If you’re going to jump on a bandwagon then do it with style. Kevin McKenna shows how with his column in The National. I am not being derogatory at all when I say this. The ‘bandwagon’ idiom suggests only that someone has come late to an issue or cause. It need say nothing condemnatory about their motives for doing so. I don’t keep track of Mr McKenna’s mood swings. His evident anger at the SNP may not be new. What matters is that it is evidently real. What matters is that it is fully justified.
Kevin McKenna is jumping on a bandwagon at least in the sense that he is adding his voice to a growing clamour of protest directed not at the ‘auld enemy’ of the British establishment but at the de facto political arm of Scotland’s independence movement. Nothing that he says in his column has not been said by others, including myself. But he says it well enough that it sounds fresh. I congratulate and commend him for this.
Some would contend that there is already a Cummings-like figure in the SNP. Or at least a Cummings-like force. Our lizard brains respond most predictably and vehemently to an identifiable ‘enemy’. The demonisation of and individual is a direct appeal to our basest instincts. Which helps to explain the personality politics that we have grown inured to. The reality is, as Kevin McKenna suggests, that true personalities in politics are uncommon whereas forces are ubiquitous. Those forces can be likened to the eddies in the flow of a river. Little eddies want to become the currents which direct the flow. Minor personalities seek the eddies which have potential to become currents. A few have the skill to make it appear that they are the force pushing the current rather than the flotsam riding on it. Fewer still can actually manage and manipulate the tides of public affairs; and then on in ways that are small and short-lived on the grand scale of history.
I have previously pointed out that it is a mistake to regard Boris Johnson as an aberration. Rather, we should think of him as the inevitable product of a political system lost to corruption. Johnson would not be where he is had there not been a tide flowing within the British ruling elites such as to carry him there. Similarly, Dominic Cummings would not have gained the influence he evidently wields had he not been astute enough to see the way the wind was blowing, to mix my fluid mechanics metaphors slightly.
Is such a wind blowing through the SNP? Perhaps! Is there someone who can both take advantage of the current and aid its flow by removing obstacles? Maybe! The Yes movement will decide. Only party members can sort out the cliques and cabals within the SNP. Like it or not, they will require a leader in order to do so. That’s just the way politics works. You won’t change that by snootily opting out, But it is the Yes movement which will decide. The relationship between the two – party and movement – is symbiotic. As is common with such relationships, either can seem like parasite or host depending on how you look at it. In reality, it doesn’t matter which is which. They need each other. Neither is likely to cease to exist without the other. But neither can flourish and prosper unless they work together.
Kevin McKenna’s column will resonate with many people across Scotland this morning. It will resonate with more people this evening. and more still tomorrow. A tide is running through both the SNP and the wider independence movement. The feeling is becoming ever more general that something has to change. Something is needed that will take both movement and party and from them mould a campaign. A campaign which does not pause any more than does the flow of politics or the tides of history. A campaign dedicated to a cause.
A passage from Kevin McKenna’s article struck a chord with me.
Cummings is a formidable political operator who is doing for Boris Johnson what Alastair Campbell did for Tony Blair: protect him; knife his enemies; put the civil service back in its box, and maintain the integrity of the project.
The project! That is the thing. Boris Johnson’s project is Boris Johnson’s advancement. There are signs that he considers that project complete and has grown bored with it. (There are indication that he may want to play at being a father for a while. One can only pity the child if Boris Johnson brings to parenting the same ‘attributes’ as have been his gift to politics.) If there is a next stage in that advancement it is his further elevation – whether this be the award of a Dead Stoat Clock or the rewards accruing to an ‘elder statesman’ (see Tony Blair) – he can be confident that the corrupt British political system will take care of that for him. That’s both cause and symptom of the corruption.
Dominic Cummings has prospered by pairing his project with Johnson’s. He may have a project of his own but if he has it is one which is served by being subsumed into the one that occupies his master.
Neither has a cause. Neither is working towards a greater goal. Both Johnson and Cummings think only of the next phase of the project. The next obstacle to be removed from Boris Johnson’s path. The next political foe to be brought down. The next bit of power to be added to the fortifications of power protecting the power they already have. The difference between them is that Cumnmings approaches the project with a full set of very sharp intellectual tools while Johnson relies on some quality or capacity which I must confess remains a complete mystery to me. They have no cause. The reality they seek to create is whatever reality happen to be once the current stage of the project is finished. There is no master plan. There is nothing at the end of their rainbow. They have no rainbow.
Is this, as Kevin McKenna suggests, the kind of person (or force) that the SNP needs? My finer feelings say no! But my political instincts say yes! In this instance, head wins out over heart. Both the SNP and the Yes movement need an injection of cold, calculating political pragmatism. They both need the Cummings-like figure or force that McKenna describes. With one very important difference. This force must be deployed in the service, not of the party or the movement but the cause. Scotland’s cause! We have a cause where they have only a project. To the extent that we have a project that project has a plan and an objective. A greater goal.
