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Murphy’s Law

By Peter Arnott

Let’s get something out of the way first.  For the Labour party in Scotland to announce that their fundamental principle,  is now “Scotland First” is as much as of an insult to the Labour Movement as it is to the intelligence of the electorate. It reeks of a Nationalism red in Tooth and Claw that the SNP would never dream of.  To announce that the new Clause IV is a promise to stick it to the English whenever possible and foment the kind of posturing phony war we’ve seen in the last week is not only an act of cynical gesture politics, it reveals a deep, underlying contempt for the very voters the strategy is designed to attract.

“Glasgow Man”, whose votes Labour need to save those seats in the West of Scot;and, their demographics people seem to have told them, is an ugly souled stupid bigot, who can be conned by a few well placed and consequence free press releases (that will get Boris Johnson and Dianne Abbot into an equally stage managed lather) into believing that a party whose political machinery is more dependent on the unitary British State than even the Tories, is now a vehicle for the anti-English sentiment that they assume is the real basis of support for the SNP.

Yes Voters, according to this way of looking at things, are nasty, old school racists whose talk of “a fairer society” is pious bullshit.  The way to get their votes…or enough of their votes to save Labour’s electoral property in the West of Scotland, is not to replace Clause IV with say…Clause IV…(another piece of pious bullshit in the Blairite estimation) but with a pledge to out-Jock the Jocks. 

Now, this strategy, cooked up by Jim Murphy and John McTernan, has of course been dismissed as empty posturing by the “real” nationalists. What is important though, I think, to bear in mind, is that this dismissal is as much in the McTernan playbook as all those column inches of guff and fomented resentment that got lost in the headlines from Paris last week. These people are media managers of considerable pedigree and experience.  One shouldn’t under-estimate them.

But calling it “Murphy’s Law”?  What can go Wrong Will Go Wrong?  Surely that’s a gaffe…evidence of incompetence?

Well, maybe…but phrased slightly differently, Murphy’s Law can actually act as a pretty formidable philosophical basis for the pure power politics to which both Murphy and McTernan are devoted.

So, at the usual risk of being pretentious :

Edmund Burke, writing about the French Revolution, came up with the only intellectual argument that Conservatives with a big or little “c” have ever really needed.  Roughly paraphrased, it is this : “There is no human situation so bad that well-intentioned intervention cannot make it worse”.

Now, this is quite persuasive, actually.  It does seem to be borne out by experience a lot of the time. Particularly in an era where the two words “bank” and “robbery” in the same sentence will conjure up images of computers and chief executives on vast bonuses more readily than images of Bonnie and Clyde.  But if you look at that formula, and look at Murphy’s Law, you’ll see they actually can be taken to mean roughly the same thing.

Everything is Hopeless.  People are all bastards. Any pretence at public service is a con job.  The winner is the biggest and best con man. You can’t fight the rich so you may as well dedicate yourself to making them “comfortable” in the hope they might drop you a scrap off the table.

On that view of the world, it made total sense for Tony Blair and his cohorts and disciples to expropriate the Labour Party as a vehicle for their ambitions. It made perfect sense to drop Clause IV…the promise to secure for workers the benefits of their work by taking the economy into public ownership…After all, workers, like everyone else, were selfish thugs who’d rather join the class system a bit higher  up than abolish it. To dump the clause was to jettison an anachronism that no one had taken seriously since the 40s anyway.

Best of all, to abandon the clause was to silence conscience.  It was for the Labour Party to join the 21st century, and gave a moral licence to use the electorate merely as a vehicle for getting oneself into power by any means necessary.  And if that meant that sometimes there would be some truly egregious trough-snuffling, what could you expect?  People are shit and the human race is dead soon anyway.  So why not steal everything that’s not nailed down in the meantime?

This world view, this deep pessimism, if you act like you believe it, leads you to view all life as a defensive, atomised struggle to protect you and yours from every other bugger who is just as big a shit as you are. And the reason this has become the unspoken guide to all political and economic activity is that on one level, it’s a persuasive view of the world.  There are some mornings when you wake up and that’s exactly the way the world seems.

The resemblance between the Murphy’s Law and Better Together is not just a matter of identical personnel.  The hate-stirring, the ugliness fomenting, the cynical “management” of the electors as pawns, the distrust and fear of democracy, the sheer ugliness of the Better Together Campaign and of the new “Murphy’s Law” are founded on exactly the same basis philosophically and spiritually as well as strategically.

Everything is Crap and it can’t get better,  Everyone’s a crook so Help Yourself. Bad News is Good, and the more vicious and off-putting political engagement gets the easier it is to engineer the right result.

That’s Murphy’s Law.

And that’s exactly, it seems to me, what the referendum campaign was all about.

Yes against No. Hope against Fear. Humanity against Contempt. The recognition that the British State is so corrupt that only a fundamental change to the way that democracy works on these islands will make it possible to live and hope like a decent human community. That the British State, whose “progressive” forces now seem so wholly in thrall to darkness and despair, cannot be a vehicle for the changes we need. So we may as well try something different. And keep something like Clause IV in mind while we’re doing it.

And that is the way the UK election in May 2015 can continue what really underlay the Battle of 2014 in the hearts and minds of the Scottish people.  Not a “Neverendum”, not a re-run of anything. Rather a continuation of the greater, wider, human struggle that doesn’t hate anyone, doesn’t seek to manipulate anyone, but rather chooses to act as if we believed we can do better.  That people acting together have before, and still can,  make the world a better place.  Our job is to find a way to hope that and to make it true.

No matter how we feel when we get up some mornings.

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  1. RossB says:

    “…a continuation of the greater, wider, human struggle that doesn’t hate anyone, doesn’t seek to manipulate anyone, but rather chooses to act as if we believed we can do better.”

    If this were actually true then as a No voter I might support it. What I see from my perspective is a fundamentally negative movement that’s obsessed with pinning the blame for society’s ills on an external influence (Westminster). If we just get rid of this influence, the argument goes, things should naturally become better by default.

    You’ve made precisely the same argument here when you write “that the British State is so corrupt that only a fundamental change to the way that democracy works on these islands will make it possible to live and hope like a decent human community”. Yet you’ve dressed it up as a positive case based on hope, rather than a negative case built on blame.

