Self-determination thwarted. For now.

And the anger is still and quiet now – and leaden in ma thrapple. Squatting grim on every in and out breath. It’s Westminster. And I am just this wee wummin from a wee village in Lanarkshire. Powerless to do owt but rage on social media and bore folk who don’t care. Shifting the deckchairs on the Titantic ma Granpa used to call it – politics talk and raging about politicians is as useful as that.

We had the wake on Friday. Fellow 45 percenters gathered for food and booze and reassurance in a warm and friendly place. And whilst George Square hosted the ugly evil face of Unionism and British Nationalism we stared down the momentary loss of hope with that clarity born of practice.

We laughed. Got drunk. Tried to make sense of it all.

I am angry that I allowed myself to hope so much. Got taken in  by some positive polls and the fact that so many I knew seemed to be leaning to ‘Yes’. I’d known all along that No would out.

Some commentators claim the 45% as a win of sorts. Evidence of progress. They point to the constitutional storm that’s been unleashed UK-wide as victory. And in many ways, they are right.

But I’m not yet there. It still feels like what it is: defeat.

I wanted an Independent Scotland. I wanted a born-again democracy. I wanted to be cut free from the corruption of Westminster and those Party machines. But I respect the decision and will work with what we have.

I apologise in advance, for I am using this post as a means of exorcising some demons – a riposte to those whose words and actions hurt so much during the campaign.

I want to start looking forward and being positive. But before I can do that I must look back – if I am to make sense of some of the most painful bits of the last few months and weeks.

