A Lib Dem Writes

There is a tone of admonition in the air as vituperative Yes language lights up Twitter, often reflecting the deep distrust and naked dislike of Jim Murphy. Both Iain McWhirter today and Gerry Hassan think its going too far and is counter-productive because it fuels the idea that nationalists are either extremist or thugs – the perception ironically created by Murphy himself, among others. First he provoked and then ran away when he got a reaction. ‘Look – a mob organised by the Yes campaign’ he shouted in just one of many clear made-up slavers that are his hallmark. Wings captures another today from his havering on TV about SNP and Labour membership.

Jim can’t help himself because he has learned that he can say virtually anything he likes and he won’t be challenged by journalists. The trick is to get a message out there via STV, the BBC or the craven Press and by the time somebody does question it, it’s too late. He knows it works because his voters don’t bother to check and he knows Labour’s unspoken mantra – the voters never remember. That’s why Labour, as Paul Sinclair said, take Scotland (and Scots) for granted. It’s how it’s always been and former socialist George Foulkes was doing it again yesterday with a message on Radio Scotland for voters to forget the SNP in the General Election and vote Labour to get rid of the Tories. This tired and disproved slogan has worked for decades as Labour treated its support with contempt believing them too unintelligent to have minds of their own – or even to check if it’s true. But it’s not working so well now and that’s their bind – the voters have had their eyes opened to who really works with the Tories and whose major policies like macro economics, foreign affairs and defence are near identical.

I don’t like some of the terms of abuse I see. But, know what? I ignore them and move on, just as I do if there something on my television I don’t like, which is often. The fact is that people don’t talk like columnists or studio presenters and what you see on Twitter is much closer to the slang of the streets. Unattractive, maybe, but do we really need the Queensberry rules for our debate? Isn’t Murphy calling nationalists thugs just as bad? Isn’t Lamont terming us a virus worse than Red Tory? And if I’m not mistaken Nick Clegg launched a deeply personal and insulting attack on Alex Salmond, reported today. So why so coy?

Every organisation has outriders and people are wise enough to know it. No one voice, and certainly not abusive trollers, represents any one argument and I don’t believe any potential Yes supporters will be scared off. After all, is insulting a politician worse than a politician claiming, as Murphy does, that the Iraq war would have been different ‘if only he’d known the facts’? This is the coward’s way out – pretending ignorance when the UN, Hans Blix and a million marchers were screaming the truth at them. How many died in Murphy’s war? How many suffered? How damaged is a country? To wheedle out by select subterfuge is an insult to every Iraqi and to every dead soldier AND to Rose Gentle and the others whose families he helped destroy. Against that, who cares about ‘The 45″ or ‘Red Tory’ jibes?

Some perspective is required before we scorn and deter the newly-politicised who surf Twitter. And here  it comes not from a Nat but from one of Murphy’s Unionist friends, the Liberal candidate in  Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill, Andrew Page.  It was written in August and provides what I believe is the required balance.


Jim Murphy halts speaking tour – a calculated over-reaction?
It has been announced that Labour MP Jim Murphy has cancelled his pro-Union 100 Towns in 100 Days tour of Scotland due to “intimidation”.

Murphy has been taking his message around Scottish towns for the last few weeks, in jingositic fashion replacing the traditional soapbox with a Irn Bru crate.

Yesterday, while addressing the public in Kirkcaldy, Murphy was hit by three eggs. A photographer was also threatened, on account of “being English”.

This should not be welcome in Scottish politics. Throwing eggs and threatening is hardly the hallmark of a healthy democracy.

Murphy told The Guardian: “What is happening is that the yes campaign is now organising to create a mob atmosphere at our street meetings. It’s co-ordinated, it’s determined and it’s increasingly aggressive. What started as individual passionate nationalists having their say has changed into angry mobs of nationalists coming along and making sure that no one else has their say… instead of undecided voters being encouraged to stop and take part in the debate, those who ask genuine questions are being interrogated by yes campaigners.”

