Losing the Plot: reflections on the Gaza debate debacle

There is an extraordinary, concerted media, press and political effort currently, to rescue the Speaker of the House of Commons, Keir Starmer and the Labour Party from ultimate responsibility for the catastrophic shambles into which the House descended on 21st February. The only beneficiaries of the grotesque mess, let us be clear, were Starmer and the Labour Party. The media is nevertheless determined to find everyone else in the House guilty of the disgrace, or one or more scapegoats to spread the guilt, notably the SNP; guilt based on the spun narrative of the SNP’s alleged shoddy dependence on arcane procedural manoeuvring for cynical political advantage.

There is no doubt that, as the  debate was about to begin Keir Starmer and Labour had a meeting with the Speaker, and consequent on that meeting the Speaker very, very unusually overruled Standing Orders, against the technical advice of the Clerk, to allow the Labour amendment to be presented. The public has not been given a full and unexpurgated account of that meeting. Lacking that information, or verification from an independent and reliable source, the best we can do is deconstruct what information we do have. It is important that we do this, because the press is attempting to spin as fact what is, at best a very dubious, murky account of what happened.

The debate was one of only three days in the year that the SNP, as the third largest Party, and second largest Opposition Party can present its own choice of motion for debate. It chose to lay before the House a motion for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza. The crux of the criticism of the SNP is that this was a cynical, opportunistic motion intended solely to cause rebellion in the Labour Party, for reasons of electoral advantage in Scotland. There is no doubt that the motion gave Keir Starmer a serious problem, but we require to look closely at the context of the motion, and at what both the SNP and Labour Party actions produced.

The SNP first called for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ on 14th November, 2023. Stephen Flynn MP then referred to “Humanitarian Pauses, or whatever the latest term is for doing nothing, pose more questions than they answer”. The SNP selection of a motion on Gaza, in the simple form of an “immediate ceasefire” motion on 21st February; given the Opposition day it had, was simple consistency of approach, and in line with a huge swell of public opinion in Scotland, and indeed throughout Britain. The fact that the Labour Party was in consequence in a fix, is much more to do with the Labour Party; so let us examine the Labour Party policy. The Labour Party is a very late convert to an ‘immediate ceasefire’; well behind the public, and even behind Labour opinion in Scotland. The sudden conversion can be dated, albeit in qualified terms that left lots of ‘wriggle-room’ for an escape, at least from the meanderings of the amendment it eventually tabled; a conversion dated to 20th February, 2024, and simply in order to counter the SNP motion, and give the Labour MPs something usable to vote for, without humiliating Starmer by voting for the SNP motion. The amendment was a late attempt to fill a vacuum of its own making. All of these issues have been in Labour’s own hands to fix, for months; if the scarcely unexpected wording of the SNP motion gave Labour a big, big problem (a 100 MP rebellion?) on 21st February, it was entirely of Labour’s own making, inadequacy and policy formation failure; and they think they are ready to govern. British policy, or even SNP motions should not be formed, simply in order not to inconvenience the Labour Party.

These long-standing Labour policy problems on Gaza were well understood by everyone in the Westminster bubble. The Labour Party has 17 Opposition days in its gift to table a Gaza motion, but struggles to form a coherent policy that anyone understands, or wishes to support; and do not use them to address the Gaza crisis. The SNP? 3 days; you do the maths. The SNP, whether you favour its approach to the crisis or not, has an established policy on Gaza consonant with their motion; their motion was, therefore not a surprise to anyone.  The Labour Party? Who knows. Here is Sam Coates of Sky News, the day before the SNP motion was debated:

“I was first told Labour was considering a change to its position in the second week of December, but it never arrived.

Instead, it only turned up today, 24 hours before the SNP was due to force a vote on the issue in which Labour MPs were threatening to rebel and go through the nationalist voting lobbies.

So the revised position had two goals – to try and sooth some anger in parts of the Labour movement over Sir Keir’s decision to stand with Israel as it invaded Gaza, and to deal with the tactical challenge posed by Wednesday’s votes and stop Labour MPs siding with the Scottish opposition”.

I was first told Labour was considering a change to its position in the second week of December, but it never arrived.

So the revised position had two goals – to try and sooth some anger in parts of the Labour movement over Sir Keir’s decision to stand with Israel as it invaded Gaza, and to deal with the tactical challenge posed by Wednesday’s votes and stop Labour MPs siding with the Scottish opposition.” (Sam Coates, Sky News, 20th February, 2024).

Labour’s politicking was manifest. The Labour Party policy problem, that sent Starmer rushing to speak to the Speaker as a matter of desperate, last-minute urgency, was entirely self-induced. Starmer knew there was no justification for the Labour amendment to be tabled (both the SNP motion and Conservative amendment were safe, if Standing Orders were followed), except if the Labour amendment was unprecedentedly allowed; which would effectively turn the SNP’s rare Opposition day, into an 18th Labour Opposition day, and place the SNP motion’s prospect of reaching a vote, suddenly being put in the jeopardy of unknown events. Labour had simply ‘missed the boat’ over months, and was now in a deep hole it had dug for itself. Starmer just couldn’t stop digging. He needs a press baron to tell him what to think. Such a precedent, if allowed by the speaker, only had one beneficiary: Starmer. The Speaker allowed it. The rest is history.

The events that followed, when the Speaker attempted to explain what had happened and rationalise his thinking, turned towards the bizarre. New arguments were advances ex-post, which had not been discussed in this context, ex-ante. Two arguments which were used by the Speaker, the Labour Party and the media, all of whom were now determined to save Starmer from himself; and both are full of holes. The first argument is the threats to MPs (a very serious problem, but not one that can be fixed by Hoyle changing Standing Orders; indeed his solution is untenable, is already being rejected by politicians as ‘giving in to intimidation’, which is unacceptable for Parliament; and he knows it); and the second argument, is providing the widest opportunity to debate the issue by allowing the motion and two amendments; but it led to the motion of the SNP being eliminated, and not even voted on; and this possibility was effectively forecast by the Clerk, who warned the Speaker not to do it. There is no excuse to ignore that advice on an SNP motion day, destroying rather than widening debate and voting; but he did it.

There is a third argument now being manufactured late in the day, because of the weakness of the other two arguments; that the Speaker was trying to ‘conciliate’. He met Starmer. The problem is, immediately after meeting Starmer, he didn’t conciliate, he bought the Labour line, the hook and the sinker. Conciliation would have required him to call in the Conservative leadership, and even more Stephen Flynn; and explain his thinking and solution. The problem here is, the case he made would be thin. He didn’t even try. All that was left was an apology. Who is he apologising to? The SNP. What does it cost, or achieve for the snubbed electorate? Nothing. Hence, the client journalists of the neoliberal media roll on as if it was a storm in a teacup, created in fact by the Nasty Nats who lost the plot in unseemly fashion. are now working all the airwaves to justify Hoyle on the basis of threats to MPs, and when that is rightly rebutted, they turn to the ‘widest debate’ argument; and when that is rebutted, the client journalists resort back to the ‘threats’ argument. We are going round in untenable, pointless, unsustainable circles; anything to protect Hoyle and Starmer. Grievous errors  by the Speaker, and bad leadership by Starmer and Labour are not mere “mistakes” to be shrugged off. It is serious, our politics is debased, and the inability of the media to cope with political wrongdoing, is becoming pathetic; and it is becoming difficult to see what place the Scottish people have in this Union, since their elected representatives may be treated with such casual, shoulder-shrugging contempt.

