Wee Dougie misses the point entirely

Today’s Guardian discusses the sorry state of Labour in Scotland. The article suggests that the “raw rage” focused on the Labour Party in Scotland is “irrational”:

Eleven miles to the west of the city, in Paisley, his colleague, Douglas Alexander, campaign coordinator for Labour’s whole UK campaign, was faring little better. Labour volunteers report resistance among voters to even accepting party leaflets, treating its campaign literature as toxic. On doorsteps, disenchanted Labour voters are vehement they will never vote for the party again.

The disillusionment with Labour, evident during last year’s independence referendum, has turned into an absolute rage, one that Labour MPs frequently describe as bordering on the irrational.

To rationalise the irrational Labour has wheeled out wee Douglas Alexander, the Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP and Labour election strategist, who, in a self-indulgent burst of pseudo-intellectuality (for which he is known) tried to explain it away as a cyclical symptom of cross-European malaise at established parties (see I can do it too):

But he [Alexander] also took a wider view. “To understand what is happening here in Scotland you need to look more broadly across Europe, where nationalism has animated deep feelings following the financial crisis,” he said. “The financial crisis trashed people’s confidence in the powerful: not just regulators and bankers but also politicians. The [MPs’] expenses crisis deeply damaged people’s confidence in politicians’ motives.” The combination of the two had created “fertile territory for populist nationalism”.

But as so often when Alexander tries to engage in deeper thought, he misses the point. The rage felt on Scottish doorsteps in Labour households has nothing to do with the financial crisis. The 2010 election was fought in the midst of the financial crisis and Labour returned 41 MPs with a total vote of over 1 million. The reason why there is resistance on the doorsteps amongst Labour households is because they are no longer Labour households.

During the referendum the Labour Party brooked no dissent. It was No or nothing. When Labour members who were in favour of independence set up a break away group Labour for Independence, senior Labour members and activists took to social media to decry it as a SNP front, full of SNP members with no actual Labour members at all. They libelled the group’s founders and refused to apologise for attempted smears.

So, here’s why voters who once voted Labour and now voting SNP: if you spend two years telling people that if you are in favour of independence you cannot be a true member of Labour or a Labour voter and that you must, instead, be an SNP plant/spy/voter then you cannot expect them to thank you for it. Labour spent two years telling Labour voters in favour of independence that they were actually SNP voters and now they are.

So the only reason why people are voting Labour this year is Labour.

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Bit Torrance: The virtue of the blind leading the blind

bit_torrance_headerIn his excellent biography of the great mid-nineteenth century Emir of Jiqal, David Maxwell McDonald, the British Ambassador to the Emirate wrote of the Emir’s exquisite good taste and perspicacity.

I was reminded of these virtues when I spent a fortnight of hours reviewing the 1982 UK election, courtesy of that great institution, the BBC.

Over the next eight weeks it will cover a number of different themes including two rather crucial questions, “what is the UK for?” and “if there’s to be a Union what should it do?” In an unflashy way it’s questions like that the UK Government is attempting to answer, and if the SNP were genuinely “constructive” they’d get involved instead of carping from the side-lines.

That everything had changed; changed utterly.

As Young went on to explain, although it was generally “good sense” to “appoint individual people to jobs on their merit”, it was the opposite when “those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others”. By 2001 he concluded the UK was pretty much there, and furthermore this “new class” had the “means at hand” (ie education) “by which it reproduces itself”.

Indeed, the remarkable rise of the recently departed Jeremy Thorpe and his small band of Liberals in the general election of February 1974 represented a decisive shift to a new electoral age in which the two historically dominant parties couldn’t count on majorities and smaller parties became increasingly mainstream.

Last week the Scottish actor James McAvoy (currently starring in Peter Barnes’ play The Ruling Class) echoed Lord Young in describing “a frightening world” with “one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts”, by which he meant those educated at independent schools.

