For today’s article I thought I’d do something a wee bit different. I decided to take whatever was the top article when I first visited The National website and pull from it three quotes to look at more closely than the casual reader might. Judge for yourselves whether this was a good idea.
As fate would have it the top article looked to be ideal for my purposes. Or so the headline led me to believe.
Scottish independence: There is no panic over the Union, top Tory says
The “top Tory” turns out to be Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. Is my memory worse than I thought or is Ben Wallace totally unmemorable? Or maybe I’ve just stopped taking much interest in the personnel around Boris Johnson’s Cabinet table. The names hardly matter. They’re all British Nationalists and Tories. For most purposes that’s all you need to know.
It seems Mr Wallace was interviewed on one of those Sunday politics programmes which invite politicians along to recite the lines fed to them by their masters and marketers. As is often the case the theme of these well-rehearsed impromptu utterances is encapsulated in a soundbite. Sometimes a couple of soundbites. Exceptionally as many as three. Although the average politician might struggle to remember that many. In Ben Wallace’s case it was some kind of sporting metaphor presumably chosen to make the guy more relatable to the oiks, who are all obsessed with ball games. Aren’t they?
I am not that oik! Fortunately I do have a small fund of general knowledge on which I can draw for the purposes of casual conversation with more sporty oiks or for solving crossword puzzle clues. I was therefore less bemused than I might otherwise have been by Mr Wallace’s repeated references to “playing the man not the ball”. Or in in a departure which may have been intended to showcase his versatility “playing the ball not the man”. Being less bemused than I might otherwise have been by the expression left me more bemusement to use on the number of times Wallace used the line.
I didn’t watch the interview myself. That sock drawer wasn’t going to tidy itself. And I’m happy to leave such onerous work to people who get paid for it. People such as journalist Kathleen Nutt, who has the by-line on the piece. Not having partaken of the spectacle personally I have no ready way of knowing how often Ben Wallace said the ball-man/man-ball thing or how often or how deftly he switched between the two. I suspect it was more than the three instances that dear Kathleen reports to spare us the tedium. Yay Kathleen! Less is better!
To be fair, Ben Wallace did say some other stuff. Well, he had to fill in the spaces between the sports-related cliches with something. Here’s one extract from the article.
Asked about the level of panic in Whitehall over independence, Wallace said: “There isn’t. I am sorry to disappoint you, there isn’t any panic about it.”
There you have it! Job done! Tales of panic in British Nationalist ranks utterly refuted. There is none. There isn’t. You may think there is. But there isn’t. None at all, I tell you. None. Ball played. Man spared.
Or he could be lying. He could be saying there is no panic in an attempt to conceal how much panic there is. Unlikely as it may seem that a British politician might lie to the public live on TV before an audience of dozens, we cannot discount the possibility. It’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to admit to. Panic, I mean. Not being a British politician. Although, maybe that too. Definitely that too. But panic. Politicians like to look as if they are in control of the situation. Unless the situation is out of control. In which case they want to look as if it’s nothing to do with them. They certainly don’t like looking panicked. So Ben Wallace was possibly peddling porkies.
(NOTE TO SELF: This political analysis shit is more complicated than I thought. Maybe I could do sports instead.)
Politicians lie. Some folk would say they lie all the time. How do you know a politician is lying? When their lips are moving! But what if they’re an accomplished amateur ventriloquist? Then the other dummy is lying! Tell Frankie Boyle he can have that one free of charge.
But sometimes politicians tell the truth. If the truth serves their purpose then they might as well stick to the truth. It’s not a matter of honesty but expediency. Even when they lie they know that the best lies are the lies that stay closest to the truth, as Noam Chomsky was saying to me just the other day. Which isn’t anywhere near being true but I put it in to illustrate something. You may have to go back over the last few paragraphs to figure out what it illustrates. I know I did. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser. Or is that a lie too?