It wasn’t the Nasty Nats that lost the plot. It was the Labour Party, and the Speaker. I trust they have now lost Scotland.

Comments (80)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. John S Warren says:

    The Same Coates quote should read as follows:

    ““I was first told Labour was considering a change to its position in the second week of December, but it never arrived.
    Instead, it only turned up today, 24 hours before the SNP was due to force a vote on the issue in which Labour MPs were threatening to rebel and go through the nationalist voting lobbies.
    So the revised position had two goals – to try and sooth some anger in parts of the Labour movement over Sir Keir’s decision to stand with Israel as it invaded Gaza, and to deal with the tactical challenge posed by Wednesday’s votes and stop Labour MPs siding with the Scottish opposition” (Same Coates, Sky News 20th February, 2024)

  2. Ann Rayner says:

    Quite obviously it was the Labour Party and Starmer, with the connivance of the Speaker who used ancient procedures for Cynical Political Advantage and stole one of the SNP’s only three chances, as the third largest party in the HoC to present their version of the proposal first.
    Thus the SNP were publicly snubbed, and with them, the majority of Scottish voters who voted for them as MPs and who support an immediate Cease Fire in Gaza

    1. Norman Phipps says:

      Well just another reason for Scotland to be FULLY INDEPENDENT

      1. Nick C says:

        Personally I do understand why some Scottish people would like to be independent from England, but I think you are conflating entirely unrelated issues in your reaction.

        And in this specific and particular issue (putting the party politics and feelings to one side), what is most important? My view is that we all need to keep focused on the disaster in Gaza and once again my view is that the SNP motion was much too simplistic when something more encompassing was required. Maybe they deserved to be snubbed.

        1. Noel Darlow says:

          Heaven forbid that the SNP should do politics at Westminster! Some people seem to think that the SNP should be seen and not heard but it doesn’t really matter what you think or what anyone else thinks. This was an SNP opposition day. Democracy demands that they are free to raise any issue they like in any way they like on their own opposition days.

          Genocide & ethnic cleansing are very serious issues. The SNP has every right to make its position clear and to seek to expose the positions taken by other parties. Voters have a right to see where their MPs stand.

          What Starmer is doing is attempting to avoid accountability for his helpful stance towards Israeli war crimes. He tried to stop his MPs voting on a clear condemnation of Israel’s actions. Like you and your claim that the SNP motion was too “simplistic” he’ll use weasel words to try to blur the issue. In its own way this is an attack on democracy because it is an attempt to avoid accountability.

          But the unfolding horror of tens of thousands of deaths demands a clear, unequivocal response. The SNP attempted to give one. No-one else will.

          1. John says:

            Noel – you have expressed what to many of us is now apparent in clear view.
            If the SNP do anything that upsets Labour (or Tories) they are just playing politics and being troublemakers.
            If Labour (or Tories) are doing anything that upsets their opponents they are being politically adept.
            The double standards being applied are obvious to many but not as bad as the double standards of US and UK over their actions over deaths of civilians in Israel on October 7th attacks as opposed to deaths of civilians in
            Gaza post October 7th.

  3. John says:

    Thank you John for a clear and factual account of what actually transpired.
    I would add the Speaker after making the unilateral change, against advice of clerk must have known that this would be a highly controversial decision with members of parliament. He then made himself absent and left the mess for his deputy to sort out which she patently failed to do. Hoyle is either a coward who ran away from a mess of his own making or a complete fool if he didn’t realise the probable fallout from his actions. Either way he proved himself unfit for the role.
    This whole episode has also exposed two other facets of Labour supporters and media especially Labour supporting eg Guardian.
    Labour is a deeply tribal organisation.
    Westminster and large sections of media do not consider SNP a respectable political party and as such it does not deserve fair and equal treatment.

    1. James Robertson says:

      Your last sentence is entirely correct. The only qualification I would add is that Westminster and large sections of the media were perfectly happy to treat the SNP with condescension when they had only one or two or six MPs. As soon as they had eleven (in the 1970s) let alone the overwhelming majority of Scottish MPs (since 2015) they were treated as verminous – and a real threat to the cosy Buggins’s Turn politics of the British system, which of course their raison d’être, Scottish independence, absolutely is.

  4. Jim Aitken says:

    An accurate account an analysis of what happened by Jon Warren. Clearly a Labour Government will mean no change.

  5. Paddy Farrington says:

    Great piece. It soundly nails the obfuscation around what really happened, including that served up at length in other discussions on Bella.

  6. Noel Darlow says:

    To be fair to Sir Hoyle, how many terrorist groups will have cancelled their plans to attack MPs when they heard that a labour amendment would be tabled?

    I guess we’ll never really know.

  7. John Monro says:

    Excellent summary and interpretation. Thanks. Yet another example of anti-democratic behaviour from the Mother-f———-r of Parliaments and of Starmer’s political ruthlessness which he will bring to his possible premiership.

  8. SteveH says:

    The Gaza tragedy have opened a lot of eyes as to the corrupt politics in The UK (including Scotland).

    The worse thing is how the SNP have made Gaza its main topic, coming as it does when Labour is likely to diminish your number of seats in both Holyrood and HoC. The SNP can deflect a bit, not hide. The war will end, then its back to facing domestic criticism.

    Then there’s Labour, running scared of losing its Islamism vote, and trying to hide that we have a serious sectarianism and national security issue. None of them give a damn for the security, freedom or the future of the people of these Islands. They care only for their getting in to power.

    Beware, a sleeping giant is waking. The general population have had enough of divisive ideologies and are beginning to rebel.

  9. john mooney says:

    Jeez, we have another rabid chanty rassler on the forum,I take it you have your blackshirt washed and pressed for your next sad outburst of bullshit Steveh,only asking?

    1. SteveH says:

      Black shirt? Typical arrogant response. You don’t like my views. Therefore you Indirectly label me as a Nazi? It’s little more than ad hominem, rather than a credible contribution in a debate. Or am I supposed to post like a good little member of an echo chamber?

      Our mainstream politicians have demonstrated nothing more thanarrogance and self-serving behaviour.

      The SNP demanding a vote on calling for an immediate ceasefire in a conflict it has absolutely no influence over is little more than performative activism, and an opportunity to embarrass their political opponents.

      The political discourse in Britain should not be dominated by a sectarian minority. Ee have allowed people into Britain for whom theocracy is preferable to democracy.

      The reality is that most if the Arab countries do not want Palestinians in their country. No mealy mouthed Holyrood or Westminster dare openly discuss the real opinion by Arab governments of this troubled people. Until there is honesty there will be no peace in that region.