It is an inescapable fact that the campaigning has often been less respectful that it could be. One the the first influences in determining my own decision to vote yes was a cartoon from my own party blackening up the First Minister. And we’ve experienced much worse since then, from both sides – and from none. it should be pointed out that individuals who feel strongly about issues do not necessarily belong formally to any of the rival campaign organisations.

The scenes yesterday were ugly, that much is true. But uglier still, from the viewpoint of furthering Scottish democracy, has been the attempt by Better Together to suggest that Yes Scotland have co-ordinated such attacks intentionally, and that such tactics demonstrate the undemocratic nature of what Scotland would look like if independent. The smears are no more civilised that the egg-hurling, but the difference is that those making accusations of Yes Scotland, and drawing unreasonable conclusions, are either officials of Better Together or people who I would normally credit with sufficient intelligence to appreciate that the actions of a tiny minority have little relation to the attitudes of the majority. It’s disturbing to see some buying into the myth that the idiotic antics of a few are suggestive of the nature of an independent Scotland. (I’d probably point out that, in any case, cultures and societal attitudes are generally not determined by constitutional arrangements, and that the same intolerant persons would still be here regardless of the outcome of the vote.)

We could all look at a picture of the Westboro Baptist Church, with their hate-filled slogans written on poorly constructed banners, and think “stupid Americans” or “typical Christians”. But in doing so we would, by resorting to such ridiculous simplicities, miss the bigger picture and the actions of the many in America and within the church who are working to facilitate a more inclusive society. The same is true in Scotland. There have been individuals supporting both Yes Scotland and Better Together who have behaved shamefully, but the respective campaigns (for all the shortcomings I’ve often documented on this blog) are not actively encouraging mob rule.
It must be said that this kind of thing is not exactly new to British politics. In the 1992 General Election, John Major took to the streets. Hounded everywhere by Labour supporters (who behaved in much the same way as Murphy’s detractors; hecking, shouting over him and generally making a nuisance of themselves) he too was hit by a well-aimed egg. His response, showing courage in the face of intimidation, (“I will not be shouted off the streets”) helped win him the 1992 election. Stunts like this are usually counter-productive, and usually only succeed in gaining public sympathy for the target.

Murphy understands this fully, and has the political nous to use it fully to his advantage. For all the talk of police concern for Murphy’s safety, the scenes in Kirkcaldy were no worse than previous attacks on politicians – and certainly not as concerning as the attack on John Prescott in Hull in 2001. Are the Yes supporters, for all their noise and bluster, really any worse than the Labour supporting mobs who followed the Tories around in the 1980s and 1990s?

Murphy thrives on conflict and the adversarial. He’s a hugely provocative figure. His personal style and outspoken nature means he will always be the kind of politician targeted by mobs. But he’s a man of tremendous strength, and the notion that he’s the kind of person likely to be intimidated is laughable. He does understand, however, the value of playing the victim and painting his opposition as tolerant of underhand and intimidatory tactics.

It’s important to maintain a sense of perspective and not to deduce too much significance from the fact that some people, irrespective of their political tribe, behave disrespectfully towards others. Hecklers have been a common feature of political discourse for centuries and actually are the sign of a healthy and thriving democracy. During the 2011 election campaign, as a candidate for Renfrewshire North and West, I attended a TUC hustings meeting at which there was both a healthy level of interjection and banter from the floor and a regrettable tendency by some to attempt to bully SNP candidate Derek Mackay. I’m not opposed to those who don’t share Murphy’s views challenging them in the most public of public forums, although there should never be a need for dissent to be expressed in uncivil ways. It appears that lines have been crossed, but to draw unfair conclusions about Yes Scotland and to overstate the security threat is an irresponsible over-reaction – albeit one that has undoubtedly been cynically calculated.