  1. ‘You’re a fascist’ and ‘you’re a racist’: those ones hurt folks. Every time you likened Salmond and the SNP/Yes Campaign to Hitler and his Gestapo, you flagged the depth of your contempt for almost 50% of your friends and family. Ok. Ok. Insults are meant to hurt. So from that point of view it was successful. But did you really believe that one? Because if you did then I worry about your capacity to engage in civil debate and discussion and about the thought process that could allow you to conclude that my assessment that Independence offered an opportunity to renew and strengthen democracy, was synonymous with a political movement that machine murdered millions on the basis of ethnicity and religion… I worry about the sincerity of your current magnanimity… I wonder whether your smiling mouth says one thing and your mind thinks quite another…   And if you didn’t believe it but said it anyway… well… 
  2. ‘You’re turning your back on (Proletarian) Internationalism’: Yip. If your definition of ‘international’ is ‘the United Kingdom’, then I suppose I am/did. Independence would have meant a border – and I know you internationalists don’t like those. Despite the fact that co-operation between states is always possible and that there are a great many ways in which our interdependence can be articulated – ways that do not require full legal and constitutional Union. Ways in which the unique local voice is recognised and respected. Perhaps, if you’d really looked at the outline proposals, you’d have realised what was being described was a mature partnership based on mutual respect. It’s the ‘mutual respect’ that’s missing in the current relationship. Bear in mind it didn’t take union with South Africa for me to express my support for the ANC. It didn’t take political union with all those anti-labour countries for me to campaign and to lobby for fellow trade unionists facing imprisonment for their activism. Think global. Act local?
  3. ‘Project Fear’: Yes, it’s a well-tested campaigning strategy – the dissemination and propagation of Fear can secure the votes of the susceptible. It’s despicable. But ‘politics is a dirty game’ and ‘the end justifies the means’? Only it shouldn’t be and it doesn’t. It’s legitimate – desirable – that you question and cross-examine the offering. You’ve got to ‘test’ your opposition. You have a duty and responsibility to do that in a measured and reasonable manner. Your job is not to strike fear into hearts. It’s not to create panic that economic Armageddon is assured; that pensions will go unpaid; that food will be scarce and over-priced and that folk will need to go over the Border on shopping raids. It’s not good or proper to use your Old Boy network Establishment power to orchestrate a mass media and Big Business/Banks onslaught. To meet with the supermarkets and agree with them their press releases – each announcing big price rises in the event of Independence. To leak business sensitive information to your Government owned Broadcaster – detailing the planned movement of a state-owned Bank’s registered office and spinning this as a massive loss of jobs and business for an Independent Scotland (latterly denied by the Bank – but the damage had been done). Do you recall conceding – to a person (Alistair Darling – you remember this?) – that an Independent Scotland could be an economically successful country? But of course, that would be why it was all the more important you stage-managed the impending economic meltdown scenario.
  4. ‘the Markets won’t like this’: Now, this one I understand and expect from those on the Right. But from those of you on the Left? Ha. Black-burning shame on you for battering Yes with financial advice from such ethical luminaries as Credit Suisse. To use the very arguments from the very people who are used to keep you down. Used to defeat your arguments for your ‘socialist’ nirvana. Yes, yes. From a Labour perspective you conceded that argument a long time ago. Blair taught you the value of political expediency and real politicking. Power wasn’t to be achieved until you’d sold every principal – and then the exercise of that power left you without any detectable values and unelectable for at least another generation. But the rest of you? 
  5. ‘but Labour will win in 2015’: you still don’t get it, do you? a) You likely won’t but b) Labour, Conservative, LibDem – you’re all the same. Indistinguishable when it comes down to it. No vision or value that couldn’t be abandoned or altered or sold if there was the least suggestion power would follow cosmetic change. An £8 minimum wage? Is that ‘the big idea’? Really Labour? You all need to listen, really listen to the people who are turning away from the ballot box in their droves. Because many are turning to the very rabid, xenophobic Right. And I don’t just mean UKIP. UKIP sound almost reasonable in comparison to the EDL or the BNP. No, you need to listen to those who feel disenfranchised. Who feel utterly abandoned by Westminster. Who feel they have no voice. And who are repelled by Westminster’s expenses scandals and sex scandals and lies. They need to feel that they have some say over how they are governed and they need to feel that what matters to them will be reflected in policy and action. If you are all losing to the far Right it is because in your arrogance you thought you didn’t need grassroots activists (inconveniently reminding you of promises made and not kept and wanting a say in policy design); and in your arrogance you have travelled far, very far, from the people you say you represent.
  6. ‘it’s all about the SNP and Salmond’: No. It really wasn’t. Of course the initiative came from the SNP – the White Paper etc. But look at the Yes people. Really look. From the Radical Independence Campaign to the National Collective to Women for Yes; Academics for Yes; Business for Yes; Teachers for Yes; Students for Yes; the Greens; the SSP; the pensioners and the 16 and 17 year olds and the mothers and fathers. They were your friends; fellow workers; your family. And you treated them with contempt when you stated time after time that it was ‘all about Salmond and the SNP’.
  7. But we’ll have an SNP government for decades if Yes wins’: And if the Scottish electorate vote for SNP Governments in open and free and democratically constituted elections tell me why this would be an evil? Admittedly this anti-democratic little gem was said most often by Labour’s folk. Which probably hurt even more. Because it emphasised the naked ‘power at all costs’ ideology they operate by. And no – I don’t buy the argument that you can have social justice without ethical behaviour.
  8. ‘I love my family. I’m voting No.’: And because I voted ‘yes’, I don’t love my beautiful family? Ugh. I despair. You really need to apologise for that one.
  9. ‘the vow’: here we go again. Back of fag packet promises made by the toxic trio of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. Pushed by the bankrupt ‘great clunking fist’ Gordon Brown. A last minute promise that surely breached ‘the Edinburgh Agreement’ and reassurances given that there would be no ‘last minute policy changes’  designed to undermine the Referendum choice. And which were – foreseeably – hitched to ‘the West Lothian’ question by Cameron as soon as the ‘No’ was announced. I’ve no argument with ‘English votes for English issues’ – so get on with it Miliband – stop trying to safeguard your Scottish MPs. Strengthen the party in England – and you’ll not need them.
There’s so much more.
But I know. This is boring stuff for those who have no connection with the politics or interest in politics generally.
One last thing though. Sorry, bear with me.