      If this is what educated elites call informed debate, then maybe they need re-educating, so as learn critical thinking instead of critical theory.

      1. Peter Shepheard says:

        The proposal to condemn the slaughter in Gaza should have nothing to do with religion. It is a call for basic humanity. It is unbelievable that only the USA and UK are supporting Israel in its illegal destruction of the people of Gaza and in the illegal destruction of the infrastructure of the land – its hospitals mosques, churches and administrative buildings – not to mention the thousands of multistory flats and buildings demolished with guided missiles with their occupants still within. Britain and the USA are still suplying the rockets and musicians and are as a result complicit in the war crimes.

      2. john mooney says:

        Hook,line and sinker steveh,as expected you bite the bait every time,your andy robinson type rantings really are getting more pathetic each time,sad,so sad.

      3. John says:

        You want to re-educate the populace and you hate intellectuals and liberals – rings a bell where have I read about this approach before?
        Stevie – does the H in your name stand for havering?

      4. SleepingDog says:

        @SteveH, the British Empire is a theocracy, which is why Anglican bishops sit in the House of Lords, like Islamic representatives do in Iran, though the British form is monarchy and the Iranian is republican. British armed forces swear personal obedience and loyalty to the monarch, just as Nazi German forces did to the Führer. Charles by the grace of God etc.

  10. Peter Shepheard says:

    But no one seems to have either noticed or be asking why the deputy speaker waved through the Labour amendment as if it was “passed unanimously” when, in fact, she had ignored shouts of NO that were as loud as the AYE shouts – that should have led to a division – a vote. And why did the Conservatives withdraw their amendment? It was repeatedly said in parliament on that day that if the Consevative amendment had not been withdrawn there would then have been three votes, including one of course on the SNP motion. Am I misunderstanding this? If like me you were listening to the debate it was quite clear that the amended motion should not have been carried unanimously. There were several Conservative MPs who were furious that the Deputy Speaker did not allow them to register an actual vote – through the lobbies. Peter Shepheard,, Balmalcolm Fife.

    1. 240225 says:

      Yep; the Conservatives shouldn’t have withdrawn its proposed amendment and there certainly should have been a division. That would have ensured that the SNP motion passed with the Conservative amendment instead.

    2. James Robertson says:

      Jacob Rees-Mogg noticed, Pete, and to my dismay I found myself agreeing with him – at least on this point. His objections to the Deputy Speaker, Rosie Winterton’s waving-through of the Labour amendment are recorded in Hansard here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2024-02-21/debates/24022166000002/Speaker’SStatement

      It was, as J R-M said, completely obvious that the ‘ayes’ did not ‘have’ the amendment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6HXVsc4DDE

      A division should therefore have followed. This, on top of the earlier shenanigans outlined in the article, further undermines the independence/impartiality of the Speakers’ (plural) role. Like Lyndsey Hoyle, Rosie Winterton is a Labour MP.

  11. Travelady says:

    What is even more alarming is Skwawkbox found out the comments given by Starmer to Sky the next day, where he denied he bullied Hoyle but refused to say other senior members in the party did, initially included him stating he called the President of Israel to discuss. Sky pulled that clip very quickly from it’s website, but not quick enough. So Starmer is not only complicit in supporting Israel’s heinous behaviour, he’s taking advice from Israel.

    1. 240225 says:

      Why would Israel lobby him to secure a motion that calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, working towards a longer-term permanent ceasefire, for the release of hostages, for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza, and for the recognition of a Palestinian state? Surely, it would have been more in Israel’s interest for the Speaker to have disallowed Labour’s proposed amendment and to let the government’s proposed amendment, which was far more favourable to Israel’s cause, prevail instead.

  12. 240225 says:

    ‘The only beneficiaries of the grotesque mess, let us be clear, were Starmer and the Labour Party.’

    Not true. Had the Speaker not allowed Labour’s proposed amendment to the SNP motion to be tabled, that motion would have been passed with the government’s proposed amendment instead. The outcome of ‘the gross mess’ was a motion being passed that’s of far greater benefit to the furtherance of a sustainable and permanent ceasefire than the alternative would have been.

    1. Drew Anderson says:

      Have you compared the proposed Conservative amendment, to the Labour one that passed?

      You say:

      “…The outcome of ‘the gross mess’ was a motion being passed that’s of far greater benefit to the furtherance of a sustainable and permanent ceasefire than the alternative would have been.”

      Wouldn’t the SNP’s original motion have done a better job of that? Both the Labour amendment and, to a greater extent, the Tory one sought to dilute the original motion; in effect giving the state of Israel and the IDF more leeway? If the SNP’s use of “collective punishment” was so troublesome, why did neither the Labour or Conservative parties simply seek to excise that phrase? Why the list of conditions, in their respective amendments, placed upon Hamas; that the Gazan civilians, that the original motion sought to protect, can’t influence at all?

      1. 240225 says:

        I have.

        I can see why the SNP feels aggrieved: Labour thwarted the SNP’s attempt to embarrass it by splitting its vote and exposing the disunity within the party over Gaza; and it prevented the Conservative amendment from carrying the day, which would have given the SNP another grievance to air in its attempts to boost popular support for Independence among Scottish voters (‘Scotland’ voted for an immediate ceasefire, but – once again – Westminster trampled over ‘Scotland’s’ wishes).

        I don’t support any party interest; a plague on all their houses, as far as I’m concerned. But, having read and compared the original motion and the amendments proposed respectively by each of the three other parties, I do think the motion as amended by Labour provided, the best roadmap towards a sustainable and permanent ceasefire out of all the options: it doesn’t alienate either side in the conflict and thereby keeps open the possibility that a ceasefire might be agreed by both sides; it would (if its provisions were accepted by both sides) at least pause the fighting and allow more humanitarian aid to be delivered to the civilians who have been caught up in the conflict; and it sets a baseline from which Israel and the Palestinian authority could go on to negotiate a long-term peace settlement.

        Even the SNP said it would have voted in favour of Labour’s amendment had it gone to a vote (which the Conservatives would have won given their parliamentary majority, which is why they’re aggrieved with what went down in the Commons on Wednesday).

        1. As Nesrine Malik has written:

          “Whatever motion Labour ended up ramming through, it came too late. The party’s first position on Gaza, refusing to condemn breaches of international law (or even call them that), and refusing to call for a ceasefire, has made too strong an impression for it to be erased by any new modifications. It was a position that fed into something bigger: into pre-existing reservations and dwindling faith in the party.”

          “For those the party was trying to bring round, the manner in which it prevailed will only act to reinforce its most suspect qualities – calculating, pedantic, authoritarian. Ready to drag parliament into the mire so it could pursue its manic drive to keep control of a party narrative that now exists only in the leadership’s heads.”

          1. John says:

            Nesrine Malik’s article is a pleasant change to so many of other Guardian opinion writers columns which have basically ignored the facts of what occurred and parroted Labour Party line. The Guardian has resembled Pravda in recent days in slavishly following Labour with an honourable exception to Stephen Reicher as well. The comments section exposes the tribalism and deep dislike of SNP by some Labour supporters.
            It has been an eye opener.

