At the beginning of his Conference speech, Iain Gray predictably and depressingly used the tired metaphor stepping up to the plate, and this was a harbinger of the leaden rhetoric to follow.
Stepping up to the plate is a metaphor derived from baseball, meaning going in to bat. Baseball is at the heart of the American psyche, as cricket once was representative of the English character. American baseball metaphors therefore have little or no relevance or resonance in England, and even less in Scotland, but this does not deter various public figures, politicians, media commentators and businessmen from stepping up to the plate at regular intervals, often oblivious to the origins of the idiom.
(One senior politician, when asked what exactly was the plate he was stepping up to, looked puzzled, then offered “The tectonic plate?”).
One cannot imagine Winston Churchill rallying the people in 1940 by using such a tired and irrelevant phrase.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall step up to the plate …”
However, there was worse to come from Iain Gray – much worse …
I will wade my way through his fractured rhetoric and dubious claims in a later blog, but for the moment, his closing quote is enough.
IAIN GRAY: I care too much for the future of my country to see it risked for separation, Conference. I love my country too much to be a nationalist. Scotland deserves better.
This man aspires to be the First Minister of the nation of Scotland, although he does not recognise it as a nation, but as a devolved, subordinate region of the UK.
Try putting Iain Gray’s statement into the mouth of any of the Prime Ministers of the great nations of Europe, most of which have thrown off the shackles of one empire or another and proudly asserted their independence.
Try putting it into the mouths of the Premiers of the countries who escaped from the Soviet tyranny.
Try putting it into the mouths of the Premiers of the proud independent nations across the globe who were once part of the blood-red map of the British Empire – India, Pakistan, Canada, the United States, the African nations.
But you will find more success if you put Gray’s quote into the mouths of those who defended their country's subjection throughout history, who collaborated in the subservience of their country, who made their political accommodation with the Empire that had placed its foot on the neck of their country for fleeting political gain.
Their names now live in infamy, but I will not name them here, because I am deeply ashamed that a fellow Scot should number himself among them.