2007 - 2022

The New Normal – Mhairi’s Maiden

_82862783_ap_blackWho would have thought it? The revolutionary date of the 14th of July … but in the UK in 2015, when the most undisguisedly reactionary government in living memory has just been voted into power on a wave of Jockophobia, here at the fag-end of a victorious, delirious Tory majority Westminster Parliamentary mini term, marked by the overt brutality of the Osborne budget and measures designed to drag Trade Unions back to the semi-legal status of the Combinations Act in the 19th Century, maybe, just maybe, also marks, in a wholly different register, the beginning of the new normality for not just Scottish politics, but for the future mechanics of UK politics as a whole.

The prospectus of the SNP at the last UK General Election just ten weeks ago was that UK Labour recognise in the SNP a strategic and occasional anti-Tory ally in the specific context of the UK Parliament. Now, it was never an expectation that UK Labour acknowledge any such possibility while in the throes of the Campaign itself – that would have been to throw the Scottish Party and its chances of recovery under a bus.

Then, late in the campaign, when the Tories, to their own surprise, discovered that they might achieve decisive traction with the twin bogeyman of a Jock and Jewish usurpation of some hitherto undigested vision of Englishness and a profoundly (if unaccountably) threatened sense of identity, on the 30th of April Ed Miliband made a speech where he ruled out any possibility of ever even talking to the SNP ever about anything under any circumstances…

Now Labour were already in deep trouble in Scotland and deeper trouble than even their focus groups told them in England, but this speech effectively sank the hearts and boats of all but the most tearily loyal troops North of the Tweed.

One has to actually live here to understand the depth of shock and long-lasting hurt that our still overwhelmingly Unionist establishment up here (in broadcasting, the media, business and academia) now feel. Culturally speaking it is hard to see the damage that was done by the steadfastly fear and nihilism campaign fought for the Union has just plain disappointed and disoriented people who were far more sincerely and historically conscious and collegiately British in their outlook than are the electoral beneficiaries of the fear and hatred whipped up by the baying, empty-shirted opportunists of the contemporary Press and Tory establishment in London. It has become terribly and terminally clear that the Tory defenders of Britishness are entirely skin deep and cynical in their commitment to anything other than the immediate rewards of power.. They’re not Unionists in any sense my own Unionist family would recognise.

Labour became the establishment Party in Scotland during the sixties and kept that status right through 18 years of Thatcherism partly in response to the moral and intellectual hollowing out of the alternative. And when Ed Miliband threw Scottish Labour under the electoral bus at the end of April, as I said at the time, the last proper Unionists left the building. Leaving their Scottish branch office utterly bereft.

Beyond all the predictable (and justified) Tory yells about the SNP performing a convoluted and semantically dubious U-turn on their traditional policy of abstaining on what they (as opposed to the Speaker of the House of Commons) as clearly “England Only ” measures on the Fox Hunting vote, that same Loyalist Establishment in Scotland are screaming themselves puce about SNP hypocrisy and neglecting to identify the true significance of what has just happened today.

Which is that the UK Labour Party, (although admittedly using Ian Murray, the last unlikely survivor of the Scottish Party as postman) invited the SNP to support them on a vote on fox-hunting in England and Wales. For the SNP, the fact of this invitation was what mattered. That they were thereby forced into some inelegant contortions of mind bogglingly transparent sophistry hardly matters beyond the fact that what Ed Miliband rejected so vehemently and finally on the campaign trail has now in fact come about (Albeit in opposition rather than the hoped for informal coalition). The Tories, ten weeks into their term, have already been deflected on Human Rights legislation, English Votes for English Laws…and now on the totemic issue of fox hunting…by a de facto progressive alliance that Labour have now come out and publicly requested in the specific instance of a specific winnable vote.

And like the empty shirts they are, rather than risk a fight, the Tories have backed down.

Now we are a very long away from the by-elections that might, two or three years from now, routinely thwart the wishes of the slim majority in the Commons. And we already know that the Tories are callously and cynically front loading the most anti-social of their revenge fantasy economics on very many on both sides of the Tweed who can ill withstand the assault.

But in the maiden speech of Mhairi Black that came on the same day as the Parliamentary Gamesmanship jointly and successfully played by UK Labour and the SNP yesterday, ,maybe, just maybe, the wider UK electorate will begin to get a sense of what was happening up here in the deep North last year. And in a sentence, what we felt here was a sense of re-discovery of the sense of possibility. That maybe, just maybe, there was a way to challenge the version of reality to which Margaret Thatcher bore witness and to which Blair and Brown subscribed.

This has also been the week, of course, when that very sense of democratic possibility of self-determination (or at least self-defence) was so brutally stamped into the killing floors of Brussels with an almost audible grunt of “That’ll LEARN ya!”

We faced the same ugly closing of the future in name of “Reality” in the No Campaign last year.But maybe, just maybe, our experience may be salutary and useful down south…as well as refreshing. Maybe…just maybe…positive and progressive alliances, practical solidarity can indeed be found in a federal approach to opposition across these islands and this continent that will one day bear democratic fruit constitutionally and in terms of the re-discovered possibility of progress towards social and economic justice.

