The Thirled Way

jim_1827016cBy Alistair Davidson

So, Jim Murphy has found the answer to Scottish Nationalism: a “commitment to patriotism” by a Scottish Labour Party with a renewed mission to create “a more equal and fairer society”. Also, did you know he plays football and is a Catholic and lived in a council estate? If you don’t already, he’ll make sure you do soon.

It’s easy to mock Creepy Jim, but he’s not a stupid man. You can bet he has a plan. Better Together’s core staff are reportedly among his closest advisors. The Turn To Patriotism has Blair McDougall’s fingerprints all over it. It replicates perfectly both the successes and failures of the Better Together campaign.

McDougall is a fascinating figure. He is not so much a political strategist as a political tactician, interested only in the detail at the expense of the big picture. A man who believes deeply in the data from his focus groups and polls, he realised before anyone else that Better Together could only win by fighting a rearguard action based on terrorising old people and low-information voters.

 

Throughout the campaign, commentators were calling on him to go positive, to defend the union. Blair refused. He knew from his focus groups that the positive case could not win a majority. Swing voters would vote Yes no matter what positive arguments the No campaign made, if they believed Scotland was capable, and so he relentlessly targeted poorly-informed swing voters with negativity, at all costs. What the commentators understood that Blair did not was that unless a positive case could be articulated, the union would be fatally undermined.

And so Blair won the referendum, and destroyed the Scottish Labour party. Many of the things he did were misunderstood by the Yes movement. Remember #PatronisingBTLady? It didn’t work on anyone I know, indeed it turned one of my friends from undecided to Yes, and of course it caused a huge Twitter storm – but to this day McDougall insists that “That video tested exceptionally well with undecided voters.” By “tested well,” he does not mean that undecided voters liked the video – he means that it produced the desired effect, of encouraging them not to think about independence too hard and avoid discussion with friends and family.

Another friend of mine, an older lady, had never heard of the Twitter storm or the hashtag. As a Yes voter she didn’t like the ad, but she did not respond to it the way that the younger and more liberal crowd that dominates Twitter did, and she had not heard of the hashtag backlash via old media. To Blair McDougall, it does not matter if even 90% of Scotland hated the advert, as long as it delivered its payload to the 10% of voters he needed to hold on to.

Labour have lost the fight among politically interested, informed voters. They will target uninformed voters. Such people aren’t necessarily stupid – but they are busy, they don’t follow the news day-in-day-out, and as such they can be bamboozled by propaganda.

As we read Murphy’s words, we can imagine what McDougall’s focus groups are telling him now. Jim Murphy’s challenge is to hold on to enough of Labour’s core of urban working class voters to see off the SNP in Glasgow, while also reaching out to the new towns and suburbs.

Swing voters are telling Blair that they wish Labour was a Socialist party like it used to be. They are also telling him that Labour don’t stand up for Scotland like the SNP do. They are telling him that they are hard-pressed, struggling to pay their mortgages.

Murphy and McDougall are picking their ground – they will talk about patriotism to counter the “standing up for Scotland” argument. They will talk about social justice, and especially in areas of reserved powers, and accuse the SNP of inaction. They will play up Murphy’s working class Catholic roots and show him playing football a lot, in hopes of convincing Yes-voting Glaswegians that he is one of them.

From the evidence of the referendum campaign, we can predict how this will work out. They will secure voters that the Yes movement does not expect them to – voters who we struggle to understand, because they are disengaged from politics. An old media bodyguard of steel will prevent those voters from learning the truth about Creepy Jim’s love of neoliberalism and war, never mind the astronomical scale of his expense claims. By the general election, there will be cohorts of voters who believe that Jim Murphy intends to make their lives better, that the SNP have all the powers they need but are refusing to use them.

