When reading of the ‘German Forest Boys’ first words: “I’m all alone in the world, I don’t know who I am. Please help me” – I couldn’t help think of John McTernan wandering around in post-Blair Britain with only his weekly indulgence by the Scotsman to orient him.
As my learned friend LPW described the ‘political leprosy of the Scottish Tories’ perhaps we could describe the Tories Unionist bedfellows as suffering from sort of political aneurysm. Like goldfish gupping around the Westminster bowl they mouth the same words that is ushering them further into political wilderness. These are the Friends of Chumbawamba Do you suffer from long-term memory loss? I can’t remember.
Will nobody tell them?
Certainly the recent performances of Danny Alexander, Willie Rennie and Michael Moore have been unconvincing push-button retreads of familiar incantations. And, no doubt we’ve grown accustomed to material like the Daily Mail and the repellent Kelvin (‘The fact that anybody is in work in Scotland is due almost entirely to the wealth created by the clever and resourceful people in England’ ) or Ross Clark (is this a series?!) describing how “The message for English voters is: Granny McTavish is living it up at your expense.” These articles are reminiscent of the old anti-Irish cartoons that littered the early rags (see picture). The print version of John’s article had a similar offensive cartoon, but I’ve mislaid my Telegraph, so this online version will have to do.
But John’s recent utterings need some sort of response. The other week Scottish Labour’s sage wrote a piece describing Scotland as a “mendicant nation*, always looking for more”. In short, we are beggars. John’s been on Twitter trying to deny this and claiming that he meant the SNP not the people of Scotland, but it’s clear and plain:
“This is the first dirty secret of Scottish politics: that Scotland is doing very well, thank you. When it comes to public spending, it is a mendicant nation, always looking for more.”
While Bella fumed and fettled Kenneth Roy responded with characteristic clarity before picking apart McTernan’s argument like a child picking the legs of an insect: “The burden of Mr McTernan’s message is that we get far too much and that what we do get we misspend. Did he believe this in 2007 when he was representing the Labour Party in Scotland? If he did, then I paraphrase only slightly the immortal words of John Junor: I think we should have been told.”
Roy gently points that comparing like with like in education is pointless as childrens of different ages sit different exams to different curricula, whilst on health: “A Nuffield Trust inquiry found that Scotland has the highest levels of poor health in the UK; we are plagued by what the Scottish Government rightly calls ‘deep-seated issues of deprivation’. We spend more, we queue longer, because we suffer worse health than our friends in the south.”
Of course to say McTernan has previous is like saying Mags Hayney has a bad rep. In 2008 The Times reported:
“DES BROWNE (remember him?), the Scottish and defence secretary, was under pressure this weekend to sack one of his top aides for describing Scotland as a “narrow, Presbyterian and racist” country. John McTernan, a special adviser to Browne and former Downing Street aide to Tony Blair, made the comments in a personal e-mail to a Labour politician.
The document was obtained by The Sunday Times under freedom of information legislation. McTernan, who was among those cleared of wrongdoing in the cash for honours affair, wrote to Karen Gillon, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, before a visit to Sweden: “If you’ve not been to Sweden before, I think you’ll really like it – it’s the country Scotland would be if it wasn’t narrow, Presbyterian, racist etc. etc. Social democracy in action.”
Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, said last night that the remarks showed Labour’s true “contempt” for the Scottish people, and questioned why McTernan should keep his publicly funded £99,000-a-year job.”
Fast forward to today and across at The Spectator, Alex Massie called the diatribe: “less a blast against Alex Salmond’s monstrous regiment than an assault upon Mr McTernan’s colleagues in the Scottish Labour party.”
The reality that Scotland contributed 9.4% of the UK’s revenues and received 9.3% of the UK’s spending is wasted on Labour’s McTernan, but is it wasted on Scottish Labour Party members? Where are the articulate positive Scottish Labour voices that can say something positive and interesting?
As my good friend and Iberian expert Frankly puts it: “Whether Mr Angry of Tunbridge Wells cares to accept it or not, and he does not, Scotland pays its way and can afford to go independent” (Scotland Subsidizing Blighty)
The facts about finance and economy are not really the issue here though. The issue is the steady stream of (now mainstream) bile and the ‘cultural realignment’ we’re seeing from south. How to respond?
Hardeep Singh Kohli has some answers and a novel take on the question of ‘Who Benefits’ (‘Forget the boost for Scotland – it’s the English who would really benefit from a disbanded Union’):
“The thing is, the English need to find themselves. Whether we like it or not, the future of the Union lies in the hands of the people. While the English have no suffrage option to express their will to be independent, the Scots do. And many think they will. The irony of all ironies is that a Union decided by a king will be undone by the people. And England will gain its independence by default.”
As always he’s funny, and some of this is true. But the narrative of destitution and dependency carried by the three Unionist parties is demeaning to us all. It begs the question:
What does it take to make the people of Scotland angry?
* The term mendicant (from Latin: mendicans, “begging”) refers to begging or relying on charitable donations.