A Ship Called Dignity

I broke with habit this morning and turned to Radio Scotland at ten past eight. (The kids were doing my head in.)


Up came Douglas Alexander as shadow foreign affairs spokesman giving an educated summary of events in Ukraine and the potential threat to the Baltic states and sounding, as always, briefed and competent. This is Douglas at his best, analysing and explaining with his sub-Blair tone of plausibility and demonstrating a capacity in opposition that I don’t remember being replicated in office. Some are better suited to opposition, good at challenging, but oddly dysfunctional in office. (Brian Wilson springs to mind.)


I did wonder briefly if, when he does interviews now, he’s thinking of them as job applications for some World Bank or EU role that might pop up for a respected international affairs former politician…

He is admirably cautious and steers away from military implications – I think that lesson has been learned – invoking the EU and further sanctions while generally gilding Labour with a seam of credibility absent from other policy areas. I can’t help wondering when some backbench woodentop will stamp on that credibility with tackitty boots and warn that with Putin on the march, the UK needs its own nuclear deterrent which could be fired independently on Moscow if it gets out of hand. My money’s on Brian Donohoe although Jackie Baillie has a personal first strike capability of her own.

Douglas had a Putinesque brusqueness about him, unusual when his default mode with interviewers is emollient and patient. ‘Yes. Yes. I’ll come to that point…’ This showed up as irritation with Gary Robertson for trying to interrupt the flow when, as Douglas knows, the odd question or two is what the principle of an interview is all about.

Wonder what’s bugging him, I thought.

Towards the end, we found out. Unless it was just morning dyspepsia, I think Douglas was digesting the Daily Record poll and had been advised by the production team beforehand that he would be asked a question about Labour’s performance – a question he couldn’t duck.


He knew he would have to brush aside as much of it as he could get away with and setting an impatient tone from the off would help. You can’t be all soothing one minute and clipped and gruff the next because that would show how pained you were.

And he did sound pained. Peeved. Miffed. Aggrieved, etc. We all know the mantra – that every vote for the SNP helps Cameron win and he dutifully made it without a challenge such as: ‘Didn’t Scotland vote Labour in the last election and still got Cameron? And again in 79, 83, 87 and 92 when we got Thatcher then Major?’

But it has a sense of truth about it that will be hard to dispel because it’s nice and simple and we haven’t fashioned a good enough slogan in reply yet but it won’t help if it’s asserted without question across the media as in this case.

It is noticeable though that Douglas – he is Labour’s thinker, remember – can’t give a positive reason for voting Labour and is left with the negative warning that, if you don’t vote for him, something worse will happen. Welcome to the indyref mark 2, courtesy of the Better Together team now running Scottish Labour. This isn’t even Things Can Only Get Better – it’s You’ll All Die of Plague.

So what was the reason why the Ashcroft polling found he was likely to lose his own seat in Paisley?


We’ll never know because Douglas’s ire was up by now and he went right off message ranting that the SNP had appointed someone who ‘thought Celtic fans were scum’ and who had ‘threatened violence’…and generally he sounded rattled and downright cross. It’s just possible that if he’d been asked another Putin question then he would have lost it. ‘We have to bomb the bastard…’

This isn’t the Douglas Alexander I know. Even wound up, he’s as scary as a kitten -just a polite middle class laddie that many voters will be a bit proud of because they wish their son was like him. Always, he calculates. So, knowing all the numbers, he usually devises a cute riposte that has the neutral muttering… ‘maybe he has a point.’ Not this time though. Instead he sounded like he didn’t have any answers except the grim, truth – that he’s in deep trouble and the house of cards is shaking. He certainly conveyed that message and if he’s worried, you can bet the more febrile and insecure among the Labour cohort are already taking medication.

The one argument he had exposes where Labour now are – that the concentration will soon fall on Tory versus Labour. They have to hope like Hell that when the media get fully up to speed for the election, the focus will be on Westminster, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband so the SNP will be excluded and, especially on television, they will be invisible. They are praying that the one-sided media will do what Labour can’t on its own and diss the Nats.