At the same time, Labour will hemorrhage activists, institutional power, and intellectual legitimacy. Before the Turn To Patriotism there was a niche to be carved out as a pro-Labour, anti-nationalist thinker. No more. From now on, being in Scottish Labour will mean campaigning for Better Together-style Toryism, gritting your teeth through endless reactionary campaign adverts, defending all kinds of patronising inanities. Perhaps McDougall’s tactical brilliance can slow the SNP advance at the general election, but his strategic ineptitude will cede ever more dominance of Scottish public life to the Yes movement.



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55 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Alistair Davidson.

  2. An excellent piece, right on the money. Desperately sad to think there will be a ‘ring of steel’ around Murphy but it’s not hyperbole. He’ll be soft soaped all the way to election day by Sarah Smith and her ilk. What strange times we live in where so much can be exposed whilst at the same time swept under the rug by vested interests. I fully expect to see Jim’s busy scheduled filled up with ‘charity’ games from now until May because here in Glasgow the worthiness of a male politician is measured purely by how many keepie uppies he can do.

  3. Anything I did not know about Sunny Jim I am sure the BBC (Scotland Branch) will fall over themselves to tell me-again and again and yet again. It is what they are for; or as they say interminably and without apparent irony, ” In a year like no other -. a station like no other.”

  4. It’s quite depressing that Murphy gets away with his “I’m a patriot, not a nationalist” nonsense without being pressed on what exactly he means. His “patriotism” seems completely jingoistic to me. Those of us from the Yes campaign who never felt cowed into denying the label of “nationalist” voted Yes because of a belief that Scotland can and should be better, that we deserve to have the same instruments of statehood as any other nation, and that we’re just as good as anyone else. “A deep true love of this country”, to quote a Manics song. Yet what Murphy offers is shallow, the kind of “Scotland is the greatest” testosterone-fuelled exceptionalism that him and his ilk would have you believe was at the core of the Yes movement.

    The media should ask what he means by “patriot”. Get him to admit he thinks the electorate are stupid enough to vote for whoever waves the biggest Scotland flag, rather than pandering to his nonsense. They won’t, obviously.

    • There are a lot of tea towel voters alas.
      But they are mostly auld
      Patience

      • Let’s concentrate on talking social democracy, and real Scottish policies for redistribution

      • Ageism isn’t at all appealling from where I’m sitting. Blame the westminster power elite – using taxpayers money to defeat them…don’t make a scapegoat out of voters..

      • I’d rather independence didn’t hinge on waiting for people my parents’ age (and therefore my parents themselves) to die.

      • The elderly population of Scotland which is currently around 930,000,
        is set to rise to about 1.47 million in the next twenty three years.
        They’re not a diminishing group – quite the opposite.

        (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Equality/Equalities/DataGrid/Age/AgePopMig)

        The influence of the elderly on Scottish elections can only increase in the next twenty years.

        If I was Nicola, I’d take far better care of them than at present.
        But, I’m not sure Nicola is up to speed yet on the voting power of the over 60’s.
        Too busy securing votes for 16 and 17 year old’s which is absolutely fine.
        But they often become the ’emigration generation’,
        while for now the elderly are a much bigger voting bloc –
        and they’re going nowhere.

      • Ah man and boy, but theres the thing. The next generation of older voters will be internet users. They will have the same antipathy to politicians as their younger kin. They will have grown up after the “Empire”. They will have come of political age when the first SNP surge happened in the 70’s. I know lots who voted yes. We were all too busy talking to each other and fighting the campaign. Some of us have learned that we should have been visiting our parents and grandparents and fighting the mass media and Liebour lies at home.

        I want a better Scotland for ALL people who live here. I don’t care if they are Catholics or play football, old or young, even knuckle dragging Orangemen in my own village. It is not ageism, but frustration that is being reflected by comments like that above. And it should be directed at ourselves. What can we do to ensure our old people are included in our lives, our society and our independent future?

        We are going to win this. Soon.

      • You know, a thought occurred to me there, about the auld, and the ring of steel. Maybe the auld will grow so complacent that it’s a shoo-in for Sunny Jim, seeing him on the telly every night and dominating the airwaves by day, that maybe they won’t even bother going out to vote on the day. Plans can backfire.

