OMG. If we’d only known. All this time we thought we were putting a positive case for an independent Scotland and pointing out the misinformation and machinations of a duplicitous Westminster, but no, we’re just being nasty and getting Alistair Darling all upset. It’s wrong to make Alistair sad, he cries himself to sleep at night and it puts him off his cornflakes of a morning. And that in turn means that when he grants an audience to a fawning Andrew Marr he’s feeling a bit tired and run down which could very well bring about the end of democracy as we know it. Or at least as Alistair knows it. And that’s your fault cybernat person. And you at the back, sniggering. And mine. I feel so awful.
Sometimes, when they’ve just come out with a truly spectacular piece of pish, which is more or less every time Blair MacDougall tweets something, we even laugh at them. Laughing at people is worse than talking pish. It’s perfectly fine for unionists to collude with one another in private, then to come out with made up stories to scare folk, scare stories which promptly fall apart under the weight of their own contradictions – but don’t you dare mock them for it. It’s bullying. Mocking is what Nessie would do. And she’s a monster.
Alistair has an image of himself as the Ambassador whose staff hand out the Ferrero Rocher while Scotland goes “ooh you are spoiling us Mr Darling.” Alistair is handing out confections after all, but they have a sour and bitter taste. He’s aggrieved that he’s not being deferred to, because everyone ought to treat him like Andrew Marr does. That’s not a monster coming over the hill Alistair, it’s a chartered surveyor from Banff who thinks you’re talking nonsense.
Anyway, the word “monster” now has a new usage as a verb, it means “criticising the arguments of unionists”. Darling also has a new usage as a verb, it means “unwittingly revealing a lie by frantic blinking”, as in “He said wasn’t seeing George Osborne in secret, but he was darling sexting messages in morse code.”
Demonising independence supporters has been ramped up a notch of late. It’s part of Better Together’s so-called wedge strategy, the one that was meant to drive a wedge between the supposedly tiny minority of nailed on yes voters and everyone else. But all it’s produced is the wedgie in Project Fear’s liar liar pants on fire, which may explain why Alistair was sitting so uncomfortably while he was smooching with Andy Marr.
Since the currency fearbomb went off like a fart cushion instead of a small thermonuclear device, the demonisation of yes supporters is the only part of the wedgie strategy that Better Together thinks there’s a chance of howking out the deep dark skid mark where the rest of their campaign resides. The people they’re trying to reach are not yes voters, they’re trying to persuade the don’t knows that yes voters aren’t the kind of people that sensible ordinary folk would want to be associated with. Yes voters are the kind of people who use words like skid mark with reference to politicians, and Jim Murphy wants that sort of thing banned.
There’s a big problem with this strategy however. It’s what I call the Catholic relative conundrum. Back when being gay was a bigger sin than being a Tory, the Catholic relatives of gay people were confronted with a problem. On the one hand the authority of the church taught them that gay people were “intrinsically disordered” and were doomed to a life of misery and transient sordid affairs. On the other hand they were confronted with the reality of gay family members getting on with life and being perfectly happy in stable relationships. So who to believe? The evidence from authority, or the evidence of your own eyes and ears? The eyes and ears invariably have it.
Better Together now face the same problem the Catholic church did. Demonising a group only works when your parishioners have little or no first hand experience of members of that group. It’s not Better Together which has the active, lively, and extremely numerous volunteers on the ground. But that’s not the worst of their problems, when support for independence reaches over 40% in the polls, everyone in Scotland knows a yes voter. Most know several. Many know a lot.
People who have yet to decide how to vote already know yes voters. They are family members, friends, work colleagues, acquaintances. They will not form the opinion that yes voters are people you wouldn’t want to associate with on the basis of what they are told by a political class which is already held in disrepute. The tactic will not shift the polls back towards No. It’s more likely to have the opposite effect, providing more evidence in the ears and eyes of people who already sense the disconnect between Westminster and the lives of ordinary people in Scotland.
The demonisation of yes voters, the accusations of monstering, they’re unpleasant – and are likely to intensify – but they are the sign of a No campaign which has lost its way.
Project Fear has been gulped down by its own imaginary monsters. Nessie’s having a good laugh at that.