No great political sophistication is required to intuit that when a politician says we should be looking at this thing it’s because they don’t want us looking at that thing. Everybody knows that when a politician insists on answering what they refer to as the ‘real’ question rather than the question they’ve been asked it’s because what they call the ‘real’ question is the question for which they have a scripted and vetted response while the question they’ve been asked is the one for which the only answers that are not outright lies are answers that will get them sacked, disgraced and possibly prosecuted. This being one of those instances where one can use the phrase “everybody knows” with little risk of facing credible accusations of having committed the fallacy of argumentum ad populum.
What I’m saying is that politicians tend to be oleaginously slippery and more evasive than the Loch Ness Monster. Not just politicians, of course. But oleaginous slipperiness and mythical monster-like evasiveness are attributes/skills commonly associated with the professional politician. Perhaps this is unfair. If it is, however, I would contend that when it comes to those entrusted with political power, even a considerable excess of suspicion and distrust is preferable to the smallest inadequacy of scrutiny.
Take Alyn Smith, for example. (I recommend very small doses.) If you read his column in today’s National to the end without succumbing to its mind-numbing insipidity then you’ll find the following sage advice.
We need to think less about when and how the referendum is happening, because it will, and more about how to win those folks over.Alyn Smith: Think less about when indyref2 will be, and more about how to win
Sage advice, indeed! We must think about how to win. We must think about how to persuade people to our cause. That’s where we’ve been going wrong! If only Alyn had told us sooner then we could all have been trying to win rather than whatever it is he imagines we were doing instead. I’m curious to know whether Alyn Smith has only lately become a patronising prick or whether he has long been a condescending wee c*** and I merely failed to notice.
Of course, when he says “we”, he doesn’t mean him. He knows how to “win those folks over” and that is exactly what he has been doing instead of sitting at a desk. No surprise then, given the great expertise and heroic effort he brings to Scotland’s cause, that support for Yes as indicated by polls has “soared” – to use one of The National’s favourite hypelets – from around half to approximately 50%. The nation thanks you, Alyn. When he says “we” he means us. The people who write and read blogs such as this one. The people who ask the wrong questions. The people who apparently have been totally wasting their time thinking about such trivialities as the scheduling of a new referendum and the mechanics of bringing it about. What fools we’ve been!
At which point we should be mindful of the kind of semantic prestidigitation discussed earlier as almost a defining characteristic of the professional politician. If Alyn Smith is telling us to “think less about when and how the referendum is happening” and simply accept his assurance that it will happen, leaving the matter of when and how to experienced experts such as himself, then all our instincts should be telling us that we ought to be thinking a lot more about the when and subjecting to even greater scrutiny those who would prefer we didn’t look too closely.
The logic used by those of us who do not inhabit the same bubble as Alyn Smith – the one with the mirrored inner surface – doesn’t make mutually exclusive categories of campaign strategy and political process. The awkward question that immediately springs to mind when I read Alyn Smith’s don’t-do-that-do-this instruction is why not do both? Why should we not try to win people over and consider the scheduling of a new referendum as well as the steps that need to be taken to ensure both that it happens and that it is done properly?
The second awkward question that pops into my head is why would we not think about the process and practicalities of achieving the objective of our campaign given that this must have a significant bearing on how we conduct that campaign?
My supplementary question is why is Alyn Smith – in common with the majority of his colleagues – so anxious that we should not think about the when and how of the referendum? Why is he so insistent that we should leave all the complicated stuff to the smart operators such as himself and concentrate instead only on campaigning precisely according to the instructions handed down to us?
Perhaps that should have been my main question.
I, for one, will not be deterred. I want and end to the Union and Scotland’s independence restored. Neither Alyn Smith nor anyone else will tell me that I should not/must not take an active and critical interest in everything relating to Scotland’s cause. The SNP+SGP/Scottish Government does not get to exempt itself from scrutiny. Nor does it get to exclude those who dissent from the Sturgeon doctrine and demand prompt, appropriate, effective action on the constitutional issue. The Yes movement may be the foot-soldiers in the fight to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status, but that’s not all we are. We are not here merely to do the bidding of the likes of Alyn Smith and not trouble ourselves with the technical stuff.
I, for one, am not about to wholly entrust Scotland’s cause to a bloated bag of supercilious smug such as Alyn Smith. Or to the elitist clique which has left that cause up on bricks in the front garden for the last seven years and which currently inspires in me little confidence that they will do the job and even less hope that they will do it right.
If Alyn Smith were at all inclined to listen to the voices of dissent he would hear mine, for one, declaring that I am thinking about the how and the when. I am thinking about the process that must be followed if Scotland’s independence is to be restored. I am painfully aware of the urgency of our nation’s predicament, so I am thinking about the timing of every stage in that process – including the referendum. It would be gratifying to suppose he and his colleagues were giving such matters any thought at all.
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