Riddle Me This…


Michael Forsyth’s impact on the constitutional settlement – whatever that ends up being from the Stone of Destiny to the Euro Referendum – will be for historians to decide, but whisper it he’s doing a great job so far!

Michael must still be have been high from the vapors of St Margaret’s embalming when he decided to back the High Tory Right’s attempted putsch over Cameron that nudged the already desperate Cabinet to order a “clear choice” about the UK’s future in Europe and publish a draft bill outlining plans for a referendum by the end of 2017.

But riddle me this Lord of Drumlean – how can you bleat about Scottish ‘separatism’ and back Nigel Lawson ‘It’s time to leave’? How can you reconcile saying “The truth is the Nationalists are playing for time at the expense of business confidence and future investment” about the Scottish referendum – but demand Britain secedes from Europe?

The ermine clad Thatcherite (remember they were the outsiders who shook things up weren’t they?) has responded to UKIP’s dog whistle politics and they are busy committing what the Tory party has hedged around for thirty or forty years. Now, mired in economic incompetence, corruption and political disillusionment they can succumb to the racist dogma their feral media has carefully nurtured for a generation.

Good. As Hopi Sen puts it:

Never interrupt your enemy when he is the process of making a mistake.

Good advice. While the Conservative party is tearing itself apart with serial euro-idiocy, it’s probably best for the Labour party to join much of the rest of the nation in staring, mouth agape, at the strange sight of a great national party destroying their own government over the precise number of hypothetical referendums they can get on a scroll of vellum.

Over in Kirkcaldy a different sort of internal drama is being played out, also worthy of Mr Riddler. Here, we are led to believe that Commissioner Gordon’s United with Labour creation sits comfortably beside Alistair Darling’s Better Together creation.

It’s almost as if there’s some sort of emnity between these guys – but they were the ones that saved the economy, right?

If Forsyth, Gove and Philip Hammond’s Euro gamble was propelled in part by UKIP’s accolades, Gordon’s Untogether United Front was sparked by disillusioned trade unionists and Labourites appalled by the whole Ian Taylor Donorgate fiasco. It can be read as an attempt to shore up Labour support draining away from a, superficially successful, but morale-sapping campaign with the Tories.


If the Tories operate a bizarre sort of patronage that discounts or ignores Scottish sensibilities about trade, immigration and internationalism over the Shires latest xenophobic spasm, who should be surprised?

But this incredible parochialism could be game-changing.

Salmond was given a wide open goal today and dutifully tapped it in: “He has been bounced into this move by the rising tide of support south of the border for UKIP – who are almost a complete irrelevance in Scotland – and his actions now threaten to hole the No campaign in the Scottish independence referendum below the waterline. The EU referendum policy is the wrong move, and is taking us down the wrong path. It means that the real uncertainty on Scotland’s future in Europe is coming from Westminster.”

And there’s Gordon who operates a different sort of patronage system. Mr Brown (who has lived all his life in Scotland, and who’s kids even go to school here!!) urges us today to ‘ditch the Tories’ (he seems to have forgotten we already have, the problem is no-one was listening).

Together, apart, Michael and Gordon – with the launch of the confusing United with Labour campaign and the Conservative Party’s Euro has just thrown the NO campaign into massive disarray.

Listening to Gordon Brown on the day of the launch of United Together you were struck by the power of patronage, Here was the deep-seated sense of self-entitlement laid bare.

Speaking in the sort of language only Brown can create he exclaimed on Scotland Tonight: “Fiscal Equalisation’ is for the benefit of the poorer regions of the UK”. Translated into human what is that means is we’re poor, and will remain so, unless we keep with the Mother Ship. It’s an extraordinary prospect of fettered union of poverty and misaligned power which assumes a historic role for labour as saviour of the poor and their unresolvable plight. It takes us hurtling back to the idea of Labour as barrier to the Tories. It’s so deeply uninspiring, offensive and unconvincing as its palpably, historically, blatantly untrue.

Neal Ascherson is helpful:

To me, self-government and the Parliament And Even the possibility of independence have always been means to the end of a deeper ‘fredome’, a condition in which nobody accepts exclusion and ordinary people rebel every day in their ordinary lives. At his trial for sedition in 1918, the Clydeside revolutionary John Maclean said: “We are out for Life, and all that Life can give us!” And yet for three centuries Scotland has been governed on the principle of ‘involve as few people as possible’.