Stranger things have happened, and, after all, no matter what the constitutional settlement in 2025 or 2030, we will all still be living on the same Atlantic Archipelago, whatever we want to call it.

And 14th July 2015 will one day be known as Day One of the New Normal.


Comments (25)

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  1. Duncan MacLaren says:

    Mhairi Black’s speech was one of the finest I have heard lately and summarises nicely not only why the Scottish people voted SNP in such numbers and why the Scottish Labour Party failed but also shows the political locus of the SNP as the new social democratic force which places the poor and the vulnerable at the centre of their concerns. It also consistently takes an internationalist stance in global and UK politics, leaving to the British Unionists a nationalism that is shorn of solidarity with desperate migrants, the Greek people and the poor. We only need to glance at the vicious comments on Mhairi’s speech highlighted by Wings over Scotland to see the distance between the hope our politics illustrate in Scotland and the despair of a dying British state. In Mhairi, a star is born.

    1. Saor Alba says:

      An absolutely excellent and expertly outlined comment Duncan.
      Our 20 year old has plenty of wisdom, integrity and honesty about her and has delivered an astoundingly brilliant and heartfelt speech. Her point about the hypocrisy and dishonesty of benefits for politicians was very telling.

      Once again, the Main benches occupied were the SNP benches. The others were probably away for their free drinks.

  2. Craig B says:

    The only justification for the SNP voting on fox hunting in England is the one given by Nicola Sturgeon. It is entirely valid.

    “Since the election, David Cameron’s government has shown very little respect to the mandate that Scottish MPs have. On the Scotland bill, reasonable amendments backed by the overwhelming majority of Scottish MPs have been voted down. The English votes for English laws proposals brought forward go beyond any reasonable proposition and look to make Scottish MPs effectively second-class citizens in the House of Commons. So, I think if there’s an opportunity – as there appears to be here – and on an issue where David Cameron appears to be out of touch with majority English opinion as well, to actually remind the government how slender their majority is.”

    That’s fine. Until there is a reasonable settlement of EVEL, the SNP is not obligated to follow that principle, but should make life as difficult as possible for the Tories. Particularly as NuLab seems reluctant to do so.

  3. patsy says:

    Mhairi Black is a wee cracker. Breath of fresh air and clever with it. She will be a prominent politician in years to come.

  4. sandy ritchie says:

    I wish more of the 56 were like Mhaira Black who’s speech brought a tear to my eye….sadly they’re not. But the few former Labour members of the 56 will maybe give the SNP a bit of backbone in terms of retaining their supposed left wing credential’s. I’m sure Mhairi will ensure they do.

  5. Mike Fenwick says:

    A new normal arises in one July day.

    It was one day in July, when full employment, a National Health Service, Keynesian economic policies, a welfare state, marked a new normal – it was indeed a day in the month of July – but that day was in July 1945.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, some 70 years later, we did awake to a new normal.

    One hopes, one most sincerely hopes, that some 70 years ahead, we are equally deserving of some credit for what we, in our time, leave as our legacy for the future.

  6. Mike Fenwick says:

    Oh, nearly forgot.

    … how much I loved the applause for Mhaira, and if only that also became the new normal!!!

  7. C Rober says:

    The SNP just like labour is being taken over , not by the privately educated Tory in a red tie like Labour , but instead by working class socialists , where indy is but a second addition , not a primary goal. Do you honestly think shes not just a token gesture for the SNP.

    The disenfranchised south of the border are also deserting the former party of the working class , now that it is no longer being run by the working classes.

    Disillusioned by what SLAB had to offer , realizing that they cannot be Red Clydeside again , and of course remembering those lies in September , the electorate choose something different. But in true Scots mentality all that mattered to some is whether she is a fenian or a dob , or whether she gave a bj roon the back o the gerages aged 14 while oot her face on breezers.

    Mhari never found Politics , Politics found Mhari through her social background , not a postcode she bought into to find voters and then pretend to be their local representative , unlike other SNP career politicians.

    She was and is wan o them , she speaks like them , for them , and in their ain words , and sometimes “for the benefit of our viewers south of the border whom need to press the red button now for subtitles , not insteed doon tae them with soundbites and middle management diatribe.

    This works to cross people over , from traditional Labour voter , to no voter last September. All parties have forgot their grass roots , the union delegate that becomes a Councillor , the Councillor that becomes the MP. She has skipped that part , perhaps by accident , but will huv tae watch her back constantly , in the media or in her ain perty.

    However , there is tears beginning to show in the SNP , their policies are not perfect , and in some cases simply ignored for the agenda of the day.

    Mhari is one of those , jut like her idol , that represent the people , whether she is consumed by career politics for the job or the electorate themselves will play out over time , I do hope she is more Jimmy Reid in action rather than words…. even if that means saying no to the party directive aiding them to get shot of her.

