It can happen that there is a degree of mismatch between what politicians say in public and what they and their colleagues are thinking in private. Sometimes, we can only hope that their public pronouncements aren’t an accurate reflection of their private thoughts. A case in point being the facile assumption which from the evidence of their own words, is embraced by everyone authorised to speak for the SNP, that everything the Johnson regime does is an unmistakable indication of terror and trepidation. By every account the SNP offers, ‘the Tories’ are ‘running scared’ of independence/SNP/referendum/democracy (delete as appropriate). When they’re not paralysed with fear, that is.
Now, I’m sure we all regard the prospect of another bout of Blackford bombast with varying levels of dread, but one has to wonder why, if the British government is as afraid of the SNP as the latter’s public-facing face insists, the party is so very reluctant to pursue them on the constitutional issue. If the British really are ‘on the ropes’, why isn’t the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government on the attack? The public talk is all of the ‘enemy’ being routed and in full retreat. So why is Scotland’s cause not advancing? Dare we hope that the triumphalist simplisms spouted by SNP spokesbladders stand in stark contrast to their confidential analysis?
Hark at Mhairi Black MP, the Boudicca of the Pronoun Wars.
But if Boris Johnson thinks adopting an ostrich strategy – simply sticking his head in the sand and hoping the issue will go away – will work, then he is utterly mistaken.
That approach is doomed to failure because the issue of independence simply is not going away.‘Rattled’ Tory government bans all talk of Scottish independence
Mhairi Black MP (caution bids me avoid pronouns) was responding to reports in The Times that Boris Johnson’s strategy du jour for preserving the Union is to have British government ministers stop talking about independence and so “shut down” the debate. Having got the obligatory bit about them being scared out of the way by opining that “Downing Street is so rattled that it has ordered Tory ministers to stop talking about it”, Mhairi Black MP offers Mhairi Black MP’s analysis of what Mhairi Black MP supposes to be Johnson’s ‘latest ploy because this is what Mhairi Black MP has been told is his new strategy by an anonymous informant rumoured to have been nicknamed ‘Shallow Nostril’ by the laugh-a-month gang at The Times newspaper – which obviously has no interest in misinforming Mhairi Black MP.
I really miss pronouns. Sorry! Ms pronouns!
This is where it gets a bit murky and muddled. I’m afraid that’s inevitable when discussing political communication and gamespersonship. Mhairi Black MP appears to be taking Shallow Nostril’s ‘revelations’ at face value. She.then passes it through the filter of the facile assumption discussed earlier and what pops out the front of Mhairi Black MP’s head is the interpretation that Boris Johnson is “simply sticking his head in the sand and hoping the issue will go away“. Mhairi Black MP’s understanding of the ‘revelations’ may or may not be correct. Mhairi Black MP’s publicly stated version of Mhairi Black MP’s understanding of the ‘revelations’ may or may not indicate what she actually thinks. Mhairi Black MP may or may not genuinely believe that “Boris Johnson is “simply sticking his head in the sand etc.”. Shallow Nostril’s account may or may not be honest. The strategy described by Shallow Nostril may or may not be the real strategy du jour lighted upon by Boris Johnson. The account of Shallow Nostril’s revelations presented by The Times may be veracious, or it may have been given a bit of spin. Or a lot of spin.
I may have listed all possible duplicities. But that is unlikely given what we know of the British establishment’s capacity for duplicity.
If you ask me – and the fact that you’re reading this means you kinda did – Shallow Nostril speaks true and the truth that they speak according well with The Times’ agenda, the newspaper’s recounting of the ‘revelation’ is as free from spin as is possible for the |British media.
Having been sorta asked, I’ll tell you that Mhairi Black MP is wrong. At least, she’s wrong if what she says she thinks is what she actually thinks and not what she thinks we ought to think she thinks. (Sorry about the pronouns, but that sentence was exhausting enough already.) If the plan is for British Ministers to avoid all mention of independence and, presumably, closely related matters, it would be a serious mistake to dismiss this as an “ostrich strategy”. It could be very effective. (Especially if the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government is also quite ‘subdued’ on the constitutional issue. But let’s not go there!)
Mhairi Black MP is mistaken if she actually imagines a ‘shun and shut down’ strategy is “doomed to failure because the issue of independence simply is not going away“. In the first place, the idea is not to make the issue go away completely. Only to make it go away from the British media by not talking about it. Most politics reporting in the British media is nothing more than a rehashing of party press releases spiced with quotes from whatever British politicians the reporter has on speed dial. If those press statements exclude any mention of independence and the politicians decline to be quoted on the matter then for those who rely on the British media to keep them informed the issue will not just be on the back burner, it will have fallen down behind the cooker. It will have ceased to exist as an issue as far as the public are concerned.
Secondly, the purported strategy needn’t be an unalloyed success to be effective. There is no need to stop all talk of independence by British politicians. Merely reducing the amount of such talk will work. If the intention is to claim that the people of Scotland have largely lost interest in the constitutional issue and that it’s the obsession of only a pushy, noisy few, damping down the debate will do the job. Particularly when the British media can be relied upon to greatly exaggerate the damping. It’s a credible strategy. It deserves to be taken seriously. Let’s hope that out of the public eye, that is what Mhairi Black MP and her colleagues are doing. Let’s hope they are toiling away even as I write devising a counter-strategy. Let’s hope that counter-strategy amounts to something more than another indignant speech from Ian Blackford.
While we’re looking at this story, I wonder if anybody else has recognised the most important thing about it. It’s something reportedly said to The Times by the “senior government figure”. Something which ,far more than the latest cunning plan to foil those uppity Jocks, should worry independence campaigners – and deeply embarrass Nicola Sturgeon. Did you spot it?
If there is ever to be another referendum it needs to be on our terms where remaining part of the UK is the status quo option, as in 2014.
This statement, we can be sure, is a wholly accurate reflection of the way the British are thinking. It is a grave error to suppose they are stupid, despite Boris Johnson’s efforts to make the entire British political elite look about as smart as an electric Parmesan grinder. They know that they need to control – or at least have significant influence over – the process by which Scotland exercises its right of self-determination – if/when this happens. They know they cannot afford to allow a free, fair and scrupulously democratic referendum.
They know that they must make sure “remaining part of the UK is the status quo option”. In other words, they are fully cognisant of the huge advantage they gain by making independence the contentious issue rather than the Union.
They know that if there is to be another referendum then ideally they want it to be in every respect and as far as possible “as in 2014”.
Which is handy for them. Because that’s what Nicola Sturgeon wants too!
For years now some of us have been trying to convey the abysmal foolishness of adhering to the Section 30 process and the irresponsible stupidity of trying to replicate both the process and the Yes campaign fully a decade on. Now, here we have it straight from the mouth and mind of a “senior government figure”. For years we’ve been calling for a drastic reframing of the constitutional issue and a complete rethink on Yes campaign strategy. Nicola Sturgeon has refused to listen. Refused to even consider a different approach. Done everything in her power to close down discussion of a different approach. Made it abundantly clear that fresh thinking is not wanted.
I confidently expect she will turn an equally deaf ear should she be asked to explain how the approach to the constitutional issue she obdurately clings to can be the strategy of choice for both sides of the issue. To put it more pointedly, why the fuck is she giving the British state exactly what it wants!?
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