leadership. It can't be the case that we write off the leavers as irredeemable racists. Even if that was true, which it isn't, who would that leave to vote us into power? So what would be our line if, by some act of God, Corbyn was swept away and replaced with........well whoever? Dan Jarvis, Yvette Cooper, Keir Starmer, Liz Kendall or even, as a less deluded Corbynista, Clive Lewis? As I wrote in an earlier blog you simply can't reconcile that part of our our historic electoral coalition which says "Refugees welcome" with that different part which demands "Local Houses for local people". No-one can. And in the absence of being able to do that? We don't have a clue.

And so to the Lib Dems. I was well pleased they won in Richmond Park. But so what? Come a big election they might well peel off "liberal" voters from us. And indeed probably even pro European voters from the Tories. But can they win from an effectively standing start, never mind the tribal antipathy their call from 2010 to 2015 still evokes in certain quarters? Patently not. And if they can't win? They haven't got a clue either.

I was impressed by the insight of Blair's New Statesman interview. on the importance of the centre. I say that as someone who was never his greatest fan to start with who still regards the Iraq War as a colossal strategic error. Nonetheless,  his kind of mildly left of centre politics is clearly as good as it is ever going to get in the UK. Even then, his electoral triumphs came about in specific circumstance. Seventeen years of Tory Government leading to a willingness on the part of the electorate to tolerate almost anything else while the scars of 1992 had finally persuaded my own Party to sign up for that "almost anything else".

But how does the Centre get to go before the electorate now, today, in 2016 or 2017 or even 2020?There is certainly a movement out there that is signed up for cultural liberalism and a pro European future. Chukka Umunna is in it. and Anna Soubry. And Nicky Morgan and Liz Kendall.  And indeed obviously Nick Clegg and, now, Sarah Olney. It even includes Caroline Lucas on its left flank and George Osborne on its right.

But so what? We live in a democracy. What matters are elections. And Movements don't win elections, Parties do. And under first past the post, Movements, unless they capture a Party, have no way into the game. Even Momentum get that.

And how do we get out of that situation? Nobody, as Blair himself kind of conceded, has a clue.

And so to Scotland. There is clearly no majority for the economic and cultural suicide that would be independence. But how, politically, do the rest of  to come to terms with that? It's increasingly clear the Nats don't have a clue about what to do about this dilemma. But, equally, the rest of us have no idea either as to what to do in response. My Party doesn't just agree with the Tories on the fundamentals of constitution, we also agree with them that there is much wrong with Scottish public services. But that's as far as it goes. When it comes to solutions we are miles apart. Just as nationalism is a philosophy with no traditional left/right ideological dimension, neither is unionism,  So it is not just the Government of Scotland that is in a condition of policy stasis, it is the opposition as well. And the solution to that is? Nobody has a clue.

And that's even before we turn to world events. What to do about not just Syria but the wider Middle East? Nobody has got a clue. Turkey? Not a clue. North Korea? Not a clue. The refugee crisis? Not a clue. Putin? Not a clue. Trump? Not a clue.

So, bring on 2017. Where nobody has a clue.

It is said that politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Here's hoping. But how might that vacuum be filled? I haven't got a clue.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Past is never the Answer

They call it the rustbelt for a reason.

Just before the EU Referendum I wrote a blog, Voting against Now, in which I sought to explain the anger that was driving Brexit among, particularly, white working class communities.

I wrote then.

"If you look at those areas of “the Country” which voted Yes and are looking like voting Leave, they share one thing in common. A legitimate feeling that while “elsewhere” prospers, their own location and indeed personal circumstances do not.

And that is, for the avoidance of doubt, a legitimate feeling. The affluence of the “white working class” is at best getting no better, following a period, starting after the war and continuing until perhaps thirty years ago, when a year to year improvement in circumstance, marginal but noticeable, was expected as the natural order of things. Just as, with the benefit of hindsight, that improvement happened marginally but noticeably, it equally ceased to happen marginally. But it is certainly noticeable now. And to compound the resentment of that experience, the relative affluence of others in our society has, over that same thirty year period, visibly improved; whether catching up from behind in relation to the general circumstance of ethnic minorities and “immigrants” or pulling further away in front in relation to a distant metropolitan elite.