    1. Robin Stevenson says:

      C Rober, I’m afraid you’re forgetting that the SNP is not a one dimensional party, there are various elected MPs from various parts of Scotland, some wealthy, some poor, some middle class, some working class, I’m really not quite sure which SNP MPs you refer to as being “Career politicians”?
      As far as I’m concerned the SNP has to have a good cross section of candidates from across a wide range of varying constituencies, we need youth, we need experience, we need women, men, from varying backgrounds and preferably, varying professions, No one politician can be all things to all men, but with 56 politicians we should at least be able to cover a vast majority of bases, and as such a wider appeal to all.

  8. Andy Borland says:

    I won’t bother adding any more superlatives that have gone before about Mhairi’s speech – its magnificence speaks for itself.

    One bone of contention though.

    Whose idea was it to include a cartoon caricature of, I assume, Guy Fawkes, so prominently in Mhairi’s speech?

    Whoever it was at Bella, gie them their jotters now.


    A pointless, unfunny & distracting inclusion which, for me, was on a par with Jackie Bird’s & MisReporting Scotland’s pathetic feature last night, crassly referring to the SNP MP’s being rebuked for clapping (yawn) again.

    Bella’s better than that.

    Wee rant over ….

    1. JBS says:

      Lol Bella embedded Guido’s upload of Mhairi Black’s speech. On purpose, or inadvertently?

      Wee fit of amusement over.

      1. Andy Borland says:

        Ah. Mea culpa!

      2. Hi Andy / JBS – there’s multiple version sod the speech on youtube – this one uploaded deliberately but no too make any point about Guido just to share the video.

        1. JBS says:

          Just teasing, guys…

  9. Darien says:

    Brilliant speech. Thankfully Scotland has countless Maihri Black’s – we have absolutely nothing to fear, our nation’s future is assured.

    But a key issue still needs dealt with, and soon, and that is:

    “…our still overwhelmingly Unionist establishment up here (in broadcasting, the media, business and academia)”

    …and I would add to that list our mainly unionist oriented legal establishment, amongst others! There are still too many in positions of power within Scotland who wilfully undermine and hold back our nation and people.

  10. Alasdair McColl says:

    Excellent speech, both content and delivery!

    It would be intesting to gauge Hugh Henry’s view of Mhari’s speech?

    As I recall he had plenty of bile to dislodge from his vacuous brain via his corrosive gob prior to the election.

    It would be equally interesting to know what wee Douglas is doing with his time these days. Remember he, the “thinker”, or so his chums in Scotland’s media and state broadcaster would have had us believe.

    No doubt he’ll end up in a high paid job like George Robertson, snouting it in the trough, becoming a Lord and belittling Scotland, a well trodden Scottish labour career path.

  11. Jan Cowan says:

    But not for much longer, Darien! The positions of power within Scotland are slowly progressing away from the old order…….and not before time.

    1. Darien says:

      Agree there is some movement on this, albeit limited in my experience. Scotland’s dilemma continues as long as the ‘top’ jobs in Scotland are predominantly advertised in the likes of the Times and other London papers, with use of London executive agencies ‘normal’ practice, and then our dominant neighbours 10:1 population ratio kicks in. The chances of a Scot taking the top level jobs in Scotland’s civil service, Local Gov, NHS, Police, Universities, and hundreds of other public quango’s is mightily weighed against us – we witness the consequence every night on the news when these ‘top’ folk are interviewed. Would Denmark be content to be run/managed by Germans? Would Malta be content to be run/managed by Italians? Ah hae ma doots. Oor main problem is that Scotland isnae run by Scots – its run by a’body else, nae matter wha sits in Holyrood or Westmeenster.

      1. maxi kerr says:

        Good point, i suggest that we use only yes voting professionals to do any serious business for us.This way we can find out who are really on our team.

        1. Darien says:

          Aye, the cringe fair merks ye oot.

  12. John Scobbie says:

    Mhairi Black’s maiden speech was truly inspirational, I sincerely hope she sticks to her principles and does not get drawn into the petty, defeatist side of politics, I would like to wish her all the best for the future.

  13. john young says:

    Mhairi faces huge odds as does Nicola,everything will be tried against them blandishments/threats/black arts this establishment is the longest running show in town by a long long way,they didn,t get there by being fools,what they can,t buy off they will use every trick in the book and then some to maintain the status quo,remember that power is a greater corrupter than money,at the end of the day they are human beings with all the frailties this carries.One of the reasons that I am against political parties is just that they almost all forget that they are there to serve the public and not the other way around,we are a small country with a small population that should be easily governed,I prefer an openly elected assembly/forum of respected/proven figures.

  14. John Mooney says:

    Rock on Mhairi a fantastic maiden speech,I wonder what wee douglas(the thinker LoL) makes of your speech,perhaps he will now understand why he and the rest of his inglorious crew were thrown out of office by the Scottish people but I hae me doubts,Salutations young one!

  15. Airconditioned says:

    Suberb speech.

    The SNP should clap and keep on clapping…

  16. Macart763 says:

    Great dissection and an even better speech by Mhairi. 🙂

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