What Scotland needs is someone who knows the difference between a movement and a party and a project and a campaign. Someone who understands the relationships between and among all these. Someone who possesses the technical skills, political acumen and personal qualities needed to draw all these strands together and make them work for Scotland’s cause. The cause of restoring Scotland’s independence.
Scotland’s cause needs a leader.
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19 thoughts on “Scotland’s cause needs a leader”
The current leadership give the impression that because the cause is noble the process by which we achieve our goal must be worthy.
In fact it is the cause that is worthy and the means to that end should be whatever it takes (short of violence).
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The difference between them is that Cumnmings approaches the project with a full set of very sharp intellectual tools while Johnson relies on some quality or capacity which I must confess remains a complete mystery to me.
If demagogic,well funded,opportunism is an intellectual tool, I would differ.
They have no cause.
I fully agree with that, they only seem to me to hold a deeply felt, but dimly understood, resentment towards the the world they were born in.
Well, if Sturgeon can issue a ‘plan’ with no action points or timescales then Cummings can have a ‘project’ without any goals.
The difference between the two of them is that Sturgeon would create something yet change nothing in doing so and Cummings would create nothing yet destroy everything in doing so.
Both are misguided but I know for sure which one is easier to achieve.
The end justifies the means, is this what is being suggested?
Peter you keep saying that the movement for YES and the political SNP membership will decide the direction of our cause , why is it then that the SNP membership appear happy to go along with a leadership who is more interested in introducing legislation and laws that are abhorred and reviled by at least 50% of the voters they require to re-elect them to power
If the SNP membership are as dedicated to independence as the YES movement why are WE having to put up with a leader who has utterly failed to capitalise on numerous occasions to win us our independence , and who totally refuses to take the legal route through the ICJ to affirm Scottish citizens sovereignty
Why is the SNP membership not FORCING NS to either move forward with her promises or to stand down , why is she being allowed to destroy our chances of independence by capitulation and subservience to the WM establishment
Why is the SNP membership accepting being TORN out of the EU against our wishes when the Leader and the blowhard Blackford repeated endlessly that we would not be
Quite honestly even if we had a leader to promote and further the CAUSE I am convinced that NS and her acolytes would find some way to delay or frustrate the trajectory
It really , really annoys me that my desire and dream of independence for my country and my fellow citizens is based on voting for a political party and politicians whose response to anything independent is TEPID and apathetic . It is called BLACKMAIL
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I can assure you that the SNP membership – or a substantial and growing part thereof – is NOT “happy to go along” with everything that the leadership is doing. But I would ask you to consider two points. Firstly, it should come as no surprise that the entire party organisation is set up in such a way as to support the leadership and the elected members. How could it be otherwise? After all, the leadership and office-bearers are elected by the members. The policy program is decided or approved by the members. It would make little sense to have the party structured in such a way that the leadership was constantly having to seek approval for its actions.
This is not to say that the leadership isn’t answerable to members. Only that there are set forums and procedures for this – notably, conference. Once delegates have voted, that is it. What has been decided cannot be changed other than by conference. There simply are no procedures by which SNP members can challenge the leadership on an ad hoc basis. If there were, the whole thing would rapidly descend into chaos. Member may not be “happy to go along” with the leadership, but there isn’t much they can do about it.
The situation is further complicated when the leader of the party is also the head of government. The role of First Minister is quite distinct from the role of party leader. The FM is answerable to the electorate, not just SNP members. Which is, of course, a statement of the obvious. But it means that there can arise a conflict between the incumbent’s responsibility to the party and to the country. If in prevailing circumstances, the FM decides a course of action is best for the country then they have a duty to follow that course of action regardless of party policy. Usually, of course, there is some kind of compromise. The point is, we couldn’t have a situation where the membership was able to force the FM to take a course of action other than what the FM considered best. This might seem more ‘democratic’ in the context of the party. But it’s hardly more democratic in the context of the country.
Politics may be about principles. But the practice of politics is all about pragmatism. It’s all compromise.
There being no formal means by which party members can give effect to their objections, what about an informal means of bringing pressure to bear. This comes up against another difficulty. It is all but impossible to protest a particular thing the FM does without this being generalised to everything the FM does and personalised to the FM as an individual. Even to make a mild objection to some small matter of disagreement risks this being inflated to a ‘blow’ to the FM and/or a ‘split’ in the party. Unsurprisingly, members are thus deterred from taking a stand.
If and when members do take a stand, it always involves confronting what may be an intractable dilemma. I, for example, am wholly persuaded that Nicola Sturgeon is the best First Minister Scotland could have. Particularly at this time, but also in a more general sense. I would also be hard-pressed to nominate a better leader for the party – the obvious candidate having excluded himself on the grounds of being an idiot! At the same time, I am painfully aware of how totally and catastrophically she has fucked the effort to restore Scotland’s independence. I am faced with this dilemma: how do I condemn her for the latter without that condemnation spilling over onto the former. It’s a fine line I walk only clumsily.