    There is indeed a positive case for independence, but unfortunately anger at perceived grievances (our resources are being exploited, the media is biased, they’re lying to us) and blame (it’s all Westminster’s fault, Jim Murphy is a scumbag) are far better at mobilising voters – in all countries, not just in Scotland. What the SNP are really doing when you strip away all the fuzzy PR about Scotland coming together in some grand push for fairness (seriously, who would vote against that if it were actually true?) is pursuing the same populist blame trick all nationalist parties do.

    If we instead started talking about tangible policies and practical solutions to existing problems, all the while acknowledging that it’s possible to create a fairer society *within* the UK (where the people of Scotland want to be according to the referendum) that would be a positive vision people could get behind. As you say, “people acting together have before, and still can, make the world a better place” – but we actually have to get together in the first place rather than waging ideological warfare with each other over independence (which isn’t actually necessary to do most of the things we all want).

    1. Clootie says:

      Strange how New Zealand, Canada, America, India, Australia etc etc can take the same view of Westminster and run their affairs but it is “negative” and “obsessive” when Scots try to do it?

      I suppose you think the same of Norway when they gained Independence from Sweden OR 150 other countries since WW2.

      As a no voter did you ever consider that we could do more with our wealth than accumulate weapons of mass destruction and force projection?
      That renewables could be accelerated instead of nuclear energy.

      The article was about Murphy but on reflection you have given me an insight into the target of his vile spin.
      It is probably why Chritine Jardine has started wearing her BT badge again in Gordon.

      Unlike the two above I would prefer to improve the lot of my fellow Scots and that requires control of powers. I would prefer Independence but a strong Holyrood is now critical. The latter requires a strong SNP representation at Westminster.

    2. Peter Arnott says:

      Thank you so much for this reply. It is properly challenging. And you’re right . It is a damn sight easier to write one of these blogs out of anger. Perhaps I didn’t make my case clear. I am a natural Labour voter…but i have come reluctantly to the conclusion that the Labour party is helplessly enchained by its own nihilism. Therefore I conclude that in the absence of a convincing UK alternative, it is better to break the state. I am by no means convinced of the probity of the SNP…but rather than live without hope, I choose to think we have a better chance at changing our society, and being better citizens of the world,. if we get out. I entirely respect that many of those who want the same kind of world I do disagree. I don’t expect the Yes side to make a better case, by the way. I do expect the No side to become so transparently vile that they will have no one left who can stomach them.

    3. MBC says:

      As a No voter what are your suggestions for creating a fairer society within the UK? Clearly you must think this is possible, or else you are not a progressive but a ractionary.

      As a Yes voter I might have considered voting No if I saw any serious prospect of progressive politics happenning at UK level. So I would be very interested to hear your ideas as to why the UK is a vehicle for progressive politics.

    4. “it’s possible to create a fairer society *within* the UK”

      When? Where is the evidence that this is possible? As they used to say in my part of world a hundred and thirty years ago ‘Da Millenium is coming. But scho’s no swaetin hersel’

    5. Graham A Fordyce says:

      I see the article and your reply in even more fundamental terms which helps me focus on what’s important. Every human relationship, bar none, is about Control. It is that basic human instinct which drives me to comment on your comment on the author’s comment. Each of us in our daily lives strives either to maintain, defend or exert control over those with whom we communicate. In a civilised world that is achieved in a spoken or written form. In an uncivilised world it is achieved by violence. It is a universal rule which I defy you to prove does not apply in any given situation between two or more human beings, ranging from a baby’s cry to a world ar war. There is balance in the world and in any given relationship when the level of control is shared freely. Where it is imposed, there is less control and a direct and proportionate effect on resistance.
      Essentially, therefore, in my humble opinion, the ethos of Yes is a desire to share control, whereas No is content to leave control in the hands of those considered to be better able to manage control, irrespective of the means or ethics of management. I entirely accept the former requires more effort than the latter, but as ever, the prize is so much greater.

      1. Frederick Robinson says:

        And thanks to the ethos of the No campaigners not exercising the kind of control that prevented (a) Scots born and bred but living outside Scotland, or (b) people like myself, who had spent more time (30 years) living and working in Scotland than I had previously (26) in the native England I have reluctantly returned to on health grounds, from voting either Yes or No – despite their winning the Referendum vote roughly 2 to 1 – you are still able to express your opinion as if the vote had never taken place.

  2. Bravo. I am not a nationalist, nor am I actually of the “left”: I just believe in human decency and fairness; to achieve this, the first step should be for Parliament to work a great deal harder to keep our economy from being undermined by charlatans, ‘chancers’ or even crooks. It isn’t complicated: ‘fairness’ rarely is; which is why the narrative is so easily stolen, distorted and misused by the Westminster Cartel. You think this is bad, only into the second week in January, and they are already manipulating the Referendum history, and peddling the conventional simian-featured, knuckle-dragging politics? You think this is all they are capable of doing; blundering? ‘You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

  3. Ali says:

    Excellent. This sums up the mind-set that we are up against. I heard a good program on radio 4 talking about the permeating attitude that everyone is a consumer and must get the best deal for themselves. These two frameworks of belief – cynicism and consumerism – are polluting politics and society in general and must be challenged.

    We have to hope and pray that the insincerity and hollowness of Labour’s actions grows to an extent that even those entrenched in these suffocating beliefs will have to wake up.

  4. Les Wilson says:

    Here comes better together mark2. Prepare folks, we have seen before what is coming along, incuding the usual postal votes manipulation. It is all going down again. This is, and can now clearly be seen by Murphie’s use of McDougall and McTernan. With the help of the disgraceful BBC and English dominated MSM.

    Once more the Unionist agenda must be seen to be the dominant force in Scotland, and all the lies and deception they used before are again being seen. It is again, Scotland v Westminster, this time with Big Dim Jim being the cheerleader. We really have to mobilise as before, we cannot let this happen.