But hold on. What has historically applied may not this time. Despite television’s obsession with UKIP, Farage’s expected total is minimal (usually 2) and it will quickly become apparent that is so.


Alliances of Nationalists and Greens change the picture completely and with Sturgeon constructing a presence in England – and Cameron desperate to warn of a Labour-SNP government – I can’t see Douglas’s Land of Hope and Glory scenario working as normal. Sturgeon will be front of house for this production.

And, sorry Douglas – back to my own theory about this election. 2015 is about revenge. Scots are sick of Westminster and its self-seeking tribe no matter their affiliation. They were scunnered by Unionists in the indyref and it was the tipping point for significant numbers of Labour people who haven’t just embraced the SNP but are applying the zeal of the convert to Labour and want to punish them. They felt shame and embarrassment about Labour in those two years and their own self-worth was damaged by association. Labour lost its self-respect.

They see little distinction between the two parties (and the Lib Dems now) and have heard Labour’s UK message which is appeasement of the well-off in the Thames estuary where the votes pile high. And then there’s the leader. It’s true that voters narrow their focus on who looks and sounds like a leader as polling day nears and everything I see indicates that Miliband is Michael Foot without the donkey jacket – a loser.

The SNP meanwhile have learned from the referendum and are even more motivated now with a huge ground campaign, a new breed of candidate, unquenchable optimism and something else Labour have mislaid…a ship called dignity.


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27 thoughts on “A Ship Called Dignity

  1. Right on the button as always Derek.

    • I was astounded by that interview . It was extreme coldwar anti-russian propaganda . In fact most of what he said was just lies pure and simple. I was thinking there must be some connections to the arms trade or maybe a cushy number with NATO.

  2. Douglas Alexander is able to sound plausible on foreign affairs on the basis of not very much. His one slip on today’s topic was in hinting that the Baltic states were somehow among Europe’s “weaker democracies”. On what possible measure? The United Kingdom is more likely to feature among those! And I’m not sure that Douglas would be a match for Putin and his pals if he were ever to return to Ministerial office!

    • I can only speak as was said to us in Estonia, that they had a goodly amount of Russian Citizens who have no intention on integrating, they only speak Russian, live in one enclave and the feeling given is that most Estonian’s would dearly like to see them gone. I don’t think I would want some one in Britain discussing my affairs considering how rotten they are with their own.

  3. Spot on Derek – it’s that lack of grace, dignity and humility that marks Labour out these days – as demonstrated by Jenny Marra’s four time refusal of Gary Robertson’s request for her to say sorry.

  4. Very well said Derek. It just so happens I loathe wee Dougie but that aside, our current political leadership from Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise odious and murky world of UK politics. I cannot remember a time when we had so many decent, intelligent, capable and trustworthy politicians. The higher Ms Sturgeon’s profile in England goes (and with it the SNP’s) the better for all for now. They stand head and shoulders above every other UK party and politician I can think of.

  5. Fair enjoyed that Derek. 🙂

    Labour burnt bridges, boats, inflatable rubber rings and water wings in the referendum campaign and they did so with an alarming vigour. They turned on their own electorate like rattle snakes in defence of their system. They gave neither thought nor care to the harm they caused or the long reaching effects on the public.

    What happens in May, if its what we hope it to be, they will have brought upon themselves. For what they did to all of the Scottish electorate YES and NO voter alike, they deserve nothing less than to be cast into the political wilderness and allow newer, younger and better parties to take their place. Parties who know how to represent and reflect the wishes of their electorate.


  7. A great post Derek and I do hope that Dougie is bothered, he isn’t bothered enough though or he just cannot see how to get out of the bind they find themselves in, good.

