Two things are not in doubt. Who say so? Me, so there …
One, that a significant factor in the SNP’s spectacular win last May was the Party’s upbeat and positive message contrasting with the relentless, bleak negativity of the three unionist opposition parties.
Two, that Stephen Noon, Chief Policy Adviser to the Party, was the key advocate of that policy, and deserves major credit for his contribution.
I have kept - and replay periodically - the campaign speeches and debates during the 2011 campaign, and the contrast between the doom-laden, nay-saying of the opposition leaders in each debate and the nationalist spokesperson could not have failed to impact on the electorate.
For those who went beyond the public personas and listened carefully to what was being said, the contrast between the calm logic and reasoned arguments of the SNP and the shallow point-scoring approach and cavalier attitude to facts of Labour, the Tories and the LibDems - not to mention the expedient last minute policy shifts of Iain Gray - was even more marked.
As the scale of the shift in the polls in favour of the SNP became increasingly evident, unionist spokespersons began to panic, and leading the panic was John McTernan, former spin doctor to Tony Blair, unapologetic Blair loyalist and Iraq apologist – John is nothing if not consistent - now in Australia as a adviser to Julia Gillard, Labour PM, may God rest her premiership.
As yet unaware that he was entering into a new, lucrative freelance journalism phase of his career - with a virtual monopoly of the How Labour ****** it up/What Labour must Do Now! long-running series, with the Scotsman and Bill Jamieson eager to publish everything he put out - John McTernan saw the danger clearly and thought he saw the way to avert it. It was to go negative, to use an American political expression.
Here’s my comment on what he advocated, back in April 2011 -
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
The politics of John McTernan, the politics of the gutter - and Labour
An article today by John McTernan in The Scotsman epitomises what the Scottish Labour Party is all about. I quote -
Playing the nasty card might get results Article
by John McTernan (The Scotsman 27April 2011)
“Everyone who aspire to political office has to be, at least in part, an intellectual thug.”
“How do you become First Minister of Scotland? Simple. Malcolm X was right. “By any means necessary.” If you’re not prepared to follow his advice, you should avoid politics as a career.”
I spent some time earlier today in an exchange with John McTernan on Twitter about what the thing that now calls itself the Labour party now stands for. At that point, I hadn’t read the article, but I have now. It is the politics of the gutter, the worst kind of right-wing Tory ‘Laura Norder’ populism, appealing to fear, ignoring statistics and the views of the professionals who actually have to maintain law and order. We have heard it recently from Goldie, Gray and Kerr in all its intellectual poverty and innumeracy.
It is the politics of desperation, employed by every right-wing party when they see power slipping away to real democracy and the power of argument and the spirit of a people as their national consciousness awakens after a long somnolence - a fevered nightmare. And the thing that is now the Labour Party machine is a right-wing party, by any definition.
It is interesting that John McTernan chooses to quote Malcolm X, rather than John Paul Sartre, the author of the phrase. Malcolm X was a convicted criminal at age 21, some years before before he embarked on a career of violence with the Nation of Islam, a violent extremist organisation: a man who advocated openly the use of violence and weapons to achieve his ends, and who despised the way of democracy and peace, the way of Martin Luther King. Malcolm X came to see the error of at least some of his political philosophy, broke with the nation of Islam, and was then murdered by those he had antagonised.
I think I can say with some certainty that John McTernan’s answer to his own question “How do you become First Minister of Scotland?” - “By any means necessary” is not the answer that would have been given by Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish or Jack McConnell, nor would they have regarded themselves “at least in part as an intellectual thug”. It is certainly not the answer that would be given by the present First Minister, Alex Salmond, nor has it ever been a political approach that he has ever employed.
It is, quite simply, a contemptible philosophy, one that I would say the Labour Party should be ashamed of, but for the fact that they are now incapable of shame or remorse, as the tragedy of Iraq continues to show (McTernan defended Blair’s folly today on Twitter), and their inability to acknowledge their fundamental role in causing the UK’s present economic nightmare.
End of excerpt
THE REFERENDUM STRATEGY
Eight days after J.McT’s article, Labour was wiped out at the polls. The positivity strategy worked for the SNP, but for a reason the unionist opposition failed to understand back in April, and still don’t understand today. It is that it was a strategy that actually reflected what the SNP is about – its core values, ideals and objectives – whereas the Labour and Tory strategies were about getting and holding power, and had no political philosophy worth the name behind them, then or now. This has been clearly demonstrated by the Tory Leadership contest, now ended with an endorsement for a young front-woman for sclerotic, old guard Forsythian Toryism - and everything that lost them their vote - and the Labour contest, just beginning. Both exhibit utter vacuity in policy terms. (The LibDems once stood for something real, but in their lemming-like defence of the Union lost their way, perhaps irretrievably.)
Understandably, the Noon Doctrine has now become holy writ for the SNP. and every time Iain Gray opens his mouth, MSPs and the rest of us are reminded what a disaster he would have been as First Minister, and appears to vindicate the positivity message.