  5. MoJo says:

    Brilliant article – should be front page news – needs shared on all channels…..
    Murphy’s Law is simply an insult to the Scottish people – all of them.
    We live in the early days of a better nation – roll on May and lets do all we can to take the truth to the streets….and not allow the media to deceive, confuse and terrorise our electorate this time round…..

  6. Frederick Robinson says:

    As I understand Murphy’s ‘Scotland First’, it is a necessary counter-balance to the sense of neglect of Scottish Labour by UK Labour that led to the resignation of his predecessor. And what is written above by Peter Arnott a grotesque travesty of both what Jim Murphy intends (which only time can evidence) and the events of the Referendum (which we have all already witnessed, with good and bad from, and on, both sides; but here presented as Better Together wickedness). Try a little objectivity.

    1. Frank M says:

      Scottish Labour are not victims here Frederick. Many in Scottish Labour left to Join Labour for Independence or the SNP. Scottish Labour neglected their own people, which is why they are drifting away. It is a case of sorry – now that they have been found out. Try your own advice before dishing it out to others.

      1. Frederick Robinson says:

        Where is the objectivity in your post? My final sentence relates to the aggressively ‘anti’ tone of the original article. What ‘Scottish Labour’ think, I have no idea. I see the ‘drift’ to SNP not as a ‘drift’ but an opportunist charge. There you are: a bit of lack of objectivity. But MILD compared to the article.

    2. Pete says:

      Okay, I’ll bite. Let’s say it is necessary and let’s believe Murphy at face value. He and John McTernan, a man who has said vile things about Scottish people, intends to put ‘Scotland First’ (which is a play on words on Britain First by the way, google it). What will this mean in practice? What are the divergent policies he is arguing for that Scottish Labour can pursue as a party which puts Scotland First within the UK?

      The big showcase policy that highlights this new Scottish Labour? A mansion tax on rich Londoners. Again, take it at face value and assume there is nothing cynical here. Let’s ignore the fact UK Labour were going to do it anyway, and so the formation of Murphy’s Law had no impact on this policy. What is the principle here? We progressives should now join the Labour Party to campaign to impose taxes on other parts of the UK to fund our health services which are going to be put under pressure anyway from other UK Labour policies?

      Murphy is a joke politician with a chief of staff so obnoxious he looks to Malcolm Tucker, a satirical charicature of an morally bankrupt and intellectually void political class, as a role model. His only hope is that a national media don’t explain to disaffected punters what is so painfully transparent with each of Murphy’s press releases.

    3. MBC says:

      Sorry Frederick but you are naive. Where have you been for the last 40 years?

      1. David Agnew says:

        Well, lets look at this objectively then, with no varnish or spin.

        Been said before but worthwhile remembering and helps frame the argument.

        Firstly there is no such thing as “The Scottish labour Party”. There is no party registered anywhere in the UK by the name Scottish labour. Scottish labour is in fact the Scottish branch of UK labour. Its leader is Ed Miliband, not Jim Murphy. Any power Jim Murphy has, is limited by the Scotland act and whatever stocking fillers we get from the smith commission.

        Secondly, As a current MP of UK labour, he faces the daunting prospect of being under the UK party whip and will be expected to tow the party line, leading up to and beyond the 2015 general election. He then has to resign as an MP, triggering a by election, and then faces an equally daunting challenge of trying to become an MSP. If he fails at either of these tasks, he is pretty much finished.

        Meanwhile Murphy is pledging money from a mansion tax that has not even passed into law yet, which requires labour to win in 2015 before it can. He is assuming he will get access to a lot of money and spend it how he likes. John McTernan has been hired to sell this and its clear that labours campaign under Murphy, is based on the assumption that if any former labour voter, voted yes in 2014, then the reason was that they are anti-English racists. You can see McTernans hands all over this. This campaign clearly, is built around a narrative fallacy. Bear in mind then that this, frankly insulting approach, will be done as Miliband tries to seal the deal for his version of “One Nation labour – pooling & sharing across the whole of the UK”. Murphy’s law will be about as welcome as a fart in a crowded elevator.

        And if Murphy is under the illusion that the press which handled him with kids gloves, will do so again during a General Election cycle, as he trumpets his parochial, chippy scot with a grievance, anti-English cant – he will soon learn what the real meaning of Murphy’s law is.

        If he really wanted to make Scottish labour independent of UK labour, he would need to split the Scottish branch from the UK party. Free of the UK party whip, free to pursue their own policies. Much like the Scottish Unionists of old, pursuing a pro Scottish agenda within the Union. In other words these were Scotland’s men within the union, not the Unions men within Scotland. Of course they made the fatal error of joining the Tories and their vote has shriveled away over the decades.

        Can anyone here honestly see Murphy persuading Scottish labour MPs and MSPs to break with the UK party? Or indeed the idea even occurring to Murphy?

        Its then you realise that the current plan is like many of Scottish labours plans to reconnect with the electorate. Tinkering around the edges, paying lip service to the voter, and offering a tin ear to genuine concerns, all wrapped up in a tartan bow. In short, the very reasons that has seen them slowly but surely lose votes.

        You can argue then, that devolution, far from “killing nationalism stone dead” was always going to create a crisis of identity for the Scottish branch of Labour. In my opinion, Jim Murphy was the wrong answer.

      2. Frederick Robinson says:

        ‘Presumption, thy initials are MBC’. (i) Where’s your sense of irony? You read the Telegraph and Spectator, apparently, to seek out Scotophobia (I think ‘Scottophobia’ – your spelling – sounds like a fear/hatred of Sir Walter), which seems to me comparable to complaining about the pain from the tin tray you’re hitting your head with. (ii) I’ve never suggested you shouldn’t read them; just surprised you do; and direct you to the Guardian, which actually employs (pre-Referendum) ‘Scottish’ writers. (iii) Wherever I’ve been for the last 40 years is my business: but since you ask, and taking your reduced time-frame (I’ve already told where I was from 1966; you were probably too busy preparing your reaction to notice): 1975-96 (still mainly in Glasgow, but also working in, variously, Manchester, Germany, Catalonia, Andalucia, near London; and as a tour-guide: London, the Midlands, York, Scotland, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Liechstenstein, Luxembourg, and France) 1996-2001 (studying in Brighton, including a ‘stage’ in Bordeaux; tour-guiding in the UK, Eire, Europe) 2001(4 months resident in Le Touquet, responsible for schools-groups visiting the area Calais-Somme; after 10 days living in a car looking for somewhere to live, moving into my present home on the Channel coast) 2001 on (tour-guiding with schools’ choirs and orchestras through Europe, teaching EFL here and elsewhere on the coast; retiring. And the rest is private).
        And you?

