The Yes movement was characterised by its openness to new ideas and fresh thinking, its imagination and innovation and its ability to engage and inspire a wider and wider group of people, often folks who had been disaffected and turned off politics. It had a diversity of leaders, styles of leadership and spoke with ‘many voices’. Gender norms were disrupted, new heightened expectations replaced old orthodoxies (all male panels became unacceptable). Young people took charge. Dozens of ‘new faces’ you’d never heard of appeared out of nowhere and were great. Some of them are sitting in Westminster now. It was challenging and inspiring.
The past few days and weeks has seen campaigning characterised by narrowness, a rejection of ideas, a distinct lack of imagination and a withdrawal into a kind of closed world.
It’s boring and dispiriting.
We’ve moved from questioning everything to questioning nothing.
It’s not disheartening, it’s soul-destroying.
The sight of Stuart Campbell distributing lists of people to block on Twitter and the stream of enthusiastic acolytes lapping it up, or the vision of Sean Clerkin ‘Hear Roar Us’ wrestling with chocolate-coated marshmallow treats or the woeful diatribe by G.A. Ponsonby on Newsnet – are all examples of this tired new culture.
G.A. Ponsonby seems confused. Is RISE a marginal irrelevance of marginal wannabies surviving only because of its media allies, or a dire threat to the indy dream? He can’t seem to decide.
He writes sniffily: “the creation of RISE looked like the latest manifestation of what I viewed as reluctance by some to accept their time in the limelight had come to an end.”
“Few had heard of Cat Boyd or Alan Bissett before the referendum, and Robin McAlpine was a name I only vaguely recognised. All three had high-profile roles throughout the referendum and were an asset to the Yes campaign. They were not alone. But the increased profile enjoyed by these and others was down to one party – the SNP.”
Casting aside that someone might have actually have heard of Alan Bissett before the referendum if they’d perhaps read a book, the message is clear: the movement is distilled in one party and one party alone. Any deviance is not to be tolerated. It’s time up. Time to go back in your box.
Ponsonby is quite clear, not only are new political expressions not to be tolerated, coverage of them is an act of betrayal: “Creating a new party is one thing, it is quite another to raise its public awareness and to convince that same public to vote for it. RISE has benefited from generous coverage from the online sites Bella Caledonia and Common Space. Bella editor Mike Small has publicly backed the new party and was one of the speakers at its official launch last August. Cat Boyd serves on the Bella Caledonia editorial board. So it is no surprise that the site has provided RISE with much-needed exposure.”
Despite having earlier quoted the Herald (and presumably the now boycotted pro-indy Sunday Herald) it is the ‘alternative media’ who are to blame for this atrocity. For Ponsonby, and perhaps Newsnet, the title ‘alternative’ is a misnomer. The role of outlets like Bella and CommonSpace should be as unquestioning mouthpieces of the SNP. Anything else can and should be dubbed, immediately #SNPBad. Anything else is traitorous. It’s tramadol politics.
To cover new developments in Scottish politics, even of parties committed to independence is intolerable, apparently.
It’s a closed shop. Discounting the validity of creating a radical plurality of pro-indy voices, Ponsonby explains: “Polling specialist James Kelly has dismantled the claim more than once on his Scot Goes Pop blog. Stuart Campbell, writing on his Wings Over Scotland blog, has also challenged the claim that a second vote for the SNP is wasted. But RISE and its supporters persist.”
He explains: “For most of us, the SNP is the vehicle to independence. Only when we have reached that destination do we disembark and set about creating the new Scotland.” This is Shsh for Indy. The logic is this: independence is the only goal, after that has been achieved everything will be golden. Before that: shut up and eat your cereal. Crucially, it’s never actually mapped out how even a 100% SNP Holyrood would achieve independence? None of the mistakes, strategic errors or enduring problems are faced up to at all. ‘SNP 1 & 2’ isn’t a strategy however many times its repeated. Most of this is dismissed by relentless attacks on the BBC, and a lazy useless assumption that ‘if only we hadn’t been lied to we’d be independent now’.
Helpfully he explains: “I don’t support RISE, I’ve said so publicly.” We’d gathered that.
The atmosphere of paranoia and often outlandish conspiracy is rife. One commentator wrote: “Rise are just a distraction , and probably backed by the Tory Party , who else would want to damage the SNP , the only party capable of actually delivering Independence , as for your comments on the article ,childish dosnt come close , rise will end the way all left wing outfits do, irrelevant, unelectable , talking to themselves.”
‘Talking to themselves.’ That sounds familiar.
But what is this extreme lack of self-confidence about? Current voting intentions are marked,
#SP16 seats via Weber Shandwick show: SNP 70 (+1) LAB 26 (-11) CON 18 (+3) GRN 8 (+6) LD 7 (+2). With polls showing a massive (and growing) SNP lead – and with 56 out of 59 MPs at Westminster, and with overwhelming voter satisfaction on justice, health & education.(see right) why don’t SNP activists like Ponsonby just say, “I welcome other pro-indy voices”. Don’t we want a vibrant political culture? The calibre of many of the Green and RISE candidates is so far above the old unionist parties, they’d frankly be an asset to any parliament. The notion that the Conservatives or Labour are in any state to mount a revival are outlandsish. Dugdale is nice but hopeless. She is tethered to a shambles. Davidson is nice but hopeless. She is tethered to a disgrace. Neither are going to do anything other than watch quietly as their vote goes down the pan.
To clarify Ponsonbyy’s accusation our board has SNP members, Green Party members and RISE members, but most importantly members of no political party at all. We consider ourselves part of a movement and we will support, celebrate (and criticise) all aspect of Scottish politics and culture. What else would you do?