A special kind of stupid

It’s never entirely clear whether Better Together have embarked on a new phase of their masterplan to save the Union, or whether they’re just flailing around in a blind panic. Because they manage to give the impression of flailing around in a blind panic whatever they do or say. If nothing else it’s amusing to watch.

We’re still being told that they’re “going to” make a positive case for the Union, only for them to come out with recycled threats and scares from last year, or last month, or last week. But however outrageous the threat or scare, it’s not a threat or scare at all. It’s actually a serious warning and valuable information that the Scottish electorate need to know. Like “If you go to Loch Ness you might be savaged by a monster and dragged screaming into the murky peat coloured depths never to be seen again” – that sort of serious warning and valuable information. So they’re doing us a good turn by pointing it out.

Since Better Together are patently unable to offer a real positive case for the Union, they’ve just decided to rebrand their scare stories instead. Westminster has a lot of previous for this sort of thing. Gordie Broon preached prudence and practised permissiveness – at least as far as banking regulation was concerned. He told us his decisions were governed by his moral compass, but didn’t tell us he only ever used it when deciding what direction to throw his Nokia in a shower of swerrie words. He swore he had a vision for his term in office as prime minister, but only ever had a vision of getting himself into Number 10 and no idea what to do when he got there.

He’s at it again. Gordie Broon is in Glasgow today to tout the positive case for PFIs – that’s “Pensions Fucked with Independence”. Of course Gordie is an expert on pensions being fucked, and in the exact same way the Child Snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an expert on social services care provision.

Meanwhile in a further attempt to appeal to the handful of Labour voters in Scotland who buy their paper, the Guardian has reopened the solidarity front. The Westminster Parliament is the unique vehicle for the expression of socialist solidarity, and if you want independence you’re a selfish uncaring creature. I’ve already posted on my view on the difference between solidarity and stupid, so there’s little point in rehashing the same arguments, or the same jokes. That’s Better Together’s party trick. You can read my waffle here.

Then over in the Telegraph, Tom Gallagher has finally descended into irredeemable lostplotness. I feel sorry for him, for all his professional success he’s never slayed his personal demons. He just made a career out of writing about them. Independence threatens to slay his demons, and then Tom won’t know what to do with himself.

Like Tom, I’m a gay middle-aged man from a Catholic family of Irish origins in the West of Scotland. Like Tom the dawning of my sexual awareness and my advent into adulthood coincided with the outbreak of the Aids crisis, and like Tom I spent the 70s and 80s lost in the wilderness of Thatcherism, homophobia, and the last gasps of institutionalised sectarianism. Whatever way Tom or I looked, we encountered rejection, fear, and hatred. We couldn’t be properly British because we were Scottish and working class. We couldn’t be properly Scottish because we were Catholic and Irish. We couldn’t be properly Catholic, or Scottish, or Irish, or working class, because we were gay, vectors of disease and destroyers of family. We were the “other”, and everyone hated us.

This can’t fail to have a deep psychological effect. I still bear the scars. Tom’s wounds are still open and bleeding. He tried to resolve his emotional conflicts by intellectualising them, which is always an exercise in futility. It’s a special sort of stupid that only intelligent people are capable of. He should be an object of pity.

Tom’s identification with the other has now led him into making an extraordinary defence of Toryism. The all powerful British Conservative and Unionist establishment, the same establishment that used sectarianism as a tool of rule in Scotland and Ireland, the same establishment that wrought havoc in Scottish industrial communities, the same establishment whose response to the AIDs crisis was to introduce Clause 28 to demonise its victims, is now the other in Scottish political discourse. Tom thinks this is a Bad Thing.

It is of course all about alicsammin, the entire political and cultural discourse of a nation embodied in a single hate figure. Alicsammin is just the latest and most dangerous manifestation of some dinosaur who told Tom in the 70s that only posh English men could be poofs. He’s still hurting from the rejection. But Tom didn’t respond by asserting his Scottishness, his working class identity, his normalcy. He responded by agreeing and revelling in his status as outsider. He made a career out of it.

Tom never came in from the cold. The world changed but he didn’t, and now he’s found a new victim whose cause he can promote. The poor othered Conservatives.

So now Tom asserts that alicsammin is playing with the dangerous fires of ethnic nationalism. In order to do so he makes the casual equation that Tory = English. He rips quotes out of context, plays fast and loose with fact.  He ignores uncomfortable truths – like calling on alicsammin to drop his call for a debate with the man who is after all the Prime Minister of Scotland while ignoring Cameron’s active participation in a debate he claims not to be participating in.  Tom stokes the fires of the hatred he claims to fight against. A quick look at the seething boiling mass of racism and ignorance displayed in the comments left on his wee article in the Telegraph is proof of that.

