Another Glorious Revolution OR Neoliberalism vs. the Continuing UK state
Back in January I wrote an article in which I wondered if there was a potential conflict of interest between neoliberalism and the UK state. My argument was that from a neoliberal perspective it would make no difference if Scotland was or was not independent so long as capitalist realism prevailed and Scotland remained part of the global financial system.
However, an independent Scotland would threaten the continuity of the UK ‘deep’ state- which is a pre-democratic entity loyal to the Crown rather than elected parliaments. I found a quote from the Guardian which illustrated this.
Senior figures in Whitehall were so worried by the prospect of a collapse of the union that it was suggested to the palace that it would be immensely helpful if the Queen could say something publicly. Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, and Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, embarked on discussions to work out how the Queen might register her concerns at the prospect of a yes vote while upholding her constitutional duty to remain wholly impartial. The Whitehall machinery was fully apprised of the prime minister’s concerns that the yes side was developing an ominous momentum.
The talks between the most senior civil servant in the land and the palace’s most senior official, the two key figures at the heart of what the Whitehall source described as the “deep state”, focused in the first place on the wisdom of a public intervention by the monarch, who has been scrupulously impartial during her 62 years on the throne. Once it became clear that the Queen was minded to speak out, Geidt and Heywood then needed to fashion some words that would ensure that the she remained within the bounds expected of a constitutional monarch…
The queen’s intervention probably didn’t make much difference to the result. The significance is that the intervention was made at all.
Moving swiftly on, we now have a situation where the consequences of the No vote are outraging rightwing neoliberal opinion since if a cohort of SNP MPs are elected David Cameron may be forced out of power. This has led to speculation that the right wing press will mount a campaign denying the legitimacy of a Labour government propped up by SNP/ Scottish votes. The fear is that such a government would be mildly left-wing and do outrageous things like taxing the rich and stop demonising the poor and disabled.
What is interesting is that this attempt to maintain neoliberal dominance in the UK appears to be creating a split with the UK ‘deep’/ continuing state. This is from a more recent Guardian article
Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, has reminded David Cameron that he signed up to a Whitehall document that says the next prime minister will be the leader who commands the confidence of MPs, regardless of whether their party has won the election. In a sign of concerns in Whitehall that constitutional conventions should be followed if voters elect the most balanced parliament in nearly a century, Lord O’Donnell indicated that the leader of the largest party does not automatically become prime minister. O’Donnell spoke out after the Cameron accused Ed Miliband of preparing a “con trick” to enter No 10 with the support of the SNP.
The calculation ‘Whitehall’ has probably made is that if Cameron is kept in power by the forces of neoliberal economic-self-interest that this will create a constitutional crisis which will push Scotland towards independence and see the break-up of the UK as a continuing state. By opening the way for mild reform via Labour government, the danger of a more revolutionary break with the status quo will have been avoided. Some powerful neoliberal noses will be put out of joint, but the Crown will continue to reign over us.
To conclude on a historical note – in 1688 king James II and VII tried to hang on to power even as William of Orange’s army advanced towards London. Only when James finally realised the game was up did he manage (on his second attempt) to flee the capital, allowing William and Mary to become joint rulers in place of James. In England this is still called the ‘Glorious Revolution’. If David Cameron peacefully quits Downing Street, allowing Ed Miliband supported by Nicola Sturgeon take power, will this be heralded as another ‘Glorious Revolution’? Or might Cameron, like James’ father attempt to defy the will of Parliament?