The haar has lifted, and our back garden on this late April day is gloriously sunny.
Whan that Aprill with his shoures sote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote and bathed every veynein swich licour of which vertu engendred is the flour
I quote the great English poet, because he was an Englishman, one with a great love for his country and its language, which he immeasurably enriched, and because I love the Canterbury Tales, especially its Prologue. And I love him because I am not an Englishman, nor am I British - just an unwilling, and I hope temporary citizen of a disunited kingdom that Geoffrey Chaucer would not have understood. But great art transcends all national and global boundaries in its profound humanity, which is why it is deeply distrusted by tyrants everywhere, in every age, and why the Arts are their first targets when money is tight and the rich and privileged must be protected at all costs.
But art is politicised, and artists must engage with politics, because politics is life and failure to engage is a denial of the Zeitgeist. But that engagement must arise from the artist’s vision, and must not be distorted by being pressed into a politician’s view of Art. That way lies the art of the Third Reich, and that alliance of art and politics defines fascism.
But I must return to the mundane, indeed to the quotidian. Carpe Diem, and the diem that must be carpied is Sunday the twenty fourth of April 2011.
The news today is good, and a continuation of the good news that has built like a great, unstoppable (I hope!) wave over the last week or so. The Scotland on Sunday YouGov poll graphically illustrates the Gray Nightmare - a Holyrood seat projection of 61 for the SNP (+14), with Labour at at 42 (-4). With a Green projection of 8 (+6) that gives a potential SNP/Green coalition or working arrangement of 69 seat out of 129.
No room for complacency, however, because the unionist press are offering increasingly desperate advice to Labour about how they might recover some ground, advice which can be summarised as go negative, attack Alex Salmond and talk up the independence agenda.
(I’ll bypass The Sunday Herald for once, who are also in the ‘rehabilitate Iain Gray’ mode. But one comment, on Tom Gordon’s piece, Glad to be Gray. His opening paragraph is -
Iain Gray is a paradox. His back-story is far more vivid than that of civil servant turned bank economist Alex Salmond, and more obviously dedicated to public service, yet it’s impossible to tell.
Leaving aside the blatant bias, any journalist with such an uncertain grasp of syntax really needs to take advantage of one of Iain Gray’s ‘pledges’, as listed to the right of the piece - a zero approach to illiteracy. Tom, one question on your second sentence - ‘impossible to tell’ what?)
I choose to focus on Kenny Farquarson’s piece, What Labour needs is some six appeal. Why Kenny Farquarson? Because, based on his previous output, and significantly on his Twitter contributions (@KennyFarq), I believe him to be committed to Scotland and the Scottish people, open to civilised debate, and generally a valuable and informed member of Scottish society. But he is a unionist, and employed by Scotland on Sunday, and neither of these things come without obligations.
So how does Kenny Farquarson address the now urgent priority of giving artificial respiration to Iain Gray’s campaign?
Well, his sub-header, Scots appear to be unimpressed with the SNP record on almost every policy area, appears to signal that it is not only the Labour Party that has retreated from an uncomfortable reality, because in the light of the polls, if that risible statement was accurate, Scottish voters have taken leave of their senses. But we’ll move swiftly on to the body of his article.
Kenny offers six ways for Labour to ‘defy all predictions and ‘win back the lost ground’.
1. Talk up independence.
By this, Kenny means frighten unionists who may vote for the SNP by reiterating the tired and entirely unsuccessful argument, trotted out and regularly demolished by Alex Salmond on almost every media channel, that the SNP is somehow marginalising the independence question. If anything demonstrates how remote the Scottish Unionist parties and their media supporters are from the mood of the electorate, it is this argument. In spite of being peddled by a range of media gandy dancers and railroad men for well over a year, the voters seem unmoved - or rather, moved towards the SNP rather than being put off by it.
If I may celebrate the Auld Alliance in a phrase, Kenny, the Scottish NATIONAL Party’s raison d'être is the independence of the Scottish nation by the free democratic choice of the people of Scotland, a choice that will be offered to them during the life of the next Scottish Parliament, the electorate and May the 5th permitting.
2. Don’t let up on the message that Scotland needs Labour now that the Tories are back in power at Westminster.
Labour voters swallowed that argument briefly after the general election, until they realised that -
a) there would have been no Tories in power if John Reid, Labour power-broker par excellence, hadn’t deliberately wrecked Gordon Brown’s attempt to form a rainbow coalition with the LibDems and the nationalist parties.
b) there would have been no Cuts necessary if Labour hadn’t wrecked the UK economy.
c) that Alex Salmond and the SNP had, week after week in Holyrood, warned of the impending ‘£500 million’ cut to the Scottish settlement by Alistair Darling, a fact airily denied and dismissed by Iain Gray when his party was in power at Westminster, and hastily re-discovered when they were thrown out.
c) that none of it would have happened if Scotland had been independent and/or in control of its own finances.
d) the financial crash would have passed Scotland by - as it has Norway - if the UK Government hadn’t stolen its oil revenues.
Scottish voters also realised, after Ed Miliband’s Labour Party Conference speech in Glasgow, that Miliband Minor wasn’t up here to fight the Scottish election, he was here to shamelessly use the puppet Scottish Labour Party and its puppet Leader to fight the next UK general election.
The Scottish electorate didnae come up the Clyde oan a bike, Kenny …
3) Go for the SNP’s record in government.
Well, do so, by all means, Kenny - it is precisely their record in government that has inspired the confidence of a series of major Scottish business figures and the electorate.
4) It’s the economy, stupid …
Yes, it is, Kenny, and since Labour wrecked it, the ConLibs are looting the wreck, and the only hope Scots have is the SNP and Alex Salmond, the polls show that the electorate are not stupid, even if the unionist parties believe they are …
5) Wheel out Laura Norder
Wheel out is right, Kenny - in a broken pram on its way the the steamie, after Andy Kerr, Richard Baker and Iain Gray’s nonsensical statistics have been comprehensively rubbished by a series of unimpeachable organisations, including those they were misquoting. Laura Norder, a painted fraud who has little to do with justice, is the last refuge of scoundrels.
6) Finally, for goodness sake, do something about Iain Gray …
As Mae West once said, goodness has nothing to do with it. It would take a back-to-the future time machine to do something about Iain Gray, i.e. don’t elect him as Leader in the first place.
But then, what did the sea of mediocrity that is now the Scottish Labour Party have to offer? Iain Gray was thrown up, in every sense of the word, by a party bereft of values, ideals, vision and, above all, bereft of talent.