  5. Despite the strength of the propaganda machines – BBC, print media – I’d love to think that most people will not be taken in by “principles” purely designed to win votes. As a postscript, my 24 yr old daughter and her partner, the type of young professionals you characterise as “uninformed, busy, don’t follow the news day in day out” were, on their admission, influenced (not bamboozled) by the unrelenting propaganda in the MSM. They are not now. They now look back and have a clear perspective on the events leading up to, and since the Referendum. Every claim, every promise, every new “principle” from the Unionist parties is now treated by them both with suspicion. They will not be fooled again.

    • I just hope you are correct Brian, and a lot more folk are of the same opinion. Certainly, on the doorstep over the last two months, some, not all by any means, former Labour voters are saying that their party now offers nothing for them, and they will be voting S.N.P. If you push them further, gently of course, it seems that they haven’t forgiven them for their collaboration with the tories. But our major problem remains the M.S.M, as they will never give us a level playing field, and lookout for another “Vow”, just prior to May 7th.

  6. Good article Alistair,
    supplements my own thoughts on JM, and confirms the fact that he’s a very capable and dangerous person devoid of much in the way of principles.
    I watched the interview on Scotland Tonight last night, and he has the great gift for a politician of uttering one lie after another in a credible manner and with a straight face.
    He and the rest of Scottish Labour need to be treated as dangerous opponents and therefore with a great deal of respect in the GE2015 campaign.
    We need to anticipate their key vote-winning tactics and understand how these can best be countered, and most importantly attempt to control the game by sticking to the positive messages supporting a greatly increased SNP contingent at Westminster.

    • To, hell with respect – I prefer suspicion and clinical dismantling of his lies.

    • I think one of the most illuminating statements I have heard this year on television was from a Tory. Yes, Edwina Currie said on “I’m a Celebrity” when asked to be a secret agent in the camp meaning that she would have to lie and deceive some of her fellow campmates – “I’m a Politian, it’s what we do for a living” – not strictly verbatim now, but I am sure you will get the drift.

  7. Methinks you’re way over-egging the cake with this ‘credit score’ for McDougall. We all know from bitter experience that YES didn’t tackle him the right way to show him up for the hollow lying that was his one and only tactic.

    If there is one solitary lesson to take out of the past charade of democracy that was supposed to be our Edinburgh governed and agreed purdah rule referendum it is do not accept a single word, any word, from BT as being based on honour and fair play.

    Yes and Blair Jenkins were far too fair and nice about things and we were royally shafted, in every sense of the word.

    Now we have this ‘multi-swivel principle’ Murphy, who’ll say literally anything, where truth and morality have no meaning to such a character and the spinning media machine and the daily worsening BBC will back him up to the hilt compounding the hellish downward spiral of Labour. And all of this being done with absolutely no care or concern for the collateral damage it is wreaking on the ordinary punter who’s getting to know not which way is up!

    Lessons have better been well and truly learned.

  8. I thought and said throughout the Referendum that labour were working on tactics entirely. this ini its self is bad enough but it is the total disregard for the constituents and voters that takes the next set of tactics to a new low.
    O wonder if Murphy, McDougall etc are sociopaths like Cameron and Osborne? They have little real connection to people.
    Osborne and all use the justification of trickle down economics, maybe Murphy uses the justification of trickle down beneficence, as long as they, Labour, are in power all the people ‘below’ will somehow be better off.

  9. How do we respond to this Eggyjim crescendo? If he has a strong focused team pushing his lies, who do we have to counterbalance this and ensure he is challenged every step of the way in the most public way possible?

  10. I am auld and I voted yes. There are more of us about than you know, I am more inclined to think auld middle-class with secure pensions and live in bungalows and play golf.

  11. Superb article and the posts arre almost as good, great stuff.

  12. Love the “not necessarily stupid” bit.

  13. ‘The last refuge of the scoundrel’.

    Johnson was right, although the context in which he said it is unknown.

    It fits Murphy like a soft leather glove.