Which is why, as Iain Macwhirter wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Herald, the SNP’s decision to rule out unequivocally any deal with the Conservatives makes little sense. If the Nationalists genuinely want to maximise their influence in a “balanced” Parliament and hold, as Alex Salmond puts it, Unionist “feet to the fire”, then such a stance reduces rather than increases their chances of doing so.

As did its description of “shared” powers such as welfare, a fixture (as the ERS presentation made clear) of federal or quasi-federal constitutions the world over. Shared services require consent, discussion, co-operation and, ultimately, agreement if they’re to work effectively. In fact, as Mr Terry concluded, a key question amid general constitutional reform ought to be “what powers should be shared at the UK level?” rather than “what powers should Scotland have?”

If we had a real meritocracy now, the First Minister told the Independent last week, we’d have a gender balance. While at UCL last Wednesday, in response to a question from the audience, Ms Sturgeon declared: I’m in favour of the principle of meritocracy.

Nationalists are more consistent on this point than some opponents give them credit for. Since the 2001 UK general election, when the current Finance Secretary John Swinney was in charge, the SNP has essentially pursued a twin-track constitutional strategy, advocating both independence and, failing that, “fiscal autonomy” (yet another term for Home Rule). Following defeat in last year’s referendum it was always likely the party would revert to the lesser option.

Beyond the simplistic confines of a certain Nationalist mindset, where more autonomy – and of course “full” independence – for Scotland cannot conceivably involve any risk or loss of revenue, there exists that scary, unpredictable place known as the real world, somewhere I dearly wish certain politicians and commentators would spend more time getting to know.

For years a thriving Hapsburg port, it then changed hands between Italy, Germany and Yugoslavia before becoming a “Free City” after the Second World War and, in 1954, returning to Italian sovereignty.

Even in areas where Campbell reckoned Scots differed “quite a lot” – on nuclear weapons, the monarchy and workfare – the gap wasn’t that large. On the monarchy, for example, two thirds of Scots agreed “Britain should keep the monarchy” while in rUK the proportion was three quarters – both sizeable majorities.

Even so, the SNP is in a remarkably strong position less than four months from polling day. Jim Murphy, meanwhile, seems intent on reviving a long tradition of “Unionist Nationalism” by picking fights with what he calls “London Nationalists”, and even his own leader to highlight the point that Scotland, as he claimed at a recent lunch with journalists, “is different”.

On Saturday evening Scots, Canadians and Canadian-Scots gathered at Glasgow City Chambers to celebrate this bicentenary, although proceedings necessarily skirted over a lively historical debate as to Sir John’s true legacy, good or bad.

In response the First Minister looked uncharacteristically rattled, failing to address either Kezia Dugdale’s “bin Barnett” charge or indeed an ongoing barrage about the falling oil price. Given that the economics of independence played a major role in last September’s majority No vote, it makes sense for Scottish Labour to carry on, as Peter Mandelson once put it, “punching the bruise”.

Despite his modest status in life (he was a dustman) he was quite a difficult man to please. Once, when my aunt achieved 95 per cent in a school test, his only response was: “What happened to the five per cent?”

But it’s only a start, for current levels of inequality are above all the consequence of an orthodoxy that has dominated economics since the 1980s. And however the First Minister’s speech at UCL was spun last week, it didn’t offer a fundamental break with that consensus. By advocating austerity-lite (increasing public spending by 0.5 per cent), Ms Sturgeon basically echoed Ed Balls’ previous position (although I seem to remember the SNP roundly condemning him when he set out a similar policy).

If Smith had promised to devolve the welfare state in its totality then Ms Sturgeon might have a point, but then of course it did not. I suppose in a contorted sort of way her response was a compliment: that is, the UK Government ended up delivering so much of what it promised that the First Minister et al were compelled to latch on to technical trivialities.

