More Alike Than Unalike
New polling shows we have more in common with each other than those who need to stoke division can admit.
“I note the obvious differences
Between each sort and type,
But we are more alike, my friends,
Than we are unalike.”
- Maya Angelou
When I was 15 my stepfather, who was a trade union official representing workers in British Telecom, took me camping on Arran. After a happy day on Goat Fell we went into the town of Brodick for dinner in a pub. A couple of BT vans were parked outside and soon we were sat with two engineers who waved us over. One of them was complaining that he was finding it hard to buy a house in Brodick. “Have you tried in Lamlash?”, asked my stepfather. The engineers face darkened and he growled, “They’re all bastards in Lamlash.”
For those of you who don’t know Arran, Lamlash is a village three miles south of Brodick. A six-minute drive but seemingly a completely different culture. I mention this because there is a flaw in human beings where however irrational it may seem, we imagine tribal differences between ourselves and an outsider group. There is an ingrained instinct that warns us that the people outside the cave, on the other side of the river, across the sea are to be feared rather than made friends.
The story of human progress has been about gradually overcoming that irrational mistrust of the other and becoming part of something bigger, so that we can share resources for our mutual benefit.
At the heart of the nationalist proposition is that the people on the other side of an imaginary line are so irreconcilably different from us that we cannot share with them. That deeper debate, between those who see the difference and work towards division, and those of us who see what is shared and seek solidarity, isn’t spoken about enough. We should talk about it more because the values of unity, togetherness, friendship and family, are a powerful emotional foundation for the political idea of union. Likewise, the Tubbs and Edwards view of the outsider group is deeply unattractive.
Fascinating new polling published yesterday from Our Scottish Future is a reminder that even after fifteen years of a nationalist government devoted to discord we remain more alike than unalike.
Asked about values like equality, diversity, tolerance, and liberty, people across the nations and regions of the UK give near-identical answers:
And it’s not just on values that belief is shared across this island, asked what the most important issues are, there are clear shared priorities too:
The polling paints a picture of a UK where people are committed to equality, share the national religion of the NHS, and want to combine greater devolution with more cooperation between governments.
Gordon Brown has an excellent article in the New Statesman on the inclusive pluralistic UK that is an anathema to those whose politics depends on convincing us that we must make an exclusive choice between identities:
“Unity does not require uniformity and solidarity does not demand the elimination of regional and national differences. To be British does not mean having one identity. Citizens can be comfortably Muslim, English and British. Only a minority now believe that the main characteristic of being British is that you were born in Britain. It is possible to be born in Canada of Romanian and Chinese parents and be, like Emma Raducanu, a new British sporting icon. Within these islands, to rephrase Tennyson, all that we have met are a part of each of us.”
In case you missed it…
From poetry onto more prosaic matters… The respected Institute for Government has a new study out today which looks at the borrowing that Scotland would need if we were to choose to give up our share of UK funds. They predict higher borrowing costs for Scotland. Effectively our national credit card bill would go up, but not because we’d be buying anything new, just because our interest rate would go up. They are the latest think tank to predict cuts or tax rises to pay for independence:
“Whichever currency option an independent Scotland adopted, before too long it would probably have to run tighter fiscal policy than the position that Scotland would be likely to inherit on day one.”
Stephen Daisley has an amusing piece on the po-faced reaction to Huza Yousaf joining the ranks of politicians looking like wallies as they fall over in front of the cameras. The interesting thing for me from the SNP reaction to this event is that they are so used to attacking the media that they leap to ‘work the refs’ immediately without even thinking about what they are doing.
The SNP is to call in the British Army to deal with the ambulance crisis they have created. Anas Sarwar gave voice to the frustration over a lack of urgency on this issue:
On Matt Forde’s podcast, one of the new Green Ministers seems to believe that the Conservatives have done a great job with the Irish border.
Finally, Alex Massie writes reminding us that nobody has been held accountable for the whole Alex Salmond affair. He recounts an exchange of messages reportedly between a young female civil servant accompanying the former First Minister on a visit and her colleague:
“He’s a pig, but he’s not an angry pig today. Just a disgusting one.”
“Just keep safe. And keep away from situations or conversations you may feel uncomfortable about.”
“Too late. Didn’t even get through the journey without him speaking about having sex with me. To be honest, I think I need to minimise my time with him this week after tomorrow”
How utterly grim. Where is the examination of this culture within the very centre of our government? Where is the reassurance that the working environment has changed?