Sunday 12 February 2012

Wish I'd said that at the time

I never mind losing to the Welsh at rugby. Starting this blog at 2.45, I already suspect this afternoon that's just as well.

I was on the telly earlier on.

Kate Higgins and I are developing a bit of a double act as semi-detached members of our respective Political parties. Being freed of the responsibility of being invariably on message provides the opportunity to concede that not all of one's political opponents are embodiments of incompetent perfidy, and indeed removes the necessity of  maintaining that all of one's own elected representatives are models of moral virtue and strategic clear sightedness.

You do however always depart from such a media appearance regretting a point not made.

In the usual Groundhog Day manner, with admittedly an apology from Isabel Fraser, we were invited first to discuss the recent twists and turns in the never ending what/when/how Independence Referendum. Believe me, if this is boring Kate, Isabel and, indeed, me, then it is fair to assume there are few in Scotland now desperate for more discussion. Not that this will stop the politicians.

It wasn't that therefore on which I wished I had said more, nor indeed the subject of the Glasgow City Council Labour Group, on which subject, even as a semi-detached Labour comment ator, the preference would be not to be required to say anything at all.

No. oddly, the point on which I would have liked to have discoursed at greater length was the case for negative campaigning in the context of the (eventual) Referendum campaign.

In a General Election context, voters are invited to vote for one Government or another. It is therefor illusory to seek victory entirely by default. you need to give people a reason to vote for you, not just not to vote for them. Dare I say it, in an admittedly different political context, that is why Romney is having so much difficulty closing the deal.

(NOTE At this point (20.33) the triumph of hope over experience requires me to discontinue to give the rugby my undivided attention.)

46.28 Normal service resumed.

So anyway, there is a world of difference between a General Election and a Referendum. Quite expressly, in a Referendum, the Electorate are being asked to vote for or against a specific proposition. That changes the terms of the discourse. Indeed almost by definition you cannot mount a positive campaign for a negative proposition.

There is no need to make a "positive case for the Union". We know, for good or ill, what the Union entails. There is simply the need to make a case against "Independence".

And Independence .................

53.07 Time for a drink.

And independence has any number of easily exploitable negatives.That's why the SNP are trying so hard to ditch those that, they believe, it is possible to ditch: The Future of the Monarchy; Sterling; NATO; the BBC. Regrettably for them,  it will take more than exhortations for my side to be more positive, even from the articulate Ms Higgins, before we'll be inclined to let them off so easily.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "There is no need to make a "positive case for the Union"."

    The tragic thing is that you don't even recognise what a damning statement, on so many levels, that is. You'd fit right in in Glasgow City Council.

    Was there a need to make a positive case for a Labour Government in 2010? Logically it would have been enough to say "We're the status quo, we'll just campaign on how evil the Tories are". And yet - och, why am I even trying to explain it to you? Carry on as you are. It's working a treat for us.

    We're not mocking your lack of a positive case as a tactic. We're trying to get one out of you because we'd like an honest, grown-up debate, so that in the event of a Yes vote we don't inherit a Scotland torn in two by Labour's bitterness and vitriol. But it looks like that's all you're offering. So be it.

  3. "We know, for good or ill, what the Union entails." I think you meant to write "We know ... what the Union entailed." If you know what the future will bring then you're wasted as a lawyer. Assuming you get your wish and Scots vote no, then what does your plan for running Scotland on an incredible shrinking block grant - Barnett has no future - look like? Not having a plan isn't an option.

    1. Not having a plan is the alternative to independence surely?

  4. Well done for saying it. Of course there is no positive case for the Union. The Union is what is. It's the ststus quo. When people say let's change the status you can't somehow magic up a positive case for staying with what you already have. The only case that can be made against change is that changing will not make things better and could make them worse. That's so obvious surely, it was always absurd for unionists to claim that there is a positive case for the Union because that created an expectation that they could come up with one!

    Incidentally are you using Star Trek time there?