What it boils down to is this: Ben Wallace could be telling the truth when he says the British political elite are not panicking about 20 consecutive polls suggesting majority support for the restoration of Scotland’s independence. It could be the politicians who say they’re panicking who are lying. Maybe because they themselves are panicking. We cannot discount that possibility. Although we’ll be obliged to discount some possibilities because there are a lot of them and this article is fast approaching 1000 words and I’m still dealing with the first of the three quotes mentioned in the title. Maybe the title is a lie.
How credible is it that the British government is not panicking? Obviously, that Scottish politicians are telling us the Tories are panicking says nothing about the credibility of the claim that they aren’t. But by the same token, the credibility of the claim that they aren’t panicking tells us nothing about the credibility of the claim that they are lying. So were’ right back to the question we asked at the start of the paragraph which took us over 1000 words but otherwise served no purpose other than to demonstrate that this political analysis thingy is waaay more complicated than I thought. What have I got myself into?
Maybe come at it another way. Why wouldn’t the British be panicking about the polls indicating support for Scottish independence consistently over 50%? What would allow them to be totally relaxed about this situation? Control! They would have no need to panic if they were in control. Being in control obviates the occasion for panic. So if they’re genuinely not panicking it means they must be in control. It means that they are in a position to totally discount those polls. Which is what they appear to be doing. It means they are confident of being able to prevent matters going any further in the direction of losing Scotland. Which would be considered frightfully careless.
Why would they be so confident? Because they’re in control! Did that argument just go round in a neat wee circle? never mind! Press on! We are perilously close to the 1200 wo…. Telt ye!
What would lead them to believe they are in such control as to be able to ensure that the 20 consecutive polls over 50% for independence doesn’t mean independence would actually happen? Suppose they had an ancient treaty which says ‘The Jocks are hereby fucked and henceforth it matters not a fuck what they want ye even if somebody invents democracy and so say all of us except the Jocks but it already doesn’t matter a fuck what they say because we’re in control now and we’ll never have to panic again. Signed: England (and some tame Jocks).”
That’d do it, right enough. Especially if they’d also slipped a wee clause into the legislation supposedly giving the
Jocks Sweaties North British Scottish more powers but not really because they’re given and so can’t be real power said clause stipulating that the Scottish couldn’t just decided to end the Union they’d entered into voluntarily (just kidding!) back in the good old days when it was still OK to call them Jocks but would have to get permission to do so from the people who said they don’t have permission unless they give permission and even if they do – which they won’t – they will only do if they can be certain that they can fix it so the Jocks blah blah blah as per treaty and got the Boss Jock to agree that they had to get permission from the blah blah blah as per the bit before the last blah blah blah.
(NOTE TO SELF: Don’t ever do this again! It’s bloody exhausting. I hate to think what it’s like for the poor bast… I mean readers.)
The Brits seem to have that all neatly tied up in a nice red, white and blue ribbon don’t they? Total control. No panic. Maybe Ben Wallace was telling the truth after all. Maybe we were being unfair to him. How regrettable would that be? Quickly! Next quote.
Pressed about the 20 consecutive polls showing majority support for independence, he went on: “There is Scottish nationalism and debate around the Union and independence has always in my experience fluctuated when it comes down to the brass tacks, when it comes to no longer playing the man but playing the ball in referendum campaigns or sometimes in election campaigns then what we find is the arguments unpick and people get serious about the debate.”
Which immediately prompts the question, won’t those brass tack puncture the ball? Why didn’t Martin Geissler ask him that question?
And finally, we get the response to Ben Wallace’s assurances that the British aren’t panicking about the Union.
Responding to his claims, the SNP Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “The fuck they’re no panickin’! Yon Wallace is lying his fuckin’ heid aff””
Corrections and clarifications. Kirsten didn’t say that at all and would never use such language even in the privacy of her boudoir which I have absolutely no way of knowing, That’ll keep the lawyers happy.
Responding to his claims, the SNP Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “As Boris Johnson’s bungled trip to Scotland shows, the Tories are in a complete panic over their faltering and unpopular anti-independence campaign.”
It now occurs to me that I can’t comment on this without repeating everything I said about the first quote but just changing the names. Which is fine because frankly I’m pure pissed off with this whole exercise. I’m never doing it again. Honest!