      3. MBC says:

        So, you’ve been out of Scotland for long periods and have been pretty disengaged from Scottish grassroots society and Thatcher’s assault or the rank betrayal of Scotland of the Labour Party.

        1. Frederick Robinson says:

          On the contrary, MBC (don’t you have a name? you sound like a latter-day version of a digger, or something: or maybe someone who fancies himself as important enough for initials to suffice), I was in Glasgow throughout Thatcher’s reign – in fact, was probably one of the early victims of ‘downsizing’, and spent more time than I liked on ra baroo under her; hence my seeking work outside the UK – and beyond, and only returned (under Major) to England in time for Blair’s promising beginning and as it slid, after the invasion of Iraq and his failure to let Gordon Brown in earlier, into depressing disrepute. You really must learn not to make self-serving, simplified assumptions about the complications of other people’s lives.

  7. Frank M says:

    Great article Peter and spot on with your comments.

    I also agree with much of your reply John. However, we need to remember that the charlatans, chancres and crooks are part of the Westminster cartel.

    Murphy is way off the mark and is a master of spreading lies and spin. Like his British Westminster cronies, he likes to divide to conquer. He is not interested in human decency and will do and say anything in order to achieve his goals. Murphy is simply a political careerist. Remember that this is a person who took nine years in order to NOT get a degree, not even an ordinary degree, and who voted for tuition fees. Utter hypocrisy.

    I was talking to a newly met friend from England, whom I met at my health club three days ago. He informed me that he and his wife have just moved up here from down South and are in rented accommodation, hoping to buy a house soon. I asked him if he liked it up here and he replied that he loved it and they had been desperate to move up here for some time. My own father, was English (from Kent) and I spent happy summer days in Kent with my paternal relations when I was a youngster. My friend and I agreed that English culture had been eroded by a thoroughly corrupt British establishment and that we in Scotland have retained many aspects of our culture. Further discussion told me that he would certainly have voted YES if he had been able to vote, as they were hoping to have children which would be raised in a caring and decent society. This young man then expounded his reasons clearly and fully and I was gratified that I had the privilege of sharing a discussion with him. He and his wife will have a vote in the GE and in the Scottish elections in 2016.

    My new friend and I did not identify with being British. I am Scottish and he is English, but his children will be Scottish and he will be proud if that. I am extremely delighted to have many English friends, as well as colleagues. Desiring independence for my country does not change that. I saw during the referendum the support we had from fellow human beings in England.

    Murphy is not in tune with real events.

    1. Frank M says:

      Note: ‘chancres’ (line 3) – typo – should be ‘chancres’. Apologies.

  8. Frank M says:

    Done it again – should be chancers. The iPad is doing an auto correct.

    1. gralloched says:

      Look up ” chancres ”
      He knew what he meant.

    2. JBS says:

      Thanks, I didn’t think you meant syphilitic ulcerations. Then again…

    3. JBS says:

      Oops, didn’t see your reply, gralloched. You got there before me.

    4. tuathair says:

      Stick with ‘chancres’, Frank. Colourful but to the point.

      1. Frank M says:

        As a point of interest, chancre can also translate as a ‘plague’. Seems to me to be just as descriptive of Westminster. I suppose either could apply.

    5. Brian Fleming says:

      Frank, I think your iPad has a good nose for character. 🙂

      1. Frank says:

        Thanks Brian, I’ll tell it.

  9. bringiton says:

    Murphy’s fundamental principle is “Murphy First”.
    His neocon credentials are impeccable and would be a shining light in any right of centre political organisation,such as the British Labour party or the GOP in the USA.
    Unfortunately for Murphy,too many Scots have had enough of Westminster’s There Is No Alternative propaganda and realise that there is another way,if we so choose.
    Having campaigned vigorously (according to Murphy) to maintain policies which are anathema to the majority of Scots,does he seriously expect us to believe that he has had a damascene conversion to socialism since taking up the branch office manager’s job?
    Murphy First!

  10. That will be “Murphy’s First Law” of thermodynamics: Murphy First and Last (all heat and no light).

  11. Big Stevie says:

    Reblogged this on The People's Republic of Clydebank and commented:
    Great piece as ever on Bella Caledonia. C’mon, get beyond the pointy-yell-y, stuff. It’s time us indy supporters got to grips with the next chapters of unionism instead of the old wounds and grievances.

  12. Frederick Robinson says:

    I lived and worked in Scotland – mostly happily – for 30 years until health brought me back down south to the warmer climate. My family still live in Scotland. But I have to say that the biliousness of the comments in this forum make me feel sick.

    1. Frederick Robinson says:

      Without – whatever THEIR political motives might have been – the devolution granted by the Labour Party, the SNP would still be piddling about on the margins of politics. I am glad that they have managed to improve conditions in Scotland, but abhor the utterly negative attitude this has (perhaps with justification in relation to the Coalition, but the electorate, for better or worse, voted them in, remember) brought about in relation to – not only Parliament, but politics in general and England in particular.

      1. How long is it since you moved back down south Frederick? I’m English, brought up in the Home Counties and moved to Glasgow in 2005 after a couple of years living in Paris. My French husband and I thought we’d try it out for a year and 10 years and 3 kids later we are still here and still loving it with an ever-deepening sense of belonging (current weather excepted!)

        In any case, I just do not recognise your assessment Scottish politics or attitudes. I went from No to Yes around this time last year and have grown increasingly dismayed at the portrayal of the pro-independence movements south of the border ever since. The anti-English, narrow-minded, insular, threatening representation could not be further from my own personal experience and I have found a lot of the anti-Scottish and anti-independence backlash truly sickening – particularly when I feel that much of it is based in misconception of what the real feeling is on the ground.