          2. 240226 says:

            Yes; the Labour Party’s position has certainly evolved over the last weeks and months in response to the exigencies of both our domestic politics and the party’s own internal politics. And whether or not the current leadership will succeed in maintaining unity, given the diversity of opinion that exists within the party and drives that evolution, is yet to be seen.

          3. 240226 says:

            ‘The comments section exposes the tribalism and deep dislike of SNP by some Labour supporters.’

            ‘Pot’ and ‘kettle’ spring to mind.

          4. John says:

            Dateman – I’ll have you know we have just replaced our old pots with new ones. Not only are they pristine clean but nothing sticks to them – including your comment!

          5. 240226 says:

            I’m glad to hear it, John. Does that mean the comments section on Bella will no longer expose the tribalism and deep dislike of Labour by some SNP supporters?

          6. John says:

            Dateman – my answer to your flippant comment was equally flippant except I tried to at least inject some humour into it.

    2. Niemand says:

      Posting considered and sensible comments like this really will not do.

      Don’t you know this is all about contempt for Scotland and a conspiracy to silence and shaft the saintly and ultra-principled SNP by the lying Labour bastards and their fellow English Unionist untouchables? This is what really matters here. In a way we should thank the situation in Gaza for allowing this truth to yet again be run up the flagpole with a renewed power of self-righteous indignation.

      1. Nick C says:


        This is all about the SNP, and in my view they bear a LOT of the blame in the first place for tabling such a simplistic motion about such a complex issue. Personally I think the Labour amendment turned it into something worthwhile, much richer and more complete than the SNP embarrassment, and much firmer than the government’s unsurprisingly lightweight effort.

        1. Paddy Farrington says:

          Except that, as John Warren points out in his piece, Labour had had ample opportunity to present its position. That it belatedly cobbled together its heavily caveated amendment sort-of supporting an immediate ceasefire, only happened thanks to the SNP taking the clear, principled position it did.

          I sincerely hope that, in the coming days, the SNP pushes the boat out further, and calls for an end to arms supplies to Israel and restoring aid to UNRWA.

          1. 240225 says:

            Yep; if it hadn’t been for the SNP motion, Starmer would indeed have been struggling to ‘cobble together’ a position on Gaza that most of the Labour MPs could get behind. I think this is why the SNP is so spitting mad at having been it was outmanoeuvred.

            And didn’t the SNP have ample opportunity to call for an end to arms supplies to Israel and restoring aid to UNRWA in its opposition day motion on Wednesday?

          2. John says:

            Labour leadership policy on Gaza is driven by previous accusations of antisemitism against previous leader. Starmer main strategy for election is to distance himself from any policy Corbyn was associated with and this includes not criticising Israeli government so he cannot be labelled antisemitic. In effect this has led him trying to steer clear of the issues in Gaza hence no Labour motion or minimal condemnation of actions of IDF until last week. Unfortunately this puts him at odds with a large section of Labour supporters, Scottish and UK population at large. It also puts him at odds with most other countries which is important as UK has a vote at UN, is on Security Council and is arguing in Hague against investigating Israel’s actions as breaches of international law. For Labour to turn round and accuse others of acting only in political self interest rings very hollow.
            SNP motion would exposed Labours timidity on responding to Gaza and has forced Starmer and Labour to start actually addressing issue and adopting a position more in line with opinion of international community and Labour supporters.

          3. 240226 says:

            @ John

            Isn’t the position that Labour adopted in the debacle surrounding the SNP’s opposition day motion ‘in line with opinion of international community and Labour supporters’? Doesn’t that position actually ‘address the issue’, which is to get both sides in the conflict to agree an immediate humanitarian ceasefire with a view to negotiating a permanent and sustainable peace? Or is it more a case of the ‘real’ issue for the SNP in all of this being that of Independence and Labour’s opposition to it?

          4. Nick C says:

            What should we be focusing on here? The politics of the situation, which seem to simply be in your case that the SNP are angels whereas Labour are anything but, OR the appalling situation in Gaza and how best to address this?

            If we actually care about Gaza (rather than just see this as an opportunity to have a largely pointless political debate about which party is best), surely the outcome of a better motion is what we should be focusing on.

            No party is right all the time, and the SNP is as flawed as the next party. Arguing about which party is best is pretty puerile when the world is burning.

          5. Exactly Paddy, Labour’s position has been complicity and equivocation for months, now only belatedly sorted after overwhelming public disgust at what we are witnessing. The key elements of calling out ‘collective punishment’; calling for an end to arms supplies and restoring aid to UNRWA are in fact very distinct and essential.

          6. Nick C says:

            Sorry, should have made it clear that I was addressing Bella Caledonia Editor’s post rather than 240225 which is very sensible. The vagaries of the comment system have caused my post to appear in the ‘wrong’ order.

          7. Sorry Nick, the system is a bit clunky. I’ve replied to you now.

          8. 240226 says:

            @ Ed.

            But the reference to collective punishment was a libel, which prejudges the outcome any investigation and trial of Israel’s alleged war crimes that may or may not be carried out by the International Court of Justice. Had the SNP’s motion passed unamended (which it wouldn’t have done), it could have been struck down by the courts if challenged.

            And the SNP’s opposition day motion made no reference to the supply of arms to Israel by UK companies or to the UK government’s ongoing dispute with UNRWA over its funding.

          9. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, odd that such a self-styled expert on UK Parliament like yourself should be unaware of Parliamentary Privilege:
            Of course, the Israeli-backed withdrawal of funding from UNWRA would be a similar kind of ‘libel’ (although apparently they haven’t produced evidence for this, unlike the masses of evidence for collective punishment etc), yet your pants were apparently untwisted over that. Aren’t you simply a massive bigot?

          10. 240226 says:

            SD: There’s a world of difference between individual MPs making libelous claims under the protection of parliamentary privilege and Parliament as a whole passing a motion that perpetrates a libel. Israel will only be guilty of having committed war crimes if and when the International Court of Justice finds it so. As I said, the basic principle that one remains innocent until proven guilty is as important to international law as it is to national law.

            If you have ‘masses of evidence for collective punishment etc.’, you should present it to the police.

  13. SleepingDog says:

    How do British people feel about being ruled from abroad now?

    1. Mike Parr says:

      most of em don’t have a clue. I assume you mean the large amount od control the Israeli state exerts over UK politicos and political process.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Mike Parr, well yes, Israel the ‘vital ally’ of USAmerican-Empire-led NATO which pretty much dictates most British military-foreign policy (itself protected from democratic influence by royal prerogative) these days.

        The British public must be shut out of this kind of decision-making:

  14. Mike Parr says:

    Fine article Mr Warren.
    “the threats to MPs”
    Would that be the MPs that over the decades have reduce the UK to what it is now – a basket case. Threats? Really? MPs should be glad that they are not “guest of honour” at a citizens neck tie party – or the guy @ Guy Fawkes night. Most MPS are at very best charalatans & liars, examples of which are legion. Much of the current crop deserve to be in jail.