Tory doesn’t equal English. We have Scottish Tories. We even have a tartan clad version of UKIP in the form of the SDA. But the point Tom prefers not to address is that Scots don’t choose to put them into power. We don’t elect them as our government. However the political influence of Conservatism in Scotland vastly outweighs its meagre electoral support. And that, Tom, is the point. Yes, perhaps one day in an independent Scotland the electorate will return a Conservative government. But we’ll only do so if we’re stupid enough to vote for them. Right now, we get them anyway.

From the champion of the excluded to the champion of privilege. That’s the journey Tom’s been on. It’s not a journey the rest of us are inclined to follow. Tom is still allowing himself to be defined by his fear, but Scotland doesn’t have to follow. It will be OK Tom. You just need a wee cuddle son.



0 thoughts on “A special kind of stupid

  1. I’m afraid it’s a quote from ” Shooter ” but applies to Gordie – ” your moral compass is so fucked up I’d be surprised if you can find your way out of here “.

  2. Tory does not equal English. Tory doesn’t even equal the vicious neoliberals that are Thatcher’s children. Being Consevative in Scotland once meant One Nation Toryism. In my own experience I have seen Conservative voters move away from them because of the callousness they now represent.
    In general, we Scots reject the notion of abandoning our fellow citizens to market forces, but so do many in the North of England, Wales and the West Country. A Yes vote will give us the chance to lead the way in building a society that will show there is another way. Professor Gallagher must surely have picked up a sizable cheque to write such drivel.

    • As an Aberdonian living in the Borders I’m disappointed that a significant proportion of my relatively wealthy friends up there have the ” I’m all right Jack ” attitude and will take extra persuasion.

  3. The British political parties now represent the corporate world and are completely disconnected from working people,which is one of the reasons we elected an SNP government in Scotland to try and mitigate the worst effects of politically inspired austerity.
    Scots are not stupid and having been given a choice by the corporate world of either more “austerity” or going our own way will choose the latter.
    Maybe,once the political remnants of the British parties waken up and realise that politics is about people and not profits,they will produce something that people will vote for.
    However,without independence in Scotland that will not be the case.
    Austerity OK.
    Thanks Paul.

  4. Dear God , I just wish I had followed my new golden rule NOT to visit the utter crap that is the DT. The comments under the line make me wonder if there is an educated person left south of the border.

    As for the Prof – he’s been a joke for some time.

    Please don’t lead me in that direction again – not the DT, not the DR , not the DM and very definitely NOT the Scotsman!

    Other than that , great article as usual, and I’m so glad that the Wee Ginger Dug pops into my e-mail these days!

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  6. Great read, thanks for that. I worry about a post independence Scottish Government mirroring the set up of Westminster. The political class across parties in Scotland seems to be made up of the same old dreich as LONDLAND. I worry, truly. As touched in the above article, could a refreshed conservative small c, baptised in independence one day be voted in…by ‘us’?

    Presently reading ‘the claim of scotland’ Paton makes a mention of my fears, ‘

    ‘Civil servants are and ought to be, if not ‘yes men’, at least safe men: it is not their business
    to make revolutions, but to carry out scrupulously regulations imposed on them by others. As was
    once said

    I think by Lloyd George

    ‘their proper place is between the shafts and not on the dickey.’
    Pioneer reforms in accordance with Scottish traditions are no more likely to receive an impulse from conscious civil servants than from an over burdened Secretary of State’

    This is not by any stretch the part of his work that struck me the most, more like sprung to mind when articulating this procrastination.

    I truly hope shedding the bureaucratic leviathan of wastminster and affiliate structures and departments can give us the benefits of scale (smaller). In that we will be more agile, adept, and quick at seizing ideas, technologies and innovation. This includes shedding the fetish for outdated traditions that include sexism, homophobia, racism, elitism, snobbery, no grey area dichotomies, that the Conservative capital C have been partial to.

    • Rory,
      I think we all share your concern re the professional political class after a Yes vote. But that’s why a Yes vote is only the beginning of the journey not the end. The grassroots campaign I see in South Ayrshire isn’t populated by the “political class”. It’s populated by ordinary people who have found a voice and a believe in the possibility to enact real, lasting change. The future of Scottish politics will be shaped by this grassroots movement. It will be incumbent on all of us to hold the new politics of Scotland task. Fear not I don’t believe that “grassroots” Scotland will let us down.

      • …and in that vain my vote is yes . My travels take me through countries and continents otherwise i would be part of the grassroots movement that i both envy and admire. I appreciate your comment as I need to here that my intolerance (which is rare) for; systematic weakness, poor admin, and widespread ignoring of need, is a shared intolerance (forgiving the irony of ‘my intolerance is the acceptable intolerance’)

        I hope that the ‘ordinary people’ will not only ‘find their voice’ but seize the initiative and become the prime mover in a democratic Scotland

  7. Both Mr Broon and Mr Gallacher, out of time, out of touch and out of their comfort zones.

    Mr Bown is a waste of an intellect and a career. Someone who apparently showed a lot of promise upon a time, but oh did party politics and Westminster establishment change all that. The gold disaster, the pensions robbery, the acrimonious backstabbing and machinations behind the party leadership struggle and who knows what else. He made his bed and now he can lie in it.

