Magazine article The Spectator

Bruce Anderson's Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Bruce Anderson's Diary

Article excerpt

An embarrassing confession: in the late 1960s, I was a Trotskyite. But that period of political adolescence has its uses. It made me aware of the methods employed by extremist parties such as the Scots Nats. Trots wanted to encourage 'the workers' to make impossible demands, including ludicrously high wage rates, in order to bring down capitalism. But the workers were too wise to fall for that, until Arthur Scargill came along. Now, the Nats are playing a similar game, discussing the terms on which they might support Ed Miliband -- as if they would like a stable government in London. That is nonsense. They want confusion and chaos in London, which would inflame the English against the Scots and convince even more Scots that the Union is collapsing. The Nats would actually prefer a Tory government, because they think that Toryism is still a toxic brand in North Britain. In Lenin's words, they will support Mr Miliband in the way that a rope supports a hanged man.

Can you remember who Emily Thornberry was? If not, no worries: neither can she. A clue: white van man and the Cross of St George were responsible both for her 15 minutes of fame and her dismissal. But before she returns to the obscurity from which she should never have emerged, there is an interesting point. When the English won the football war in 1966, they marched under the Union Flag. In those days, if you had asked the average supporter about the Cross of St George, he would have been nonplussed. So how did it migrate from the church steeple to the van's bonnet? There have been worse PhD topics. This is one change which owes nothing to any supposed elite: a genuine popular movement, which is why the sociologists have averted their gaze. They would only be interested in a popular movement if it involved building socialism. Although it might seem regrettable that St George's beautiful banner, which adorns at least one very great painting -- Van Eyck's 'Canon van der Paele' -- should now be a footballing symbol, this is a development which may tell us a lot about nationalist stirrings in the English psyche, which could have interesting consequences for both Scotland and Europe.

In recent years, posthumous pardons have become fashionable. I have always been sceptical about modish attempts to rewrite history, yet there is one overwhelming case, not for a pardon, but for a posthumous decoration. In the early 1970s the UK was assisting the Sultan of Oman in a fierce little war. …

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