        Now I know that there are some narrow-minded bigots on both sides, but I really do feel that the pro-indy side and SNP have had a raw deal in terms of balanced reporting and it is frustrating that so few on the outside seem to really “get” what it’s about – and that includes Murphy et al as demonstrated by his recent actions.

        Best wishes to you and yours.

    2. MBC says:

      You should try reading the Scottophobic comments on the Telegraph or Spectator. Even the Guardian.

      1. Frederick Robinson says:

        Reply to MBC and HanR: MBC – what are you doing reading the Telegraph and Spectator?! The Guardian has Ian Jack and Deborah Orr (both Scots, to name but two) with substantial columns: anything comparable (i.e. English columnists) in the Herald or Scotsman? I bekieve that both, like a number of expatriate Scots (not schizo-Sassenachs like me) I know down here were really hurt being excluded from the referendum.
        HanR: I was there 1966-96, but in the minus15degreesC winter of (1992?) suffered a stroke and was paralysed down one side for two years, decided my 57-year-old body (now 75) needed a slightly warmer climate; and incredibly the Herald advertised a 2-year BA + QTS (normally 4 years) at Brighton University, so, having post-stroke received lots of ‘like your qualifications, but no degree….’ job-application rejections, decided I’d (successfully) do a degree in Modern Languages. And found work followed. Good luck to you, too: health aside, I may well still have been in Caledonia; but recent developments politically make me less than happy (on both sides of the Border, may I say).

      2. MBC says:

        I’ve as much right to check out the real Scottophobic bile on the Spectator and Telegraph as you have to visit these pages Frederick. If you can’t take the challenge to your beloved British state on Bella why bother reading? Seems like you are rather thin skinned.

      3. Bernicia says:


        I think Fred’s point is that Anglo phobic/ Scotophonbic bile is depressing in equal measure.

      4. MBC says:

        That’s YOUR view, possibly Bernicia. Frederick is guilty of Britnat selective blindness. Anglophobia bad, Scottophobia, well that’s just fair and objective critique. I have apparently no right to be reading the Spectator or Telegraph according to him. Apparently I should just stick to my own Yes enclave.

    3. Heidstaethefire says:

      Labour didn’t “grant” devolution, They had it forced on them as the absolute minimum Blair thought he could get away with – remember his “parish council” remark.

      1. Frederick Robinson says:

        Another Freudian slip, perhaps? ‘To change how we act and live for the improvement of every body’. Not ‘everybody’, then? Sounds as if the gym’s the answer.

  13. Bernicia says:

    Just when we’ve had two great thought provoking posts and discussions on Bella about radical systemics/ religion/ islam/ free speech and most of complexity and nuance, it’s back to this childish dogmatic nonsense.

    “that the British State is so corrupt that only a fundamental change to the way that democracy works on these islands will make it possible to live and hope like a decent human community”

    You really really need to get out and travel a bit more. This kind of guff is not only embarrasing and counter productive to any future wider support for Indepepndence, but (if it wasn’t so laughable) is down right offensive to the vast majority of people around the world where state, press, commercial and civil corruption and related poverty is endemic. Britain regularly comes in the top 10/ now14th in the UN (other independent NGO studies) of state transparency (out of 179) . Thank your lucky stars you live here and things such as an open democratic election to decide the future of the actual state itself are upheld.

    And there’s nothing pretensious about being educated, only if it is used for effect rather than to underpin the point (I’ve always hated the very northern/ Scottish attitude to being working class and being well read and interested in academics/ having to hide it etc).

    So in defence of Burke and conservatism with a small c, being cautious and suspicious of great revolutions that promise the world in favour of incremental change has a lot of appeal. And of excessive individualism over the community an collective and the pre existing realities of a society. For this reason he also supported the revolutionary demands/ reform in the American colonies when the hawks wanted war, he also pressed for a curtailment of the power of the East India company, critiqued the illiberality and dangers of state enforced egalitarianism at the same time as supporting the abolition of slavery, reform and restraint of royal patronage, rejected fundamentalism and radicalisation in revolutionary France, (predicting the terror, then dictatorship that was to follow.) – could have done with Burke when the Neo cons were invading Iraq. (Oh and ther eis a difference between Neo liberalism and neo conservatism – a common confusion.)

    The problem with the modern Conservative party is that they are no longer small c conservatives, but radicals dressing themsleves up as such – that’s why they are so dangerous. And as for the soaring breathles rhetoric – that permeated the Yes campaign and the indy ref debate with the queasy cloyingness of a Richard Curtice film – that you end with owes more to Thatcher and her radicalism,than it does small c conservatism.

    1. Bernicia says:

      In fact now that it’s on the table, it’s hard to think of anyone else in modern history that did more to predict and critique the ‘crony capitalism’ of today by challenging the East India company back in the 18th century, when private interests undermined and superceeded that of the public, social networks, human identity and so on…not a left wing critique of market fundamentalism perhaps but a more valid and efficacious one some would suggest.

      1. As a matter of fact, now it is on the table, Burke’s attack on the East India Company was somewhat compromised by a significant family conflict of interest; large holdings in the Company. Indeed Burke’s attack on Hastings, whom he held responsible for everything he didn’t like in India and the Company, has been described by the leading historian of the affair, PJ Marshall ‘The Impeachment of Warren Hastings’ (1965) in the following terms “It is impossible to endorse Burke‟s extravagant vituperative depiction of [Hastings] in terms such as the “captain-General of iniquity”.

        But presumably this must have been Burke’s judicious way of demonstrating his caution and profound, selfless wisdom.

      2. Bernicia says:

        What does vituperative mean?

      3. Uttering abuse; from the Latin vituperare (to curse or blame) and parare (to prepare). Why not look it up?

      4. Bernicia says:

        Actually, that is a fair point, the extent to which Burke was motivated by ‘modern’ notions of human right for the Indian ‘subjects’ (which many think he was) and associated good governance, or just good governance itself and bringing the East India company under parliamentary control and scrutiny. Add to that the zealousness with which he went after Hastings, and how justified it was on an individual level in terms of responsibility. But the fact that the trial went ahead at all (even with Burke’s interests), in the late 17th, is quite remarkable. Can you imagine it happening today? Think of the parralles with the ‘crony capitalist’ Bankers/ Fred Godwin still on his 700 000 a year pension. Bob Diamond etc.