    No doubt he’s a ‘proud Scot’ also.

  14. I don’t buy the idea that McDougall is some sort of master tactician – he lost the campaign going from a 20 point lead to just 5 on the day.

    The split from Labour (which includes me) is huge and irrevocable whatever Murphy does.

    I called the indyref pretty well (had 54-46) and fully expect SNP to have 25-30 MPs come May if not more.

  15. Don’t buy the idea that McDougall is some sort of master tactician – he lost the campaign going from a 20 point lead to just 5 on the day.

    The split from Labour (which includes me) is huge and irrevocable whatever Murphy does.

    I called the indyref pretty well (had 54-46) and fully expect SNP to have 25-30 MPs come May if not more.

  16. The “turn to patriotism” is a calculated slur and deeply divisive tactic to make the current split in Scotland even greater than it is. It’s intended goal is to turn off Yes voters but then that’s the idea. As long as he can hold to just enough to keep Scotland in the union. He doesn’t care about the damage he does as he entrenches a “them vs Us” agenda. At a stroke he cuts himself off from the 45% and possibly more who will be deeply uncomfortable about his direction. Someone somewhere is telling him that this is how he reconnects with the voters who are leaving the party in droves. I also can see Blair McDougall’s finger prints all over this. In fact I can see the tory party’s finger prints all over this. More and more Scottish conservatives are being hired for Team Murphy. It is more than cynical, it is deeply disturbing that they are prepared to sow a lot “political” sectarianism in Scotland and feed off the hate.

    The problem is that the “doing enough to keep a hold of what we have” is one the reasons labour lost in 2007 and again in 2011. So “doing enough to hold on to what we have” coupled with “you’re either with us or against us” politics can only destroy Labour in the long run. My fear is the damage they’ll manage to achieve while tearing themselves down. You can almost picture McDougall telling Murphy that there is no positive case for labour, so they must feed off hate instead. We also come back to issue that he can do nothing while sitting as a backbench MP. He can offer nothing or even promise anything. His voice will not be heard in Holyrood. It will be Kezia Dugdale who will speak for Murphy. The only thing she can say is to channel Johann Lamont’s dreary brain killing hate stew.

    I hope to god I am wrong and Murphy’s career drowns in its own bile and takes the labour party with it.

    The labour party of Keir Hardie is dead but its epitaph is an image of Jim Murphy with a clenched fist. I find myself more than a little upset by that.

  17. I enjoyed the article, it offers an interesting perspective on events.

    However, it’s startling that no mention is made of the media in the article yet for most commentators it is their first port of call.

    Murphy will retain his seat in Westminster then win a seat in 2016 at Holyrood, Labour will lose seats in Westminster to the SNP but not as many as the polls currently show. This is what our media will deliver for the Labour Party. It will provide them with the kiss of life.

    For those ‘uninformed voters’ news delivery will remain the same – pro-union print titles, STV and the BBC. They will vote according to the news delivered from those sources or continue decades long voting patterns that have no rational merit to them. The news is designed to provoke an emotional response – anger, hatred, pessimism, blame – because as long as you create that atmosphere then the less open and rational people will be when making a choice.

    This was actually Better Together’s true victory, to create an atmosphere of hate and derision. It worked on enough of the Scottish population to bring home a No vote.

  18. The Labour party cannot get away with its negative fear campaign for ever. I hope the SNP will continue its work throughout all the ups and downs they are bound to face.

  19. If No vote was substantially about fears related to income or economy say to Labour /Murphy strategy patriotism/nationalism is not the issue, Austerity is.

    Campaign on UK labour’s renewed committment to austerity, highlight similarities to tory policies, broken promises on guarantee of no threat to pensions, NHS, etc. Point out that as opposed to devo max scottish labour not serious about austerity, anti privatization. Ask for detail on how Murphy will promote social justice, but point out there is no reason to believe he will keep any promise, based on Labour’s track record during and post indy campaign.

