By Mike Small
It’s a piece so loaded with self-loathing, barely recognised inferiorism and desperate desperate political emptiness it’s hard to approach, but we really do need to talk about Kevin. It’s the latest in a now familiar style of English journalism, albeit this time by a Scot.
It’s difficult to know how to respond to Kevin McKenna’s weekend piece of writing in the Observer ‘If We Buy Taransay We Can Save the Union’ (Sun June 5 2011). It’s certainly a nadir for the Observer / Guardian newspaper and a departure into a form of Uncle Tom journalism for the writer.
Commenting on the voices of some of England’s so called liberal commentators Gerry Hassan has noted that ‘There is amongst some a tangible anger about Scotland’. There is indeed. The last few weeks has seen a deluge of inanity and absurdity (Scottish Labour’s Bay City Rollers homage here has got to be amongst the absurdity bundle) with Hugh Henry and Eddie Barnes complaining of an elected dictatorship. As Chomsky would have it – there’s nothing politicians hate more than democracy.
Without wanting to require reader to have to download a guide to semiotics, it’s worth deconstructing Kevin’s latest ‘polemic’. The article starts with a premise and a hook but one or two paragraphs in he loses the plot and just descends into a form of freeform unionist havering. You have to seriously wonder about the quality control in the Gruniad and whether any editor cast an eye over this article.
In the first paragraph he wonders why the new SNP government didn’t adopt the policies of the defeated Labour Party before rubbishing the idea of tackling sectarianism, the legal dispute that is raging in the UK and efforts to reform and make use of digital media (all of which are ‘absurd’ we are told). Then McKenna complains bitterly: “…we are being asked to get accustomed to the prospect of five years in the most unaccountable parliament in the western hemisphere. In a very small chamber of 129 MSPs, 69 belong to the SNP. Of the other three main parties, two are effectively leaderless and will be for some time and the other – the Lib Dems – has chosen a leader of whose existence many members were unaware last month. “This does seem a troubling prospect but it’s one that appears to be the inevitable result of the electoral process. I’m not sure what alternative is being put forward but at least at this point we are still in the safe hands of a former editor of the Daily Mail in Scotland. A tabloid hack, no doubt, but still a vaguely coherent one.
Poor Kevin is about to go off the rails. “Nor is there even an awkward squad in the SNP who occasionally may make life difficult for Alex Salmond. Instead, every single one of them thinks that the first minister walks on water and has the power to heal sick children.”
Just before the election the Scotsman (rather hopefully) splashed across the front page a piece about Chris Harvie MSP, and just after a piece about Pat Kane, and Scotland on Sunday never ceases in trotting out Jim Sillars as a sort of wrecking ball. All are (for completely different reasons) outspoken, highly critical thinkers prominent in the nationalist movement. Awkward squad you say? One thing this nation ISN’T short of is awkward squad.
Next McKenna just disappears off in an unfunny and unthinking rant about Taransay that, if exposed to a shrink would fill a dossier on the things Kevin hates about himself and his country (in no particular order): the highlands, progressive politics, immigrants, ecologists, democracy, you name it he hates it. As someone commented: “Yet another laughable article which, if written by anyone who wasn’t Scottish, would rightly be considered racist.”
Or, as another put it: “Could this be the worst article ever published on CiF?” I think it could, not because I disagree with it but because it is so utterly thoughtless unfunny and slightly deranged. Still, if this and the tragi-comic Labour Hame are the best the organised opposition can do then all is good in the world.