      5. At last we have found some common ground! No it does not happen today. QED. Incidentally, small point, but it is near the end of the 18th century, not 17th.

        Furthermore, Hastings relied for his success in India on a small group of carefully chosen, highly competent men who were called the ‘Scots guardians’; whom Burke did not like; for a variety of reasons, perhaps (I claim no more, I have not researched the matter sufficiently) not entirely unconnected to the possible rejection of aspirational Burkian nepotism by Hastings.

      6. Bernicia says:

        Aye, typo, 1700s, 18th…I suspect we agree on much more; is the nature of the webosphere that things become far too polarised when making or exploring a point/ things.

        And I’m sure it must have had an impact, people are people, politics is politics, vanity is vanity. Burke was certainly no saint and was often wrong.

    2. Craig says:

      “Thank your lucky stars you live here and things such as an open democratic election to decide the future of the actual state itself are upheld. ”

      Is this not something of a strawman? You could just as easily say to a Russian “well, thank your lucky stars you don’t live in North Korea”. This kind of logic would suggest that short of implementing capital punishment, a theological justice system (which can have very progressive rehabilitative dimensions to them incidentally) and curtailing rights of freedom of expression to that of a wartime nation then we ought to “shut up and thank god we don’t live in North Korea”? The question is about wealth. Wealthier countries have fewer social problems than poorer ones.

      We have three UK-wide political parties which argue over the minutae of detail (largely about the NHS). A media which largely prints gossip and press releases. The economic, social and cultural policies of the main UK parties are indistinguishable from each other. Political decisions and appointments are made on the basis of personal relationships. The PR machine (hopelessly promulgated by McTernan and co) want to debase the debate about governance and political ideology to mud-slinging and confusing the public.

      Okay, no one is saying it’s North Korea, but it is hardly inspiring.

      The Conservatives have always been radicals with a much milder wing which have had various desgrees of power and influence over the years (e.g. “If you want a P*** for a neighbour vote Labour” campaign slogans in the 1970s/80s). Labour are now small c conservatives with a radical conservative fringe.

      1. Craig says:

        If you go back far enough, surely contemporary schisms (including the Corn Laws) within the UK Parliament has always been between two competing, ‘wealthy’ social groups (‘old money’ versus ‘new money’)? There may have been a breif hiatus brought on by industrialisation and the birth of the Labour Party, were the interests of unskilled labourers (paupers) were considered important. Indeed, ignoring British imperialism and pretending for the moment the British were promoting free trade and rule of law in India, was the Indian rebellion against the East Indian company not more or less analogous to similar debates (albeit less bloody) that were going on in the UK around that time (the Indian aristocracy fighting the new Indian mercantile class (the British))? That would probably be a traditional lefty view of it.

    3. Frederick Robinson says:

      Well said, Bernicia. But watch the spelling and word-processing, which undermine your good arguments. Though I have reservations about Burke (partly dealt with in your replies).

      1. Frank says:

        What a terribly patronising comment to make.

      2. Frederick Robinson says:

        Touche, Frank.

    4. I genuinely think Bella Caledonia attempts to open a door to a more constructive dialogue; an invitation to real debate of substantive issues from all sides; to illuminate, to further our understanding (not least of opposite positions), and to find common ground where we can. It does not always work, but we must persevere; and on this site at least I believe, from time to time it works; occasionally very well indeed. This does not, and should not, exclude robust argument, or leave no room for polemics; that would be unrealistic.

      We should acknowledge the Editor’s recent diligent efforts to open the door as wide as possible to ‘no’ voters; at times it has been unfortunately angry, but the threshold was crossed. It is a start.

      1. Bernicia says:

        Cheers to that!

    5. fearnach says:

      The Reporters Without Borders scale of press freedom for 2014 puts the UK at number 33, one of the lowest for an EU member state.

  14. John Simpson says:

    Three amigos down there
    Three mac egos up here
    f LIEing shit about to hit the fan.

  15. Tom Platt says:

    You have kindly provided Murphy’s re-written law :-“Everything is Hopeless. People are all bastards. Any pretence at public service is a con job. The winner is the biggest and best con man. You can’t fight the rich so you may as well dedicate yourself to making them “comfortable” in the hope they might drop you a scrap off the table.”

    Murphy’s Corrollary:- The replacement of Trident is essential regardless of the tens or hundreds of billions of pounds of cost. Continuing austerity is irrelevant and, anyway, only relative.

    What a distorting effect his South African upbringing may have had on him! Does he see modern day Scots as so many white South Africans used to see blacks in the days before Independence?

  16. Big Jock says:

    Anyone who is naive enough to suggest that an egalitarian society can be achieved by staying in the UK. Needs to go back to school and study the history of the UK over the last 50 years and the historical class system. The society is more divided than it was 50 years ago. The wealthy 10 % still run the show. We are trillions in the red. Their is no meaningful representation of Scotland in Westminster. England has 10 times the population. Even if Westminster was the most caring parliament in the world. There would still be no Scottish democracy as its statistically impossible for us to be heard, or elect the government. England gets the government England wants every time!

    If we are a nation then our own future is independence ,as we are in bed with an elephant. You will never get rid of the Tories, UKIP, the class system, peerages, the royal family,nuclear weapons,illegal wars,wastage of Scotland’s oil,food banks, debt. The list is endless. The reason people say Britain is broken is not for effect. Its a sincere reflection of the state of this failed nation state that only works for the wealthy and on England’s terms.

  17. Wull says:

    I tried posting the following on Wings, on the same subject, but it would not enter. Not the fault of Wings, I hasten to add – just some technicality. Anyway, maybe it will work here, on Bella. With apologies for the length, here it is:

    Nice of Jim Murphy to acknowledge that the Labour Party in Scotland, or Scottish Labour, or whatever it is called, NEVER put Scotland first. Never before, that is. So, to be fair to him, he is quite right in calling this a BRAND NEW POLICY.

