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Why is Daniel Hannan's banner pic a work of science fiction? Labour must learn the secrets of the Scottish Conservatives

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NewsHubSince Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy…
People out there in the big wide world are often helpful enough to point me towards Daniel Hannan’s latest brainfarts. He’s pretty prolific, but some of his work seems so boneheaded that I’ll get the same link sent to me by two, three, or, on one occasion, five different people.
This week it was this particular tweet – a retweet from last September; it’s all repeats on the internet these days – that everyone seemed keen to point me towards.
It’s like Ayn Rand has been reincarnated in the form of 15 year old hoping to study PPE at Oxford, isn’t it? That tweet suggests a world view so comfortingly simple that nobody actually needs money, and if you try to tax anyone anything they might decide to stop earning any in a fit of pique. (At time of writing, incidentally, Daniel Hannan has yet to resign his job as a Member of the European Parliament.)
If I get too far into this one, though, there’s a danger I’ll find myself attempting to disprove the assumptions of classical economics through the medium of sarcasm, and while I’m not shy about my own abilities to bullshit, I think that may be a bit beyond me. So instead I’m just going to leave it there for everyone to marvel at while we talk about flags.
Daniel Hannan’s header has been annoying me for months now, because it clearly takes place in a parallel universe in which the Anglosphere is a real thing rather than just the masturbatory fantasies of a certain type of free market ideologue. It combines the flags of the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, into a single red, white and blue monstrosity: the fact that one of Britain’s best known Eurosceptics uses this as his banner pic implies, at least to me, that he thinks this is what we should have instead of the EU.
At first glance, the assumption here seems to be that Britain’s natural allies are all the other countries who speak English. Except it clearly isn’t that, because a lot of other countries also speak English – Ireland, India, South Africa, to name but three – yet are mysteriously missing from the flag.
A better definition might be that it’s the bits of the British Empire where our forefathers planted their own colonies and attempted to wipe out the natives, rather than simply lording it over them through a combination of divide-and-rule and Maxim guns. More charitably, it’s the places that have a slightly misty-eyed relationship to the same stuff – free markets, Magna Carta, the notion that Britain invented freedom – that Dan himself does.
The notion of the Anglosphere is not entirely without foundation: these five countries constitute the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which implies a certain degree of closeness, and there’s a fair amount of military co-operation too. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, indeed, one of the instructions British prime ministers can leave for their nuclear subs is, basically, “You are now Australian. ”
But nonetheless oh my god, mate, are you actually high? The Anglosphere is not a political unit – outside the world of George Smiley and GI JOE, it might as well not exist – and the idea of a US that is increasingly a) diverse but b) protectionist going anywhere near that kind of thing is just delusional. Dan is basically just saying he’d be happier if Britain’s primary allies were countries which we founded, which speak English, and which contain depressingly high concentrations of people who agree with him.
I was going to end with a crack about how the Anglosphere flag was such a work of science fiction that Dan might as well employ the flag of Star Trek ’s United Federation of Planets or, if that was too lefty, the Terran Federation from Blake’s 7 (at least everyone there speaks English). But I’ve had a better idea. There is another rainy, sea-faring kingdom in a popular work of fantasy that recently took advantage of continent-wide chaos to break away from a larger political unit. In what may or may not a foretaste of things to come, it later used it as an excuse to attack its former allies.
I am talking, of course, about the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones .
What is dead may never die.
If Labour wants to recover as a political force, in Scotland or nationally, it must do the hard work of selling voters on a British, progressive party. But some in both the SNP and Labour sense a shortcut – a “progressive alliance”.
Progressives might be naturally cautious about taking advice from a Conservative, but anybody covering Scottish politics for a Tory website is very familiar with life in the doldrums. And there are a few things to be learnt down there.
First, as Scottish Labour members will tell anyone who listens , the SNP talk an excellent progressive game, particularly on any area where they’re in opposition. But in government the Nationalists have simply navigated by two stars – differentiating Scotland from England to the greatest extent possible, and irritating as few people as possible , all in order to engineer support for independence.
Independence itself would, according to nearly all objective assessments, involve a sharp adjustment in Scottish public expenditure, and painful consequences for those who depend on it. Yet this does little to dent the SNP’s enthusiasm. All their political reasoning is worked out backwards from that overriding goal.
There is no reason to believe that the nationalists’ priorities at Westminster would be any different. Joining the SNP in “progressive alliance” would be a poison pill for Labour.
For the larger party would be in a double bind. Govern cautiously, respecting the relative weakness of the left in England and Wales, and the SNP will paint its coalition partner as “Red Tory”, taking credit for whatever was popular in Scotland and disowning the rest.
But drive through a more radical programme with SNP votes (presumably after dismantling “English Votes for English Laws”), and risk permanently alienating huge sections of the electorate south of the border. Those Miliband-in-Salmond’s-pocket pictures would be just the start.
Scottish Labour is familiar with the reality of the SNP in power. But that’s not to say it isn’t making its own mistakes. Too often, it tries to strike the same sort of bargain with small-n nationalism.
Constitutionally-focused politics isn’t kind to social democrats, as Irish Labour will tell you. So it’s clear why Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale would wish to believe that there is a split-the-difference constitutional position which would, as this article has it , offer “an escape from the black and white world of referendum politics”.

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