Friday, 30 September 2011

Well here we are

I now, somewhat spookily, am being followed on twitter by Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister.

I don't know if this is in the hope of some insight into the future of the Scottish Labour Party; if it is I urge her not to waste her time. The Labour Party has never listened to me; quite right too given the unparalleled progress they have made in Scotland since 1997 without the benefit of my counsel.

Unless I am misjudging matters, this may be a curse that I am about to bestow on Tom Harris. He is a terrible right winger; he even voted for the Iraq war! When the Party this last week booed Tony Blair, I sighed at the own goal being scored but I still booed along silently inside. Tom, on the other hand, might well have hit somebody. (For the avoidance of any doubt, cybernats, I mean this metaphorically and not as a suggestion that Tom might actually be given to physical violence. Outwith the Labour party, at least.) He's even in the Herald today suggesting tuition fees are inevitable in Scotland. He's right, of course, but he didn't need to gloat about it.

I'll come back to Tom. First a bit more about Nicola.

I am so old I remember Nicola before she was famous. I ran across her as a lawyer when she worked at the Drumchapel Law Centre. Having passed some vaguely favourable remark to my pals at the time about her legal ability, I remember being pulled up by the question "Did I know she was in the SNP?"

Now there were a number of subtexts to this remark but they amounted to essentially this:

Could I possibly be saying something positive about anyone's legal ability despite the fact that their Party affiliation established them,  by definition, as a bit of a lunatic?

That mindset has too long beset the Scottish Labour Party. Essentially, "These people are not quite the full shilling."

Well, as we prepare to choose between Johann and "the other excellent candidate", I increasingly worry about who are the idiots here.

I joined the Labour Party between the February and October General Elections in 1974.

It was, how shall I put it,  an institution not without faults. Nonetheless, it was an institution with an agreed direction of travel: not on the route; not on the pace; not even on the ultimate destination but, nonetheless an agreed general direction. And that was a general direction agreed upon with the people of Scotland.

Towards an end to the Scotland where neither the Sunday Post nor the Scottish Sunday Express was the voice of the nation; to a Scotland  where "what school did you go to?" was not a loaded question at any interview; to a Scotland where things would be "fairer" (which none of us would know until we saw it, and some of us even not then).

It was a pretty odd journey with a pretty odd group of companions: John Wheatley; Leon Trotsky; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Antonio Gramsci; Robert Burns; St Ignatius Loyola; Marshall Zhukov; Martin Luther King; above all perhaps Clement Attlee, all joining the route at one point or another.

And in the current struggle: Communist Miners; west end intellectuals; reactionary bishops; Tamany Hall Councillors; careerist Trade Union officials; any number of other participants. All with virtually nothing good to say about each other but all nonetheless engaged in the same project and convinced by the secret companion, Joseph Stalin, lurking well back in the shadows, that if you were not with us you were against us.

So that was the mindset with which we first met the modern SNP. Either they were actual Tories, engaged in a machiavellian plot to split the working class vote, or they were willing dupes, unaware of the extent to which their naive beliefs were being manipulated by the forces of reaction to serve reaction's objectives in the wider class struggle.

Oddly enough I still have some time for the first assumption; not that they are secret partisans of David Cameron but that rather that no Party defined by loyalty to a flag has ever been a force for progress. It is however the latter assumption which is, for progressive opinion,  the more dangerous one. These people are not, for the avoidance of any doubt, idiots. The extent to which they have forced a concept, Independence, to the forefront of public discourse while being unable, even themselves, to define what Independence actually means is not a mark of their idiocy, it is a mark of their genius. That they might seriously suggest that Scotland and England might, as sovereign states, maintain joint armed forces over whose deployment each might have a veto is a construction of such intellectual lunacy that only the truly brilliant could have persuaded anyone to consider it without bursting out laughing. That......................I'm sorry, at this point I was intending to say something about their position on an Independent Scotland's currency but every time I start to type I end up rolling about the floor.

But this brings me back to the Labour Party. It also takes a different sort of genius to have lost to these people. Or a ridiculous degree of hubris. But, like the Bourbons, it appears we have forgotten nothing and learned nothing.

"The SNP are idiots; we only need to get our act together and they will be blown away. Indeed, they are such idiots that we don't even need to get our act together; half our act will, never mind half.................a quarter!"

Either Johann or even the other excellent candidate will be more than up to such a simple task.

Clearly they can't be held responsible for last May's debacle, they weren't involved!

(Well, mibbee as Deputy Leader Johann was a bit involved, but experience is a great teacher; and mibbee nobody asked the other excellent candidate for his opinion because......................better not say any more than that).

I keep coming back to Tom Harris. The extent to which it has become common media parlance that he is obviously the best candidate is becoming a bit embarrasing, not for him but for the Labour Party who would appear to have little intention of electing him.

He gets the SNP. They are not Tories but they are nonetheless our political enemies. They are not lunatics but they are most certainly dangerous, to us and ultimately to Scotland. And they are not going to go away voluntarily no matter how much we would like them to. They require to be driven from the field.

I wish he was a bit more left-wing but you can't have everything. He is that greatest of all attributes, a Labour Man. And he could actually get elected as First Minister. That will do me.


  1. As usual I listen carefully to what Ian says because I value his opinion, however, I think that, as he recognises in so many of his Labour Party colleagues, he doesn't understand the SNP and its appeal.

    As a now enthusiastic SNP voter I do not recognise a party "defined by loyalty to a flag". Of course there are flag-wavers out there and some do like to shout about "freedom" but, like the unreconstructed old-style Stalinists in the Labour movement, they are far from representing the defining characteristic of the party.

    One of the reasons I vote SNP is that they are the most pro-EU party and perhaps paradoxically for a so-called nationalist party it is their leadership who best understand that the 20th century embodiment of the nation state is not the model for the future if electorates want their governments to be proactive.

    I want an open, confident Scotland that is no longer limited by a constitutional arrangement that has, at best, outlived its utility.

    I join a pretty odd group of companions on my SNP journey and together we are a force for progress.

  2. Sorin, being pro-EU will only serve to increase the so-called 'democratic deficit' that the SNP like to tell the public they are fighting against. I'm not even going to say anything about the current situation with the Euro.

    The Scottish Studies debate clearly identifies the SNP as a cultural nationalist movement rather than the all-inclusive civic one they present themselves as come election time. Flag-waving, banal nationalism at its best, so much so that Salmond carries about with him a wee bag of Saltire badges in his pocket, handing them out to people, especially children, at every opportunity.

    Macintosh was wrong, and stupid, to call it brainwashing. It's not, but it is particularist - Gaelic to be taught in every school in Scotland, for example. Utter madness, if only for the wasted resources needed to facilitate it!