Bernard Ingham: Master of disaster Brown will only wreck the Union

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
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WHO the hell does Gordon Brown think he is? Having, it is claimed, saved the planet from financial Armageddon seven years ago, he is now, he tells us, again bent on preserving the United Kingdom.

I confidently predict that the outcome will be as disastrous as his response to the 2007 crash if he does not desist. Never forget that, in spite of his treatment, the financial crisis plunged the world into a decade of austerity. It was combined in the UK with an enormous budget deficit of £153bn.

We shall be lucky if as a nation we are balancing our books by 2020 such is the difficulty of cutting public spending or, put another way, the political compulsion to throw money at every problem.

Now the ex-Prime Minister is trying to kid us that his repeated spraying of English brass over his native Scotland is designed to save the Union. Bunkum and balderdash. It is much more likely to wreck it.

Let me explain. Brown first intervened with gifts for Scots before the referendum on Scottish independence.

His promises – to which the panicking David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband meekly signed up – were widely claimed to have preserved the Union.

It is true that the Scottish Nationalists failed to muster a majority for secession – only 45 per cent – but Alex Salmond and his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, knew they had the body politic on the run.

All they had to do was to sit tight in Holyrood and independence – whether effective or statutory – would eventually come because of the propensity for Westminster to make concessions in the name of saving the Union.

And what have we seen since? The SNP pocketing any gift while proclaiming it is not enough.

It was the case with Labour’s promise to use the proceeds of its proposed mansion tax – largely to be raised from English property owners – to recruit more nurses for Scotland.

And, of course, Brown’s more recent Miliband-backed “Vow-plus ” – the original vow being the panicky cross-party reaction to the referendum – to allow the Scots to top up pensions and other benefits was not enough either.

Nothing will be enough for the Nats until they are triumphantly reducing Scotland with their far-Left policies to the rubble threatened for the whole of the UK by Miliband and Ed Balls.

The irony of all this is that Brown is unilaterally lording it over Westminster from the backbenches to try to save the Labour vote in Scotland, which seems to be flowing strongly to the SNP.

But what happens if there is another hung Parliament and the only prospect 
of a majority government is a Labour/SNP coalition, with SNP numbers 
bloated by Labour defeats north of the border?

Why, SNP blackmail, of course, until Westminster – i.e. effectively England – has nothing left to give but independence, with Sinn Fein in the same game in Northern Ireland and the Welsh demanding a veto over the UK leaving the EU.

William Hague’s complicated formula – “A fair United Kingdom” – to preserve English integrity and the union is supposed to be the answer, though John Redwood, former Tory Welsh Secretary, reasonably thinks it would give the SNP a battering ram against the Union.

So, the big question is: how much longer is the tail to be allowed to wag the dog?

Let me remind you of some uncomfortable facts. England dominates the Union with 53m of its total population of 63m. Scotland has a mere 5.2m, Wales even fewer at 3m and Northern Ireland just 1.8m. Five of the English regions 
are larger than Scotland; Yorkshire and the South West are only marginally smaller; with the East Midlands (4.5m) and North East (2.3m) completing 
the list.

All this shows you how a tiny minority SNP, already floating on a sea of largely English gold, could easily break up the UK if we English remain as accommodating as over the past 12 months.

I do not believe that most people understand as distinct from perhaps sense the threat to UK stability in a dangerous world from the nationalist Scots, many of whom seem to hate the English and especially English Tories, whether in coalition with Labour or not.

We can reasonably conclude from all this that Gordon Brown, as a concessionaire, remains as big a menace to the 300 year-old UK as Vladimir Putin, the demandeur, is to the Ukraine. He should shut up.

And what used to be the Conservative and Unionist Party should rediscover its purpose – and backbone.