Fri 12 Sept 14:20: Labour in Scotland
Another quick thing, about the ICM poll (see also below). The poll showed 42% of Labour's 2010 voters are yesers, but only 29% of 2011 Labour voters are yeses. Labour did pretty well in Scotland in the 2010 UK General Election, holding onto all of their seats. In 2011, Labour did much worse than that. So the 2010 voter base is the people they need to win back if they are going to succeed in Scottish politics in future.
A couple of weeks ago, that 29% would have been considered big - when a previous poll showed 30% of Labour voters supporting independence, staff at the yes campaign were delighted. The 42% is a huge figure. And here's the problem. Labour have been astonishingly rude towards and dismissive of anyone voting yes with Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont famously discribing nationalism as "a virus". In a few short months, in May 2015, particularly if it's a no vote, Labour will have to go back to all of thise people who put a cross in their box in 2010 and ask them to do so again. And if 41% of them feel like Labour has treated them badly, that'll be a tough job.
For me, there's an interesting counterpoint here. Greens suffered, at least at the start of the campaign, a similar risk: Green voters were split down the middle on independence. But the result was that the party took the opposite approach - passionately campaigning for independence, but always being clear that it empathised with no voters, and doing its best to support them. Perhaps if Labour had taken a similar approach, they wouldn't be in so much trouble. But, as has long been the case, they are so blinded by their hatred of the SNP, they probably can't see that.
Fri 12 Sept, 14:11 - Poll confirms UK nationalism the main reason people vote no
So, there's another poll out, again, confirming, to use the metaphor in vogue, that it's a knife edge. 51% no, 49% yes. It also confirms other things we'd expect to hear – predictions of a huge turnout, men and younger people more in favour, women and older people more against.
What's new (or, at least, I don't
remember seeing before) is a set of questions about why
are voting how they are. Those polled were asked for up to three
reasons why they are voting as they are. Here's why people who are
are voting no (from the Guardian):
And here's why yes voters are voting yes - again, the graphic is taken from the Guardian.
This confirms a clear impression I've had for a long time: there are nationalist feelings on both sides ('feelings about Scotland' and 'feelings about the UK'). But among no voters, it's the primary reason by quite a long way, and is given by a majority as why, or, at least, one of two or three reasons they are voting yes. Among yes voters, it's the secondary reason, and only 41% gave it as one of their choices at all.
Too often, people on the No side of this debate say that they dislike nationalism. It's time for them to recognise that there are more nationalists on their side than there are among yes voters. And perhaps, when they do, they'll recognise that not all nationalists are fascists or chauvanists.
Friday 12 Sept, 12:10 - the barbarism of Scottishness and fear of mob rule
Fortunately, the whole discussion about violence and cybernats seems to have died down for now. I always assumed it was the no campaign sitting on a lead – doing everything they could to distract from debating independence for as long as they were in the lead, running down the clock. And, of course, now they aren't so sure of their lead anymore, they are back to their scare stories.
Of course, this isn't to say they were inventing incidents, nor that those incidents weren't nasty. In the past week or so, I've had people threaten violence against me and spit at my friend because we were campaigning for a yes vote. I am sure that the other side has similar experiences, and I'm sorry about that. What's interesting is that one side put these horrible happenings in their press releases and made them front page news - for a while. Despite repeated similar incidents, the other side didn't shout about it, preferring to discuss the actual decision in front of us.
As I say, my analysis of this in the past has always been that it's about buying time while they're ahead – about shutting down debate. And I still think that's in part true. But Gary Dunion made an interesting point last night, which I'd not considered.
A part of the Scottish national pathology is a self-belief that we are violent, that we are barbarians. This is sometimes articulated in what is seen as a positive way – we're tough warriors, caber tossers, “Scotch Beef”. At other times, it's used in a negative way: jokes about the risk of being knifed in Glasgow come to mind. The flip side of this is that Anglicisation/Britishness is civilising. This story runs through the way we are taught almost all of our history, and much of how we understand ourselves today.
This belief is tied into a broader sense of barbarism. And barbarism is tied up with self-rule – it's a good reason to believe that a group of people couldn't govern themselves – that Scots can't govern ourselves. I don't think this is a conscious message of the no campaign. But I do think, now Gary points it out, it's a story they've been subtly telling throughout the referendum.
Of course, the sense of barbarism isn't just about national identity. It's also about class. Middle class people tend to think of working class people as violent, dangerous, etc. And so if you're making the case that we should defend a system which has long ensured that middle and upper class people are elected, then it's a good idea to point out how terrifying it would be if the yobs were in charge.
And that, ultimately, is the argument against almost all democracy – that it's mob rule. That people are brutes, violent, nasty, stupid, can't be trusted. This is the argument implicit in the no camp's choice to publicise those nasty incidents there have been rather than to do what Yes Scotland did, and quietly ignore attacks on their activists and discuss the actual issues. In other words, the “Scots are violent” story may not have been a distraction from the Better Together narrative. Whether intentionally or not, it's a key part of their campaign story.
Friday 12 Sept - some things for you
I've a few wee things for you this morning:
- first, I interviewed Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru. If we're going to manage to spread the rebellion against the British State, she's going to be an absolutely key figure.
- second, Michael Chessum, a prominent figure on the student left, has a piece arguing that the left in the rest of the UK should spend less time telling Scots what to do one way or the other, and more time shaping the narrative in the England and ensuring people see this as a rebellion against neoliberalism, not a petty nationalism.
- third, Peter Hill expresses a feeling I've heard more and more of from people across the left in the rest of the UK - that having been previously ambivilent about independence, he's now excited by it.
- fourth, I went on Derek Bateman's show with Andrew Anderson and chatted about what's going on - and blamed Philip Gould and Peter Mandleson for the plight of the British State this week. You can listen here.