Macho versus mucho

Two Tory men, two Labour women. What do they have in common? Rather a lot it seems, especially when it comes to nationalism and nationalists of the Scottish, but not English, variety. English nationalism is fine, a healthy and understandable patriotism, internationalist although shunning the EU and all it stands for, withdrawing into its isolationist shell. Scottish nationalism, on the other hand, is narrow, separatist and bad, very bad. So bad it must be quoshed, suppressed in whatever way will achieve the desired outcome, democracy forgotten.

First up we had Alister Jack, the Tory cabinet’s man in Scotland, telling us a Section 30 order wouldn’t be granted in Nicola Sturgeon’s lifetime – regardless of whether the SNP wins a majority at next year’s Holyrood elections. He, and his boss Boris Johnson and his cabal of right wing Tories, are very keen to personalise the wishes of Scottish people for a chance to have a second independence referendum, the right to choose our own futures. A strategy presumably agreed by the unionist parties together. If we deride and damage the First Minister and SNP leader, then a leadership challenge of the woman whose ability and statesmanship is widely recognised, the party will suffer, lose supporters and voters, and make a unionist win in the 2021 Holyrood election a possibility. End of independence dreams. The 2021 election would provide an opportunity to: “Press as hard as they can to press the case for the Union,” said Jack.

According to Jack and the Tories, Scotland’s constitutional future had been settled for good in 2014, despite reminders from many that Paragraph 18 of the Nov 2014 Smith Commission agreement, endorsed by all five Holyrood parties, said: “It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”

Journalist Lesley Riddoch tweeted a very appropriate riposte applicable to all the unionist parties in Scotland: “Rigor mortis precedes the end of any organism. Political unions too.”

Close on Jack’s heels came Jackson Carlaw, launching his bid to become Tory leader in Scotland, who said: “I have spent the last 18 months taking on Nicola Sturgeon. I’m asking our party to let me spent the next 18 months taking her down.” Cue more comments from women, accusing Carlaw of having a threatening and ugly obsession with Nicola Sturgeon on a personal level, with no interest in putting forward a positive Tory vision for Scotland. Nor did Carlaw bother to mention that the UK Government analysis estimates Johnson’s Brexit deal will reduce annual UK economic growth by 6.7% and average real terms wages by 6.4% compared to staying in the EU. Johnson’s deal is three times more damaging to the UK economy than Theresa May’s deal.

Humza Yousaf MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, condemned Carlaw’s words in a damning fashion: “People rightly calling out this language. Jackson’s attempt at being macho reminds me of that Zsa Zsa Gabor quote (to paraphrase) those who act macho often don’t have mucho!”

The two Tory men were rapidly followed by two Labour women. First up was Jess Phillips, candidate for the Labour leadership, swearing her oath of allegiance to unionism and averring there were no circumstances under which she would allow a second independence referendum for Scotland. “The idea that the answer to the UK leaving a union with our most important trading partner,” she insisted, “is for Scotland to leave a union with her most important trading partner only makes sense if you’re a nationalist. The SNP’s abject failings on education and health show that it is your administration that remains a threat to opportunity and equality for working people in Scotland.”

A raft of responses to that, some pointing out that seeking to deny the democratic wishes of a country (other, of course than her own) was not the solidarity or internationalism Phillips referred to, but was instead a symptom of colonialism and imperialism.

It came as little surprise to discover Jess Phillips had hired, as her Scotland adviser, Better Together’s campaign manager Blair McDougall who famously also advised on Jim Murphy’s election campaign in 2015 when Labour lost 40 of its 41 Scottish seats.

But uninformed as Phillips remarks were, she was outdone by another Labour leadership hopeful, Lisa Nandy who appears to think it incredible that people look at Labour and the Tories and think all politicians are the same. Well, in Scotland, where Labour and Tories cosy up to one another in councils, that’s the experience of most people.

Lisa Nandy, Labour leadership candidate

Nandy asserted that internationalism was under attack but she knew that socialism and peaceful solidarity could defeat divisive nationalism. Echoes there of what Phillips had said. She went on to admit in her interview with Andrew Neil that Labour didn’t have all the answers. But with socialists beaten over and over again by nationalists, she believed an international commission might be the answer.

Instead of Labour turning inwards she advocated it should look outwards to other countries where they’ve had to deal with “divisive nationalism…in places like Catalonia”, seeking to discover lessons from when narrow and divisive nationalism had been beaten by a social justice agenda. “It suits the Scottish Nationalists to keep the argument going about independence because while the entire conversation in Scotland is focussed on the constitution nobody’s paying attention to their record which is frankly appalling.” Not surprisingly, she doesn’t support another referendum on independence and is totally blind to the protections and initiatives the Scottish Government has implemented to support people less well off, many of whose woes stem from the austerity policies of Tory governments.

Andrew Neil’s comment in response was that she sounded like the Prime Minister.

Laura Webster, a journalist with The National tweeted that she had contacted Lisa Nandy asking for details on her plan for an “international commission” for Scotland, to look at how other countries had used social justice to beat nationalism. Nandy hadn’t replied. “Now she is telling Andrew Neil Catalonia as a good example.”

An avalanche of furious responses appeared online saying authoritarian politics has now seeped into the Labour Party. Nandy was accused by many, shocked by her remarks, of being offensive, badly briefed, and of pursuing “a call to brutal uncompromising Labour state repression”, that from Gerry Hassan, writer, commentator and academic.

Others claimed she had advocated following Spain’s treatment of Catalonia where state police attacked voters at polling stations, with Catalan political and civic leaders jailed. Nandy was accused of having more in common with Franco than Hardie.

Keir Hardie as depicted in the Great Tapestry of Scotland

She was charged with not understanding the Catalonian case, and of being so clueless about what’s been happening in Scotland over the last decade that it was frightening. It was pointed out that social justice was one of the biggest motivating factors for the Scottish independence movement, with Brexit adding urgency, that real change was wanted now and not in however many decades it might take fractured Labour to win again in an England shunted to the right.

Journalist and former MP, George Kerevan, reminded Nandy that he was in Catalonia in 2017 and saw at first hand the brutality and violence meted out to ordinary people for daring to vote for independence. “She wishes to have that here. She is not fit to hold office. She is a disgrace to her party and should resign.”

Mark Frankland, who manages the largest food bank in the Dumfries area, wrote an excellent blog piece in response to Nandy’s remarks, An open letter to Lisa Nandy MP

“If I was posting my blog in Catalonia, I would be in prison by now. And if I had joined a march for independence, I would have been beaten within an inch of my life by Spanish riot police. And by now, my leaders would either be living in exile or imprisoned for years. And this is how you think the likes of me should be treated? This is the shining example of good practice you feel the Westminster Government should aspire to? Well, shame on you Lisa Nandy.”

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