On Saturday. In the clear light of a beautiful midday I became another statistic: an ex-Labour Party member who signed up to join the Scottish National Party.

And for those who know the bitter tribalism of Scottish politics they will recognise that for the major conversion that it is. 

If it’s nationalism to want to bust the Bankocracy of the Westminster/British State then, yes, I am a nationalist. If it’s nationalism to want to see progressive and radical change that empowers the electorate and gives them a strong voice then I am proud to be a member of a Scottish civic nationalist party.

There. I’ve said it. ‘Nationalist’. A word that I’ve been taught to despise. And yet I now find myself embracing.

I struggled to explain why until I stumbled on its perfect articulation. It was Billy Bragg who managed to sum it up for me here: 
“In Scotland, Wales and Ireland nationalism is the name given to the campaign for self-determination. James Connolly gave his life for the nationalist cause; John MacLean, perhaps the greatest leftwinger that Scotland has produced, was in favour of independence and campaigned for a Scottish parliament.
Both recognised that the British state was highly resistant to reform, and that the interests of working people were best served by breaking with the United Kingdom.
England’s dominant role has meant that it has never felt the urge to be free of the British state. As a result, the nationalism that has emerged there has been ethnic, seeking to unite the indigenous population against the perceived threat of outsiders. And for all of us in Europe, ethnic nationalism casts a long shadow.
Given that dark legacy, it is unsurprising that many on the left have a knee-jerk reaction whenever they hear the word nationalism. However, close inspection of the respective manifestoes of the SNP and the BNP should give pause for thought.
The ethnic nationalism of the BNP is there for all to see – a plan for a society that excludes people on grounds of race. The programme of the SNP takes a diametrically opposite position – an inclusive society based on where you are, not where you’re from.
This is civic nationalism – the idea that all citizens should be engaged in the process of deciding where society is headed, not just getting their hands on the tiller once every four or five years. It utilises the n-word because democracy on a national level offers the best opportunity for fundamental change.”


A Rant: Are all politicians arrogant incompetent tossers?

NewsThump (aka NewsArse) couldn’t make it up…

I can only imagine* the ad that Chris Bryant responded to when he decided Politics-was-him.

Gold-plated Pension, Blank-cheque Expenses, Job for Life – with Endless Additional Earning Opportunities    

Are you an…
Arrogant Tosser? Gross Incompetent? Stranger to ‘the truth’?

Have you…
Never held a job since your Uni gap year spent telecanvassing for your Political Party of choice?

Does your
facile face conceal a banal mind with a mastery of the glib?

Then step this way…

The stench from the rotting corpse of the UK body politic interrupted my commute. Again.

Labour. This is what it has come to. An incoherent Incompetent, pre-releasing inaccurate extracts from a speech, the central argument of which he couldn’t even get right. Bryant, if you had any integrity or insight you’d resign – because, let’s face it, your boss won’t have the testicles to sack you. A Representative? You? Oh no. You don’t speak for me or, for that matter, anyone that I know. Your arrogance, the complete absence of intellectual ability, your astounding inarticulacy – you are what is wrong with today’s Labour Party.

Why didn’t you do your research for fuck sake? Why hadn’t you practiced the argument before setting yourself loose on national media? Why. oh why. did you then perform that egregious volte face, folding like some dodgy, gerry-built, foundation-less hoose, under the pressure of Tesco and of Next? They had indulged in nasty employment practices. They continue to indulge in nasty (if legal) employment practices, exploiting immigrant labour via employment agencies; offering re-employment to previous local staff, but on lower salaries. But no. You weren’t referring to Tesco or Next. You didn’t mean to infer they did this.

As I listened to the Radio interview my incredulity rapidly morphed into fury before resolving into a dyspeptic despair.

You have allowed the Tories to write the script: all that look at the mess we’re in – and it was caused by Labour crap.

Fight back!! Don’t accept this. Don’t preface every argument with ‘We’re sorry. We know we got this wrong when we were in power’. You are doing the Tories’ job for them ffs.

