When in Glasgow today I stopped to listen to a bit of a ‘No Thanks’ rally where a prominent MP and City Councilor perched on upturned crates and took turns on the microphone. It was all pretty macho stuff. People were invited to give questions (unamplified) while we listened to our speakers talk back to them over the loudspeaker, on more than one occasion making fun of the questioner and undermining them personally. This was cheering on the big man stuff. It was far from edifying. The rhetoric was assertive, combative and unwavering, redeemed if at all only by a moment near the end where the MP told us he’d rather we vote Yes than that we didn’t vote at all.
That was a nice human touch in a spectacle of dominance and ego.
It was perhaps an appropriate metaphor – people with a loudspeaker provoking a response from the fringes and then slapping them down while looking calm and in control. The MP even said ‘This is old style politics…’
Yes it was.
After the little rally I spoke to a few apologetic looking Labour for Yes representatives that agreed the display was macho, retrograde and dispiriting. This kind of politics works which is why they do it. It encourages your hardline supporters to get out and paralyses undecideds. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the MP in question. He spoke with passion and vigour and I believe he genuinely cares about the union. But he was doing so at a cost.
The Labour for Yes supporters were squriming, they were Labour but they weren’t this Labour.
That’s a familiar sentiment.
How many people have said – ‘I haven’t left the Labour party – the Labour party left me’? How many people were surprised to see the word ‘left’ written twice in the same sentence as ‘the Labour party’?
A vote for Yes is not a vote for the SNP. If you are an SNP supporter you will likely be in favour of this referendum. But maybe this Indie is too light for you. Maybe you want a new currency, republicanism and a radical new vision of independence. The SNP do not have a simple, homogeneous supporter base, there are a lot of people there with a lot of interesting, contrasting ideas.
The Tories, a toxic brand up here, have a lot to gain from independence. I really think Scottish Tories do. Could a severing once and for all from the mother ship be the best fresh of clean, crisp air for Scottish conservatives? A new centre right party for a new time, that can remind us to foster strong values, nurture self-reliance and preserve valid traditions. A party that can talk the talk and walk the walk of the Big Society with no irony and no apology. A centre right party that is about community, the here and now, and that can be freed once and for all from the 1980s.
The Lib Dems, oh if we ever needed a new liberal party it is now. I’m sure if Nick Clegg could wrangle it he’d leap at the chance at a clean slate. Scotland has a fantastic, vibrant intellectual tradition of liberal thought. Imagine the interaction between a robust, humane centre right party and a daring, rigorous new liberal party. Compare that to the Westminster coalition we have now.
Imagine a Labour party free from the cut and thrust of Westminster, back to its roots. Imagine a centre left party which could with a straight face make a new deal with a new generation of workers and innovators. That don’t consult a think tank but consult the people. A centre left party that promotes equality and cooperation and that takes its heart supporters with it, and no longer for granted.
And the Greens are offering a compelling alternative vision of what an independent Scotland could look like. A Scotland that is a beacon in the world, a new kind of country re-learning old songs. Their vision is inspiring, visionary and demanding. They could collaborate as noble king makers with a ragtag mix of any of the above.
And maybe you don’t fit into any of these categories. Maybe you want something new – well now’s your chance. We have an unprecedented opportunity to re haul our democratic system. The description above may be idealistic but independence (especially one garnered as peacefully as this) could well be the catalyst to galvanize the existing political parties and create new ones.
The only people I see missing out are possibly those on the extreme right. It’s not that they don’t exist in Scotland, but considering all the rest that will be going on they won’t continue to get the ridiculous amount of attention and overexposure they currently get from the mainstream media.
How much will all this cost? How much will it cost us if we don’t?