After the indy referendum in September 2014 we No voters – who were startled to find we’d been given a new identity, Unionists or Nawbags – thought we could forget about that interruption and get back to normality. Wrong. The SNP rode high, grabbed 56/59 (95%) of the Westminster seats in the general election and are likely to take as many in next year’s Holyrood election. Their opposition is fragmented into the old parties of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative, Labour has been broken and the only party that has gained are the Conservatives as the full-out Unionist party under the gutsy Ruth Davidson. So it’s been a gloomy time for us Negative lot, with constant threats of more referenda being waved at us in spite of the once in a generation, once in a life time, One Opportunity rhetoric during the indyref. One Snat tried to convince me that One Opportunity really meant An Opportunity. Meanwhile Sturgeon swans about doing photoshoots for Vogue – though credit where it’s due – she shows a good deal of bright style in her clothing in contrast to the grey frumpy Noes. “Bitter together” describes our mood.
But now something has happened to lift our spirits with schadenfreude. It concerns the MP for Edinburgh West, my MP, Michelle Thomson. As I said before Thomson headed up Business for Scotland, a group which encapsulates the sham of Scottish politics because it is (a) an SNP front – as demonstrated by Thomson being given the Edinburgh West seat; (b) it was called Business for Scotland – and of course other (subtext and overt ) anti-indy businesses must be against Scotland; (c) it was a load of mickey-mouse consultancies, who employed few people and did little in the way of cross border trade with England. But it was treated like the CBI by the BBC. Thomson was elected in the SNP landslide and made Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation & Skills.
Business eh? Not software design, nor extracting oil nor wind turbine manufacture nor pharmaceuticals nor widgets nor sausages. No, the business spokesperson that the SNP appointed was a woman of property with a portfolio. i.e. a wheeler dealer. Not even a builder of houses. And she had wheeled and dealed – eg (allegation at this point) that she would buy a property at X grand one day and then flog it off the same day at 2X grand to her husband. .
The Sunday Times ran an article [paywall] on 20th September about Michelle Thomson’s company buying properties from people like cancer sufferers cheap and then selling them on for a good profit. Nasty, but not illegal.
The story grew arms and legs. Here’s a piece by Ian Smart on the likely fraudulence of Thomson’s dealings:-
“there was something in that initial article that seemed to the informed eye a bit more sinister. That was the suggestion that, in some of the transactions involved, the price actually paid by Thomson was less than that declared to the Land Registry. “That looks very like mortgage fraud”.
Thomson had figured as a “Mrs A” in the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which had struck off her solicitor Christopher Hales.
“Numerous examples of failing to inform lenders of undisclosed deposits, including examples of Mr Hales personally returning these to the purchasers, and several examples of back to backs, all equally undisclosed to the lenders.”
On behalf of Mrs A aka Michelle Thomson.
After a hearing in May 2014, the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal said Mr Hales failed to provide mortgage companies with key information used to prevent fraud and must have been aware that there was a possibility he was facilitating mortgage fraud, whether or not it occurred.
In some cases, loans obtained for the properties were greater than the actual purchase price.
The Law Society, the regulating body of Scottish solicitors, did not send this information to the Crown Office until July 2015, after both the referendum and the general election. They claimed “pressure of work” (which Scottish lawyers observe they never accept as an excuse from solicitors who have not renewed their membership of the Law Society).
The Law Society’s chief executive, Lorna Jack, took the unusual step of arranging a hurried press conference to defend her organisation’s handling of the affair, and the conduct of Sheila Kirkwood, who is secretary to the society guarantee fund sub-committee which handled the Hales case but had delayed handing the papers over to the Crown Office.
It emerged that Kirkwood was, with her husband and fellow solicitor Paul Kirkwood, a founder of the pro-independence campaign Lawyers for Yes, and as an active nationalist had attended dinners for Thomson’s pro-independence campaign Business for Scotland. Kirkwood had also “liked” Thomson on her Facebook page.
