Not sucking it up

There’s a lot going on in the Britnatosphere this week, none of it good, and all of it received by the anti-independence media in Scotland with that collective shrugging of the shoulders and faux outrage about a broken down ferry which we have all come to know and loathe. After all, if the media in Scotland actually did its job and held the Conservatives and the British Government to account with the same energy and tenacity with which they pursue a story about a broken down ferry on Berneray, then people in Scotland might just start to wonder whether this country is indeed best served by an institutionally corrupt British Government which is already more than half way down the road to authoritarianism and a sclerotic Westminster system which is even worse at holding the British Government to account than the anti-independence media in Scotland, yes *that* bad.

Boris Johnson is far from being chastened by the recent failed attempt to unseat him, he has learned only that there is no outrage against democracy and decency in high office that he cannot get away with. All he needs to do is to run off to Kyiv to demonstrate that he’s besties with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and all is forgiven because Putin and there’s a war on you know.

This week Johnson, or someone in his office, leaned on the Times newspaper to pull a story about how when he was Foreign Secretary Johnson had tried to arrange a government job paying some £100K annually for his then girlfriend, now his wife, Carrie Johnson. Using their connections in order to land cushy and well paid government jobs for family members is the sort of thing that Nigerian princes do in between sending mass emails offering an amazing investment opportunity. This is not a story about Carrie Johnson. It’s about Boris Johnson. This is a story about a senior government minister trying to get his mistress a lucrative job paid for out of the public purse, and then as Prime Minister using the immense power and influence afforded to him by that aforementioned sclerotic Westminster system, in order to try and silence a journalist from talking about it.

This is a depressing and troubling story on a number of levels. We all expect Johnson to be sleazy and unethical. That is who he is. It is not unsurprising that such an unprincipled and entitled individual should attempt to pressurise the press into covering up yet another of his misdeeds. However what is truly shameful is that the Times, a newspaper which claims to represent fearless and diligent journalism, caved in to Johnson’s demands. Rather than being scared-off by lawyers, or shadowy court orders, or super injunctions, the Times seems to have merely folded to political pressure and a quiet word in its editor’s ear from someone in the Prime Minister’s office, an individual who if they were not acting on Johnson’s direct instruction, most certainly did so with his full knowledge and consent. The UK is already woefully short of meaningful ways in which power can be held to account. If the press starts to collude in enabling the corruption of a corrupt, lying, law-breaker of a Prime Minister there is absolutely nothing that stands in the way of the UK making a descent into a fully blown authoritarian kleptocracy.

The Times likes to call itself the Thunderer. In this instance it’s not so much the thunderer as an apologetic fart which it blamed on the dog.

This week we have the rail strikes, caused by an intransigent Conservative government which refuses to negotiate with the unions but which instead threatens to introduce legislation to crack down even further on the right of union members to take industrial action to protect their jobs and working conditions.

Can you imagine if either of these developments had been the work of SNP ministers? If it had been a Scottish Government transport minister who had refused to intervene in order to reach a settlement which could have prevented industrial action and then compounded their arrogance by announcing that the Scottish Government intended to legislate in order to restrict the rights of unions, the Scottish media would explode in a paroxysm of SNPbaddery. We’d be told that at interminable length and in tedious detail how the government was failing the people of Scotland. It would be relentless.

Equally it does not bear thinking about how the anti-independence media in Scotland would have reacted if it had been a senior figure in the Scottish Government who had tried to land a cushy and well paid government job for his mistress and then the First Minister’s office had leaned on a newspaper to pull the story. Glenn Campbell would be parked outside Bute House for weeks doing his sad face and doorstepping government ministers. The story would dominate Reporting Scotland for weeks, and they might even forget about the ferries for the duration, although not about the murrdurrs, the fitba, and the wee cute kittens. But as far as the Scottish media is concerned, this appalling scandal will be covered in a blink and you’d miss it sort of way, because the primary job of most of the media in Scotland is not to do anything that might foster dissatisfaction with Westminster and stoke up support for independence. Power is only to be held to account when it’s devolved power, the authority that the power is devolved from is not to be challenged.

The Tories know this too. They know that they cannot be held to account at Westminster and that the Scottish media is focused on stemming support for independence. This is why on a farce of a Scottish Affairs committee on which sat the Tory MP for Milton Keynes, Iain Stewart, Lord Malcolm Offord, who got his peerage for donations to the Tory party, and Alister Jack, one of only two Scottish Tories who didn’t vote to remove Boris, Jack told an SNP MP who complained about the way in which the British Government by passes Holyrood and undermines the devolution settlement to “Suck it up.” It was a remark dripping in arrogance and contempt. That’s what the Conservatives think of Scotland, a subordinate to be ordered to suck up the orders of its imperial masters. This is why an independence referendum is an imperative, in order to teach these arrogant and entitled British nationalist patricians that Scotland will not suck it up. As part of this corrupt and dysfunctional UK we have to suck it up. As an independent nation it’s the likes of Jack who will have to suck up what Scotland wants. That’s a lesson we need to teach him.

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