    Plenty of evidence Murphy not interested in social justice. SNP need to keep repeating that in parliament, & via its contact with the press. They are in government and thus locked into the MSM news cycle, which to some extent they set the agenda for themselves. SNP can consider what would we like media to cover today?

    SNP (&Scottish Greens, SSP, Women 4 indy) are effectively represent UK unity against austerity with PCymru in Wales, English Welsh Greens, Northern Ireland.
    Use Better Together’s home ground on UK unity, income & public services protection – welfare & pensions, NHS,etc.

    Offer support for UK wide free education. Advocate WM change to 3 year parliamentary terms & proportional voting,abolition of house of lords & creation democratic upper house… amongst other things. If at least discuss some democratic reform, england may get a taste for it. english devo without reform at WM will not mean much, as in scotland. it is another distraction from reform where real power lies or cameron would not suggest it

    Although yes groups only have one daily paper in The National, it has good circulation & its extremely fortunate to have even one daily that includes political voices & normally shut out of mass media.

    Please remember you have come a long way & have gathered lots of provisions for the journey.

  20. surely the electorate must know that murphy is a snake oil salesman who will say/do anything to promote himself and slab. so depressing and stomach churning to watch him after his shoe in as leader to suddenly come over as mr patriotism, so scottish and yet few months back flying the bull dog unionist flag with the other reprobates…cant abide the man, hes dangerous and should be given no slack, better together plan b will be wheeled out again for general election targetting the elderly and uninformed,

  21. Let’s be absolutely clear about the No campaign in Scotland.
    Without Westminster funding and support it was dead in the water.
    Left to Scots alone to decide,we would now be negotiating independence.
    This was a campaign which England could not afford to lose and were prepared to throw
    everything at it to prevent us separating from their control.
    Why would that be I wonder?
    Maybe they just love Scots and can’t bear to be parted from us?

    • Maybe they just love Scotland’s territorial waters
      and with £1.3 trillion in WM debt,
      can’t bear to be parted from all the oil & gas underneath.

    • England? I think you mean Westminster and Whitehall. There was probably a fair amount of support in England for the Yes side, considering that maybe 30%-35% of us would want our own country to be rid of the ‘Union’.

    • Bringiton: I understand your point entirely, but . . . the media played a pivotal role. In fact every self serving organisation . . .Media, Banks, Big Business . . .played a key role, as well as WM.
      It’s your last point that means so much to me though. I just could not understand – still don’t – why so many NO voters failed to question why the 3 big parties wanted Scotland to stay in the UK.
      But maybe they will the next time.

  22. I am coming back to live/retire soon and shall stay until such time that we win – in the next few years. If the likes of Murphy and his scabrous ilk are intent on destroying my Country – because of their greed and fealty to Westminster/Blair and the other coloured Tories – I shall seriously be looking elsewhere, as I could not live/spend my remaining years in such a place, knowing how such people betrayed and belittled my Country – they are certainly not real Scots whether they consider themselves ‘patriotic’
    As soon as he opens his mouth, his voice/words make my skin crawl. I can only wish Mr Murphy the same as his hero – loads of money but despised by his fellow countrymen. ‘By the way’ what was Murphy like when he lived in Arden as a ‘wee boy’? Rhetorical question – I can guess.

  23. We had better prepare ourselves for continual SNP bashing from the BBC, STV, SKY and the Labour Radio Scotland, all of whom I’ve now boycotted since before the Referendum. They have all given Murphy space to air his views without interruption!

    RT is very good, I’ve found!

  24. Reblogged this on The Orkney Vole and commented:
    The Trow ran came down to the burrow this morning and screamed in my window. I was not bright eyed and bushy tailed – Look, he said, ‘look now we have you nationalist scum on the run’ – I looked up blearily from my freshly pressed carrot juice. ‘What did you say?’
    ”We are now committed to a fairer society’, he said, ‘give up now, you have lost.’ ‘Oh Chings,’ I replied, ‘ Have you taken your medication? Vote Labour in Orkney and you will get the coalition back – maybe with UKIP. That will help your Socialist ideals’ I snorted, closed the window and snuggled down on my nice bed of grass.