  8. Enjoyed the post and there is a lot of truth in it, but I am afraid I think it is a mistake to try and make the General Election about revenge on Labour (much though they deserve it). The Election has to be about protecting Scotland from the Tories. We know Labour will not do it (79, 83, 87, 92, 2010) and indeed they have signed up for Tory policies. But the scary monster coming our way is a right-wing Tory Govt lurching further to the right. It is also smarter electoral tactics to run an anti-Tory campaign.

    • Red Tories or Blue Tories, they vote for the same austerity, fracking, Trident etc. The Scottish electorate cannot see much difference between them and the polls indicate that they are not much interested in either. Besides there is only one Conservative MP in Scotland at the moment and the polls currently expect this to decrease if anything. It is England that will decide what shade of Tory is the largest party in Westminster.

      Sending a large number of SNP MPs to Westminster is the best defence for Scotland.

  9. Good one Derek.
    Hope people aren’t taken in by the promises of boozin’ on the terraces and extra free medical care afterwards and so on.
    Incoherence is what marks out Labour in Scotland which isn’t surprising when they are trying to appeal to two electorates who have very different views on welfare and social inclusion (or exclusion in the case of the Mail readership).

  10. So glad you heard the interview this morning I was spitting my porridge at the radio when i heard him and his childisn SNP remarks…well done Derek

  11. Right now, as the polls will testify, the Scottish voters are clear – they will not be voting Labour.
    SLAB’s strategy is to get them confused and unclear.

  12. I was struck by how seamlessly DAlexander moved from dispassionate analysis of Russia to intemperate personal smearing of his Paisley GE2015 opponent.
    What occasioned DA’s unintentionally allowing the mask to slip can be only one thing: he’s worried.
    He’s not alone: the entire Scottish Labour Party shares his predicament.

  13. It’s Referendum Mark 2. Labour negativity, negativity, and yet more negativity. I am sick of it. I am sick of them.

  14. Superb Sir.

    This IS about revenge. And boy are we going to enjoy it.

    Jola standing outside Asda with her price threats.

    Too wee , too poor, etc.

    Lies and scares , day in day out.

    of course it;s about revenge. We want these bullies sorted big time. Take their seats and fill it with true Scots. Paybacks a bitch.

    No doubt many will contest this idea because there are many reasons for voting against the union parties but the sight of that lot on the dole will have the whole of Scotland partying.

    It’s so good to be alive in this time. We’re making history every day and the whole world is watching.

    Roll on May – Come-uppance Day 🙂

  15. Fascinating post, Derek. All Labour’s ills captured in Douglas Alexander’s brief appearance.

    Even when not being asked hard questions the default response mode is fea, fear, fear and a view of reality utterly distorted by an irrational hatred of the SNP. Labour in Scotland are like a OCD depressive – relentlessly negative and unable to break from self-destructive rituals. They truly are all Gordon Brown’s children.

    It’s this mindset that compelled them to refuse a sound ‘Devo Max’ option on last year’s ballot. It could have been the “Labour option”, let them campaign for something positive and distinct from the Tories. They could have rallied and revitalised the entire party to work FOR something rather than the endless vitriol against the SNP and they would have won hands down. Instead they chose the low road – Project Fear, and a binary ballot that they believed would finish the SNP for good. That was the strategy the great Labour intellectuals like Brown and Darling and Dougie here calculated. All that great brain power perverted by hatred, opportunism and self-interest.

    Labour forgot the people they were supposed to represent long, long ago. Now they’ve forgotten how to even act the part.

    Labour is finished here. Scotland shall not mourn.

  16. It was Project Fear, and its relentless pissing down on Scotland, doing down of Scotland, their contempt for our aspirations, that sealed their fate. Not their British Unionism, per se, but their Scottish contempt and belittling. I could have run a better Unionist campaign, Project Better, Project Britain, Project Unity, something like that, emphasise the positives. But as has been pointed out many times before, they could not give a positive reason for remaining in an austerity Britain under a Tory government. You are spot on that they demeaned themselves by attacking our dignity. It was dignity that made Keir Hardie form a separate party, because working class men were never selected as Liberal candidates. They were looked down on. And now Blair Dougall had the affrontery to write a history of the good man, who must be spinning in his grave.