  15. Michael Picken says:

    I went over the interview Anas Sarwar gave to BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show on 18 February.

    There were three lies in it:
    1) Sarwar claimed “Our [Labour] whips have ALREADY been in contact with SNP whips” – refuted immediately by the SNP.
    2) Sarwar claimed “we [Labour] want to work together [with the SNP]” – but Labour completely ignored a letter from Stephen Flynn to Keir Starmer for talks on Monday 19th February. Bain Principle still applies.
    3) Sarwar claimed Keir Starmer had already spoken up in favour of “the three other points” in the motion passed UNANIMOUSLY by the Scottish Labour Conference the day before. Yet the Labour ‘delete all and insert’ rambling amendment, twice as long as the SNP original motion, DELETED the section on “collective punishment” (ie a war crime) of the Israeli state on the Palestinian people. In fact Labour at Westminster argued it was that clause that meant they could NOT support the SNP motion. Yet “collective punishment!” was exactly the same phrase as in the Scottish Labour Party unanimous motion that Sarwar claimed Starmer supported!

    Little surprise that this week’s edition of the BBC Scotland Sunday Show didn’t have a word about Gaza, or what had unravelled since their lengthy interview with Sarwar’s lies in the previous edition.

    It’s also worth remembering that the spurious claim that Hoyle agreed to the overturning of procedure in order to “ensure the widest possible debate” is rendered utter rubbish by the fact that he did NOT call the Liberal Democrat amendment. Now, I don’t agree with her politics but the LibDem MP Foreign Affairs spokesperson who would have moved that amendment is Layla Moran, the ONLY MP at Westminster of Palestinian descent – how is silencing the amendment she would have moved ensuring “the widest possible debate”?

    Just for the record, it’s also worth stating that Labour have not only had four of their Opposition Days since October, they’ve actually moved EIGHT motions – not one about Gaza! And that thanks to the Labour filibustering by forcing a vote on a Ten Minute Rule Bill and the disappearing Speaker cutting the debate off early, at 6pm, the SNP also lost the time for the motion they were planning on moving on the question of the green investment of £28billion per year that Labour had just ratted on.

    The whole thing just stinks.

    1. John S Warren says:

      “This is the full wording of the composite submitted by Cunninghame South CLP, Dundee City East CLP and Glasgow Anniesland CLP:

      Conference condemns the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel on 7th October 2023 that killed 1200 innocent people.

      Conference notes the devastation caused by ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the horrifying scenes in recent weeks and months in Israel and Palestine, where over 20,000 innocent Palestinians have been killed and over 100 Israelis are still being held hostage.

      There is no justification for the targeting of civilians, the taking of hostages and the loss of innocent life.

      Conference supports Israel’s right to protect its citizens, in line with International Law, affirms that Hamas remaining in Gaza is not tenable and agrees there is no justification for the collective punishment of 2.2 million citizens in Gaza.

      Conference also acknowledges the importance of preventing an escalation of the conflict in the region.

      Conference believes:

      The values of equality, democracy, human rights and the international rule of law are of fundamental importance.
      All combatants must act in accordance with the rules of war and international humanitarian law.Conference supports Anas Sarwar in his call for an immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza.
      Recognising that for any ceasefire to be successful and sustained it requires both sides to comply, Conference calls for:

      An end to rocket fire into and out of Gaza
      The unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas
      Essential supplies of water, food, medicine and electricity to be restored to Gaza, and the passage of aid into Gaza facilitated.
      A pathway to a peace process
      Conference reaffirms its commitment to a two-state solution and recognises that long- term security for Israel and long-term justice for Palestine will only be achieved through a political, rather than military settlement.

      Conference resolves to continue to campaign for these aims, to ask the UK Government to support an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and to use every form of diplomacy with international partners to make this a reality.

      Conference condemns the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the UK.

      Conference thanks community leaders for the role they are playing in reducing tensions and calls on public figures to act responsibly and work to bring communities together at this time” (labourlist.org, 17th February, 2024).

      1. 240226 says:

        Don’t you think that what the motion passed by the Commons on Wednesday calls for is remarkably close to what this composite calls for?

        Of course, as you pointed out in an earlier exchange, what the Labour Party agrees at conference is irrelevant to Labour Party policy.

        1. 240226 says:

          For the sake of comparison, here’s the Labour amendment that its tribal enemies find so objectionable:

          “That this House believes that an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences and therefore must not take place; notes the intolerable loss of Palestinian life, the majority being women and children; condemns the terrorism of Hamas who continue to hold hostages; supports Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s calls for Hamas to release and return all hostages and for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, which means an immediate stop to the fighting and a ceasefire that lasts and is observed by all sides, noting that Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence and that Israelis have the right to the assurance that the horror of 7 October 2023 cannot happen again; therefore supports diplomatic mediation efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire; demands that rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief is provided in Gaza; further demands an end to settlement expansion and violence; urges Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures; calls for the UN Security Council to meet urgently; and urges all international partners to work together to establish a diplomatic process to deliver the peace of a two-state solution, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state, including working with international partners to recognise a Palestinian state as a contribution to rather than outcome of that process, because statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and not in the gift of any neighbour.”

          This also compares favourably with the original SNP motion, in terms of the comprehensiveness and specificity of what it calls for. The SNP motion was just:

          “That this House calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel; notes with shock and distress that the death toll has now risen beyond 28,000, the vast majority of whom were women and children; further notes that there are currently 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering in Rafah, 610,000 of whom are children; also notes that they have nowhere else to go; condemns any military assault on what is now the largest refugee camp in the world; further calls for the immediate release of all hostages taken by Hamas and an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people; and recognises that the only way to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians is to press for a ceasefire now.”

          1. Paddy Farrington says:

            “Its tribal enemies”: it really does not help to distort what actually occurred. The SNP had announced it would support the Labour motion, and indeed lined up to vote for it.

          2. 240226 says:

            Yes, I know, Paddy. The SNP MPs decided to support the amended motion, but, as it turned out, it didn’t matter; by heuk or by cruik, it passed anyway.

            By ‘tribal enemies’, I was alluding to those independentistas for whom Labour’s unionism means that EVERYTHING Labour does or says must automatically be wrong.

            I don’t think for one minute that the SNP MPs had a problem with the content of Labour’s amendment to their motion. The problem they had was that Labour outmanoeuvred them.

  16. John S Warren (author) comments:

    “Chris Bryant, Labour MP has confessed to deliberate filibustering, in an interview with Cathy Newman, C4 News, 25th February. Frankly, ‘the game is up’.