The same is true of Podemos in Spain, whose supporters recently gathered en masse in Madrid. But while its recent growth in support is impressive, its leaders are better endowed with charisma than they are with credible alternatives to the economic status quo. To be fair, Syriza has long advocated a more specific agenda of debt forgiveness, public sector job creation and increasing the minimum wage, which is at least coherent if not likely to succeed.

Various opinion polls do indeed show majority support for Home Rule or “devo-max” in Scotland, although one must treat such evidence with care: if that constitutional option is presented as cost-free – and it usually is – then naturally it looks very attractive. But then of course it wouldn’t be.

This column first appeared in the ether. It is reprinted here without permission.

Noli Timere Messorem

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.
Reaper Man

I haven’t written anything on this blog for a wee while, it’s been hectic with work and I haven’t had the time; however, I felt compelled to sit down at the computer and, for the first evening in a few months, do something other than work. And that thing is explain just what Terry Pratchett (technically: Sir Terry) and the Discworld novels (in particular) meant to me as a child, a young man and, now, as a man in his 30s.

Undoubtedly you, gentle and not-so gentle reader, know the sad news. Terry Pratchett is dead. His death, announced, in typically irreverent form via his Twitter account, with the final appearance of perhaps his greatest creation, the anthropomorphic (and anthropogenic) Death.

 

I first read The Colour of Magic when I was about eight or nine. I first stumbled across the landscape of that marvellous world when I sneaked into my brother’s bedroom and pinched his copy. That world was only four or so years old and yet it was already seven books deep. If I remember correctly, I finished – no – I devoured, that first book in the space of one day and night; a habit I would keep up through increasing page numbers and multiplying footnotes until last Christmas with Raising Steam finished before Boxing Day. By the end of the week I was reading the latest in the series, Pyramids which, to this day remains one of my favourites.

Pyramids was the fantasy I wanted to read, the fantasy I wanted to live. I believe it was in Pyramids that the wonderful metropolis of Ankh-Morpork first takes centre stage. As Teppic studies at the Assassin’s Guild and walks the streets, the city springs to life, a life which would reach its adolescence in the still exceptional Guards! Guards! This was not fantasy as I had previously experienced – in the joyless, archaic and downright dull pages of assigned readings of The Hobbit. It was the fantasy of humour, of lives led in difficult times, of the Everyman even when that Everyman is heir to an ancient kingdom. Teppic, as he reaches maturity in that damp, muddy, dirty, smelly, and above all, organic city – so far from the dead mineral land of his birth; Teppic becomes a liminal figure belonging to both and yet, belonging to neither. Simultaneously of both worlds and of none. This fascinated me; not because of any equality of situation; but because thresholds enrapture me because of the possibilities that frontiers imply. When the book finishes with unresolved destinations for Teppic, it did not feel like the end of a story but the beginning of another adventure. Teppic, unlike so many of Pratchett’s characters, never made another appearance in the world and now he never will and that adds to the sadness at the loss of such a fantastic writer.

Pratchett’s works, like the lives of many of his characters – of which Teppic was just an apposite example, occupied the boundaries of fantasy and literature; something he recognised early with the tongue in cheek acknowledgement that he had been “accused of literature.” His works have even inspired philosophical discussions with a volume of essays published examining the epistemological, existential and moral implications of his writings. Indeed such is the ease at which he could move from the ridiculous to the sublime that one has to remember that a particularly stentorian or profound phrase has not been taken from a great work of philosophy or theology but rather had sprung from his remarkable mind. Neil Gaiman, another author with similar prowess, tells us that this extraordinary talent came from Pratchett’s fury. Indeed, with his turn of phrase one can imagine Pratchett as a Old Testament prophet but one that, instead of heralding divine wrath, brought forth exacting morality based upon simple decency and tolerance. One of my favourite of these phrases is one that is inspirational and, again, expresses the wonder of the limen. In Hogfather, Death, that great creation of his, the mirror in which Pratchett reflects our best and worst, explains that the point of Man – if such a thing there is – is to be where the falling angels meets the rising ape; that Man is capable of acts of both intense profanity and sublime reverence and, indeed, such contradictions can exist within the breast of one man. With nine simple syllables, Pratchett captures the existential struggle of humanity.