    With all this ‘newness’ in the air we now know what he means when he says that his New Scottish Labour is going to re-write its old “Clause Four”. The inverted commas are necessary because the old “Clause Four” of Scottish Labour was kept secret. It must have been an unwritten clause, since the public never had access to it, known only to Labour insiders.

    The discerning voter could all the same surmise that the secret “Clause Four” existed, and even guess its content. Simply by watching the antics of the Labour Party in Scotland, it would become more and more apparent. Hush! Whisper it: the old “Clause Four” of Scottish Labour, known to all insiders though never revbealed in public, was simply this:

    ‘Put Scotland Last!’

    Why else would a Labour-led administration in Holyrood under Jack MacConnell underspend its budget, and send the surplus back to London?

    Why else would Henry MacLeish collude with his Labour colleagues at Westminster to re-draw the sea boundary between Scottish and English waters in the North Sea, although they had never been in dispute, on the eve of the inauguration of the Scottish parliament? Why else, if not to increase England’s potential under-sea wealth? And decrease Scotland’s? ‘Put Scotland Last’, as the old (“Clause Four”) slogan had it.

    ‘Putting Scotland first’ really is a stunningly new concept for the Labour Party in Scotland. They never ever thought of it before.

    In the old days, the Labour Party saw themselves as part of not just a UK_wide but an international force, with commonly held ideas and values across national boundaries. One of these ideas was the nationalization of major services and industries. When Tony Blair rewrote the real “Clause Four”, which pertained to the whole of the Labour Party, not just in Scotland, it was indeed a ‘revolutionary’ act.

    But a very strange kind of revolution it was. Blair was not just dropping nationalization from his party’s agenda, he was transforming Labour into a fully-fledged free market party on the model of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives.

    The said Margaret, in her own turn, had also been a ‘revolutionary’ in her own right. Far more than Tony Blair ever was, because he was only capable of copying her. Pale imitation of Maggie that he was, Blair’s Clause Four ‘Revolution’ was simply an acknowedgement that she had won. Labour would fight her no more. “Clause Four” – not Margaret Thatcher – had beceome the enemy, and it would have to go.

    Blair admired the revolution she had successfully carried out in her party, and now he would do the same to his own.

    She had moved her party to the right by ridding it of any remnants of ‘One Nation Conservatism’, which she considered weak, wet and feeble.
    He would move Labour to the right as well.

    She had gone to war with the Unions and defeated them. He would show that he accepted the result of that war, and make sure the Unions never again wielded the power they had once held, even in his own party. The repeal of “Clause Four” was part of this strategy, signalling that the Labour Party had cut its links with socialism once and for all.

    Above all, Tony’s idol and role-model, Margaret Thatcher, had waged a real war that had proved immensely popular. He couldn’t wait to do the same.

    Whatever might be said about the justice or injustice of the Falklands issue, going to war over it had proved a remarkable electoral weapon in the make-believe world of Westminster politics. Here was a vote-winner of fantastic proportions. All you had to do was feed into the imperial nostalgia of an uncritical public that had not reconciled itself to the plain fact that Britain, whether you prefer to think of it as good old UK or just jolloy old England, is finished as a major power on the world stage.

    The Thatcher government had been moribund and plumeting to oblivion until ‘victory emotion’ turned everyone’s heads skywards, and the whole nation began to march on thin air once again. Not since the Second World War had this been felt …

    Tony too, as Margaret’s true successor (far more than Major ever was), would wage his own neat little wars. They were to be won in a matter of weeks rather than years, Britain would be a great moral force in the world, and that heady emotion would bring election victory after victory. The foolishness may have been of good intention, but the foundation was still the feeding of old imperial-based illusions, and the outcome was awful. We still have the illusion that we are immune from committing war crimes: these are things that only awful people from backward and delusional other countries do. ‘Johnny Foreigner’, and all that …

    The reason why the Thatcher-inspired Labour-and-Tory establishment of the UK hate the SNP so much is because the SNP is the biggest threat on earth to their illusions. The revolution Margaret Thatcher inaugurated, and all her successors continued, especially Blair, will come to an end if Scotland becomes independent.

    If the UK breaks up, the fantasy is over.
    And it is a fantasy with a long history, over centuries, deeply rooted in the British psyche.

    No one likes being ‘dis-illusioned’. We all use illusions to comfort us. They are the crutches we cling to in order to prop ourselves up.

    We are terrified that if anyone kicks our crutches from under us, or simply removes them, we will fall flat on our face and be unable to get up again. In fact, the contrary is true.

    The ‘No’ vote in the referendum was a tragedy for all the inhabitants of the current UK, not just Scotland. If our illusions are taken from us, we will be able to live again in the real world. If our infantile fantasies of power and greatness are removed from our minds, we will be able to make amends for the horrors of past mistakes. That will free all of us – Scotland as well as England and the rest of the current UK – to make a contribution to the world that will be far more modest, and far more useful.

    To return to Jim Murphy, if he and his ‘New Scottish Labour’ do learn to ‘put Scotland first’, he will turn out to be a ‘revolutionary’ after all. But I can’t see it happening. What kind of a player has he been up to now?

    His talk of repealing “Clause Four” is all too reminiscent of the only revolution he has ever been involved in: that of Tony Blair. The Thatcher-inspired revolution that turned over the Labour Party, and made it into the monster it now is.

    The ‘Better Together’ compact, the subsequent campaign in which our Jim so distinguished himself, and the eventual ‘No’ vote amounted to the ultimate victory of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Her vision – her awful vision both of ourselves, and of our roile in the world – triumphed on 18 September 2014. Let us hope – no, let us make sure that it is the last victory the Thatcher Revolution ever wins.

    It was a victory not only in Scotland but, sadly, over Scotland. Its basis was nostalgia and illusion, and flight from reality. Having lost the battle, it is incumbent on Scotland to keep fighting the war. Not only for Scotland’s good but for England’s too, and for all the good people of Wales and Northern Ireland. We need to be liberated from our illusions, and become good citizens of the world.

    As for Murphy’s Brave New Scottish Labour putting ‘Scotland first’. I will believe it when I see it. That is, when I see it transformed into action, not the cheapest of cheap words.