    The Labour Party has had three months to use their own Opposition day to table a coherent motion to Parliament; and utterly failed. This amendment was only delivered because the SNP not only tabled a clear, simple motion; that it was evident would be supported by a large number of Labour MPs and even some Conservative MPs; so it wasn’t a totally unacceptable motion to cross-party opinion; but there is no convincing evidence yet offered that Labour made any attempt to engage with the SNP motion beforehand; but we know that without the SNP motion, we would still probably be waiting for Labour to offer anything at all. The idea that the Labour motion is the only solution is an assertion; not a proof. At best it attempts to be all things to all men and women; and whether it fails or is sustainable (and for whom?), is a matter that remains in doubt. “

    1. 240226 says:

      Yes; 50 MPs in total raised lengthy points of order in the belief that, if the clock ticked past 7pm (the ‘moment of interruption’ for the day), no other votes could take place on the motion. However, Deputy Speaker took advice and ruled that the vote on the Labour amendment was required to take place regardless of the timing. (No vote was required to take place on the government’s amendment as, by this time, the government had withdrawn it and announced it would take no part in any votes.) The SNPs ‘mistake’ was to leave the chamber to vote for the Labour amendment while points of order continued to be raised, during which time the motion was approved by the Commons without a formal vote being called.

    2. 240226 says:

      Yes; 50 MPs in total raised lengthy points of order in the belief that, if the clock ticked past 7pm (the ‘moment of interruption’ for the day), no other votes could take place on the motion. However, the Deputy Speaker took advice and ruled that the vote on the Labour amendment was required to take place regardless of the timing. (No vote was required to take place on the government’s amendment as, by this time, the government had withdrawn it and announced it would take no part in any votes.) The SNPs ‘mistake’ was to leave the chamber to vote for the Labour amendment while points of order continued to be raised, during which time the motion was approved by the Commons without a formal vote being called.

      Anyway: it all turned out fine in the end, and we got a motion passed that everyone except the government could accept.

  17. A couple of people have reported problems with posting comments, has anyone been having difficulties and I will try and look into it?

    1. 240226 says:

      Very, very occasionally, outside the times I’ve been banned, I try to post a comment and it just disappears. But not to worry; sh*t happens. Probably not worth saying anyway.

      1. 240226 says:

        On the rare occasions it happens to me, I get the error message that an incorrect reCAPTCHA value has been entered; then, when I re-tick ‘I’m not a robot’ box and resubmit, I get the error message that a duplicate comment has been detected.

      2. John says:

        Dateman – you are truly prolific on this site and rather tiresome at times.
        Can I suggest that you take your own advice on last sentence more often and give others a chance to discuss issues without having your commentating ad nauseam.

        1. 240227 says:

          Just totted it up, and, below the line on the articles on the first page of the recently published articles alone, you’re far more prolific than I am in your comments.

          Bella has a comments policy, which I’ve never contravened. I don’t undermine and oppose every article (indeed, I comment on the articles themselves relatively rarely, and, when I do, my interventions are often supportive); I don’t deploy ad hominem attacks and personal abuse (though, interestingly, my comments often elicit such attacks and abuse); I don’t use a pseudonym to spread bile; I don’t do racism, xenophobia, or misogyny or deny climate change (in fact, most of my comments call out and subvert the bile, racism, xenophobia, and/or misogyny I detect in the comments of others).

          I also use the ‘margins’ of Bella (and other media) to present my own radical and provocative reimaginings of its editorial themes; namely, Self-Determination and the End of Britain, Global Fascism, International Geopolitics, the Fight for the Future, and an Alternative Scotland. But, according to Bella itself, that’s what its space is for.

          I don’t see what your gripe is.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, that’s a lot of ‘I’s but no Integrity. Remind us why you disintegrate your online personality.

          2. 240227 says:

            Pessoa – heteronymity. That’s why.

            A Coterie of Heteronyms: Some Notes and Aphorisms from a Dying Man

            Something sits on my horizon. I want to reach it. This want will never be satisfied. My horizon can never been reached; it perpetually recedes as I approach it.

            The blue at the far edge of what can be seen – the colour of the sky, of horizons, of distant hills, of things far away – moves me.
            It’s the colour of distance, of ‘there’ seen from ‘here’, of where I’m not and can never be.
            It’s the colour of my all-too-human inclination to be somehow different, to go beyond what I am, and for a universe that isn’t indifferent to my inclinations.

            ‘Saudade’, my nurse, Guilherme, tells me, is a Portuguese expression. It speaks of a state that’s akin to melancholic longing, a complex emotion in which a grey bleeds into the distant blue. Guilherme is a bit of a poet.
            It isn’t nostalgia. Nostalgia’s a longing for something that once existed, for a person or place or experience that lives in your memory. Saudade’s a longing for something that never was, something that can’t be attained or recollected through remembrance.

            A sense of incompleteness exists within saudade. No matter how hard I attempt to complete or fulfil my life, that fulfilment remains a distant blue speck on the horizon and will remain so till the day I die, beyond which there’s nothing, not even ‘nothing’.
            I long for the things I do and say to make a difference, to bring me closer to the perpetually receding horizon of my ambitions, to make me more complete or fulfilled. But they won’t.
            Nothing I say or do ultimately matters; the universe is indifferent to my existence, and I find this deeply unsettling and unsatisfactory.

            Where can I find solace in a world of such universal indifference? How can I reach a place in which my want hasn’t disappeared in bad faith, but has yet, in some way, been transformed in good faith? How can I apply Sartre?

            In Pessoa, the absence of others or ‘loneliness’ is what causes the yearning I regularly associate with nostalgia.
            Yet, this absence is itself a creative presence, which my imagination populates with others that seem a lot more real than the emptiness of their absence. For Pessoa, loneliness is like all feelings, a motive of creation.
            Pessoa accordingly set himself the goal of travelling through an infinitude of inner landscapes, to be an explorer of the inner worlds of ‘virtual subjects’, the variety of heteronyms under which he wrote.
            In The Book of Disquiet, Pessoa ruminates in detail, in the voice of his protagonist, Bernardo Soares, on the meaning of life.
            Pessoa’s creation of a coterie of heteronyms, virtual other selves, through which he could live a multiplicity of imagined lives is linked to Pessoa’s melancholic yearning for something the universe can never provide. That yearning, his saudade, drew his attention to an absence that provided him with a creative opportunity, an empty space that he himself could fill with the myriad ‘virtual subjects’ whose inner worlds he subsequently explored.

            But if everything’s unimportant, then, surely, all I do is unimportant too.
            The indifference of the universe doesn’t furnish the creative opportunity that Pessoa essays; it directly confronts me instead with the fact that nothing I create is of any importance.
            If what Soares says in The Book of Disquiet is true, I can find no solace in inventing heteronyms or anything else.

            ‘These are my confessions, and, if I say nothing in them, it’s because I have nothing to say.’
            ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’

            Pessoa, speaking in the voice of Soares, find solace neither in his creations nor in their confessions, but in an acceptance of their unimportance, of their Camusean absurdity, in an acceptance that the universe is indifferent to anything he creates.
            In the voice of Soares, Pessoa himself says as much.

            No nostalgia hurts as much as nostalgia for things that never existed, as much as saudade. The longing I feel when I think of the past I’ve lived, when I weep over the corpse of my childhood life, this can’t compare to the fervour of my trembling grief as I weep over the non-reality of the humble characters of my dreams, even the minor ones I recall having seen just once in my pseudo-life, while turning a corner in my envisioned world or while passing through a doorway on a street that I walked up and down in the same dream.