Incredibly he’s at it again today in the Scotsman - Cybernat attacks serve to damage our country. When a shallow politician gets hold of a cheap slogan, he’s reluctant to let it go, and in Iain Gray’s fantasy Scotland, the cybernats occupy the role of the Cybermen in Dr. Who, with Iain hiding behind the sofa. (He opens his little piece with “When I made my final speech …” Oh, would that that were true!)
However, I feel that the Noon Doctrine may require at least some clarification and perhaps even modification in the fin de siècle period till Scotland’s independence referendum, which I can now reveal - from unimpeachable inside sources – will take place on the 2nd of January 2012.
Naw, I’m only kidding – I just wanted the Wee Lair O’Drumlean to choke on his parritch and get fankled in his kilt. Uz cybernats, whit ur we like, Iain?
The SNP’s Parliamentarians now represent a fairly broad spectrum of age and personality types, and a very wide range of experience, both in life and in politics. We have seasoned old campaigners, solid middle-grounders and starry-eyed newbies. The newbies also range over an age and life experience spectrum, even though some of them are new to the chamber.
In personality terms, we have the full range, from the forceful political street fighters through the calmly and authoritatively assertive (Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney exemplify this personality type) to those whose qualities – and they are many – lie in knowledge, experience and hard work, but who are not those who would be my first choice to field in a media confrontation with the assertive media interviewers and sometimes unscrupulous political opponents.
What I dislike above all things in politics is blandness, and its soul mate, loyal conformity, especially since a nationalist political movement cannot afford such blandness. That’s why I rejoice in Alex Salmond because, in auld Glesca parlance, he’s dead gallus. And I like having a Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, who once in a while abandons the tones of measured legal dignity and reveals his humanity and his passion in terms that makes the court wigs spin askew, and causes the matrons – male and female – of Morningside, Blackett Place – and New Cut Rig - to quiver with outrage and fire off a letter to the Scotsman. I rejoice in the Kenny Gibsons and the Bob Dorises, ready to make a quick meal of unwary metropolitan media types who patronise Scotland.
And I expect young SNP members to occasionally let their youth and exuberance lead them into making fools of themselves – what’s youth for, if not to behave like an eejit wance in a wee while? Gaun yersel, Gail Lythgoe!
So what’s my concern over the Noon doctrine? This week, I can sum it up in one word – Citigroup – a word I spit out with profound distaste. I have said most of what I wanted to say about Citigroup in my recent blog Scotland Tonight and Newsnights Scotland and Citigroup attack on Scotland's renewables.
A letter in the Scotsman today describes Citigroup as follows “When reputable bankers like Citigroup issue warnings about future Scottish investments in on-shore/offshore wind farms – I listen and take note.” In searching for a phrase to describe Citigroup, this is not the one I would have chosen, and the internet abounds with stories and clips about this group that are, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. I am indebted to a journalist, Ian Fraser (Ian Fraser) for the following link Citigroup Finds Obeying the Law Is Too Darn Hard: Jonathan Weil an article from Bloomberg Business Week, November 4th 2011, i.e. today – not cold news.
I think it reasonable that if a financial institution makes, through the medium of a well-publicised recommendation to investors, what is effectively an attack on the viability of Scotland’s renewables industry and Scotland’s fight for independence through a democratic referendum – an attack that incredibly, was applauded by the British Prime Minister at PMQs – probably the first instance in history of a Prime Minister attacking investment in the state for which he claims responsibility, then it is reasonable to look very hard at the credibility, probity and recent financial history of the institution that originated the story. It’s called due diligence.
But not a mention in the media of Citigroup’s activities – although I know for certain they are fully aware of it – and not a mention by the Scottish Government’s spokespersons, in a number of interviews and statements, of the background of Citigroup. I have good reason to believe that this is no oversight or accident, but a three-line whip, and if not exactly covered by the Noon Doctrine, certainly reflects it. People have been warned off being ‘negative’ about Citigroup - that is, telling the truth about them.
Fergus Ewing was feeble and unprepared for his Scotland Tonight interviews, but he reappeared Rambo-like on last night’s Newsnicht, a man possessed - a minister on steroids -and gave an assertive account of himself. But still not a dicky bird about Citigroup’s record. Nicola Sturgeon, during yesterday’s FMQs, robustly refuted Citigroup’s conclusion and its advice, but her rebuttal would have carried more weight had she abandoned the Noon Doctrine and questioned Citigroup’s right to be taken seriously, based on their past record.
Maybe the Party must be careful not to frighten the horses if they are to shift the Don’t Knows and convert the anti-independence vote before the referendum, and it’s nice to be nice. But I don’t want the fight for the New Scotland to be coated in sugar and led by wimps – I want a bit of red meat now and again, and I suspect so do a lot of committed supporters.
And I want to see some signs of intelligent life from the massed ranks of MSPs – some signs of individuality and passion, even at the risk of the odd misjudgement – rather than feeling that I am looking at an army that is constructed of a few real people with the rest being the post-production animations of a Lord of the Rings movie.