So the non SNP MSPs had for once a good time at First Minister’s Questions:-
THERE was a rumbling, gutteral soundtrack to much of FMQs today, as Nat MSPs desperately tried to drown out a series of questions about Michelle Thomson.
“Uurgrhnomorenomore,” went appalled groans when the dreaded name was uttered.
“Nananeverheardofher,” went a lip-smacking simian chatter as fingers were plugged in ears.
But despite these best efforts, the property-whizz-turned-SNP-nightmare dominated proceedings, with Labour and the Tories revelling in all the sleazy details.
The SNP now deny knowing anything about Thomson’s business deals – though before they had been lauding her business expertise:-
SNP Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil, whose portfolio includes welfare, affordable housing and other issues crucial to the poorest in society, claimed she would be a champion for such causes.
He said: ‘She had an excellent grasp of the economic picture, but also demonstrated commitment to how business can be used to support social justice.’
Both SNP Education Secretary Angela Constance and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop stressed her business background would make her an ideal candidate.
Constance said: ‘Michelle has a proven track record. She would be an outstanding MP. Michelle is known for her grasp of finance, business and the economy.’
Hyslop said: ‘Her knowledge of business and her passion to make Scotland a better place make her an ideal candidate for Westminster in the forthcoming General Election.’
SNP MSP Colin Keir – who represents Edinburgh Western, the Holyrood equivalent of Thomson’s Westminster seat – said in the run-up to the General Election: ‘I worked with Michelle through the referendum campaign and have seen how talented she is. In her position as a director of Business for Scotland she was asked to take part in debates against Better Together. ’
Michelle Thomson has resigned the SNP whip and is now my independent MP. Her entry on the SNP site reads like this. The police are investigating her solicitor. It could be that she will be investigated herself and charged, which should lead to an interesting by-election.
Sturgeon has said she looks forward to reinstating her but now the Sunday Herald, which supports indy, is going to release emails which show that it was Thomson’s fault that Business for Scotland made such a bad economic case for independence (rather than that there wasn’t a good economic case, as we Nawbag quislings were abused for pointing out). Business for Scotland’s predictions of untold wealth for an indy Scotland are still quoted by disgruntled Yesses, so at least they may shut up on that score. And Thomson will be dumped altogether by the ever ruthless and opportunistic SNP.
Update:- the article in the Sunday Herald did not show that “the economic case for independence was undermined by scandal-hit MP” as the headline has it.” What it show was that there was in-fighting among the board members of Business for Scotland. The most salient points are:- Thomson, the Managing Director of Business for Scotland, had her consultancy payments stopped but was allowed to keep the title and still appear on the media – it would have looked bad to dump her before the referendum; and that the controlling hand behind Business for Scotland was Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, which should finally destroy BfS’s pretence of being a non-partisan think tank.
I can see that Thomson with her media presence might have been thought suitable as a candidate for Edinburgh West, which she won as part of the SNP landslide. But why appoint her as Shadow Minister for Business, Skills and Innovation and boost her business expertise? Are they short of business background among the 56 55 MPs?
One of the by-products of the Scottish referendum was the re-emergence of Tommy Sheridan (name usually prefixed by “disgraced perjurer) who has refashioned himself from socialist to nationalist trying to lead a popular movement called Hope over Fear. Having been refused permission by Glasgow Council to hold a rally in George Square, Glasgow (which the Yessers like to call “Freedom Square”) the rally went ahead anyway.
I thought it mean of Glasgow Council to refuse permission. Yes rallies are not violent and don’t call for much policing. There’s plenty of music among the ranting, bouncy castles and a lot of it is a Yes family day out. However having taken over George Square, Sheridan’s gang then refused full access to journalists, even from the pro-indy Sunday Herald. Give that man territory…
Here is a sharp and observant – and rather moving – account of the event at A Thousand Flowers. I would guess the writer is a former colleague of Sheridan’s. S/he is anxious at the kind of nationalism arising in a movement which took pride in its distance from the blood and soil kind.