And overwhelmingly, those standing still, or sometimes worse, are people who used to “produce” things. All sorts of things from coal brought to the surface to iron turned into steel; from tiny buttons to ocean going ships and things of all sorts and sizes in between. Different things in different places but with a common culture. Industrial work that often depended on brawn rather than brain but which nonetheless, for the long post war boom, had more or less guaranteed availability. Work which brought with it honest reward that fuelled a local service economy: shops, cinemas, social clubs, that was visibly there not as an end in itself but rather as support to allow the primary “producing” purpose of the place to function.

In many, many places this world has gone. It hasn’t changed or modernised. It has just disappeared. The same things are (generally) still produced, obviously, but they are not produced here. They are produced in India or China or wherever. Produced by different producers, working in harsher conditions and crucially at a much lesser level of personal reward. 

And what’s left, too often, is little more than the service economy that once enjoyed only a support role. As Shirley Williams famously described it, an economy based on people selling hamburgers to each other."

All of this could just as easily be applied to the events across the USA this past week. Or, actually, not across the USA, for it should never be lost sight of that Hillary actually won the popular vote, but rather across a handful of large but ultimately critical midwestern states.

Now, the immediate reaction to this is that we must find some way of reconnecting with these voters and, of course, in a democracy, building a winning electoral coalition is what the whole business of politics is about.

But the problem for the left is that in many areas conceding what is demanded simply isn't economically possible. while in others, to concede it would cease to make us "the left" at all.

To deal with each of these in turn, globalisation might be halted or at least slowed isn't going away. The BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China aren't going back to their previous existence of isolated or essentially agrarian economies, neither willing or capable of competing with the west in advanced manufacturing. And the MINT countries, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey are only one of many acronyms for other countries not far behind on a fast track to development.

What is the answer proposed anyway? Import controls and a decline in world trade leading to higher prices and drastically reduced growth? Greater international rivalry for resources that could only too easily slip into something worse? Really? Is that how the dog is to be wagged by the tail? And anyway, even if this was all undertaken, would this make this discontented section of the electorate happy? No, for none of it would ever recreate, in world terms, the advantage they once enjoyed. You might as well fight a British General Election on a promise of returning us to being the workshop of the world while Britannia once more ruled the waves. Getting elected on such a manifesto wouldn't ever, conceivably, make it happen. That will be the ultimate lesson of Brexit where many seem to have believed they could vote for just that. Similarly, no amount of shouting about making America great again will ever make it as great as it once was. For the world has moved on.

But, of course, this is almost as nothing as the second element of being "left behind" it is suggested we must appease, the anger of native born white men. How can the left ever "understand" that without ceasing to be a left at all. If you asked anybody on the left, anywhere in the world, what their basic belief is then they would start with greater equality. Equality between the sexes, equality between the races, thanks to many brave modern pioneers, equality between those of different sexual orientations or physical abilities. And, yes, equality between all those contributing to our communities, no matter where they were born. It is not accidental that the most long lasting achievements of UK Labour Governments include, right at the very top, The Sexual Offences Act 1967, The Equal Pay Act 1970, The Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. There can be no compromise on any of this. Our side is correct in our world view and anybody on the other side isn't just otherwise minded. They are wrong. When Labour notoriously lost Smethwick in 1964,  Harold Wilson didn't try to "understand" why we'd lost the white working class vote, he described the racist winner as a "Parliamentary leper". He was right to do so.

So, if progressive opinion, is to rebuild a winning electoral coalition perhaps we need to move away from the assumption that we start with a class based politics and instead look to a politics which divides between those who want history to continue to go forward and those under the delusion that somehow voting for "a flag" can turn somehow turn it back.

Of course, in the US, the Democrats have been here before, most noticeably when they decided that the tolerance of racial segregation was a price they could no longer pay in order to hold on to the "solid South". They built a new coalition then and in a nation which, no matter what Trump does, will continue to be ever more diverse, they'll can do so again.

Perhaps in the UK we need a similar rebuilding exercise with regard to our own progressive coalition.

I finish with one of Obama's favourite quotes from Dr. King. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." That didn't change last Tuesday.