Willie Rennie claims that this shows the need to “stand up to the nationalist thugs”. It does not. It shows the need to stand up for a better way of doing politics. He could, and should, have used more temperate language. I have only once experienced seriously thuggish behaviour – when I was my brother’s agent in Blackburn in local elections that were essentially an straight BNP v Labour battle. The respective campaigns, and the inevitable animosity (culminating in brawls, allegations of voter intimidation and a ballot box somehow going on fire), were so poisonous as to make the worst cybernat appear positively tolerant by comparison. It does Willie little credit to resort to such loaded statements, when he could very easily have called for calm, reasonable and respectful conduct from all sides.

Hopefully Murphy’s tour will continue in a few days’ time, when the police accept he isn’t being targeted by seasoned terrorists; I also trust that Yes Scotland will distance itself from the extreme behaviour of a few of its more vocal supporters. This action from the Yes camp is, in my view, vitally important to rebut the claims being made by Better Together and Murphy personally. Perhaps then we’ll remember Jim Murphy in the same way as Brian Mawhinney, Ed Miliband, John Prescott and David Cameron – just another politician who’s had an egg thrown at them.

It could have been worse. At least it wasn’t blue paint…



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20 thoughts on “A Lib Dem Writes

  1. I wish I could talk to MaxWhirter. I point out he can’t have it both ways

    He can’t admit that the press is going to kill any positive YES message and gloss over failings of no, AND expect peoole not to get angry because MacWhirter’s colleagues are not doing the fair and equitable job people used to think journalists did.

    As much as patronusing BT lady, we are being told to eat our cereal by him and Hassan

  2. As the Reverend Stu has tweeted, the best responses to the fibbing are forensic dissection and mockery. Abuse doesn’t cut it.

  3. Have to say I have a lot of time for McWhirter, but think he is aiming at the wrong target. He should be aiming at his fellow ”journos” who are about to embark on a rerun of the indyref campaign coverage, this time, in the months leading up to the 2015 GE. We can already see history being re written regards this Murphy character, and everything he has stood for. The signs are there that he will be allowed to spout blatant lies unchallenged, though many ordinary Yessers could, and would, if given the chance.

    Cant remember Mr McWhirter calling out Darling, Broon etc as the blatant liars they were, during indyref. His colleagues in the 99% of the unionist media didn’t.

    It will be down to us, again, it looks like, to do the job that the discredited trade, called journalism, has singularly failed to do up to now.

    There is still a lot of justified anger out there and I will continue to call out proven liars and their mouthpieces.

  4. Jim can’t help himself because he has learned that he can say virtually anything he likes and he won’t be challenged by journalists.

    That is the major problem Derek. Who honestly expects Jim Murphy or Margaret Curran, Jackie Baillie etc to act with integrity, and not continually lie to the people of Scotland? I don’t think anybody does. It has been obvious for years that SLAB are intent on preserving their careers and lifestyles, at the expense of the electorate and Scotland. By not challenging Murphy and co on their lies the MSM have lost all credibility. As you say Murphy can say what he wants because he knows he will rarely if ever be held to account. BBC Scotland have lost all credibility as well, they let the lies go on and on without saying a single thing. It is why they are known as Pravda on the Clyde, and BBC Labour Scotland.

    • I believe it was Mark Twain who first said that, ” A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on it’s shoes”. And that is our biggest problem, just as it was during the referendum campaign. The M.S.M, led by their cheerleader, the B.B.C, will never hold to account any unionist politician, no matter how many lies they spout, never. And while websites such as this do a great job in exposing all their untruths, the sad fact is that the Westminster establishment, and their acolytes still rule, and woe betide anyone who challenges their power. Locally, as one of the constituences who voted overwhelmingly for independence, the only way we can counteract the media bias is to be out on the streets, just as we have been for the last two months, leafleting, canvassing, and believe you me, even in former Labour supporting areas, we are making inroads, just as we did during the referendum campaign. We are again hearing from people who at one time wouldn’t have thought of voting for any other party but Labour, but are now sickened by their collaboration with the Tories, and are now going to vote S.N.P in the forthcoming G.E. We will never get a level playing field from the M.S.M, it will never happen, so we have to play to our strengths, and one of them is the huge increase in our membership, so I’m hoping that when we restart our campaign next month, as many people as possible will join us on the streets getting our message out to as many people as possible.

