Misreading Political Tribalism

Tribalism in politics is nothing new. It’s not unique to any country or culture. It’s something the Unionists are convincing themselves is the cause of their own downfall in Scotland.

Think of any party, or any politician, and they have their tribalist support. The Lib Dems have their own hardcore tribalists watching Willie Rennie’s hapless performance in the leaders debates and will insist that he won it. The SNP have their own hardcore tribalists insisting Nicola Sturgeon won the debate. All of the parties have this going on.

The major difference is that the Westminster parties are so unpopular with the general public right across the UK, that the ONLY people trying to power their campaigns, are their hardcore tribalists. The SNP have other sources of power that the Westminster parties can only dream of, or are deluding themselves that they also have.

The SNP have people who have joined the party recently either because of the referendum, or the SNP’s behaviour in it. These people are newly awakened to politics. They see the cesspit that Westminster is, and the alternative approach the SNP are trying to built. They also have soft SNP people behind them, who won’t join the party but consider themselves to be SNP supporters and voters. They have people like me, who won’t join the SNP, don’t consider themselves SNP supporters, but have seen the futility of voting any other way than SNP in a FPTP General Election. Finally the SNP have the power of a LOT of neutrals who watch these debates and see the alternate future the SNP propose, and agree with them on the major ideological issues; scrapping Trident, a public NHS etc.

While the Westminster parties try to protect the status quo, the same old same old, the public are sick of it. They’re sick of nothing ever changing when it comes to major issues. They’re sick of the corruption and cosy agreements. They’re sick of the imperialism. They’re sick of the elite privilege while the most vulnerable starve. While the Westminster parties exist to protect and expand their own self interest, this gap will only widen. It’s why neither the Tories or Labour can peak much beyond 30% in the polls.

Think about that. Every government we’ve had, has been either Tory with a Labour opposition, or Labour with a Tory opposition. Both parties get a stint at the wheel, and shift minor things around to suit their own ideology, but on the bigger ideological issues, they’re singin’ from the same hymn sheet. If that was reflected in the opinion of the UK people, they’d both be a lot more popular than they are. They don’t care what the voters want. They exist to score points against each other, and the public see it. This is what turns people off. It’s what reduces their campaigning power to not much more than the hardcore tribalists.

The Westminster parties are deluding themselves if they think that the SNP tsunami is some protest vote, or that their support are losing their minds in some populist cult. That may play to their hardcore support, but they weren’t gonna be shifted from their opinions anyway. It simply drives soft Labour voters who want a grown up party to the SNP. It’s also sticking their heads in the sand about the real problem, because they don’t want to have to actually deal with it.

Westminster have shafted us all. The Westminster elite have caused a lot of problems the world over, and continue to do so. The public see that and want real change, not soundbites or point scoring. Labour in particular are living in a world where the SNP are their downfall in Scotland. It’s not the SNP’s fault that Labour are unelectable self serving career politicians who will say anything to con people into voting Labour, only to be ignored for another four years…..that’s Labour’s fault.

Ignore the hardcore tribalists for every party. Look at the soft support they get from outside that bubble. Look at the support they get from supporters of other parties, and why. We’ve seen a massive coming together of progressive parties who want to change the status quo, create a fairer society and offer real hope for those that Westminster has shafted and exploited since it’s inception. Look at the cross party support between the SNP, Plaid, Greens, SSP and others. Compare that to the cross party support between the three Westminster parties, for whom “cooperation” is an evil term. There must be winners and losers. This cross party Unionist support is not only cynical and disingenuous, it’s aimed at maintaining the status quo at all costs. If either Labour or the Tories were half way popular with the people by offering policies the people want, they wouldn’t need to prop each other up with cynical support. Note that the only cross party Unionist support we see is where one of them smears the SNP, and the others amplify it. It’s only the negative stuff, never the positive.

To make matters more stark, look at the mental gymnastics the Westminster parties hardcore tribalists have to perform to defend their party on different issues. They’ve got to somehow ignore the obvious, and pretend they don’t understand it, while trying to spin the conversation down an illogical path to get to where the party line is, all to an increasingly engaged and educated electorate. The debates from the larger progressive movement (SNP, Plaid, Greens, SSP etc) can be in honest terms around normal people about fairness and equality. There’s logic behind every stance that can be easily followed by people with no background in politics. They can understand what it means for them, and know they’re the beneficiaries of it.

