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.