  5. “And here it comes not from a Nat but from one of Murphy’s Unionist friends, the Liberal candidate in Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill, Andrew Page”

    He may be a Liberal, but as far as I’m aware, Andrew was a Yes supporter!

  6. We are entering an era of Murphy’s Law. He will do great damage to the Independence campaign in the short term with the help of MSM. But it will survive. Scottish Labour will not.

  7. Derek, have you invited Murphy for an interview? As a leader of a party, albeit at Branch Office level, surely he will be delighted to have opportunity to express his views and answer some real journalistic, challenging questions?

  8. I remember Andrew posting on NNS a couple years back and always liked his style.

    But I agree wholeheartedly we’re not media friendly, not practised in political double speak, we’re just ordinary people. We’re people who have been lied to, misled, manipulated, misrepresented, demonised and abused by our own media and political representation. We’re people who were offered zero platform for redress or reply by those same institutions, so yes I think our anger and frustration is completely understandable and we speak our minds as ordinary people should.

    I deplore the the use of violence, and would be first in line to call anyone a halfwit who would consider resorting to physically harming another person. But that’s why we have such an expressive language, so that we can make our feelings known with crystal clarity. With access to social media and the internet our only recourse until recent times and lacking the political/media ‘skills’ of those who govern and direct our lives we can do what we do best, tell them a turd is a turd no matter how hard you polish it on whatever the issue of the day is. As you say Derek sometimes the language and sentiment can be overly intemperate, and not to everyone’s taste, but with no other recourse people will channel their rage and disgust in the only way they feel they can.

    By saying rude swerry wurds in print.

    Mr Murphy is exactly as you describe him however and if ever a bully was ideally suited to playing the victim, its him. A right wing Blairite careerist, known for his own bully boy tactics in commons and expert at playing the media to extract maximum effect. Agent provocateur with knobs on. He’ll push and push and push with the aid of a complicit media until he gets a reaction he can splash across both print and broadcast media. Yes, his actions are hateful and designed to spread division and misery to achieve political aims, but they only work so long as people listen and believe.

    Best way to declaw this fella is to take his arguments apart and laugh long and loud at his ridiculous statements. Remove the effectiveness of his platform by ridiculing and boycotting the media who would support and aid him. Hide the irn bru crates and stick a banana in the megaphone as it were. He is ridiculous, his politics are deplorable and the system he serves created both.

    Only ordinary people, with an ordinary voice, can change the way things are done.

  9. And it all comes back to the utter failure of our MSM to do their job. Every time ANY politician (Unionist or not) makes a statement in an interview they should be challenged to substantiate it and if they can’t they should be challenged to withdraw. But they are never challenged at all on anything.
    And journalists need to re-learn to go after the story – not wait for it to come to them. Where has there been sustained front page or broadcast headline coverage of the UK’s complicity in rendition by the CIA for example?
    Of course ordinary people are angry because they can see with their own eye that, with one or two exceptions, the journalists who should be angry on their behalf have instead turned into roll-me-over-and-tickle-my-tummy poodles for the political classes.

    • Pure fact Steve, we don’t have a media. What we have is a propaganda wing of central government. A beast completely politically and corporately compromised.

      They can’t be talked to, reasoned with, trusted or called upon, they can only be ignored and declawed. They only have traction so long as people let them.

      IMO our first job is to build a media we can trust and take people away from the established media by word of mouth. A slow tedious process, but an effective one as has been shown by the plummeting viewing/listening figures of the BBC and the ferocious drop in readerships amongst mainstream titles. This being paralleled by the rapid growth in online independent news and civic journalism/commentary (blogs). If they won’t represent us, we create our own representation. If they won’t inform us, we go out and find information for ourselves.

