Well! That was disappointing! I read the headline and supposed we might be in for some serious, hard-headed thinking about the strategy for the new referendum campaign. I wasn’t long in being disabused of that notion.
It all started so well, with talk of the fundamental constitutional argument for independence. This gave the impression that Patrick Harvie was about to put that fundamental constitutional argument right where it belongs, at the very heart of the campaign.
Then he wrote of “…the need for the campaign to draw strength from its diversity…” and instantly dispelled any notion I’d had that Patrick Harvie might be about to contribute some significant insight. And, as if to confirm that this wasn’t just a momentary lapse, he comes out with this,
“…rather than expecting every Yes voter to bury the rest of their politics. There will never be a majority if independence appeals only to those who feel motivated by flags and patriotism…”
Our Patrick seems to have a bit of a thing about flags. Were I in a more light-hearted frame of mind after reading his article, I might have asked if his mummy had been frightened by a banner when she was expecting him. He certainly seems to suppose that they carry some dark meaning. I look at a Saltire and see only an emblem of Scotland and its people. Goodness knows what ghastly horrors poor Patrick sees.
What is perplexing is that, having correctly identified the essence of the constitutional argument – that the people of Scotland are sovereign and they alone should decide the nation’s future – he seems to forget it completely. Having paid lip service to this fundamental idea, he goes on to imply that, when you “bury” the rest of politics, all that’s left is “flags and patriotism”. What happened to that core idea that the people are the legitimate source of legitimate political authority? What happened to the “basic democratic argument, that it’s the people who live in Scotland who should decide the country’s future”?
The point that Patrick Harvie so tragically misses is that this is precisely what is left when you strip away all the various policy agendas. It all comes down to the question of who decides. To say that “flags and patriotism” is all you have left when these policy agendas are taken out of the equation is to put “flags and patriotism” where the fundamental constitutional argument should be. I don’t suppose, given his pathological aversion to such things, that this was Patrick Harvie’s intention. Which kinda makes it worse. Because one might have hoped that he would have put some thought into and article which is purports to be advising us on how to fight the next referendum campaign.
I sincerely trust nobody is listening to his advice. Because he clearly hasn’t a clue. After identifying the fundamental issue of the campaign, he woefully fails to follow the thought. If it’s the fundamental issue, then it’s what the campaign has to be all about. You don’t identify that core issue and then just drop it to and go off on a speculation spree about stuff that is not and cannot be part of your campaign strategy. You cannot sensibly base a campaign strategy on what your opponents might do or what might happen if something else doesn’t.
You can campaign for a thing. Or you can campaign against a thing. But in all cases it must be absolutely clear what the thing is. You cannot campaign either for or against a disputed concept. It has to be something on which there is general agreement within your campaign. Otherwise, your campaign spends all its time disputing the concept concept instead of campaigning for it.
The undisputed concept of the independence campaign is not independence. Because independence is a disputed concept. There are myriad definitions and explanations of independence. It means different things to different people. The one thing they all have in common is the desire to #DissolveTheUnion.
Patrick Harvie doesn’t understand the basics of a political, as opposed to and electoral, campaign. A single issue campaign must focus on that single issue. So, totally contrary to what Patrick Harvie commends, it is absolutely essential that Yes campaigners to “bury the rest of their politics” for the duration of the campaign and to try and persuade voters to do the same. To set aside those policy agendas until after independence is restored. To get voters to focus on the fundamental constitutional issue.
I realised as soon as he wrote of “the need for the campaign to draw strength from its diversity” that Patrick Harvie was making a tragic error. He is confusing the movement with the campaign. The Yes movement draws its strength from its diversity. But what is diversity in a movement is division and diffusion in a campaign.
Ignore Patrick Harvie. There are three key words you should remember when considering the shape and form of the new referendum campaign – SOLIDARITY! FOCUS! DISCIPLINE!
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