It’s not really a riddle at all, is it?

Comments (11)

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  1. Stevie says:

    Of all the people I read Mike, I do enjoy yours the most by a significant margin

  2. Great stuff Mike. It can be hard to find words to sum-up just how venal these people are. This is about as good as anyone could manage right now.
    More power to ye.

  3. David McCann says:

    Another excellent article Mike.
    I love this quote from the American writer H. L. Mencken:
    ‘The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.’

  4. Macart says:

    Right on the money Mike.

    Car crash yah boo party politics. They’re so busy elbowing each other for position and power in the HoC they’ve practically forgotten just what Scotland’s referendum is all about.

  5. Mike, you neglect one important aspect of this.

    The reasonably informed and astute among us, the 30%, the cybernats, the life long SNP supporters… we all ‘get it’.

    The problem is the electorate at large are not ‘converting in droves’ in response to Labour or Tory contortions or Gordon Brown’s blatant self aggrandising.

    The YES camp needs to wake up and smell the thistle. Fourteen months out, Westminster, SLAB and Better Together in disarray and we are not making a dent in the numbers.

    We have a multitude of online Tea and Sympathy groups and a corresponding failure to convert the the undecideds and get more of the electorate onside.

    What happened to our million signatures? What happened to Yes Scotland? Why do the BBC and Mainstream media still have free rein in biased reporting? Why are there so many disparate YES groups with zero coordination, alignment, resources and leadership?

    So great articles all round, from the Bella, Wings, NNS, et al… But you are preaching to the converted. When do we actually do something that moves the populace?

    Alba gu brath

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Erik, thanks, I agree with you, there needs to be a big shift.

      Unfunded small publishing projects like Bella can only do so much, but we feel that we are part of a wider network and a shift in society that woks more on the basis of P2P (peer to peer) in all aspects of cultural production, communication and democracy. I think people are harsh on Yes which is building its community and its grassroots network – all of which will be essential in the coming year and a half. There is no BT equivalent.

      There’s a need to speak to the unconverted – absolutely – and we have some ideas on that (also very open to hearing yours). There’s other tasks and levels here though: how to discuss amongst the ‘converted’ what we mean and what the actual vision is? That’s important too. This connects back to the ‘unconverted’ – presenting and sharing practical and visionary ideas is essential among a population widely (and rightly) disillusioned with politics.

      I think that also given decades of inferiorism there’s also a wider task to explore (critically) our own culture, something we’ll be writing about later today.

    2. James Coleman says:

      @Eric Maclean.
      Hear, hear. I particularly liked your description “… We have a multitude of online Tea and Sympathy groups and a corresponding failure to convert the the undecideds and get more of the electorate onside …”
      And could I add: Tea and Sympathy groups who want to be ‘nice’ to our enemies even if it means losing the Referendum. And apparently a YES campaign hierarchy which never reads articles online and is unaware of what is going on since it seems to agree with the NO men that the CyberNats (of which I am a proud member) produce the most bile on line when it is manifestly clear that the opposite is the truth.

  6. While out canvassing last night (with encouraging results), there was a woman, originally from South Africa, who was undecided on the referendum (our one) but was being pushed towards a Yes because she didn’t want to leave the EU.

    People have complained that Yes Scotland isn’t doing enough, but at the rate the No campaign are going, we could just about win this without lifting a finger. What crazy schemes will they think of next?!

  7. James Coleman says:

    I was seriously thinking of dumping Bella because in recent weeks it seems to have been drifting towards the ‘nice’ side of YES (see above) a side that frankly I have little time for, and because many of the articles were coming from that ilk. But your excellent article above has redeemed my faith in Bella. Please continue in this vein.

  8. jdmank says:

    Broon espouses equalization?
    did he run this by the home counties matrons first?
    dont think that idea will down particularly well with labours new target vote in Hampshire et al
    he is not speaking to Scotland when he says ditch the tories well not unless he has completely lost it ,
    oh what am I saying ?

  9. jdmank says:

    btw the actor in the pictures name is Frank Gorshin
    if anyone is interested, I’m a font of knowledge,
    my own wife says I’m full of it

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