When you do talk policies make sure the language is clear and plain. We don’t need you to show how high your blue-stockings go, Ed. Naebody but you and yer high-falutin’ pals get the co-operative socialist stuff.
And tell Balls to get his head out of his arse – we don’t need him name-dropping (Greenspan on Twitter – get a grip). We need him fighting our corner. Not talking himself into an international economics job after politics.

You need to take the campaign out there. Speak to people. But make sure you take a real person with you to do the translating. A couple of easy wins. That’s what you need. Not own-goals a la Bryant and immigration speeches.

But no. Labour is a headless corpse. The only life a few maggots squirming under flabby skin.

After two years of this unspeakabe piss-poor Coalition. Of Government mistake after mistake. Reversals and inaccuracies. Un-mandated policy decisions and changes. Labour ups and dies.

Ed Milliband never was a Leader. The self-serving spite and misguided reasoning of the unions (Unite the Union and McLuskey in particular) have delivered us a pup.

An ineffective communicator would have difficulty enough where there was a political message to convey – but there’s no message. And he’s not the man to create it. He doesn’t know or understand his constituency. There is no connection with those who might vote for him and his party. There’s no articulation of clear credible goals. No coherent policies. No Manifesto for political action. No energy. No intelligence. No direction.

And whilst Scottish politicians happily co-exist on the same amoeba-level as their UK counterparts, the temptation to vote Yes becomes irresistible. What does Westminster and the UK offer, but more of the above? A Scottish Parliament has the advantage that it’s accessible – our democracy is closer, more readily influenced.

Happy New Year – the Big Party!

The annual Stewart “Day of Madness” is over for another year. I survived!! The house remains intact! We all had a ball.

Hogmanay came and went with the usual mix of fireworks, bells ringing in the village square and 63 bodies drinking, dancing, drinking, eating, drinking and falling down in my house…

Managed to piss off only one (very grumpy snitchy non-partying) neighbour (the neighbour who wasn’t invited to the party) and managed to break only one glass. The jumbo pot of my special chilli vanished within 3 hours of the party opening – with little size 0 Jodie scoffing the last three bowls on her own. The soup had been supped by 4am. The chicken korma eaten by 4.10am. The crisps, nut and sundry prawns and nibbles disappeared within minutes of being served. We were out of beer by 6.30am…

The lad and his many numerous (46) pals turned the bottom 2 levels into a club – techno and dance and DJ sets eventually topping the Indie and old sounds being played by the adults on the 3rd and 4th floors. Who needs The Fall or Massive Attack or Underworld when you can have Deadmau5 and Tiesto? (well, me actually! but I am clearly past it).

The beautiful young women tottered and teetered up and down the stairs on 6″ heels and micro minis – much to the disgust of the mature females assembled and the delight of the heterosexual men. There was the usual lesbian love tryst in the upstairs bathroom – though only one lad coming out (as opposed to the usual three). Marc (20yrs) swore undying lust for me this year – the effect of Snow leopard vodka… Jo and I elevated Calvin – the 18 stone doe-eyed rugby boy – with “the power of belief” and only four fingers (difficult to explain  though I will oblige if you really want me to)…

The die-hards – a few neighbours and a few of the lads pals – were still up at 7.30am. They had graduated to spirits by then (though admittedly a few had been on spirits all night).

The lad had introduced the male neighbours to his “Beer Bomb” – and this caused a massive macho stir of competitive spirit… This improvised device (a funnel, firmly attached to a metre long length of hose – the funnel filled to brimming with a cocktail of drinks and the hose attached to the victim – sorry, the drinkers – mouth) is designed to introduce alcohol very rapidly… According to the lad it “sorts the men from the boys”… Suffice to say only three of the male (middle-class and very proper professionals) neighbours managed to sup the funnel contents as they were delivered at high speed and had to be supped in one long swallow… It never ceases to amaze me how otherwise clever and mature men can metamorphose into wee daft laddies and how “mature” male pride MUST beat “the youngsters”!

