There is huge interest in the US over the Scottish independence debate. I was much impressed when C-Span here, broadcasting the second Salmond-Darling debate, asked viewers for their view on what was happening in the Scots referendum..
From all over the USA, men and women agreed politely, “It’s up to the Scots.”
Now in a column in USA Today columnist Michael Wolff, reporting from the UK, has thrown a spanner into the politeness business.
He does it almost casually in the course of lauding Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, who has he says has “begun the next stage of his almost inevitable assent to prime minister and to the world stage.”
That event, says Wolff, is connected in political as well as dramatic terms with the possible dissolution of the UK .
“A modern state on the precipice of dissolution is something that has seldom been seen. If Scottish independence succeeds or even comes close, the fractioning option likely becomes part of modern discourse and politicking—relevant from Catalonia to Texas, not to mention conferring legitimacy on the ongoing breakup of so many unstable nations.”
Wolff criticises the Scottish independence movement, blaming Blair for “as preposterous a historical and social development as it might ever be possible to imagine.”
“Preposterous” is the word that he chooses .
It has happened largely, says Wolff , because Blair (ironically a Scot himself), when he was prime minister, “felt it politically more efficient to offer the rump movement its own Parliament rather than to express the incredulity that the nonsense demanded. “
Note the word:”Nonsense.”
He then ropes Cameron in to the blame game over the referendum : “ David Cameron seemed unable to appreciate that illogic, unmet, invariably generates its own wacky logic.”
This has given rise to a level of media bullying, says Wolff, in which almost everyone is now intimidated by the forces of idiocy.
Idiocy. Another strong word.
“Even Paul McCartney, perhaps the closest thing the United Kingdom has to a national hero, has received death threats for expressing wistful hopes that his country might remain intact,” says Wolff.
Boris Johnson, says Wolff is charismatic – a word he also applies to Alex Salmond “the extraordinary huckster, in Scotland who has almost singlehandedly bedeviled the British establishment and created the social and media conditions leading to the improbable breakup of a 300-year old union built on economic and cultural consanguinity. “
This doubtful compliment is tempered with his next remark , “Salmond, with a little critical interpretation, is not that different from the voluble and pugnacious Vladimir Putin, now bedeviling the Western world in his efforts to divide and conquer Ukraine. Both are self-styled dramatists.”
Wolff calls Putin and Salmond “outsider mavericks … contrast gainers to the well-tempered, bureaucratically constrained, ever-frustrated, quite inarticulate, diffident and obtuse stewards of the official order. “
Wolff returns to his praise of Boris Johnson.
Johnson has become the central theatrical presence in British political life, he says, compared with Tony Blair and David Cameron—”men who, along with Obama, are bottled up and buttoned down, ever confused by the passions of passionate men.”
They are all so controlled they can’t deal with the loss of control.
The centre lacks the will and words to defend itself, says Wolff .
He envisages Cameron being defeated in the next election, making Johnson the likely leader of the party. Then Labour will shortly go down in defeat itself. Without Scotland’s heavy Labour vote in the event of a “yes” vote, Labour would lose its majority and the government would fall anyway, Wolff points out.
This means Johnson, in as unlikely a rise as perhaps Churchill’s return to power in 1940, will become the prime minister of Great Britain, “albeit a less great one if it’s without Scotland.”