Pitiful Visions of Diversity
In desperation for the lack of credible arguments for the Union, the previous case has morphed and changed. Before (2013–2020ish) it was presented as a ‘precious union’, a unique and incredible thing. Now, not so much. Now it’s just an immutable reality that’s set-in stone. We are one nation, nothing else.
This makes centrists and liberals uneasy.
On Tuesday, the senior writer with The Times, Kenny Farquharson seized on the ascent of Rishi Sunak as a sign of great things for Britain. Like many Orphaned Centrists he has become exasperated by having to defend the hard-right toxicity of the May-Johnson era. He explains: “For some time now a big factor in the independence debate has been a bad vibe about Britain. Pro-UK politicians have struggled to make a convincing case for the Union when the Westminster government has been characterised by values wildly at odds with the Scottish political consensus.”
Now, with Sunak & Co there is a great opportunity to change all this.
He outlines an imagined demographic (perhaps close to home): “The Progressive Noes are educated, professional, centre-left, liberal, pro-immigration and pro-European. They remain angry about Brexit, much more so than the population at large. Instinctively multicultural, they are turned off by the racial dog-whistle of recent Home Office policy. They recoil at Boris Johnson’s nativist populism. Consequently, they lean increasingly toward independence as a means of escaping the bad vibes of Westminster. Nothing in SW1 chimes with their values. Nothing there gives them a warm glow about being British. Until now.”
But there’s a problem with this slightly desperate attachment to a vision of Sunak as Obama, and it is not just Obama’s pitiful time in office, it is the very idea that ‘representation’ in and of itself is a progressive or radical politics. It plainly is not. Who am I to say that? No-one at all.
The Indian novelist and essayist Pankaj Mishra has observed: “As it happens, the first Hindu prime minister is destroying, more rapidly and comprehensively than Boris Johnson’s and Liz Truss’s diverse cabinets, the pitiful visions of diversity relaunched by his coronation. Sunak’s immediate resurrection of the disgraced Braverman tells us that we should quickly abandon wishful thinking in order to be truly ready for Rishi.”
Despite the gushing celebration of the multicultural Cabinet Mishra points out that Priti Patel and Suella Braverman, both Tory daughters of immigrants seem equally keen to fulfil the dreams of Enoch Powell.
Sunak is, as Pankaj Mishra observes, the archetypal ‘citizen of nowhere’:
“That this “citizen of everywhere”, a devout Hindu in a tie and cashmere hoodie, should now be chosen to mollify financial markets and caress the Brexit fantasy of absolute sovereignty says a great deal about the ideological dementia of the Tory party. The turd-polishing abilities of centrist-Dad liberalism, too, are in plainer sight as the logrollers of the BBC, Times and Financial Times work hard to present merciless enforcers of austerity as “grown-up moderates”. But we should be in no doubt about what an immoral and inept political class wants us to celebrate: “Asian representation” leading a cruel Tory programme of mass impoverishment.”
In this sense perhaps not so much a great model for the ‘centre-left’ Progressive Noes? Nor, presumably, the revelations in *checks notes* The Times newspaper, that decisions made by Suella Braverman led directly to overcrowding and outbreaks of scabies and diphtheria at a migrant processing centre in Kent.
In the search for good vibes and a new story about Britain, the search continues. It seems that Rish Sunak, Priti Patel and Suella Braverman do not provide a convincing narrative that will win-over ‘centre-left’ Scotland. Funny that.