In what has been a disappointing few days for politics, discussion, and sanity in general, somebody has decided to pelt a politician with eggs.
For context, read here,
And also here.
I’m going to be up-front with the common sense here; there’s no need for aggressive barracking and egging. We’re the Yes campaign, we’re a civilised revolution, and we’re a damn sight classier than throwing foodstuff at people we don’t like. The kind of people who would do this are only making it harder to make our case; you might as well be handing Better Together whole clips of 5.56 if you believe this kind of behaviour is acceptable.
Having said that, this is hardly representative of the hard work and reasoned debate produced by the majority of the Yes campaign. Which makes the claims of ‘organised mobbery’ utterly insulting and inaccurate. This video has been doing the rounds today:
Done watching it? Grand. So, lots of shouty people shouting at one shouty man who is shouting back at them. Hooray for politics. It’s safe to say that the Yes campaigners featured in this video could be construed to be intimidating. It’s not behaviour I would like to see from my peers, and wherever possible I will be encouraging people to rise above it all and engage in measured, calm discussion. After all, how can we refute the case for the union when we do not listen to it?
However, I have many bones to pick with this video.
First and foremost – Jim Murphy appears to be new to politics if he believes this sort of behaviour is targeting him and only him. Hell, as a Labour MSP, he should be well aware of the ‘mobs’ of people, mainly educators and public servants, who rallied against the visit of Tony Blair back in the early 2000s. Has he forgotten the marches, the ruckus they have caused? Has he forgotten his own party-mate John Prescott’s own encounter with an egg, and how it was treated as a national joke at the time?
How, now, are we to believe that this, standard (noisy and annoying) form of British politics has suddenly morphed from humorous discontent to assassination attempt? Murphy is at no more risk from harm than any other politician who decides to take to the streets. He wanted to get in touch with the people of Scotland – and the people of Scotland got in touch with him. You surely knew the risks, Jim; if you had wanted to avoid this sort of thing, you could’ve organised it better. Like most politicians seem to be capable of doing.
Speaking of organisation, let’s talk about point number two – the use of social media to ‘organise the mobs’. Jim appears to have forgotten that we, the people, have the right to assemble and protest wherever and whenever we see fit. The fact that these people were protesting him, of course, immediately makes him take offence. Now, I admit that their behaviour was less than stellar at the incidents portrayed in the video (which I believe to have been cherry-picked for maximum impact). But you can’t exactly label a grassroots call for demonstration attendance, advertised openly on social media, as a centralised ‘mob organisation’ effort. The intent was, as was evident from the posts showcased in his very own video, to show face at his hustings and to challenge what he was saying. For somebody who claims to be stifled by the Yes campaign, his decision to attempt to discourage the organisation of opposition to his soapbox tour through the use of social media smacks not just a little bit of hypocrisy.
Which leads me onto point number three – The Silence. Jim has discontinued his soapbox tour of Scotland because of this ‘organised harassment’ from the Yes campaign. I’m gonna poke a couple of holes here; for one, the official Yes campaign itself immediately and loudly condemned the act:
Secondly, the campaigners who DID turn up were loud, certainly. But while they were being obnoxious, there was no real reason that Jim couldn’t just do his best to block them out and crack on with the people who wanted to talk to him. Seriously, if this is the level he’s working at, he’d never have lasted five minutes in the science class I taught at high school. You learn to work around the disruptive children, to focus on the ones who are genuinely interested, you take time and make the effort to lean in and listen to them and explain your reasoning to them. What Murphy does do, as you can see in his own video, is use the opportunity presented by the heckling to avoid answering questions, avoid engaging with his audience, and instead engage in puerile cheap point-scoring with the shouty people. The only person silencing Jim Murphy, is Jim Murphy himself. If he is intimidated by the ‘mobs’ he has experienced, then maybe politics isn’t the game for him. All he needs to do is press on, to show that he has the guts and the willpower to get his message through even despite the obstructions thrown up in his way. Instead, he chooses to curl up in a ball and hide away, to give up and throw away his intent of engaging with undecided voters. Essentially, the message he’s sending out is that he’s not interested in undecided voters enough to brave the political shitstorm that’s swarming around everyone and talk to them.
Which leads me onto my final point; What’s really sinister about this video is the message that the No campaign is attempting to send about the Yes campaign. For one, it seeks to spread the slander that the Yes campaign is staffed entirely by thugs, that all we can do is bluff and bully our way towards a result, that we’re incapable of sensible political discourse. This is a slap in the face to all the work that we’ve done, and is generalisation of the very worst kind. It also makes the same fundamental mistake/wilful misunderstanding that I still cannot believe is being perpetrated. We. Do not. Take. Our orders. Centrally. The Yes campaign, as I pointed out on Friday, is an alliance of many different groups. We are not soldiers in the SNP’s army. We are not even beholden to Yes Scotland. We are individuals, and the very idea that we are mobilised by order of Jenkins or Sturgeon or Salmond is not only laughable but risible in the extreme. What this video intends, and what I actually suspect Jim Murphy himself intends, is to discredit Yes voters by painting us as mindless brutes who only take orders from our political overlords and therefore cannot be trusted with control over our own destinies.
What I really think about videos like this, is that it is an injustice not only to the Yes campaign, but to the No campaign itself. The Yes infraction is fairly obvious – there are hundreds of thousands of Yes voters who would much rather our reputations not be tainted by association with these noisy, obnoxious people whom we’ve never met nor conspired with. The damage done to the No campaign is more subtle, and deep-reaching. By insisting that they have the right in morality and conduct, while withdrawing from active political discussion, they are sending out the message that they are concerned only with etiquette, not with the important issues at hand. Doesn’t that worry the No voters?
My discourse ends here, and I’m going to round off with an exceptionally good tweet I was directed to earlier on tonight that really does sum up how I feel about this entire debacle:
We can either stand here arguing about whose campaign is full of the bigger arseholes, or we could talk about creating a better Scotland.
— David Officer (@Davidofficer) August 31, 2014