I found an interesting article over at the Hootsman. (I know, I know… in itself that is worthy of a post…)
It is a piece, written my Dr Andrew McFadyen who used to work for the Labour Party as a media advisor, and was part of Iain Gray’s team in the last general election. An inside man then and with his doctorate in Labour and Scottish Parliament, possibly a knowledgeable one.
I don’t agree with all that he says, but I base my opinions on observation from afar, and he bases his on actual experience of working with these people and researching at a high level. I accept, therefore, that he knows a deal more about Labour and Labour politicians than I do.
Anyway, the piece made me think, and that’s never a bad thing, right? So somewhat rambling (and far too long, sorry), this is what it made me think.
He says he has respect for Johann Lamont. Now, I’m sure that Johann is a very nice woman, face to face, but as a party leader and potential first minister, it is hard to see where that respect comes from. But, thinking on, Lamont is a woman who takes orders from a London boss with his own agenda. Even McFadyen admits that the role of overall Scottish leader which Lamont achieved, and Gray never desired but never managed, is truer on paper than in actuality.
He also talks about Labour’s big hitters, and the fact that in the event of a yes vote, they would have to come home and practise politics in Scotland rather than at Westminster. And he names Dougie Alexander, Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran, none of whom I consider to be big hitters.
In fairness though, maybe their lack of ability to get across a message lies in the fact that they really, at heart, don't believe anything they are saying. They are flogging centre right to right wing policies, like benefit caps and austerity for the poor, because they know that it is in the interest of their careers, not of their constituents, and contrary to their political beliefs. Labour is wearing someone else’s clothes and they don’t really suit, or fit. Always an uncomfortable and confidence sapping experience.
But I think the main point he makes is that Labour’s task after the defeat of 2011, the worst showing apparently since the 1920s, was to build a vision “and imaginative agenda” for Scotland, which he says has given way to “project fear”.
Alistair denied last week that the Better Together, No thanks, NoBorders, UKOK team had ever referred to itself as Project Fear… but we can be pretty certain that it has. And it certainly is.
Initially people like Cameron and Darling tried to impress Scots by talking up the union.
That’s not a difficult job when you are addressing the massed oligarchs of the City of London but I don't think that Cameron understood that that message isn't universally successful.
Power, prestige, position, military might, closeness to the USA, CLOUT (even imaginary), went down rather less well in the ordinary streets of Scottish towns, where the number of embassies, consulates, the position of the UK in the G8, UN, Nato and a few hundred other organisations, mean absolutely nothing to the residents. But a lack of childcare, decent facilities, housing, the reduction in tax credits and the high cost of essentials like gas and electricity means everything.
It must have been apparent pretty quickly that, although there was a certain type of Scot that this would impress, it wasn't a winner with the many who had to be won over.
So they must have searched around for something else that was positive about the union, something that didn't involve faraway places and strange sounding names!
But it was difficult to find anything that would stick. Better Together has to mean something. Why is a person living on minimum wage in a Scottish backstreet, with only JUST enough money to make it to the end of the month (and sometimes not), better together with the UK? Why are people queuing at food banks better with the UK? Why would students be better in the Uk at £9,000 a shout? Why are pensioners on £110 a week, the lowest pension by comparison to wages in the developed world, bar Mexico, better in the Uk? Why is the UK the most unequal society in the EU?
In reality so many of our ordinary people are not Better Together. So what you have to do is imply that it would be even worse if we weren't in the UK.
And although it has attracted criticism it has worked, at least to an extent. You wouldn't get in the EU (tens of thousands of jobs would disappear; maybe yours). Scotland won’t be able to pay your pensions (you’d starve to death, despite having paid for a pension). There would be a barbed wire border (no problem if you live in Lerwick or Stornaway, but more of an issue if you are in Dumfries and want to see your girlfriend). You won't get Doctor Who or anything else for mm the BBC (a real issue for some). You won't have a currency/will be made to use the Euro, despite being denied EU membership (a real puzzler). You won’t be able to defend yourselves (against what, who, and in any case why not?) The oil is going to run out in 2 years time (in which case the UK should worry, and start asking of it can become the 51st state).
Ridiculous though these claims, and many more like them, are, if all you ever read is the main stream media, then that is what you know. Yes, there’s information out there on blogs like Wings and Scot Goes Pop and Bella and a shed load of others… but many people don’t know where to go for that information, and many don't even know that there IS that information.
So Project Fear, with the compliance of the BBC and the bulk of newspapers, has been much more successful than the real ‘positive’ message for the UK… which is Clout, War, State Dinners, Clout, Embassies, Consulates, War, Big ships, and Nuclear weapons, more CLOUT and the fourth largest spend on military in the world, photo opportunities with President Obama, the City, Loadsamoney, Bombs and even more bloody CLOUT.
How comfortable with that reality is LABOUR?
Well Labour in London has bought into it. They know that it is the message that the rich in the South East want to hear in their masses, and they are the people who can deliver Ed to Downing Street.
But maybe the shaky performances of so-called “big hitters” of Slab, can be attributed to the fact that they know they are talking garbage to the very people who vote for them. Maybe there is some shame there.
I know that some of you have been members of the Labour Party in the past, or worked with some of the people at its head. I'd be interested in your thoughts.