We are much diminished by his death and what is a personal tragedy for his family is a collective woe. His death is our loss but I shall remember him through his books and his writings and in the one personal anecdote I have of him. Shortly after Carpe Jugulum was released in 1998, Terry Pratchett embarked upon what was, I gather, a regular occurrence: a book signing tour. I suspect it was regular, though this was the only one I went to, because I know he used to joke about unsigned copies being worth more than signed copies because they were the rarer. But in the autumn – I think – of 1998 he came to, what was then, Heffer’s bookshop in the centre of Cambridge. My brother’s birthday was approaching and I decided to get him a signed copy of that, the latest novel. In the queue I met some friends from school and we waited. And we waited. It was a very long queue, snaking out of the heavy shop doors and down, along Trinity Street  towards St John’s College. The wait was long and the time at which the signing was due to end fast approaching. As we, ourselves, approached the doors of the shop that time went past. By the time that I stood in front of the man himself, clutching the gloss black hardback book, the scheduled end of the signing had come and gone over two hours earlier and yet, here he was, Sharpie in hand busy signing books and not just signing them, personalising them and including an aphorism on each. As I was whisked away to pay for the book, the line behind continued through the doors and down the street. I do not know how long he stayed, but I would suspect until everyone who wanted a book signed had a book signed. This anecdote is not a humorous one nor a particularly inspiring one, but one I think – I hope – shows the kind of man that I think he must have been; more falling angel than rising ape.

RIP Sir Terence Pratchett. Thanks for everything. You will be missed.

Gorgeous George

With his fedora at a natty tilt, George looked every inch a Men’s Rights Advocate, the sworn nemesis of the Social Justice Warrior. To his right, Ruth took a deep breath and muttered quietly. George could barely make out her words

Over and over again, like a religious mantra, she muttered, “Please don’t let him mention the Nazis, please don’t let him mention the Nazis.” George turned and assured her that he’d do nothing of the sort. “Best behaviour, doll. Promise. I’ll be indefatigable,” he said but Ruth just glared at him.

Behind her, talking quietly and confidentially to a smart, balding man in a neat three piece suit, her opponent Nicola laughed.  Nicola turned to Ruth and, with a wry smile, commented, “I see you’ve got the use of the pink jaiket today.” But Ruth just glared at her.

This was not what she had signed up for. And to share a platform with a rape apologist. Was this Johann’s revenge for her wee joke about being astonished that Ed could find Scotland on a map let alone in person? She stared out at the massed ranks of adolescence, the hope almost palpable in the air. Half listening, she wasn’t quick enough…Too late! George had opened his mouth and, with one breath, patronised Scotland’s women by suggesting they should shut up and let the men talk. In the stunned hush of the auditorium Ruth just glared at him.

Back stage, the debate over, Ruth sank down in a chair. The pink jacket lay forlorn on the floor ready to be couriered to Margaret. Next door, she heard the sounds of weeping. Phlegmy coughs of despair, moans of anguish with periodic cries of “I used to be a socialist!” A small ember of compassion flickered in the stony chambers of her Tory heart.

In the peeling painted darkness of the room next door a sad and lonely broken husk of a man lapped despairingly at a bowl of milk. From rheumy eyes, tears streaked lines through gaudy make up. “Why hast thou forsaken me, Rula?” He cries. “Why?”

Answer came there none.

On Nationalism(s)

Earlier this week saw a barrage of vitriol hurled, not at a politician or a criminal, but rather at that most dangerous of individuals: a playwright. Alan Bissett was accused of being anti-English, of being an ethnic nationalist and much more. Now, Bissett does not need me to defend him. He has done an excellent job of that himself over at the always estimable Bella Caledonia.