    If he wants to convince anyone, he should begin by breaking with Milliband over Trident. All he has to do is commit himself and his supposedly ‘New’ Scottish Labour to its non-renewal and eventual scrapping. And he should do it before, not after the May election. When he is suddenly converted to scrapping Trident after May, it will only be because the cohort of SNP MPs at Westminster have squeezed it out of Milliband as a concession to the poor man’s desire to be Prime Minister.

    If Murphy did come out against Trident, even now, he would of course be stealing the SNP’s clothing. That is what he is already tryting to do with his revolutionary ‘new’ (new-to-Labour, that is) idea of ‘putting Scotland first’. The only Party that has ever done that is the SNP.

    But then, in order to get up to par with the SNP and win some votes, the brave Jim could even steal a bit more. Why not declare himself in favour of a Federal Britain, with full Home Rule for Scotland? That would really banjax the SNP, wouldn’t it?

    But that might not be quite enough to swing it. Surely it won’t do to be simply on a par with the SNP, our Brand New Labour will have to overtake them. So another new idea might just dawn on Jim: why not have it have it written into the manifesto for May 2015 that Scottish Labour is in favour of independence?

    Now that one really would outwit the SNP, and put a spoke intheir wheels, not to be more graphic.

    Good move, Jim!

    You are just the brilliant opportunist we need to provide us all with exactly what we want.

    Here, courtesy of the Wings website, is your slogan for 2015: ‘The SNP is only going for Home Rule: Vote Scottish Labour and get Independence.’

    Just the job, Jim. Such a great advantage in politics to have no principles whatsoever: ‘Vote for me; I’m made of plasticene!’

  18. Wull says:

    Let me add that I greatly appreciate the argument of Peter Arnott’s article, which I believe is entirely correct, (even if, personally, I regret the language in which some of it is expressed). The conclusion, in the last three or four paragraphs, is very important, and should be taken on board by all.

  19. Steve Asaneilean says:

    The sad reality is that the vast majority of people who have lived in this union for 300 years, or who have had their lives touched by it through imperial influence, haved lived lives of poverty, hard work, illness and premature death.
    Even today the poorest people in Scotland live more than 20 years less than the richest, the bottom 50% have effectively no wealth to speak of and we live in one of the most unequal societies in the developed world.
    I admire the optimism of those who, despite all the overt evidence to the contrary, believe that the UK in its current state is capable of achieving the kind of change that is needed. But I don’t buy it.
    Maybe things wouldn’t be any better in an independent Scotland but how can we know unless we try?

    1. MBC says:

      To me the fact that No voters claiming to be progressives think that the UK is a structure in which progressive politics can occur makes me wonder the reasons.

      Is it because they have their heads in the sand? Are they stupid, or willfully blind? Are they just conned by a powerful media? Is it centuries of indoctrination and what Gramsci called hegemony? Are they phonies, like the phonies they vote for? Are they feart, and does fear trump justice in their hearts?

      Scratch away at it though and you find that at root, they simply don’t feel Scottish enough. They have no faith in Scotland. Scotland is just a minor branch of UK plc. Their loyalty is fundamentally to another nation.

  20. johnmcgurk66 says:

    it is just so good to know after reading this article that their are people out there that really want to change how we act and live for the improvement of every body. But we have to start at home here in Scotland, I think common-sense will prevail . We must have hope that it can change we must not be afraid to struggle until we attain our gaol.

    1. Steve Asaneilean says:

      Sometimes a typo reveals a Freudian slip – who knows John maybe we will achieve the gaol – I am sure there’s a few on the UKOK side that would quite like that for us! 🙂

  21. Lochside says:

    Great article: sums up the disgusting cynical hypocrisy of the ‘Murphy Project’. Like some crass comedy routine..this charlatan running around outside BBC ‘s Glasgow premises in a Scotland shirt providing a sickening photo opportunity..raising the question of which one is the fake..Murphy or the shirt?

    McTernan and Murphy, the Burke and Hare of Scottish politics, murdering the long held principles of Scottish socialism and selling the the stinking remains to the Scottish electorate as a born again ‘Clause Four rewrite . Only in our Scotlandshire colony where the BBC pumps out endless British Propaganda , could a gross offence to our intelligence go unchallenged by our corrupt media.

    Cynicism oozes out of Murphy every time he opens his deceitful mouth. With all the unctuous gravity and sincerity of an undertaker ,Murphy speaks with a forked tongue at every opportunity. With no authority whatsoever he is invited on to a succession of tv and radio programmes to deliver his nonsensical narrative of ‘1000’ nurses based on a non-existent ‘Mansion Tax’ .All the while promising ‘Scotland First’ with the explicit promise that he will ignore or change the British Labour party’s manifesto in favour of the fictitious ‘Scottish’ Labour Party.All without receiving the appropriate disdainful dismissal his bullshit deserves from our media.

    In fact, the reverse is true. Yet despite the revelation and the clear evidence of what we are being forced to swallow by ‘our’ media from this charlatan and his Unionist cronies i.e. a fabricated and phoney re-writing of Labour’s utter betrayal of the Scottish people, and its working class in particular,we see on this site Unionist trolls continue spewing out their self-interested and self-centred British nationalist myopic mantras about how ‘better together’ we would have been and remain so as a result of the ‘NO’ vote in the REF.

    Well Bernicia, why an Irish 18th century berk called Burke has anything to do with modern Scotland, apart from you showing off your ‘A’ level essay on him in Modern Studies, I’m f@cked if I know. You and your cohorts of Brit Nats may pretend to care about the Scottish Commonweal..but you patently don’t.
    And I read your phoney story about ‘Anti-English’ middle class types feigning w/class accents in a West End pub load of tosh….and how you decided that was some kind of turning point. Frankly, I’d be surprised if you even know where Glasgow is….or do you call it Glasgae?

    Love the UK and all its corrupt history and institutions if you will, but don’t try to sully our natural desire for Self Determination and Independence with your essentially racist criticisms of our people and country.
    Underneath it all, you’re all Little Englanders ( along with the Scotsbuts carpetbaggers) that can’t stand the thought of losing your power and our wealth.

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