            In saudade, then, my yearning takes on a distinct kind of melancholy, one that takes away any kind of comfort I might have found in my attempts to seek connection with a universe that remains indifferent to me, one in which the longed-for but unattinable blue point on the horizon turns a blue-grey.

            Saudade is woven throughout Pessoa’s work. He finds solace in his acceptance that there’s no meaning, that everything’s just as it seems, that the universe is indifferent to him.

            The inscrutability of the universe is quite enough for me to think about. To want to actually understand it is to be less than human, since to be human nowadays is to realise the universe can’t be understood.
            The idea is that, by embracing the indifference of the universe to my striving for significance and ‘a meaningful life’, I move closer to being fully human after the death of God, in postmodern times.

            Moving through the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression of grieving eventually leads me to an acceptance that I can’t change my loss and that its absence is now a permanent feature of the universe I inhabit.
            As I emerge on the other side of these emotions, a glimpse of hope appears in the form of acceptance. I can still long for something to complete my life. I can seek meaning in the joy of my sensual experiences and through the discipline of my spiritual beliefs and practices. But that longing takes on a new meaning. When my meaning-making deconstructs and my ultimate insigiificance reasserts itself, it exposes an all-too-humanness to my existence that bad faith obscured before.

            The photographer, Nanouk Prins, finds this connection between saudade and grief in the blue-grey tone of many of her photographs. I saw her work in Paris once, not so very long ago.

            It’s impossible to be a lover, a hero, or happy even in my dreams in times of acute grief, when everything, even my idea of its emptinessis, is empty. In my grief, the universe speaks in a language I can’t grasp, in syllables I find nonsensical. My life’s hollow, ‘I’ am hollow, the world is hollow. All gods die a death that’s greater than their individual deaths. The universe is emptier than its void. Everything’s a chaos of things that are nothing themselves.

            Can ‘reality’ quench my thirst?
            I look and see inexpressive façades, inexpressive faces, inexpressive gestures. Stones, bodies, ideas… all dead. All movement is one great standstill. Nothing means anything. The only reality for me is the moment of my grief, an intense sadness like the sound of someone crying in a dark room.

            In his moment of grief, Pessoa, speaking in the voice of Soares, arrives at an awareness, an acceptance of the world’s inevitable insouciance.
            This awareness allows him a kind of clarity, in which he sees the meaninglessness and indifference of everything. And he finds solace within this clarity.
            His longing hasn’t vanished, but he now sees and accepts it without giving it any special meaning or transcendental importance.
            He doesn’t claim understanding, but instead embraces just how things are.

            To find solace thus, within an acceptance of the meaninglessness of my existence, is to find and experience stillness or ‘ataraxia’ and to accept that stillness as the postmodern human condition.
            In her Draft Statement of Human Obligations, Simone Weil develops the idea of acceptance in a particular direction. At the centre of the human heart, she says, there’s a longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in the world. I must stop searching for meaning, which can’t be found, and instead accept that all I can do is wait with an open and ready heart.
            In Waiting for God, Weil finds resolution in a new concept of ‘attention’ as waiting rather than searching, in quietism rather than activism.

            There’s a special way of waiting upon truth, setting my heart on it, yet not allowing myself to go out in search of it. There’s a way of giving my attention to the data of a problem in geometry without trying to find the solution, or to the words of a Latin or Greek text without trying to arrive at the meaning, a way of waiting, when I’m writing, for the right word to come by itself to the end of my pen while I merely reject all the inadequate words that come to me.
            Rather than straining myself in a supreme effort to find answers, to achieve goals, to reach destinations, I should instead learn to wait. Waiting means making myself receptive and being ready to recognise a truth when it shows up. I must, in other words, stop searching for meaning or for the things that will satisfy my melancholic longings and instead accept that all I can do is wait, with an open and ready heart, for such truths as there are to turn up.

            Pessoa, writing as Soares, acknowledges the relief in finding meaning, but he also acknowledges that the meaning I find isn’t real. True solace lies in this acknowledgment, this acceptance of the fleeting nature of meaning on the other side of its loss.

            If blue’s the colour of solitude and desire, somewhere on the distant horizon of my understanding, then perhaps the solace to be found in saudade, the unfulfilled melancholic longing, is where blue begins to turn shades of grey, in a colour called ‘Payne’s grey’, the colour of landscapes seen much further away, a sombre atmosphere filled with distances, a blue-grey of shadows, storm clouds, and winters with no end.

            It’s winter now and the trees no longer obscure the sky. I can look between the naked boughs and see the colours changing from rust and purple to lilac, to Payne’s gray and then to deep blue and indigo.
            Along the Burn, long after the crepuscular glow of the evening, the gaunt trees with their black boughs gesticulating, stretch out in infinite series, sombre, spectral, their trunks as vivid as cigarette ash.
            “Where’s Scotland?” I inquire at intervals. “Where am I?”
            “Tout droit, monsieur, tout droit,” the world replies.

            Scotland’s a destination never found but perpetually longed for.
            There’s a beauty or enjoyment in the longing for what never was.
            Nowhere has this feeling, Scotland, been better studied than in The Book of Disquiet.

            How should I live my life? How do I at least find solace if I can’t find meaning?
            In the end, saudade’s closest cousin isn’t loneliness but grief, and the solace we must hope for is akin to that of coming to terms with a loss that can never go away.

            Saudade permeates our desire for truth beyond what we can possibly know; it’s our longing for a garden of Eden we’re certain once existed.
            I’m a stanger among strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing where home is. I glimpse it sometimes in my dreams, or when I turn a corner and there’s suddenly a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.

            The longing for home is found in many stories of paradise, of the forgotten place where we once belonged.
            I yearn for something that’s no more but in which I deeply believe. I’ve not gone through a grieving process to reach the state of acceptance that what I long for never existed in the first place. My point on the horizon is still blue, out of reach, not yet Payne’s grey.

            My heart is failing. I’m not much longer for this world.

            My moments of enjoyment are fleeting. As my emotions shift as I move through the grieving process, the beauty I see in it shifts as well.
            I can look across the distance without wanting to close it. I can own my longing in the same way that I own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed. Something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when I arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond.

            Indifference; saudade without beauty or sadness or joy.

            The beauty of the blue on the horizon vanishes or moves further away the closer I move towards it. The more I try to find meaning in the meaninglessness, in the indifference of the universe, the further it retreats away from me.
            The moments of happiness or beauty in my longing fade back to indifference when the blue on the horizon shifts to shades of grey.
            It’s in the grey, not the blue, that I find solace in the indifference of the universe.

            December 2023

          3. 240227 says:

            Anyway, SD; your last post is nothing but name-calling, which doesn’t signify.