Unlike Bissett’s adversaries, let us, first off, be very clear what we mean by “nationalist”.  Too often, in the inadequacy of the English language we focus more on the noun than on the adjectival descriptive. What we, in every day parlance, mean by “nationalist” is “ethnic nationalist”. This has allowed unionists and British nationalists (note always the lower case ‘n’ to distinguish them from British Nationalists aka the BNP) to smear Scottish nationalists (and indeed Scottish Nationalists) with the lazy and invidious “all nationalists are the same” meme and move on, hoping that the implicit slander is sufficient to taint by association.

saltiska
Scotland on Sunday’s rather ham-fisted attempt at implying civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism are the same thing.

However, it seems that the meme just isn’t working anymore, and so the smears have had to become more specific. When nearly 40% of the country can be defined, loosely, as nationalists – they believe Scotland should be a nation – the term “nationalist” is not sufficiently powerful to conjure by. Therefore, the use of the far more damaging term “ethnic nationalist”. The trouble with smears based on specifics, however, is that they are far more easily proved wrong. You can defame someone like Alex Salmond by calling them a nationalist and leaving the “ethnic” part unsaid, because you are not inherently wrong. You are implying that he is an ethnic nationalist and thus a fascist but you haven’t explicitly said that. The image above is an example of Scotland on Sunday‘s rather ham-fisted attempt at that of which I speak. Sometimes the implication is much clearer, as a tweet from Tuesday by an actual MP shows.

sheerman
Barry Sheerman implies that Alex Salmond is a National Socialist aka Nazi.

The words are not, inherently, wrong. But the juxtaposition of the words “nationalist” (not “Nationalist”, you’ll note but who bothers with capitals?) and “socialism”, of course, has connotations beyond “vote Yes for socialism.” Such juxtaposition was not, obviously, accidental: Sheerman knew exactly what he was doing; his aim was to call Salmond a fascist without explicitly doing so because he knows, as any fool does, that Salmond may be many things but a fascist he is not.

When you start being explicit, however, it is far easier to be held to account. If you were to openly call Salmond a fascist, only the credulous would believe you because you would have no evidence for that accusation and, despite what many unionists think, you do actually have to have evidence for accusations, otherwise you run the risk of being the boy who cried wolf.

Continue reading “On Nationalism(s)”

Laughing all the way to the bank

Today was April Fools’ Day and the Mail, the Telegraph, the Times, the Independent and even the Guardian ran with Scottish independence themed April Fools jokes.

It’s hard to trace the tradition of April Fools’ Day back to any one event. Certainly, it bears much resemblance to the Roman festival of Hilaria, celebrated in March; and to the traditional Feast of Fools celebrated in December. Some suggest it may have something to do with the Early Modern switch from beginning the new year in March to beginning it in January. In Scotland, the tradition was to pass a sealed envelope on, an envelope that told the recipient to send the messenger on another wild goose hunt.

The media has a long and distinguished history of pulling April Fools’ pranks on April 1st. The BBC’s 1957 Panorama on spaghetti trees is perhaps the most famous, but others include Smell-o-vision (also by the BBC) and the Guardian’s 1977 seven page pull-out on the fictional semi-colon shaped mid-Indian ocean state of San Seriffe.

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What all these hoaxes have in common is the whiff of truth. It is only with the benefit of hindsight or context that one can see that the original story is obviously a joke. That spaghetti might grow on trees is patently absurd, at least to us, but to the audience of 1957 – not used to being lied to by the BBC, the story must have seemed plausible. Britain in 1957, after all, was only 12 years distant from a devestating war and rationing had only ended three years earlier. To the people of the immediate post-war period, spaghetti must have seemed a relatively exotic and unknown food stuff. San Seriffe is a clear pun on a style of font type and, in this increasingly graphically designed world where anyone with Microsoft Word has access to a dozens of different fonts, both serif and sans serif, the play on words is obvious. But how many of the Guardian’s regular readers in 1977 recognised the pun? And, to the credit of both the BBC and the Guardian, both of them put effort into the stories. News reports in 1957 did not come cheap, nor do seven page colour supplements.