This further disipates the disilusioned Unionist hardcore tribalist who has to keep fighting this same fight over and over, and losing more often than not. Eventually they just give up unless they’re being paid for it. On the SNP side of this, you have a LOT of people volunteering to campaign because they feel their voice finally matters, and that they can have a part in shaping a fairer society for all. Hope is infectious.

Jim Murphy Supports Sharia Law

That’s quite a title isn’t it? It’s the end point in a train of logic employed by Jim Murphy assuming he’s not a hypocrite. Nobody likes to admit they’re a hypocrite after all, even those who are.

Let’s start this by pointing out that Jim Murphy is a Blairite. His life as a career politician starts with Blair’s New Labour. Like many Labour people at the time, they modelled themselves on Blair’s approach. Long after Blair has stepped down, his example is still being lived every day by people who think like him within Labour. Jim is one of them.

One of the traits Blair had was to see the world as being divided into two camps. The first camp are those who are with him on any given policy he was trying to pass, the other are those who would be in the first camp if only they understood the policy properly. This leaves no third camp; people who understand perfectly well, and disagree with him.

If we are to assume that Jim Murphy isn’t a hypocrite, then he must apply that same logic to everyone, not just himself.

Those who want strict Sharia law applied everywhere is therefore just something Jim Murphy doesn’t understand properly. If he did, he’d support it. There is no third camp for him to slide into, that of people who understand, and disagree.

By this train of logic, Jim Murphy supports Sharia law, unless he’s a hypocrite of course. The assumption then is that every meeting with leaders such as the Saudis are for him to learn properly what Sharia law is, so he can break through his fog of ignorance and jump on board as an advocate of it.

The Latest Labour Drone Logic

The other day I got into a discussion with a Labour drone that exposed me to the latest tactic of the cult member to disconnect from reality, dodge blame and rewrite not only history but the way our democracy works.

The war in Iraq started by Tony Blair and George W Bush is one many of us see as illegal. I include myself in that number. I opposed it then, and I oppose it now. Like all politicians and loyal party members, they play the long game. They assume that the strength of opposition to any policy will dissipate over time. They assume that any backlash for that policy will be short lived before things return to normal. The Iraq War was the policy that turned me off Labour. I would never vote Labour again while Tony Blair was a Labour Party member. For me, he and his cabinet should be in the Hague facing war crimes charges.

Today many people still hold the Iraq War against Labour, even though Tony Blair has long since stood down as PM. We don’t even have a Labour government now, and still the Iraq War hangs like an albatross around Labour’s neck.

Some of the drones don’t like this. They think it’s unfair, not because some time has passed, but because it wasn’t Labour’s fault. It was parliament that decided to go to war in Iraq, not Labour, so Labour shouldn’t be held to blame for it.

Let’s look at the logic building to that conclusion. A Labour government, with a Labour PM, and a Labour cabinet decide which legislation to bring to parliament and how it’s worded. Labour whips get Labour MPs to back it in debates and vote for it, and when all of that goes to plan, it’s not Labour, it’s parliament. Talk about mental back flips to wash your hands of your own handiwork.

This attempt by the Labour drone to skip Labour away from any blame came after the statement that I’d ignored the great things Labour did between 1997 and 2010. The one major policy area they had was the Iraq War. The thing is, if you’re going to apply that train of logic, then you have to apply it universally.

If it was parliament to blame for the illegal war in Iraq, then it was also parliament who did all these great things from 1997 to 2010. Why are Labour drones trying to attribute them to Labour? Just like the Iraq War, Labour just happened to be in the driving seat when they happened.

The same should apply to the opposition too. Any policy the Tory government have implemented, however brutal isn’t Tory policy. It’s parliament. Why attack the Tories over things they have no responsibility for?

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Unless of course Labour drones are so proud of their mental gymnastics that they think we’re too daft to connect the logic dots. Roll on May, when they’ll see just how vast the difference is between their perception of the electorate and reality.

Finally, if the governing party has no role in the policy agreed by parliament, why do they waste money on a manifesto or an election campaign? It’s not like they’re trying to get elected to change the country in a way they feel is fairer to their supporters, is it?

Independence Is The Only Saviour For Labour

The UK Labour party made a fatal mistake during the Independence Referendum.‭ ‬As a UK party with one set of policies,‭ ‬one ideology across every part of the UK,‭ ‬the Scottish branch of the Labour party had to fight on a platform that was good for the London based Westminster UK Labour party.

At this point it’s worth noting that Scotland is a very different country to England politically. In England, the Tories have a lot of support in enough constituencies to contest every General Election. They’re a contender for government in England. In Scotland, the Tories have around 10% of the electorate, mostly bunched around a few areas. They’re a minority party in Scotland.