          4. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, so you have no *good* reason to disintegrate your personality, it is a symptom of your narcissistic solipsism to people an imaginary universe with shadow-versions of yourself? While your disintegrated online personae remain conveniently unaccountable and your frequent follies offloaded onto these Others. And you can disregard the really hard and useful work of philosophy: integration. Leaving the contradictions between your disintegrated babbling unresolved (this may amount to an unhealthy level of compartmentalisation).

            This is a useful framework not just for analysing human input, but the kind of AI-generated text becoming more frequent (if more difficult to detect as such) on the Internet. These bots will also copy texts, may infer they have read* amounts of literature unfeasible for humans, behave erratically, spawn unlimited personae, fail to integrate, fail to acknowledge an objective world beyond their texts (this could change with embodied robots with sensory spectra), and generally have an answer for everything (even if rubbish and beside the point).

            *Of course machines can read texts very quickly, just as it is much quicker to read texts if you are not integrating the content or understanding it.

          5. 240228 says:

            Jesus wept! I’ve just given a 2,250 word account of my ‘method’, which can be summarised by ‘Pessoa – heteronymity’.

            And, as I’ve said before, I write from a certain tradition that’s based on the premise that ‘I’ is not a unitary substance but a plurality or ‘bundle’ (Hume) or ‘constellation’ (Benjamin) or ‘force-field’ (Adorno) or ‘antisyzygy’ (Smith/MacDiarmid) of antithetic properties, and that its the constant interplay of those conflicting thoughts, feelings, and hopes that drives one’s personal growth or ‘education’.

            A key question for this tradition is how we can make a literature that fits or adequately expresses this disintegrated or conflicted psyche. The answer to that question is heteronymity; writing in the voices of imaginary characters, each of which has its own physique, biography, and writing style, and speaks the thoughts, feelings, and hopes of one or other or the many duelling polarities of which the writer’s psyche consists.

            Heteronyms were named and developed by the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, in the early 20th century. But they were thoroughly explored by the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, in the 19th century and have also been used by other writers, both ancient and modern. The premise that ‘I’ is not a unitary substance, but is rather a plurality of antithetic properties, is also explored by James Hogg, in his Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and Robert Louis Stevenson in his Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

            In fact, some critics refer to the premise as ‘the Scottish disjunction’. G. Gregory Smith argued in his 1919 book Scottish Literature: Character and Influence that such diversity or the union of opposites forms the basis of Scottish literature and apotheosised it as a unique cultural or racial trait of the Scottish nation, an idea Hugh MacDiarmid took up and elaborated in his 1931 essay, ‘The Caledonian Antisyzygy and the Gaelic Idea’.

            So, yes; my writing is the work of a whole ‘bundle’ or ‘constellation’ or ‘force-field’ or ‘antisyzygy’ of disintegrated and duelling [online and analogue] personae. ‘It’s the only way I ken/To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt/That damns the vast majority o’ men’ and stops them growing.

          6. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, yet your fragments have recently bleated about ‘consensus’, viz:
            “conversation needs to aim at consensus, a constitutional settlement”
            “debated in order to reflect as broad a consensus as possible”
            when you cannot even come to a Consensus-of-One!

            Admit it, you are simply engaged in sabotage of any public discourse geared towards effective change, by attempting to derail deliberation and foul conversations with zombie argumentation techniques. If you tried this on during one of the citizen assemblies your fragments periodically puff, I imagine you should quickly be replaced by someone less bent on undermining proceedings.

          7. 240228 says:

            Yep; a key political question for the pluralist tradition is how we can make a state that adequately expresses the ‘bundle’ or ‘constellation’ or ‘force-field’ or ‘antisyzygy’ of diverse, dissensual, and dissonant individuals and communities that comprise the postmodern ‘nation’.

            Although you appear to have missed it, I’ve written extensively (ad nauseum as John would have it) on how such a state could emerge through a process of deliberative democracy, whereby public decisions are be arrived collaboratively, as an expression of the general will, rather than tyrannically as an imposition of a minority or majority will. I’ve even cited, ever and anon, Habermas’s ‘ideal speech situation’ as prescribing the sort of conditions that would have to obtain for a general will (decisions that none of us would individually deem ‘perfect’ but that all of us can collectively live with) to emerge from our deliberations.

            But all that seems to have gone right over your head.

          8. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, or: it is painfully obvious that you want all the benefits of a single persona but none of the costs? That what you are offering is the opposite of wisdom? That for some reason you can never admit when you’re wrong? That wind is your bag?

          9. 240228 says:

            ‘General will’ = ‘consensus’; following ‘a general accord or agreement of different parts in effecting a given purpose,’ first coined in 1854 from the Latin ‘consensus’ – ‘agreement’, ‘accord’.

          10. 240228 says:

            I’m wrong all the time (see A Coterie of Heteronyms, above). That’s a consequence of pluralism; no one’s ever ‘right’, and truth is a kind of joint-stock affair in the commons of which everyone has a share.

            And wisdom consists in accepting that you’re always wrong, in dodging ‘the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt/That damns the vast majority o’ men’ and stops you growing.

            Haven’t I always said (with Kierkegaard) that ‘I speak without authority’?

          11. Paddy Farrington says:

            “my own radical and provocative reimaginings”

            Your dismissal as libel of the very mention of collective punishment in the SNP motion was certainly provocative. But it struck me as anything but radical. Thankfully, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is made of sterner stuff and is not afraid to call out a crime when he sees one.

          12. 240229 says:

            Antonio Guterres is right: nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, any more than anything could justify the collective and indiscriminate punishment of the Jewish population for crimes carried out by the Israeli state.

            But it’s not yet been determined in a court of law that the Israeli action in Gaza is being pursued as a collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Unlike the Secretary-General’s statement to the press back in January, the SNP motion spoke as if Israel’s guilt had already been established, which it hasn’t (yet).

            I don’t know whether my claim, that the accusation the SNP’s motion made is a libel, was provocative and/or radical or not. I was referring rather to my reimaginings of Bella’s editorial themes – namely, Self-Determination and the End of Britain, Global Fascism, International Geopolitics, the Fight for the Future, and an Alternative Scotland – which evidently provoke strong (and often violent) reaction and can hardly be described as ‘conservative’.

    2. James Scott says:

      A post I made 30+ minutes ago has not appeared

  18. Tom Williamson says:

    Well, Hoyle and Winterton have ensured that Labour is currently off the hook, the question moves to what do the SNP do next. Do they sit in Westminster grumbling/whinging or make it uncomfortable for Hoyle? The London-Centric Press hates the SNP so anything they do will not improve their perception of the SNP. Suggestion stop whinging and have direct action. Next time Hoyle appears in the commons either all stand up and give a rendition of Flower Of Scotland preferably in Gaelic/ Doric as both Labour and the Tories will be flummoxed. London Press would go mental with rage, or perhaps not all at once but individually as Hoyle orders that MP removed, another MP stands up and starts singing. Total Chaos would result and mean that Hoyle would need to either expel each MP individually for the session etc or abandon the sitting entirely. Let it be known that it will continue until the SNP day is returned. Something that I believe that Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals) would agree with.

    1. 240226 says:

      Off what hook, Tom?

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.