      They let us down, betrayed the democratic process. I see no reason to support them in their hour of need.

  10. ronald alexander mcdonald

    Iain MacWhirter failed to mention the cause of abusive comments. Namely, the blatant MSM bias in failing to challenge any statement made by Murphy.

    It also runs deeper than that. Murphy is depicted as the saviour of the Union. If Labour in Scotland collapses so does the Union. This was effectively confirmed by Paul Sinclair the other night on Scotland Tonight. “Jim Murphy has to succeed”.

    Perhaps some people struggle to express themselves in an appropriate fashion in light of blatant lies and as such their understandable anger takes control.

  11. Totally agree with the comments above that note that Murphy’s stock-in-trade is as a big mouth agent provocateur determined to get a reaction, so we must not give him the ammunition he wants but pour cold water on him by deconstructing his fact free hyperbole.

    Also totally agree that what makes him effective is the subservience of a compliant media. The other day the Telegraph was reporting fully his big talk without challenging him on any of it. How is he going to re-write Clause Four and tell Miliband to stuff it when his party in Scotland is an impoverished rump? Why would British Labour agree to re-write Clause Four in favour of a Scottish Labour Party when Murphy has no army behind him?

    • Murphy as a serving MP can do no such thing. He will not have a clause 4 moment or indeed any other kind of “moment”. He can offer nothing with it getting the ok from Miliband. Why? Because he needs money from UK labour to keep his machine running. He still faces the tricky job of getting into holyrood, where with much fanfare from the BBC, he will arrive as the leader of the opposition party. Not its first minister. When Miliband seeks to kill the Smith proposals, as he must if he is to stave off EVEL, this is labours existential nightmare, not the SNPs – that leaves Murphy looking like Lamont did during her painful tenure in office. Not a leader, but an simple employee of the UK party, with no more control over the direction of his Scottish branch, than Canute had over the tides of the sea.

      The best way to wipe the smug grin from his face, is for the SNP to be what he can never be. A champion for social justice and meaningful change. Just remember the looks on labours front bench when Salmond told them he would not let them chase people for old poll tax debts. Thats how we beat him and the free pass he gets from elements in the MSM.

      • Read somewhere that he’s set himself the task of raising £1 million for Scottish Labour to fight the election. The article was suggesting from businesses in the west of Scotland. It was also reported on Wings that the Tories have a strong contender for his Eastwood seat next May likely to scoop up the 6000 Jewish votes in that constituency. It was formerly a Tory seat. He can puff along nicely with smoke and mirrors aided by a friendly compliant media but at some point he has to deliver. Wings also reporting the Scottish General Secretary job now being advertised, applications to a London address. I don’t suspect Miliband will want somebody in that job that’s a Murphy man if Murphy goes around challenging Ed’s authority.

  12. cynicalHighlander

    Jim Murphy will be on Clyde2 on sunday open for questions from the public.


  13. We had a bit of a laugh in our house last night, and the subject of out hilarity was none other than Alan Cochrane. This was brought on by the revues of said Alan’s book on Amazon. Most were humorous some were rude, but some how they were mostly from intelligent people who had used humour as a weapon. Those who were quite frankly lacking in humour were those who thought the book was just perfect, told the story from the NO side exactly as it happened.
    Some here might be amazed as we were to discover that there are now three groups of people living cheek by jowl in Scotland, those Scots who voted NO, those Scots who voted YES and the NATS. Well I know many of us felt we had lost our country on September 19th, we were two such people but we thought regardless we were allowed to use the term Scots, as we certainly have no other nationality.
    Yes I agree Derek, we are ordinary people, we write as we feel. If people like McWhirter and Hassan do not care for it I suggest they do the job they allegedly take the money for. Neither have done much for the case for Scotland and independence.

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