This isn’t just about the Tories, it’s about right wing Tory ideology. In England, Labour have moved increasingly to the right to target soft Tory voters in marginals. UKIP have arrived from the far right to contest lots of seats. As a result, both the Tories and Labour have been drawn into a bidding war to combat UKIP. It’s about who can be even more heartless on the poor and vulnerable and who can be more aggressive on immigrants. This is appealing to enough voters in England that all parties chase it. In Scotland it’s a turn off.

Scotland won’t elect a right wing government. We elected Labour when enough of us still thought they were a centre left party, or maybe they were in enough ways at the time. As Labour shifted further to the right, the electorate wanted another centre left party to back. I don’t think you could count the SNP traditionally as centre left, but more of a centre party with some left wing policies around valued public services like the NHS. Any party seeking to win in Scotland has to be at least centre, or centre left. No right wing party stands a chance of winning the mainstream.

The UK Labour party have shown they’re just as keen on privatisation of public services as the Tories, just as keen on austerity as the Tories, and just as keen on Imperial warmongering as the Tories. It’s not about promises or pledges, it’s about how they’ve behaved. It’s about the debates they turn up for in Parliament and how they vote. None of this makes them electable in Scotland.

For a party who burned their reputation and support base in Scotland arguing against independence, independence is the only thing that will save Scottish Labour.

It is only a first step. After that, they can begin to listen to the public. They can examine why the SNP are popular, and devise their own “Scottish solutions for Scottish problems”. They need to start behaving like a responsible political party. It’s one thing to oppose on a policy issue, or to refine legislation to make it better. It’s something completely different to simply oppose it because the SNP propose it.

The only difference a real Labour party has with the SNP is the matter of which Parliament makes legislation. Labour want that to be Westminster, the SNP want it to be Holyrood. Aside from that, you’d think that most of the SNP plans would be backed by Labour, albeit with minor tweaks here and there.

Finally, they need to convince the public that this change is genuine, and not just another stunt. When they’ve shown they’re willing to lie for votes, that’s the hard part. It will take time to be trusted again.

Without all of that, Labour are doomed to oblivion in Scotland, starting with a major shunt down that hill in the 2015 General Election, followed by the 2016 Holyrood Election. There is no other recovery option for Scottish Labour.

Removing Context

The Unionists who keep repeating “it’s over, 55% of Scottish voters voted to stay in the Union” are desperately trying to remove the context of how that 55% came about. The context is about a wall to wall Unionist MSM machine repeating the claims from the Unionist side without checking any facts, it’s about last minute promises of vast new but unspecified powers. It’s about lies and spreading fear. It’s about going from a starting point of around 30% with everything against them, the Yes Scotland campaign managed to get 45% of the electorate and a huge turnout to back them.

Imagine a football analogy. Let’s call them Union Utd. Union Utd fans are celebrating because they won the Champions League 1-0. The result is that they won. On the trophy and in the history books, they won.

Forget that they bribed the referee in every round. Forget that they had 3 legit goals against them ruled out for dubious reasons. Forget that the winner came from a penalty that wasn’t a foul, and was outside the box. That’s context. Forget all of that, and Union Utd fans are proudly cheering that the result is all that matters.

This is why the 45% won’t just go away. We saw not only the result, but how that result came about. A sizeable number of the 55% who voted No didn’t do so because they backed the Union. They heard over and over and over “vote No for more powers”.

Both sides of the campaign fought for more powers for Scotland. One side wanted full control and independence, the other wanted an increased partial control within the Union. To say that 55% voted for Scotland to stay within the Union and without any extra powers is removing context.

The only reason for insisting on removing context is political and ideological; to shaft both Yes and No voters. You want to create the perception that the majority in Scotland are happy within the Union. We’re not. Many of those who voted No have no real love for the Union, they just weren’t convinced to vote Yes. How much of that came down to lies and misinformation?

Remember, No voters are your friends. They voted to stay part of the UK family. By insisting on trying to shaft them, you’re driving a wedge between them and you. As time passes, support for independence will only grow. By removing context, you’re only deluding yourself that Scotland is what you want it to be, rather than what it actually is.

Democracy By The Numbers

I’ve seen it suggested that the result of the Independence Referendum would have been different had the rest of the UK been allowed to decide what happens to Scotland. It probably would have been, but it has nothing to do with them, so why should they have a vote? The one area they do have a point, is in people born in Scotland, but who now live elsewhere. This is a whole Pandora’s box. It means that you’re using racial lines to decide whether people have a say or not.