Today’s efforts, therefore, are rather lacklustre and one wonders if that is because the writers began to recognise that the joke isn’t on Alex Salmond, the SNP, or the Yes campaign. It’s not even on the ordinary readers of the newspaper, but rather the joke’s on Better Together.

Continue reading “Laughing all the way to the bank”

Winning the Peace (part deux)

Beekeepers hate wasps. Wasps, left alone, can cause great devastation to a hive. Terry Pratchett, in his 1992 novel Lords and Ladies, emphasises this point:

Wasps looked pretty enough. But if you were for bees, you had to be against wasps.

Beekeepers, therefore, have many ways in which to try to draw wasps away from their hives. One way is to partially fill an empty, but unwashed, jam jar with water and punch a hole in the lid. Wasps, drawn to the remaining jam in the jar enter, cannot escape and drown.

This is what Labour gave us yesterday. It wasn’t even the promise of jam. It was the promise of a soggy jam jar filled with dead wasps.

Two days ago I wrote a brief, slightly rambling piece about how the No campaign has alienated many Scots who have been turned off by their relentless negativity. I included in this campaign the massed voices of the media. I deliberately did not include in my commentary the Labour Party in Scotland, for they are the issue I wish to address today. I held off writing and posting this until I had the chance to read and digest Scottish Labour’s constitutional proposals and to watch Johann Lamont’s (execrable) interview with Gordon Brewer of the BBC.

I do not, however, wish to discuss in too much detail these proposals. Others, elsewhere, have done a better job including Stuart Campbell over at Wings Over ScotlandPaul Kavanagh at Wee Ginger Dug, and the always excellent Derek Bateman, whose first post on the matter was masterclass in comic timing.

Continue reading “Winning the Peace (part deux)”

Winning the Peace

After the “war to end war” they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a “Peace to end Peace.

Archibald Percival Wavell

In January 1919, just two short months after the Armistice of Compiègne was signed, men and women from all over the world gathered in Paris to turn a ceasefire into a lasting peace. The Paris Peace Conference took six months and was largely run by the Big Four, the heads of government of the largest four victorious allied nations: Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States; David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France; and Vittorio Orlando, Prime Minister of Italy. The conference was marked by high handed unilateral diktat towards the defeated powers. Indeed, so imperious was the whim of, particular Lloyd George and Clemenceau, that Wilson did not stay for the end of the conference in July 1919, and Orlando left in a rage.

Despite the months of negotiation, the Conference, unlike similar previous undertakings  in Vienna in 1815 and Westphalia in 1648, was unable to come to a conclusion that would leave Europe in peace. The Treaty of Versailles and the humiliation it visited upon Germany is often blamed for the rise of the Nazis; the Treaty of Sèvres with the Ottoman Empire was unenforceable and had to be replaced three years later by a far more favourable (to the Turks) treaty signed in Lausanne. Indeed, so fractured was the result that the US Senate failed to ratify any of the Paris Peace Conference treaties and concluded their own peace with the defeated Central Powers.

Some historians, for example, Margaret MacMillan in Peacemakers, have tried to argue that the Peacemakers of 1919 should not bear the full blame for the events of the 1930s and 1940s: that they tried to be evenhanded but that their goals were unrealistic; that they have been made scapegoats for the mistakes of those that came later. However, even voices at the time cautioned that the Peace Conference would not end war.

This post begins with a quotation from Archibald Wavell and is marked by a political cartoon prophesying that the youth that would come of age in 1940 would spill their blood once more because of the folly of their elders. Of the Big Four, only Vittorio Orlando would live long enough to see VE Day.

One wonders if Better Together and their supporters in Pacific Quay and in the editorial rooms of our country’s newspapers have any concept of historical nuance. Given the vitriol and negativity that has poured forth from their pens and shone into our living rooms these past many months, it is hard to see how, in the event of a No vote, the peace can be effectively won. Having shunned a respectable and respectful campaign, the No campaign has managed to alienate approaching forty percent of the Scottish electorate. For the likes of Blair McDougall, winning is everything: Total War, and it will make no difference to him the shattered society left in his wake. For the BBC a No victory in September may well be more Pyrrhic.

PEACE AND FUTURE CANNON FODDER / The Tiger [Clemenceau]: "Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping!" / Caption above the child: "1940 CLASS"
PEACE AND FUTURE CANNON FODDER
The Tiger [Clemenceau]: “Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping!”
Caption above the child: “1940 CLASS”

What to do about the problem of the Irish?

Thus, I’m sure, begun most cabinet briefings of the 1980s.

Paul T. Kavanagh in his excellent blog Wee Ginger Dug, talked about the Irish. He said they’d be bugging him. Not in an NSA kind of way, but rather in the way that they’ve been ignored in this whole debate.

The problem, mainly for the Better Together campaign, is that the Irish are an example of how independence (or secession, or separation) from the almighty British state can be successful.

Whenever Ireland is mentioned it’s virtually always in the same breath as Greece as some kind of Eurozone basket case. Certainly, their travails in the banking crisis were unfortunate, but it’s a difficult thing to sustain through into reality when the truth is that Ireland’s recovery is supported by its export market, whereas what there is of the UK’s recovery is based upon a repeat of a property bubble in the south-east.

But, despite an A-Level and a few 20 credit university modules in Economics, I am not here to talk macroeconomics. Rather I’m going to talk about something I am much more comfortable and conversant in: socio-political factors.

Ireland is a problem for Better Together because of the 1949 Ireland Act.

Continue reading “What to do about the problem of the Irish?”

The latest Daily fail: laughing in the face of the cybernat menace

Of note in the recent propaganda salient of the Daily Mail and their attempt at ‘otherising’ the Yes campaign as abusive and offensive, is the different attitudes taken by each campaign to the legitimacy of each other’s position. One consistent point of the Better Together campaign, even as the facade of their various and vacuous lies come tumbling down around their ears, is the attempt at painting the infinitely reasonable desire for self-determination as an obsession of a few demented and delusional fools. That they have attempted to do this is understandable: it is, and can only be, the one strategy.

Irrespective of how one feels about the British state and its usefulness or otherwise as the guardians of Scottish governance, its legitimacy is hard to question. Some will, no doubt, but the only perspective to do so, one feels, is that the Union itself took place in an undemocratic time. That is historically accurate cannot be denied, but it takes into no account the broad acceptance and general approval of the Act of Union in the 300 years since and, indeed, into the age of, if not “full democracy”, at least universal suffrage. That the slow decline of the Unionist vote was accelerated in the years after 1955 is irrelevant to the fact that polling before that date showed strong, if not absolute, support for the Unionist party. Likewise, the continued growth of support for the Scottish nationalist parties belies the continued strong support of unionist parties of whatever hue. If general popular support for Westminster rule had not existed for much of the period after the Representation of the People’s Act 1928, then one would suspect to have seen more grassroots support for the idea of Scottish Home Rule, which, it is to be remembered, is a position which places Scotland still within the effective scope of Westminster authority. That no such support existed in a broad scale highlights that, for much of the twentieth century, support for the Union is not an anomaly due to lack of popular support and so we cannot simply dismiss the United Kingdom as an illegitimate state whatever the undemocratic pangs of its birth may have been. Instead the angle of attack for nationalist politicians and campaigners is to approach the issue as not one of legitimacy but rather efficiency and effectiveness. Is the United Kingdom the most efficient, the most effective way of governing Scotland? Thus all approaches to this issue from the Yes campaign have been not to attack the legitimacy of the United Kingdom as a state but rather the effectiveness of its rule over a country it little understands.

Continue reading “The latest Daily fail: laughing in the face of the cybernat menace”