You may have noticed that the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been causing a bit of a stooshie.
In the aftermath of a train wreck of Prime Minister’s Questions which will surely signal the beginning of the end of the Boris Johnson clusterbouroch, Rees-Mogg did a couple of interviews during which he said that the elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives had “always been a bit of a political lightweight”, and that the appointed but wholly unelected Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, was a “much more substantial” figure. He also dismissed reliable reports that the Conservative block in Holyrood – who you’d think he’d want to keep onside if he wants to keep the United Kingdom intact – had agreed en masse that they wanted the resignation of Boris Johnson.
There was a genuine intake of breath from the BBC presenter Kirsty Wark when he said all this, but I’ll pass on the faux outrage.
Many months back, Rees-Mogg was criticised for his comments during an interview in which he seemed to blame the victims of the Grenfell Tower on their own lack of common sense, but watching the clip anew it wasn’t mis-speak. It wasn’t a “gaffe”. He was simply articulating his argument based on his own worldview. Likewise, yesterday’s comments were if nothing else truthful and revealing, as they revealed what was already in plain sight to the millions who watched the marginalisation of Scotland during Brexit, and arguably for many decades before that – Scotland doesn’t matter. Rees-Mogg did nothing more than give a public airing to a view held privately by not only his clan but by other unionist parties: that Holyrood, like Cardiff, like Stormont – largely exist to give provide the illusion of self-government whilst giving the colonies something to keep them occupied.
And it was interesting, by the way, that in Rees-Mogg’s view, the only Tory that counts as substantial is not the ones democratically appointed by the Scottish Electorate but the one appointed by an English Prime Minister. The rest – the Scottish leader included – are just useful idiots. You almost (but not quite) feel sorry for Ross as at least he seems to put in a shift – which to an entitled dilettante gentleman amateur like Rees-Mogg must seem terribly vulgar. Perhaps “lightweight” is euphemistic Mogg-Speak for “not rich”.
In short, he confirmed, in a heartbeat and without blinking, that the the Scottish branch of the party is not part of the Union and is an utter irrelevance to him, to his Prime Minister, to his party to the United Kingdom. By logical extension therefore, so is Scotland itself.
As a friend of mine commented this morning, his choice of language was deliberate and if it doesn’t leave his party seriously questioning its râison d’être, then they deserve all that will befall them. And befall them it will.
Of course, by articulating a commonly held Conservative Party viewpoint – that Holyrood and its representatives are a nuisance at best and an irrelevance at worst – he makes a compelling case for something that I’ve long believed. For a Conservative Party and its political worldview to gain traction and influence in Scotland, it needs independence. Rees-Mogg has just, in plain terms, shown them that they have next to no influence under the current constitutional settlement. What will their core vote think of a party that chooses to know these limits and try to justify continuing to operate within the narrowest of prisms? Whither a party that is knowingly designed to fail?
The first step for them should be, I think, distancing themselves from the “Big Hoose”, something that’s been floated before, but this doesn’t come without its difficulties.
After everything that’s happened over the last decade or so, it would actually be deliciously ironic if the Tories in Scotland did decide they wanted to be independent from London rule but instead against their will ended up yoked forever to a relationship with a bigger partner with different priorities that considered them too wee, too pure, too stupid – and too lightweight – to be independent.
Welcome to my world, Douglas. It’s one in which at least half of Scotland lives in. Not a great place to be, is it? And what currency would you use?
Rees-Mogg’s strangely honest statement of fact can serve as a timely reminder, from the unlikeliest of sources, that political parties of whatever hue can only express the truest versions of themselves when the democracy they believe in isn’t outsourced to a different country with a markedly divergent worldview. Yesterday made it crystal clear that all our our futures are best served within a normal, independent, wholly accountably Scottish Parliament. It’s coming yet, for a’ that.
Stay safe everybody. I’ll meet you further on up the road.