If people born in Scotland but who live elsewhere have a vote, why not limit those living in Scotland also? People who work and contribute to the Scottish economy, raise their families in Scotland but who weren’t born in Scotland have no vote. They are directly impacted by the decision. People who left Scotland decades ago, and who’s only connection back home is the odd Skype call with the grandchildren, have a vote. Not only are they not impacted by the decision, they’re often so disconnected to the modern Scotland. Their political awareness is steeped in the time they were last in Scotland. It’s changed a lot since Thatcher, yet if you left in the 70’s you wouldn’t know.

It’s right that the decision to become independent should be taken by the people who live in Scotland, the people who raise their families in Scotland, the people who will be directly impacted by the decision.

A Competent Alternate Government?

Every major party in opposition should be doing all it can to demonstrate that it’s not only acting in the interests of the country by holding the government to account when required, but supporting the government when they do right. They should also be demonstrating that they’re a credible and competent alternate government at the next election. I’m now officially baffled at Scottish Labour’s incompetence on a really basic point.

Scottish Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale challenged the new SNP leader and FM to a few policies. All OK so far, but there’s a problem.

“Take on the big six energy firms, forcing them to freeze bills and
rein in eye-watering profits earned on the backs of working people.”

“Bring back the 50p tax rate for top earners, so those with the
broadest shoulders carry their fair share.”

“Tax [bankers’] bonuses and use the cash to create jobs for young
people.”

The problem is that none of these powers are devolved. They’re all reserved at Westminster. On the surface this just seems like Labour’s usual standards, but look a bit deeper and it exposes a much more serious issue.

As a major party in both Scotland and the UK; one of the only two capable of winning government both sides of the border, don’t you think any competent alternative government would at least know what powers they had, so they could convince us they had a plan on how best to use those powers?

If Kezia Dugdale is re-elected in 2016, and if a miracle happens in Scotland that Labour win government, she, as one of the high profile Scottish Labour MSPs will likely be in a cabinet position. She doesn’t know what powers Holyrood has. She expects voters to reject the party that actually listens to them, and offers competent policies the electorate want, to choose a party offering a product the public don’t want, and who don’t even know what powers they have to improve Scotland.

A first step would be for UK Labour to send a memo out to their branch members in Scotland with two lists; devolved and reserved. It won’t change their fate in Scotland, it’ll only save them some embarrassment.

George Orwell’s Scottish Labour Party

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four gave us a glimpse of a totalitarian future. It has rightly entered popular culture with concepts such as Big Brother and the Thought Police. I’ve discovered another parallel however.

Try reading the novel again, but thinking of Winston as a Scottish Labour Party member. Blind loyalty to the party is the only way to succeed. Anything the party says or does is beyond your understanding, but you know it’s for the good of all. Big Brother is the office of the UK Labour Party leader and his or her cronies. Any dissenters, or thought criminals are denounced and ostracised. Look at how they react to the people who try to tell Labour that their aping of the Tories makes them a hard sell in Scotland.

Look at how they react to the SNP. Their visceral hatred of all things SNP and Alex Salmond makes you wonder if they don’t have regular minutes of hate where Big Brother prepares a tirade of smears and the party faithful all gather together to shout and swear at images of Alex Salmond the dictator eating babies and kicking puppies.

Winston’s job is to edit past news items with updates, often it’s either complete fantasy designed to please Big Brother, or it’s a prediction after the events are known, so as to portray Big Brother as all knowing. All previous versions of events are destroyed, and everyone in the party takes the current version as absolute fact without hesitation.

Think that’s exaggeration? Remember during the independence referendum, Scottish Labour lined up to insist that the NHS was safe with a No vote and that the idea that it was under any threat of privatisation in England was just a nationalist scare story? The week after the result was announced, Labour had their party conference. The NHS under serious threat of privatisation was both their conference centrepiece, and recruitment drive.

Not one of the Labour Party seem to be aware that they were saying the exact opposite a mere week before in Scotland. Events are what the party need them to be at any given time. During the referendum, the party needed the NHS to be safe, after the referendum they needed it to be in serious danger.

The difference is that while Big brother and the party were all powerful in the novel, the Scottish Labour Party are a badly discredited organisation among large parts of the electorate, and are oblivious as to the reasons why they’re shrinking into irrelevance fast. Winston had no escape from Big Brother, the electorate have an escape from the Scottish Labour Party; and seem increasingly keen to take it.