These two difficulties alone – there may be others – are enough to explain why it may appear that the membership are just going along. They’re not! Politics is often described as a game, much to the displeasure of those who have yet to grasp the concept of metaphor. It is like a game, not in that it is ‘played’ just for fun, but because it involves moves and countermoves. Politics may also be likened to an iceberg – most of it is out of view. There’s lots of stuff goes on behind the scenes. I can assure you that, in the SNP and the Yes movement, there’s a lot going on backstage.
You have, if not quite a nutshell (more an ostrich egg), described the problem.
The first minister is elected to serve both independents and dependents.
It is totally incongruent with leading constitutional change.
The way change is managed in the united kingdom is through lobbying and funding.
None of that is available to independents.
Dependents have access to deep pockets and even deeper networks.
If the most effective proponents against dependence had even one tenth the funding that the rather exotic gender freedom ‘community’ has, progress might well be visible.
I reject the notion that Scotland is dependent on England.
The person you have described is called Alex Salmond.
It’s not ‘Scotland’ s cause’, it’s a cause espoused by some Scots. There is a difference. You’d do better to try producing a fully costed, properly set out plan for setting up an independent Scotland, and possibly changing the minds of some No voters. Otherwise your ’cause’ will remain a dream.
If you don’t understand that it is Scotland’s cause then you understand nothing of Scotland’s predicament. Which is further evidenced by the fact that you seem to think Scotland must pass some kind of exam to qualify for that which all other nations consider theirs by right.
As for the notion that social and constitutional reform might be achieved with a ‘business plan’, it’s probably best I leave that naive foolishness unremarked.
Kate in trying to be respectful to your comment I would suggest that you do some research relating to the vast amounts of natural resources which Scotland has in abundance and transfer those resources into finance and the economy and therein lays your answer . In respect of why Scotland SHOULD remain part of the uk name 3 good reasons why that should be so , and don’t include pulling ( not typo ) and sharing as england does the pulling and Scotland does the sharing
Peter thanks for your response to my comment above , it appears from your response that you are as frustrated as I and many others are at NS’s catastrophic handling of the independence cause .My frustration stems from the fact that , as you have alluded to , that basically members of the SNP and voters alike are powerless to either remove NS or to force her to deliver on her many promises of independence , that to me is not a sustainable situation and spits in the face of democracy
I personally have objected to a 4 or 5 year term of government as this allows politicians ( spit ) too much time to initiate policies that are detrimental to the people , which we have reams of currently , I also strongly support and favour a real and effective recall law where WE the voters can hold miscreants to account , and when we are independent I would hope that people see the real need for these rules
I didn’t say it wasn’t possible to influence Nicola Sturgeon. I only said there is no formal process for doing so. The Yes movement could force the constitutional issue if it was coordinated and if its power were not so easily diverted to other matters.
You have a baby/bathwater situation with your notions about parliamentary terms. In order to prevent the government from introducing policies you don’t like, you’d make it impossible for them to implement any coherent policy programme at all. You seem to forget that if you can effectively veto policies that don’t suit you so can everyone else. So that means all policies get vetoed. Because there’s always someone who objects to any policy.
The ‘solution’ is not to cripple government but to allow more frequent voter feedback through rolling elections. This has many advantages other than giving the electorate to pass judgement on the administration every year rather than every 4 or 5 years. Making elections a regular annual event should damp-down the media circus aspect of elections. It might even help with voter engagement and increase participation. Elections should be part of normal day-to-day life, not big special events.
A recall law is, I agree, essential. But it is not the panacea some imagine. In order to prevent it being used as a party-political weapon, the criteria for recall would have to be extremely stringent. In short, it would have to be very, very difficult to get rid of an elected representative. Disagreeing with their stance on an issue could never be sufficient cause.
As to your attitude to politicians (spit), you get the politicians you deserve. Just like all the rest of us. If we have democracy you decide what kind of people who get elected. If we don’t have democracy or if our democracy is flawed, that’s your fault too. It could only get that way if you either made it that way or sat back and let others make it that way. Perhaps excusing your neglect by making sweeping generalisations about politicians.
I reject the notion that Scotland is dependent on England.
As do I, I was refering to the opposing mindsets.
I find it ludicrous that you continue to laud your obscene cause of independence while proclaiming that it’s what Scotland wants / needs. What Scotland wants is continuance of the Union as shown by the indy referendum. What Scotland needs is continuance of the Union as shown by the SNP’s sheer incompetence in government.
Jeffrey I think it is you who is being ludicrous, if you REALLY want to examine incompetence you only have to look back through the past 300 or so years where we have SUPPOSEDLY been an equal partner within the union , the incompetence , lies and corruption by the blue , red and yellow tories has resulted in the condition and state that Scotland and Scots are in now . Scotland and Scots NEED independence to enable us to grow and prosper our country for those who will follow