By Derek Bateman
Let’s lay this nazi thing while the apologists squirm their way this way and that. When a politician is asked if the SNP is a civic nationalist movement, there is only one answer. It is this. ‘Of course they are. They couldn’t have garnered 45 per cent of the popular vote in a mature democracy like Scotland and been elected to government if they were anything else.
We’re actually quite proud in Scotland that our debate is not ethnically based and has been conducted in civilised terms. Our nationalists only want political independence. I disagree with them.’
That kind of answer is (a true and (b magnanimous. It portrays the speaker as fair and open-minded. It also helps the tone of the wider debate and prevents the kind of antipathy we are seeing today.
It is easy to do but requires a calm and measured person to deliver it. That’s what went wrong here. As ever, Alastair Darling was falling over his own words, hurrying along and missing his cue to be intelligent. Instead he perpetrated the kind of mistake you get in student politics when an overheated mind loses track of the target and falls into a trap. Darling will be remembered after this, win or lose, for his gabbling delivery and synthetic hysteria.
There is about him a desperation to blacken an opponent’s name, to miss no chance to denigrate as if his opponent was unworthy of his attention. I remember watching him quite early on in the campaign on STV when he gave a solid performance and I was just chalking him down for an 8 when John Mackay asked a Briefly…’when will we get the referendum date?’ Darling said to the effect ‘We know we can’t trust the SNP. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile etc….’ It was frankly juvenile and he lost three points for petulance. (I like the idea that we can’t trust Salmond coming from a man who cheated on his expenses four times).
Because he couldn’t bring himself to concede a millimetre to Salmond, whom I think he personally hates for overturning the Labour applecart, he ended up in blood and soil and, whether he knew or not, made one of the landmark statements of the debate. As soon as he realised its historical implication – assuming he didn’t at the time – he should have said so and apologised. ‘Of course I don’t think there are similarities. What do you think I am? It was a mistake. Mr Salmond makes them too, you know.’
But no, instead we have dodgy days of doubt as the magazine scans recordings and notes and we’re to believe his mumble was meaningless – until you hear it. Either it’s withdrawn or it stands. Looks to me that it stands.
Of course, we can’t forget that Alistair maybe does believe this tripe as others do – Ian Smart is running an SNP equals nazi theme just now and I’m sure one of the quotes I read from Tom Morton before throwing down the Daily Mail in disgust said our nationalism was ethnic. So it is one of their strands of argument and without denial must be presumed to be an accurate reflection of Better Together opinion. For a proper insight into the issue try this at Scottish Review.
This row also focuses on a strange aspect – that the vile epithets from Yes (very broadly) are from the unregulated internet while the vicious insults from No are in the mainstream and from their own representatives. There was a perfectly fair discussion on Radio Scotland today when social media abuse was discussed yet nobody mentioned that the most hideous attack of all came from the leader of Better Together and published in the New Statesman.
Honestly, Gordon Brown offered more intellectual insight into what is going on than the whole of Better Together since launch. It’s laughably late and ironic but to talk of Britain being changed for ever, crown-in-parliament sovereignty ended and hinting at federalism totally knocks Alastair’s bleatings into a cocked hat. This at least hints that we could have had proper debate on a much higher plane if only they hadn’t opted for Shock and Awe instead.
The trick with BT is to remember they aren’t after the cognoscenti – they are aiming everything at soft voters in Labour heartlands where they have no fear of independence but no love of the SNP. If you put in their mind at every turn that Alex Salmond struts like Mussolini and has Hitler tendencies, they might believe you. Vilify and vanquish. To hell with reason. Who cares about ‘quality of debate?’ Just win at any cost. And turn up at St Giles the Sunday after and smile for the cameras.
Courtesy of Derek Bateman