We Want The Same Thing

The Yes Scotland group was always very small and centrally organised. The campaign decisions started there created a fertile ground for the much wider and much more diverse Yes Movement to grow and flourish. The Yes Movement became a self sustaining, all encompassing group of different groups. It had people who identified with lots of different organisations, and people who identified with none.

On the morning of September the 19th, the Yes Scotland part had run it’s course. It was an official campaign set up to run until the ballots closed on the 18th. Due to how the campaigns were run, the media bias, the last minute broken promises and a whole lot of other little contributing issues, we felt we’d won the argument, and lost the referendum. The Yes Movement were not going to just accept defeat and go home.

The other motivator in the Yes Movement, is that Yes Scotland asked us to examine the case for the Union, and Scotland’s place in it. They asked us not to just assume that because we’re in it now, that it must be good for us, or that we can’t be better if we left it. As a campaign tactic this was genius. Not only does it let us see what we can’t now unsee, it imbues it with a positive future. We now have 1.6 million people who can’t just accept that being in the UK is in our best interests. We know it’s not. The fact that independence is delayed hurts, and the thought of independence being a one shot deal that we blew will never even be considered. So where do we go from here?

In the days and weeks after the vote, lots of Yes Movement people chimed in with their own ideas, many of those were about keeping the Yes Movement together to keep fighting for round two; for that we needed a name, a Twitter hashtag to prove we’re still here and going nowhere. We have awoken. One of the hashtags that sprung up was variants on the 45% number. It took off. Many people have that in their avatars, and tweet using it.

Initially I thought that was a bad name. I still do think it’s a bad name. For me, it’s a built in class system. It refers to those who did vote Yes on September 18th 2014. We don’t have time travel, so nobody can change their votes. Those who did vote Yes then are thr real 45%, those who voted No and later regretted it, will always be a lower class of member. I doubt they’ll be treated as a lower class member, but the name insists they are.

Initially I added my voice to the others in trying to settle around a more inclusive name, something that encouraged and welcomed those regretful No voters into the fold. I felt it’d be a mistake if the 45% name became the established one, so I decided not to RT any tweets with the 45% hashtags in them. It’s a minor protest, but a protest nonetheless. I’ve since came to a different conclusion; we’re on the same side.

The Yes Movement was a wide community consisting of lots of unofficial groups with their own niche concerns and focuses, who all realise that Scotland’s independence is a major improvement. We all come under the Yes Movement banner. Why should that have changed? We lost the referendum, not the argument. How things have played out since the 19th has only given us more motivation for round two, and more evidence to show that the UK is not acting in our interests.

I suggest we use whatever label we want, and accept each others choices to do likewise. We need to keep our eyes on the much bigger prize; an independent Scotland.

A Controversial Leader

If Labour think Jim Murphy is the man to lead them to salvation in Scotland, I really hope they elect him. The Scottish Labour bus is heading rapidly for a cliff edge. They need a new driver to slow down and turn it around. Jim Murphy will lock the steering in, and stomp on the accelerator.

He’s a controversial character. That in itself isn’t a problem if you have enough things going in your favour. He doesn’t.

Alex Salmond is a controversial character. Certain sections of the public, mostly hardcore Labour people hate him. Neutrals neither love or hate him, but they can see he’s a good leader and ambassador for Scotland. His own party love him too, as do SNP supporters and members. The SNP are offering policies that the mainstream want, such as protecting the NHS from privatisation. I honestly don’t understand why people hate Salmond but some do.

Jim Murphy by contrast is hated by the now growing number of SNP supporters, and a large chunk of his own party. He’s an Iraq war supporter and friend of Israel. He’s the epitome of London led UK Labour, and their shift to morph into the Tories. Scotland rejected the Tories and Tory policies, they won’t accept any party offering Tory policies. When Johann Lamont resigned because of a lack of autonomy from Westminster, is the solution, a Westminster MP?

When you have half of the electorate who won’t give you the time of day, you need someone capable of reaching out well beyond your usual base. Jim Murphy has a nationalist paranoia that won’t let him do that. He sees nats everywhere, even when they’re actually disgruntled ex Labour folks demanding Labour get back to their roots. While the party is a branch office of UK Labour, they can’t change anything, meaning the people berating him will simply increase in number.

Scottish Labour have been exposed as a branch office of a UK party willing to lie to the people, and who put their own party ahead of the people. No matter who the candidate is, they’re fighting against that backlash. Many people have passed a death sentence on Scottish Labour, while many others are waiting to see if it can be turned around before they’re willing to buy back in.

What I find really funny in all of this, is that Labour have bought into their own lies. They think the SNP are scared of Jim Murphy. I don’t see that at all.