Clowns from across the political spectrum have been putting on quite a show of late with Caroline Lucas’s suggestion of an all-female Cabinet to sort out Brexit, Wings Over Scotland’s plan for a new political party and Labour’s independence-themed performance of the hokey-cokey, writes Laura Waddell.
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right – no it’s not the Edinburgh Fringe Festival I’m talking about, but bad ideas springing up left, right, and centre of politics. Grab a drink, make yourselves comfortable, and welcome to silly season.
If I was handed a flyer with Caroline Lucas’ proposal to sort out Brexit with an all-woman Cabinet, it would go straight in the nearest bin, a gesture towards recycling the Greens might appreciate. But do members, or anyone at all who might be sympathetic in the polling booth, remotely desire a centrist Cabinet balanced between senior women from each political party (yet somehow leaving out Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbot)? With such a by-the-numbers approach to its composition, this fantasy coalition Cabinet would be meaningless in its wider ideological pursuits, and unlikely to grant the Greens much influence. Sure, it’s out-of-the-box thinking at a time we need new ideas, but of the kind that should hit the wastebasket at brainstorming stage before a credible idea actually comes along.
Women are often elevated to leading roles when that role is at its least desirable. It was true in the case of May, and has been observed in the corporate world too. We know that responsibility for domestic duties, even in households with two working parents, falls disproportionately to women. But who wants a Cabinet to reflect the drudgery of cleaning up other people’s messes?
There are some good politicians among those contacted by Lucas and some I’d like to see in the real Cabinet, but the principle itself just doesn’t hold up. Besides the logistical insubstantiality, Lucas’ plan overlooks the glaring fact that some women in politics can be as conniving, warmongering, and malevolent as any man, and many backed Brexit. If we need a stark reminder, certainly I’ll never forget a grinning Kate Hoey sailing down the Thames with Nigel Farage, like a lost scene from Dante’s Inferno reimagined by an am-dram troupe on course for making a loss. All-women teams are contentious even on The Apprentice, and this isn’t entertainment, although I would be curious about what team name they’d pick.
This week blogger Wings over Scotland, aka Stuart Campbell, denied former First Minister Alex Salmond was involved in the creation of a potential new pro-independence political party, which might differ from the SNP on some populist issues.
If it can funnel off support by whipping up outrage among lingering Salmondites whose allegiances have never been transferred to Sturgeon, I imagine the party at large would be delighted to throw out a few babies with the bathwater.
Meanwhile, in the seven-and-under tent, Scottish Labour MPs have been playing in, out, in, out, shake it all about in a PR war with the UK office. As will be ever the case while he’s in charge, some of the schism following John McDonnell’s comments on not standing in the way of an independence referendum can be traced along the lines of Jeremy Corbyn’s clearest supporters and detractors. The spat rolled on for days last week – just when we imagined it had run empty, new contrary statements were pulled out of a bottomless hat, and it’ll be a while before any dove of peace appears.
Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy took the opportunity to disagree with head office, tweeting after McDonnell’s comments blew up, “Egalitarian devolution isn’t about separation but how by working together as nations within the UK each stronger and more successful. Labour abandons such commitment at our peril.”
She tweeted about the abuse received for her anti-independence stance (which obviously no one deserves, in any circumstance), but what of genuine engagement? It makes me wonder who the intended audience is for aloof statements on constitutional matters. I have a feeling they’re not especially for the benefit of those in Scotland with an interest in how we’re governed, because engaging any deeper after laying down the law for Scots seems only to provoke annoyance.
When pressed on a lack of answer as to whether she believed Holyrood could exercise its mandate by holding a referendum, Creasy tweeted “I get quite a few messages so don’t see everything. please don’t feel important by this omission...” Don’t worry – we don’t. It reminds me of another omission a few years ago when Creasy and Yvette Cooper opposed the devolution of abortion law. It was described excitedly as a “feminist flare signal!”, and doesn’t that sound like such an adventure, a bit like being in the Famous Five?
But their campaign engaged with guest writing for the Guardian opinion section in a more substantial way than getting Scottish women involved on the matter of legislation of our bodies and whether we might have something to say on the matter. Rather rude not to share around the lashings of ginger beer, in my opinion.
But enough about Northernmost Walthamstow. That John McDonnell wouldn’t back independence makes his position on respecting the legislative decisions of devolved powers all the more sensible and fair-minded, and it’s the only logical one in line with party aims. Attempts to block a devolved power pursuing referenda essentially undermines the federalist solution both UK and Scottish Labour favour in place of independence, and how are voters meant to believe Labour has a serious or appealing plan for Scotland’s future when the two offices can’t agree on policy and Richard Leonard is left shouting into the wind, tie a-flap?
Still, Scottish Labour moaning about being overruled by Westminster as a response to favourable indy polls deserves five stars for comic timing. It’s certainly my pick of the festival season.