We went to sleep at 9am and woke at 1.40pm. I served the bacon rolls and fried stodge to the remaining 12 bodies and eventually the house had emptied of all but 2 guests by 6pm on the 1st of January.

It has taken till today to really thoroughly clean and clear party debris – but it was worth it. So many happy faces. So many hilarious memories to feed stories for the rest of the year.

My pal and her daughter left only an hour ago.

That is us for another year… all that remains for me to say is –

Much love and Happy Happy Happy 2012 to you all!

Battles of the Sexes

The Committee was 18 strong. There were three women appointees (including me) – the other two were, respectively, a District Council elected representative and a retired Social Work Assistant/now Labour Party activist. The men were all, without exception, elected representatives – with the Committee Office Holders being drawn from the Strathclyde Regional Council reps. They were all (with two exceptions)  Labour Party members, but, young as I was, it surprised me to discover that status was very important to them – and Regional reps were clearly considered of greater significance than District Council reps…

I knew Jackie, the ex Social Work Assistant, well. I was the local Party Chair and she was the Treasurer. But she was more than that to me – even at that stage. A whirlwind of force and fury and anger against “the establishment”, against “privilege” and poverty and inequality. Self-taught. life-battered. Ex-Trade union Steward who was active in the Plessey sit-in (here). Vociferous proponent of the under-dog – prisoners and abused and neglected children in particular. She would rapidly become a second mother to me. Helping me cope with the demands of my 2nd child whom I found initially difficult to parent and to bond with.

The gender imbalance was typical of politics and public service of that time. The 90s saw the introduction of One-member-one-vote (Omov – though the electoral college rules water that down) and  latterly women-only shortlists for the Labour Party (under John Smith) – but “equality” was a concept viewed with very deep suspicion in the 80s and 90s West of Scotland (in truth, it still is).

This is an area that the Swinging 60s completely bypassed. An area where 50s attitudes, particularly in relation to the divisions between the sexes, reigned supreme – where, in 1985, my school taxi-driver felt comfortable enough to seriously and at-length give me chapter and verse as to why it was a “waste of time educating lassies because they would only give it all up to have wains”…

I lost count of the number of fights I witnessed and joined, attempting to shift the attitudes of the cabals of Party misogynists who would be up in arms about their preferred male candidate being sidelined in preference to a “stupid wee lassie ootsider wi nae experience”… It always amazed me that many women supported these men. And at a time when women reps were as rare as hens teeth.

Vera, the other woman member, was one of those women. She and I never did see eye-to-eye.

(to be continued)

Getting all political again…

Had a bit of a mad five minutes today. Typed in ‘Scottish Labour Party’; clicked ‘Join’ and then signed up for the monthly direct debit…

Just when all around are scrabbling to leave, yip, I re-join.

Perverse? Moi?

R asked why I’d done it.

…truthfully? …

It was as if the party were calling out to me… the lure increasing in direct proportion to the numbers of sleekit ministerial bampots ‘resigning’… and as those disengenuous careerists (funny how they all suddenly, miraculously had been thinking about leaving for a long time…aye right!) baled out, it seemed to me that the party I had once loved and fought for was simply going to go… and I answered the umbilical call…

I wonder if that’s just instinct – that need to protect your own. Even when you felt that ‘your own’ had let you down so badly…(and oh! how Labour has let us all down – but that’s another blog).

The time to leave is not now. When Blair invaded Iraq; when Kelly died; when the anti-immigration rhetoric began; with the ‘British jobs for Britigh Workers’ slogan…. oh there were many times ripe for principled stands. But not now.

There’s nothing principled about someone like Blears leaving. Nothing credible about her ‘apology’. Blears et al – their leaving and the manner in which they left was about self-interest and spite. Not about the greater good or moral standards or… They wanted to take a swipe. To destroy even as they were destroyed.

And that is why I wanted to return. I cannot bear to stand and watch as it all disintegrates.