Everyone who hasn’t listened to this week’s Headlines on BBC Radio Scotland should catch it on the iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0403p36#programme-broadcasts. It’s available for a few more days and I’d urge everyone to listen if you haven’t already. And I’m not just talking about Scots of either persuasion. English bastards ought to give it a go too
Before I move on, let me spell out for the hard of thinking that when I referred the English as bastards, this was self mocking. When I say some of my best friends of English, I’m lying: I don’t have any friends. But if I did I’m sure I’d tolerate the English bastards too.
Scots with a sense of humor mock stereotypes, including the notion we hate the English and call them bastards. Truly, we do not. We only do this when we know our audience can take a joke. Or when we know we’ll have a chance to spell out the bleeding obvious joke to Better Together propagandists who pretend they think we really hate the English. No, we fucking don’t, you lying Tory bastard. Scots do hate Tories and call them bastards. And that is not a joke.
Before moving on, let me spell out that although what you have just read is intended as humor, there is a serious point, one that will have to be dealt with by both sides of Scotland’s independence campaign.
Katie Grant had enormous fun on Sunday’s Headlines, and although she is a Tory, this fact wasn’t held against her by Sergio Casci. All Kenneth Macdonald‘s guest not only laugh at each other; they all make me laugh too, even the ones who on Twitter can be exceptionally vile.
Those on the No Campaign complain about so-called ‘cyber-nats’. The reality is there genuinely is a problem on both sides. And both sides should work to rein it in. But what we are dealing with are excesses, over-exuberance, light-hearted banter that can escalate when either side genuinely didn’t realize their leg was being pulled, as some of the English might have been when I referred to them as ‘bastards’. It is a joke, for Christ’s sake!
The Telegraph’s Alan Cochrane is focusing on these excesses. He appears to be genuinely anxious about what is going to happen after the referendum result, regardless of which side wins. I will add my voice to his concerns. This debate may have left a lot of the electorate cold. There may be an enormous number of undecideds still, those who cannot penetrate beneath what appears to be gobbledygook. But the activists on both sides are often being polarized in a way that has the potential to be dangerous. I readily concede that.
However, it is not the Yes Campaign that is the problem here. Really, it is not. As I explained in my previous blog post on Kenneth Macdonald’s Headlines, we in the Yes Campaign are having a ball: http://derekthomas2010.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/scottish-independence-referendum-and-twitter/.
In significant part, the Yes Campaign activists in cyberspace and on the streets, in the factories and offices, in public meetings up and down Scotland are enjoying ourselves because we are engaging in genuine debate. And we are thriving on it. And we are enlivened by each others experiences and take on what is going on.
The Yes Campaign activists are are having fun because we are proud of having all Scotland’s creative community with us – virtually unanimous, and that is a fact!
The Yes Campaign activists are having fun because the overwhelming majority of Scotland’s best comedians are with us. We have a vision of a positive future, and optimism. And we are up for a good debate, if Better Together can be arsed putting someone up to debate with us. But they keep running away. That cannot but increase our confidence as the undecideds who turn up to listen to the arguments naturally draw their own conclusion as to who is and who is not chicken, speculating about why that might be.
It takes two to tango. And it takes two sides to debate. It also takes two sides to debate rationally and with respect. It is, in the main, not the Yes Campaign who refuse to debate rationally. This is primarily a problem with Better Together leadership who are failing to inspire their troops, who have united all Better Together supporters in collective pulling their hair out at just how bad their campaign is being lead. But whose fault is that? They have the rich and powerful behind them. They have the Tories, Lib Dems, Labour, UKIP, BBC, SKY News, Channel Four News, ITV and Channel Five. Why can’t they find a group of leaders who don’t have everyone falling about laughing at incompetence worthy of the Keystone Cops?
Better Together have not been entirely unsuccessful in dragging some of us, from time to time, including some who ought to have known better, down to their level. Most notoriously, we witnessed this during Scotland Tonight’s scream-fest between Johann Lamont and Nicola Sturgeon, which I blogged about here: http://derekthomas2010.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/nicola-sturgeon-should-ask-for-a-rematch-with-johann-lamont/.
By the way, I think one possible explanation for why so many women are unconvinced by the appeal of Scottish independence might be related, at least in part, to the atrocious spectacle of Scotland’s two most prominent women politicians behaving this badly. Everyone in the Yes Campaign knows that Nicola can do better. She is one of the stars of the Yes Campaign, and should definitely ask for a rematch to prove it, as many as she can get. Johann Lamont, by contrast, cannot do any better. She is delighted that she dragged Nicola down to her level. And that is why she won’t agree to any rematch.
Whatever the reason for the differential between Scottish men and women opting for independence, clearly this has to be addressed, and the sooner the better. It is a sign of how desperate Better Together is that Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson attacks Alex Salmond for insulting women by promoting two women to his cabinet days after her leader – Prime Minister David Cameron – removed one of the last women in his cabinet. Monty Python stuff.
However, as Sergio Casci pointed out to Katie Grant on Headlines, the really interesting appeal of Salmond’s speech was not to women. What struck me was Salmond and Nicola’s powerful appeal to Labour voters. I want to address this, but before I do there is something else that is important in Salmond’s speech that was not addressed by anyone on Ken’s program, nor in the broadcast media generally: the tone of Salmond’s speech.
Alex Salmond clearly pitched his appeal in a tone to send out a similar message to that of Jimmy Reid during his famous piece of oratory about how disciplined the Upper Clyde Ship Builders would be during their ‘work-in’:
“There will be… NO… BEVVYING!”
For fairly obvious reasons, Alex Salmond doesn’t want to see supporters of the Yes Campaign descend into the gutter. We are being lured there by many in Better Together. But we will leave them to that. Traps are being set for us, and we all have to resist the temptation.