    Mr Gallacher however is being thoughtless and reckless to an amazing degree. The demonisation of the independence movement and Alex Salmond has gone way too far. I’d have thought Mr Gallacher would have some empathy for this situation, but apparently not. Almost half of the Scottish electorate is now getting quite vocally behind the YES campaign. We are asked to believe that this amazing grass roots movement are all ethnically motivated in their voting intention? A more stupid, socially irresponsible and deliberately divisive tactic in this campaign I have yet to see.

    Both men should hang their heads in shame.

  8. Check out Harry Ried’s piece in today’s Herald entitled “Macmillan’s sell-out a vital lesson for Scotland”


    “There was a serious dispute between the President and the Prime Minister about where the Polaris submarines should be sited – and also about who should control the weapons of mass destruction within them. The UK Government proposed a site at Loch Linnhe, near Fort William, because it was a reasonable distance from Glasgow. The Americans rejected this, claiming Mr Macmillan had earlier agreed on the site they wanted on the Clyde, perilously near Glasgow, Scotland’s most populous city, which was less than 20 miles away, as the crow flies. There was then a further dispute about who should actually control any launch of the deadly missiles from the submarines.

    The Americans made it brutally clear they found the British positions on both issues unacceptable. Mr Eisenhower eventually told Mr Macmillan bluntly he had to think again. The Prime Minister duly did as he was told. The British Cabinet met, and it rolled over. Everything was given to the Americans as they wished. Westminster was utterly, and pitifully, in thrall to Washington…..

    ….Prime Minister Macmillan no doubt thought he had done his best. He certainly put up at least some resistance before he gave in. He was proud of his Scottish background. But Scotland for him was essentially a playground, a place of recreation, full of grouse moors and rich men’s castles.

    His entry in the Dictionary Of National Biography (written by his fellow Tory Lord Blake) insists he was, and I quote directly, “determined to keep in with America”. There you have it, in six simple words. Ultimately, America was more important to the British Prime Minister than Scotland.

    Harold Macmillan was not the first or the last British premier to think in this way. Yet America’s President Reagan ordered his military forces to invade Grenada, a Commonwealth country whose head of state was our Queen, without even telling Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. During the Falklands crisis the US Secretary Of State Al Haig and its Ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick were both inclined to take the side of Argentina.”

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  10. Intellectualising emotional conflicts — “A special sort of stupid only intelligent people are capable of”
    Ouch, ouch, ouch! So many hits I’m practically hurting myself just reading it. You’re on cracking form. I’ll be shamelessly stealing about twenty quotes from this and using them way beyond the independece debate, for years to come.

  11. He’s at it again. Gordie Broon is in Glasgow today to tout the positive case for PFIs – that’s “Pensions Fucked with Independence”.

    Awesome ( : >

  12. “Snobby English poof”.

    I so totally know exactly what you are talking about here, and you hit the nail absolutely on the head with this article.

    Just as a wee aside, in less enlightened days, the best retort to this insult used to be: “Who are you calling English?”. Apologies to our southern cousins. 😉

  13. Another great article Paul.

    “Yes, perhaps one day in an independent Scotland the electorate will return a Conservative government. But we’ll only do so if we’re stupid enough to vote for them. Right now, we get them anyway.”

    Aye, and in an independent Scotland they’ll be restrained by our written constitution, as will any other party we give the privilege of governance to.

  14. Another good read;even on the second or third time.

    Slightly off-topic but somehow I feel it is relevant too in a way:

    I wished a good friend of mine in Wolverhampton a ‘Happy St George’s Day’ today by text.

    This is his reply:

    ‘A chance for proud Englishmen and women to proclaim their love for their
    country…and for me it stops about there…proud to be part of a system that
    inculdes poverty, food banks & areas of the economy propped up by charity
    shops…not a chance…I live in a country that has lost its identity…I don’t recognise
    it anymore, at least you have a chance of independence in some way, shape or
    form. Still searching for a manifesto that mentions building a brick wall round
    London, maybe on the M25. St George needs to slay a few of those raping and
    pillaging this country of mine…’

    My feeling is that Independence for Scotland may bring hope too to those in England who suffer under a despicable, right-wing Westminster; that change IS possible.

    Keep up the good work Paul.

    • Oh we don’t really do “on topic” here.

      Nice message from your English friend. My English friends say pretty much the same thing. Which is something Dougie Alexander ought to remember when he’s preaching solidarity with the City of London.

  15. Nice one, I do like the way you make your point with a humorous thrust that leaves no one in doubt of the distaste you feel.

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