  25. Murphy is a runner. As am I. He couldn’t resist having his photo taken running along with his Scotland football top on. I know that real runners of whatever shape or size do not wear football tops to train in. So it was a set up for the cameras and embarissingly crude at that. Then he went onto Scotland Tonight and lied about the labour membership saying it was 20k which went unchallenged. We know it to be between 8 and 14k , but no more than that. He further lied saying it cost £40 to join labour as an excuse for poor mmbership. When in fat it is £5.00 and has been since August. Later he said it was £1.00 to join the SNP. It’s actually £5 to join and £12 per year. So here we are now dealing with someone who can lie without blinking or stopping for breath. This is the modern labour party way!Lie as long as you can because the media will not question you.

  26. I sent an e-mail to the daily record highlighting Murphy’s lies on Scotland Tonight,but it was a vain hope it may have been published

  27. Och, I’m getting really fed up with all these flawed “why we lost the referendum” analyses. BT never won it, in fact they tried very hard to lose it. 25% yes to 45% yes within a few months – they managed to hold on by the skin of their teeth (and some very dodgy politicking).

    No, the people of Scotland weren’t quite ready – for the YES side, it was a brilliant campaign that exceeded all (realistic) expectations. 25% to 45 % should not happen in five years, let alone five months. It was a bridge too far, and many soft voters decided to give the UK one more chance – a chance, it seems, they have blown already.

    Same with the Red Tories – it doesn’t matter how brilliant a tactician Jim Murphy is. The people of Scotland will dump those fraudsters if and when they decide to do so. May 2015 – who knows?

  28. Couldn’t agree more Luigi. Nothing was won. The people of Scotland 55% of them didn’t want Scotland to be independent, or were scared of independence. The fact that we managed to get Yes from 32% to 45% during the campaign means the ground was shifting. Had the vote been 2 months later I think we might just have done it. So why did people vote no. Number one reason ignorance others were self preservation, die hard unionists and English expats not wanting to leave mother England. We will never take the unionsists with us but the rest we can work on.

  29. Jock, two more months we definitely would have won it. The campaigning may well be over and yet support for independence continues it’s upwards trajectory – 52% at the last sample. A narrow win for the NO side was incredibly bad news for the union. They managed to hang on (for now) but they will find it impossible to regain the huge ground they have lost.

  30. Yep it’s a comin. 2017-18 could be interesting years for Scotland. Here is the ultimate question for the no side. Do they look like winners. Are they acting like winners. What have they won? Answer a dirty battle. What will they lose? Answer the war and their misguided pride.

  31. Unfortunately I think your assessment is very, very accurate. The article is well written and based on recent facts. I may not like the conclusion, I may not like the methods used by Murphy and Co. However I fully agree that the tactic is to hold the remaining vote and win back the Labour/Yes voters. The first past the post system swings back in their favour very quickly if they can recover those votes.

    Sad that the truth is now replaced by focus groups!
    “Tell them what the want to hear, delivery doesn’t matter because we will have gained their vote by then.”

  32. Does anyone know how he & SLAB are paying for all of these advisors? These folks don’t usually come cheap.

  33. Didn’t Samuel Johnson say patriotism was the ‘last refuge of a scoundrel?’

  34. The statistic that folk are scared to mention.
    If English folk living in Scotland didn’t have a vote, we would now be an independent Scotland.
    If I was a Westminster Unionist, I would be looking to move more government jobs to Scotland, with generous relocation packages.

  35. A very good analysis. I have been wondering whether the recent opinion polls showing a huge majority for the SNP can be trusted or whether they are part of a media narrative designed to deify big Jim. I suspect we’ll see an unexplained swing in the polls towards Labour very soon. The mass media can then begin to write the next chapter in their ongoing hagiography of Jim Murphy.

  36. “Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor. For patriotism is indeed a double- edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and patriotism, will offer up all of their rights to the leader and gladly so.
    How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Julius Caesar.”

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