It’s good to be reminded that TV celebrity journalists are no more the great sages they are presented as than any of the other celebrities whose views on this, that and everything are deemed to be of exceptional worth. Or at least a matter of intense interest to the consumers of the media’s product. Personally, I’ve long harboured doubts that a talent for singing popular songs implies a particular grasp of the geopolitical ramifications of Russian military adventurism in Ukraine. If anything, I’ve been even less convinced that winning a televised cookery contest makes someone an expert on viral pandemics, industrial relations and/or the ethical issues around euthanasia. Not that it is impossible that the singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band might have something insightful to say about the situation in Ukraine or that it’s unthinkable that an individual could be both a good cook and a superlative polymath. It’s just that there is no necessary or sufficient logical connection between celebrity and expertise in any field. Not even the field in which celebrity status has been won. Or is that last excessively arch?
Andrew Marr’s comments on the matter of Scotland’s constitutional issue, made in an appearance at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, serve to remind us that a person gets to be a celebrity TV political journalist not on account of possessing olympian knowledge or being endowed with Delphic perspicacity but because they have a knack for making politics entertaining and because they have acquired an impressive contacts list as a reward for being able to squeeze a few drops of drama and perhaps a soupçon of spectacle out of the mundane squirming and arcane twitching of political pondlife. The art of the celebrity TV political interviewer is the art of making banal gossip-mongering and desperate sensationalism look like relentless probing and perceptive analysis.
Saying he was “unconvinced” that independent Scotland wouldn’t be too wee, too poor and too stupid to support the kind of “really good proper social democratic welfare state” that he thinks we need, Marr presented this ‘expert’ analysis.
Another independence referendum, if it went pro-independence – which by the way, at the moment I don’t think it would – I fear it would be a rancorous, angry separation.
It would be fantastic for Scottish journalism, it would be very good probably for Scottish law, Scottish politicians and Scottish culture. It would be very good for all those people.
And it would be really rotten for people who are dependent on a state pension and ordinary working folk. And that would be a rotten deal.
You can’t have an independence that’s good for the people at the top and rotten for everybody else.Andrew Marr’s REAL views on independence revealed in book festival rant
Is a “rancorous, angry separation” worse than a rancorous, angry marriage? What about a rancorous, angry separation that puts an end to the rancour and anger of the marriage? Would that not be the better outcome? But that would be to admit that a better outcome might follow from ending a marriage which however rancorous and angry it might be, nonetheless forms a status quo with which Mr Marr is very comfortable.
According to this celebrity TV political commentator, everything would be rotten in the independent Scottish state. There is no explanation of why it would be rotten for “people who are dependent on a state pension and ordinary working folk”. He assures those people they would get a “rotten deal” without ever telling them what deal he’s referring to. Only that it must inevitably be rotten. We must take his word for it because he’s a celebrity.
Because he’s a celebrity we are supposed to see that final sentence as some kind of weighty statement of realpolitik that only seems inane to the uncelebrated folk denied Andrew’s gifts. We might not struggle to grasp that it is unacceptable to “have an independence that’s good for the people at the top and rotten for everybody else”, but only someone with Andrew Marr’s talent is able to understand why it is perfectly acceptable to have a status quo that is good for the people at the top and rotten for everybody else. We must be content that it is our inadequacy which bids us recoil from the inconsistencies and contradictions. If only we could see things through wise Andrew’s eyes, all would be clear.
It is interesting also to note the categories of people Andrew Marr regards as those at the “top” who would escape the rottenness of independence just as they do the rottenness of the Union. Independence, he opines, “would be fantastic for Scottish journalism, it would be very good probably for Scottish law, Scottish politicians and Scottish culture. It would be very good for all those people”. Note that one of those categories of “top” people happens to include Andrew himself. A remarkable enough coincidence made all the more so by the fact that another category of “top” people includes the very people who provide the feedstock for Andrew’s product – politicians. The flea makes the case for the rat being given space in the ark.
It is surprising too that a mind as sharp as Andrew Marr’s is reputed to be doesn’t pause to wonder why anyone starting afresh would replicate what they already have. Or whether it is even credible that given the opportunity to get the kind of government they vote for, the people of Scotland might vote for a government that is every bit as bad as the governments which were previously imposed on them. That Andrew Marr apparently considers it obvious and inevitable that independent Scotland would be no more than a mini-me version of the UK strongly suggests that his contempt for the nation and people of Scotland is of an order to rival that evinced by Boris Johnson and his abominable regime.
This is not so much commentary and opinion as propaganda. Portraying the independence in prospect as the reality of the Union is exactly what the anti-independence campaign has always done. Brexit, poverty, economic decline and more are all aspects of our lived reality under the Union even while they have been held up as being inevitably attendant on life without the Union. It’s as if people like Andrew Marr are able to account for the all too real present as the consequence of an entirely hypothetical future.
But I’ve saved the best for last. While taking a stab at empathy Andrew Marr curiously manages to shoot off both his feet.
I do get that people in Scotland are outraged. Nobody here voted for Boris Johnson or for Dominic Raab or Liz Truss, or that lot. You didn’t vote for Brexit.
So things have been imposed on Scotland and I can absolutely understand the annoyance
Annoyance!? A democratic deficit that yawns like the canyons of the Moon. Denial of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. A diet of slights and insults from those who presume to rule us not merely absent our consent but in defiance of our democratic will. All of this and more Andrew Marr considers no more than an annoyance!
Celebrity is acquired cheaply these days. Andrew Marr didn’t even have to win a cookery contest!
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