  17. Labour may well be worried, but only the slightly smarter ones. Murphy hurtles triumphantly onwards, oblivious that the wheels have fallen off and the cart is falling apart, and it is not flowers that the populace are throwing in his direction.
    But back in the real world, Vince Cable is telling us that we don’t need Longannet as England will helpfully supply us with electricity thereby guaranteeing our status as a subservient, perpetually dependent client State.
    (Oh, he left out the last bit about “thereby…etc”.)

  18. I listened to that interview this morning. Is G Robertson lazy, stupid or simply following the BBC bias trail? With very little effort he could so easily have put D Alexander’s gas in a peep. Whatever Robertson’s game, he usually manages to sour the morning……which is why I seldom listen to GMS.
    But I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Derek. Your dissection made sense of the interview. Thank you.

  19. How about #VoteSNPGetSNP or #VoteSNPGetScotland

  20. I didn’t hear the 19th February GMS, but based on other interviews, you are far too kind to Douglas Alexander. When I see him interviewed, it’s as if he has all the party messages and sound bites of the day on a virtual cassette tape in his head, and he’ll wind along to the bit that he wants to play to us (sometimes with only a loose connection to the question). But when do you ever see him engage in argument back and forward on an issue?

    I heard him being interviewed by Tim Reid (BBC) on 4th February. Every question bar one got the response that we needed to vote Labour to get rid of the Tories. Maybe you can’t blame him too much; he said what he wanted to say, and Tim Reid didn’t seem to mind too much. But please don’t let us mark him down as “a thinker”.

  21. You already had this weeks “blog ball” after a fine treble….this blog is agin to that goal that three up against the opposition the defence having all but given up, the striker is running rampant….of course Scottish Labour haven’t given up….they may be bereft of positive ideas or any idea other than “vote SNP get the Tories”, but like a wounded carnivore they are now at their most dangerous.

    It is easy to forget that riding the highs of the opinion polls with a competent impressive leader in Nicola Sturgeon the opposition in Slab aren’t fighting an election….they’re fighting for their very political survival. I see no way back in politics for most of Scottish Labours current incumbents if they lose their seats.

    It’s going to get a lot more dirty…and of course dirty wars, nasty as they are, can provide results.

    To return to the football analogy …SNP ahead yes but let’s “keep the heid”….fortunately the opposition don’t have the political equivalent of Ronaldo sitting on the bench…….

  22. Yet the Estonian foreign minister on C4 News the other day said the Russian Estonians also knew that life was much better in Estonia than it is in Russia and had no desire to emulate the Eastern Ukrainians. And while fiercely culturally Russian are still Estonian.

    Now a government minister might well say that but there is an element of truth in it. I expect if the Estonian government were ever as stupid as the current Ukrainian one and bans Russian in the schools etc. Then those Russian Estonians might feel aggrieved. I think you will find the Estonian govt are aware of that. Lots of countries have sub populations and manage not to alienate them.

  23. I think Labour is exposed as never before, all Westminster parties are under voters scrutiny all over the UK. However, in Scotland Slab and therefore UK Labour are in a worse position, their false agendas here
    are different from the moves by the Westminster centrist Labour bosses.

    These are seen by the Scottish public who will not easily forget their platform sharing with the Tories, they have dug a very deep hole for themselves in Scotland. Assisted by the hapless Murphy, it gets worse daily.
    They are reaping the reward for their deceit here, I for one hope they suffer severely for it.

    In the article ” My money’s on Brian Donohoe although Jackie Baillie has a personal first strike capability of her own.”

    I can’t help thinking of the mess if Bailly was strapped to one of the first strike missiles.
    Now that may well frighten Putin, witless!

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