Twenty four hours ago, Newsnight Scotland hosted a debate between the two best known Scottish mavericks on the left. Each is a world-class debater and orator. Each with their own take of Scotland’s independence referendum. This debate could prove one of the key turning points in the referendum campaign. George wants credit if the polls for Better Together rise in the immediate aftermath of this debate. I could be wrong, but I suspect he is going to be blamed for a further erosion of their lead. I have already spelt out my initial thoughts on this debate in my last post: here. But I would like to add a few more impressions that others might share, or at least want to think about.
In the closing moments, the debate saw something that struck me as interesting, something others may have dismissed as a bit of lighthearted banter, or possibly an indication of arrogance on the part of George Galloway. Maybe. But I think there is a fair bit more to it than that.
George Galloway obviously expected a kind of truce, the exchanging of olive branches, and he was clearly surprised that he didn’t get what he wanted, what he expected. Despite each man readily acknowledging the talents and abilities of the other, the limitations of George, in the eyes of Jim, lead to what George took as an insult.
George said he felt insulted because while he was happy to advocate a vote for Jim Sillars to become First Minister in an independent Scotland – should we get independence despite George’s best efforts – Jim was not prepared to return the favour.
Jim Sillars didn’t want George Galloway as Scotland’s First Minister because he is “a one man band”. When George put it back to him that Jim also has no troops to promote his message, Jim merely shrugged his shoulders, and laughed it off with good humour. I think something rather interesting is happening here.
Jim Sillars has differences with other supporters of Scottish independence. On most if not all of these differences I stand alongside Jim. So what? Every one of us engaged in the independence referendum, on each side, has differences with others. But we pull together against our common enemy. At any rate, this is how we are managing ourselves who back Scottish independence. We have agreed to manage our differences democratically, in a respectful, in a civilized manner. That is not what we see on the other side of the referendum divide.
George Galloway is merely an extreme example of the Achilles Heel of the opponents of Scottish independence. George may not be officially attached to the Better Together coalition, but he is one of their fellow travelers. He is a maverick who takes great pride in lashing out in all directions. Always has done, and presumably always will do. This is not the unambiguously positive attribute George takes it to be.
George’s desperation to take apart supporters of Scottish independence lead to him cutting corners in a far from creditable manner. This explains his resorting to misinformation. And it explains his over the top screaming, a la Johann Lamont, while Jim never raised his voice, and came across as reasonableness personified.
The enemies of Scottish independence are deeply uncomfortable with each other. And it shows. These politicians are lumbered with the United Kingdom’s first-past-the-post electoral system. That explains why they cannot solve the problem of unity.
As the United Kingdom’s general election looms ever closer on the political horizon, the divisions within the Better Together camp, and George Galloway’s satellite, these problems will just get worse. All attempts for each component part of Better Together to scrape together the votes needed to win seats under first-past-the-post can only lead to escalating and very public bitterness. And that in turn will repel their potential voters.
Scottish independence voters can only look on with smugness as Better Together do our work for us. And the Scottish people are destined, I believe, to vote with their feet. And with their votes also.
Now, I’m not saying independence is in the bag. I never believe in counting chickens until they’ve hatched. But I don’t see how Better Together can survive for the next six months without a catastrophic implosion. Can you?