When Better Together behave like trolls on t’internet, remember the first rule: do not feed the troll. If they won’t let it go, we have to block them on twitter, Facebook or whatever. Don’t let them drag you into a shouting match on the streets, while canvassing etc. We are better than this. Let them expose themselves as the irrational people they are. This is how the undecideds will climb off the fence.
And when the referendum is over, we will do everything we can to bring civil society back together again. The smartest way to heal wounds is not to act so recklessly that we open them up in the first place. And a very important part of Alex Salmond’s tone and message in his Conference speech was about this. Humor yes. But irrational screamfests? Let’s not, eh?
It’s taken me quite a detour to get round specifically to what Katie Grant said that I found worthy of blogging about. Here goes…
Katie Grant said she didn’t know that the Scottish referendum had anything to do with getting rid of the Tories? Oh really? That passed you by, comrade? Pull the other one.
Getting rid of David Cameron’s Tories and a Blairite Labour Party that is becoming progressively right-wing is precisely why I recently climbed off the fence and after decades of either outright, and very public, opposition to advocating independence or, at least, indifference towards it.
I am now an enthusiastic supporter of Scottish independence. In the real world, we have to choose from the options available to us. And every lefty in Scotland has to deploy his or her vote intelligently. And that means he/she has to vote for Scottish independence.
I will be voting for Scottish independence notwithstanding my deep and enduring commitment to the majority of my English brothers and sisters who deserve everything that we are on the verge of winning in Scotland on 18ths of September this year.
Counter-intuitive though it might be, for left and right alike in England Scottish independence can in fact be good for the left on both sides of the border.
Katie Grant is not so deluded that she doesn’t know why independence will help the left in Scotland. That is not an issue. Everybody knows this. And it is precisely because everyone knows the left can only benefit from independence that the rich and powerful on both sides of the border are doing everything they can to destroy the independence movement. But Scottish independence can help the English left too.
Firstly, a Scottish government brought to power by an overwhelmingly left-of-center movement can act as a beacon to the left in England after the event. But, crucially, we will have exposed the fatal flaw in the project of the left in England: the role first-past-the-post plays in destroying any radical alternative to the United Kingdom’s Tory establishment.
In Scotland, the Tories and Lib Dems have been wiped out, and UKIP are nowhere on the political map. Only Labour and SNP have any real traction, with others to their left having made a bid in the past, with more to come in the future. Proportional representation denies the rich and powerful their ‘right’ to tell voters your choice is David Cameron or Ed Miliband. That is not inspiring anyone either side of the border.
First-past-the-post gives voters no incentive to change anything. The BBC, SKY, Channel Four News tell voters that any alternative merely means that by voting for the candidates you most want, you will help those you least want get elected, a problem Tory broadcasters now face with the rise of their own Frankenstein monster: Nigel Farage’s UKIP.
The English voters don’t like the polices shoved down their throats by Chris Patten and Rupert Murdoch’s Tories. However, those who can speak for the majority of voters, such as Dave Nellist, Ken Loach, Mark Serwotka, Matt Wrack, John McDonnell etc are being denied access to the media. So the BBC’s Tory broadcasters are being subsidized by OUR license fee to peddle surreal nonsense that fails to convince any of those who live in the real world.
Public funds are being wasted to keep Tories spirits up. They pat each other on the back. Chris Patten’s carefully selected bullshit merchants can’t get enough of this stuff. Day by day they get more and more out of touch with the voters. No one capable of bursting their bubble is allowed anywhere near a BBC television studio these days.
And the same Tory lies are echoed across all five of the United Kingdom’s television networks. All this insulation of these Tory broadcasters from the world the voters inhabit is making them ill-prepared for explosions of the alienated in the increasingly dangerous pressure cooker society that is Tory Britain. Scotland’s referendum can prove a relatively painless way of releasing a lot of that pressure before it’s too late. And that is what most of the left in Scotland intend to do. We are doing it for everyone.
Katie Grant says it is daft of Alex Salmond to call for a Tory free Scotland as we pretty much have that already. This misses the point. What we want is not a Scotland bereft of Tory MPs. What matters is liberating Scots from the values of those who control the levers of power in everything that really matters to the people: tax and spend, and whether to invest in welfare or warfare. These are not particularly Scottish values. I am of the firm belief that Alex Salmond’s conference speech is precisely the kind of speech that English Labour voters would love to see from Ed Miliband. Alas, comrade Miliband is incapable of delivering such a speech for two reasons. Firstly, Ed’s powers of oratory and ability debate have gone absent without leave, as has his ability to think on his feet, answer a direct question, organize a piss-up in a brewery.
But Ed Miliband’s failing are no mere personal problem. The values that tick all the boxes of Labour voters are no longer those Ed thinks can be used to win an election in England. Ed Miliband knows the broadcasters hate these values. And Ed Miliband and his front bench, without a single exceptions these days, are queuing up to denounce these fairly uncontentious social democratic values as outrageously ultra-left.
Let me repeat that I am not a Scottish nationalist. I have never voted for the SNP, and I don’t see any prospect of my ever doing that. I am not turning my back on my English, Welsh or Northern Irish brothers and sisters. I want for them exactly what I believe is there for the taking in Scotland in five months time. However, we have to work with what we have. And I will join five million other Scots, not just the adult population who have the vote, to seize our moment of liberation from the United Kingdom’s dungeon. And then I will work with the rest of those trapped behind in the United Kingdom to liberate themselves also the very first chance they get.
Here is what a Scotsman looks like while he’s making fun of the English while pretending he’s really only making fun of Scottish stereotypes like himself: