So who’s having a good war?
Every campaign has got to have a hero, so who have we got for the defence of the Union?
Amongst the No campaign and their accompanying media there’s a desperate attempt to find some stars. John Reid seems to have gone completely awol, Anas Sarwar is having a bad time (he was booed off the podium at the Palestinian solidarity rally in Glasgow – watch it here – though the only quote BBC Scotland carry on their website is his). At least Jim Murphy, to his credit, is busy and in public.
Obviously David Cameron is missing. As leaders run for cover, there’s three candidates put forward. There’s Curious George. There’s wee Douglas Alexander, and there’s Gordon Brown. Let’s think this through.
Now George Galloway, even if the Spectator were brief fans, does have some problems. They need to cleanse the entire interweb of everything they’ve said about him in the past 30 years. They loath him more than anything they can express. So that’s tricky. His message is bumblingly incoherent and increasingly comical. He’s like Ronald Villiers with a media free-pass.
Douglas Alexander is dull at a molecular level, and even Ian Jack can’t quite resurrect him as a Scots’ Lech Walesa in this interview – even when Jack not so much puts words in his mouth as lip-synch’s for him, in a desperate hope that he means what Jack hopes he means: “The idea, not that Alexander says this, is to restore Scottish Labour as a force to the left of the SNP, and shore up its power base in the west of Scotland.”
“Kirk ministering was the profession of his father’s father as well as his father” cites Jack as they sit being ignored in Morrison’s – as if Alexander’s CoS ancestory absolves him of policy responsibility. Like every interview or article about Alexander we’re told: “We talk about his upbringing in a nearby village as a son of the manse – his father was a Kirk minister, like Brown’s”.
But the presence of Kirk DNA doesn’t act as magic fairy dust, neither for Brown nor Alexander, and the gap between the utterances and the reality of New Labour (past and present) means that Alexander’s statement that “Solidarity is the basis of my politics” seem like pious nothingness. Sweet words from the pulpit.
So we’re two down in the search for heroes, and, sorry to say we’re just skipping by Alistair Darling, Mutley and Johann Lamont for the purposes of brevity [and sanity].
So we’re left with Gordon Brown.
The Resurrection of Gordon
There’s been weeks of slightly dewy-eyed and ill-judged attempts to resurrect Gordon by English commentators like Severin Carrell, Martin Kettle and Jonathon Freedland reading the wrong script.
Kevin Maguire got in on the act at the New Statesman, writing breathlessly (‘Let’s stay together: Gordon Brown’s My Scotland, Our Britain‘): “His continued popularity north of Hadrian’s Wall is a powerful threat to the Yes lobby.”
Freedland made a valiant effort recently with the heroic if unconvincing ‘Gordon Brown is back, and may be the man to save the union’ pitch in which he stated that Brown, the Ghandi-esque UnBlair is, apparently, “packing out halls and addressing rallies day after day”.
Really? These are actual open public rallies? We’d be keen on some details for that.
This is just metropolitan delusion. Perhaps he’s getting bum information from his sidekick Severin who he qoutes saying: “He’s now a key part of the conversation”.
If he’s ‘key’ he’d be on the telly, or in debates, or answering questions or debating Salmond, instead of locked away like an indyref Lon Chaney.
As far as I’m aware all of Gordon Brown’ s talks have been carefully choreographed and reduced to invite-only talks to the party faithful. If Severin or the Guardian can point us to big set piece open public debates, we’ll stand corrected.
This is just more of the ‘Son of the Manse’ stuff regurgitated and gleefully shuffled between the myths of the Alexander siblings, Gordon Brown and John Smith in hushed reverent and entirely ignorant tones by English journalists paying reverence to ‘the other’.
But in our search for a hero – or some narrative beyond Better Together’s failing campaign of smear, it’s Brown they’ve settled on.
It goes on.
I’m not sure if due to climate change the hallucinogenic mushrooms have kicked-in a bit early but reviewing Alasdair Gray and Gordon Brown (admittedly a difficult task a bit like reviewing a river and damp patch) Alexander Linklater writes of Brown’s work as:
“Brown’s vision is greater and his argument runs deeper…by far the most serious and important work about Scottish and British identity to have emerged as a result of the referendum debate”.
Which is a nice accolade – but he doesn’t actually quote any idea from Brown’s book.
Just as you think you might need to create a whole sub genre called ‘Delusional Unionist Hagiography’, Linklater explains:
“At the heart of his (Brown’s) understanding of British values there lies an unexpectedly lovely notion of fusion: that Scottish principles of solidarity, civil society and “the democratic intellect” have, through the union, entwined themselves with English values of liberty, tolerance and pragmatism. He calls Britain a covenant, rather than a contract.”
It’s a lovely (if slightly weird unsubstantiated and reductionist) view of Britains constituent parts. We are left with the Nicodemite No and their absurdist plodding commentators scrabbling around for meaning in their pact with the Tories to defend the austerity union.
It’s not working.
As Ian Bell lays out:
“The latest TNS survey suggests that 28 per cent of those who supported the (Labour) party in the elections of 2011 have decided to vote Yes in September. Labour lost those elections, you’ll remember, and lost them badly. Seven seats were forfeited as a big chunk of the party’s vote migrated to the SNP. Now TNS says that still more voters – up from 21 per cent on previous polls – are choosing to reject Labour’s advice and its campaign for the Union.”
No, we’ve had a lot of crawing from Labour stalwarts recently and they might want to reflect on that reality.
Manufacturing Brown as some wise saviour, or trying to dress up Wendy’s brother as a socialist is tragi-comic stuff ahead of the Fringe. Whatever the result in September this dismal campaign is the end for Scottish Labour, who will be fatally wounded by their own political timidity and no amount of media support will save them.