Sunday, 13 January 2013


Yesterday afternoon, in the absence of any football, I took myself off to see Les Miserables. 

It was the first time I have been to the cinema on my own since I saw Polanski's Tess in, I am horrified to find on checking, 1979.

Les Miserables suffers from not featuring Nastassia Kinski. Were it not for that omission I would commend it unconditionally. It is a great, great film.

I suspect its plot is well known to most readers but I'll shy away from spoilers in respect of the fate of specific characters and instead write a little about the context of the second half of the film, the failed Paris Insurrection of 1832, for it has lessons for current Scottish politics.

In 1830, France had a minor (by French Standards) revolution when the last of the absolutist Bourbons was overthrown in favour of Louis Philippe and the institution of something vaguely approaching a Constitutional monarchy.

Now for some people this was not nearly enough change. The problem was that, keeping largely the company of the like minded, they completely lost sight of the fact that their opinions were nothing like the majority opinion, or at least the majority opinion of those politically engaged at all. So, when they took to the barricades they found themselves largely in their own company and the whole thing, years in the plotting and planning, was all over in forty-eight hours.

And at the end, while most of the plotters slunk quietly off into the night, no doubt muttering about the ingratitude of those on whose behalf they had sought to act, a few diehards determined on "liberty or death". Regrettably, most found themselves in receipt of the latter option.

Now, we are fortunate in the United Kingdom, or the mainland part of it at least, to live in more peaceful times, but the danger of talking only to those of like mind and ignoring the rest, just as did those on the 1832 barricades, seems to me to be an increasing difficulty for those who are advocates of Scottish separatism.*

Over the Christmas Holiday period a number of columnist supportive of but not engaged with the Yes Campaign wrote about the disastrous outcome of a potentially overwhelming No vote.  They didn't wish for this outcome, far from it, but they recognised it as a possibility. Instead however of being given pause for thought as to why their friends might be thinking this way, most of the Nationalist diehards continued to be in complete denial about this being even conceivable.

In one of the most telling of these protestations, the nearest I saw to any concession of potential defeat was the assertion on one Nationalist website that "everybody" agreed that the losing side, whichever it was, would get at least 35% of the vote. This despite the fact that there has never been a single credible opinion poll ever which has ever given the Yes side 35% of the vote.

Now, even I think they might get that, although I think it extremely unlikely, but to get yourself into a mindset that "everybody" agrees, when patently everybody does not, shows the danger of only listening to those you want to hear.

We saw the same with the demonstration last September. I'm sure those who were there had a great time but patently the numbers were pretty unimpressive. Instead however of analysing why, the response was to make exaggerated claims as to the numbers present. That's all very well if you're engaged in a bit of propaganda but it's fatal if you come to believe it yourself.

But the most telling thing of all are the increasing attacks on Better Together for being too negative. How we fight our campaign is up to us and the only test of whether it is being successful is in how it is moving the polls. And that, on any view, has been solely in one direction. Nobody, and I mean nobody, will have their opinion changed by one campaign attacking another campaign. We'll decide our tactics aren't effective only when they cease to be effective.

That will be determined in the polls, not in the comments section of Newsnet.

Still, at least we can all console ourselves that the failed insurrectionists of 2014 will face not death but mere political ignominy. Unless of course some have already decided it might be better just to slink off into the night.

I wonder what's happened to Eck's paving bill?

*Footnote. I concede that separatist is a pejorative term and one which I have generally shied away from. But "Unionist" is also a pejorative term and one which I object to since I'm not a Unionist, I'm a Devolutionist, as indeed are the vast majority of the "Better Together" team. So, if the Nationalists want engage Nationalist against Devolutionist fair enough. But, if they want to decide, unilaterally, how we're to be described then, again, let's let the people decide which is the more accurate description of their side,

1 comment:

  1. Och Ian, it's hardly worth even correcting you now. I think most of us just pity you. But for the sake of it:

    1. Les Miserables is rubbish.

    2. Your definition of "credible" appears to exclude every single UK polling agency. Every one of them has recorded Yes votes above 35%:

    3. Polls are indeed moving in "solely in one direction". The one you Unionists were so excited about this month showed Yes support static despite the ultimate year of British jingoism, but the No vote collapsing from 58% to 48% over the same 12 months.

    4. You want us to stay in the Union, but you're not a Unionist? Help us out with that one. You're not a "devolutionist". Devolution is what we have now. It's part and parcel of the Union, as indeed it has been since 1707 when we kept control of our own law and education.

    I agree with you on one thing, though - do please keep running your campaign the way you see fit. As we've seen this week, it's driving more and more of your supporters into our arms.