One speaker told the crowd about how “We had repelled the Vikings…and the Danes” coz obviously, a Scotland which gets rid of foreigners is something to be celebrating in the current context. “Water is going over the border…whisky revenues are at an all time high.”As he furiously bellowed about “traitors”, a woman behind me shouted “burn the Witch” and I breathed a sigh in relief, realising I wasn’t alone in finding all this slightly troublesome.
We were then treated to a speech by “Irish Supporters of Hope over Fear” who talked of “a proud Celtic nation about to break with their foreign masters” and saluted “the bravery of the Scottish people in fighting for freedom throughout the world” (presumably in colonies like, erm, Ireland, where Scots have done a great job shooting the natives at the behest of the British state for the last 300 plus years).
Following Pat Lee delivering good wishes to “a 9 year old celebrating their 10th Birthday today” (perhaps a bit prematurely), we had a nice happy song about dying Westminster paedophiles followed by another one about Pandas, obviously. …
Most gallingly, as always, there was the lie that today represented “all of the Yes family.” This didn’t feel like “the Yes movement” or “the independence movement” as was claimed, it felt like Tommy stoking a burgeoning nationalist movement, one which has strengthened significantly in the last year and which is being fed by Sheridan’s calculation that he can ride on its coattails to Holyrood in 2016. The least he can do is sell T-shirts, CDs and beer to it for as long as he can.
There were no Greens, no SSP/RISE/socialists who weren’t in Solidarity, no representatives from Women for Independence, even Robin McAlpine was under orders not to show his face after the furore following his last appearance alongside the suntanned superman. Come to think of it, there wasn’t a single SNP speaker either, at least not in an official capacity.…
As I fought back the tears this time last year I wrote, “My hope is that the independence we are creating in Scotland continues to resist the forces of nationalism.” I sincerely hope it does – but after today’s event, I fear we’ve got a long fight ahead.
Though there has been a lot of noise in the media about the anniversary of the IndyRef I haven’t noticed it much in real life and social media except among the die-hards on both sides. I am hoping it will grow quieter as time goes by.
Here’s a study of the demographics of the voters.
I fit the No voter template – female, right age bracket, average earner, Protestant (by birth), not born in Scotland.
Average earners don’t want to take risks. You’re one pay packet away from not being able to meet your mortgage payment (not that that was my reason for voting No.)
It’s interesting though how the 16-24 year olds were more No inclined. My guess is that they are less nationalistic minded. They’re in contact with their peers in other parts of the UK via social media. Shared interest in music, sport and films are more important than national identity. But that’s just a guess. A slight blow to one of the post ref hopes that the old curmudgeons would soon be tucked up safely into the crem well away from the ballot box.
The Yes/No split is notable on those born outwith Scotland either in other parts of the UK or abroad were averaged at 65% voting No compared to the even split of native Scots. Nicola Sturgeon might have to Think Again about encouraging immigration except that she has no powers over immigration and her pro-refugee and immigration noises are We’re Not Like the Horrible Tories noises just as her reaction to Corbyn’s elevation was to talk about his unelectability and so, Vote Independence. No thought of allying with a proper Left Labour this time round.
The SNP – an answer to everything and always the same answer.
Oh, and when taken to task about the SNP’s various incompetences at Holyrood her answer was that the SNP had delivered for Scotland instead of carping from the sidelines like the Opposition!
Meanwhile a couple of good pieces – one about the SNP’s constant whingeing about The Vow (that pointless PR job which made me howl Oh Shut Up at the time) and the other Where Stands Scotland Now from the excellent Chris Deerin, whose writings were one of the best things that came out of the Indy debate.
Update. Corbyn in Scotland and trying to get back the Labour vote (no chance):-
It is easier – far easier – to find Labour MSPs and veteran members who believe Corbyn will be a disaster for the party. Those critics – like the few who are trying to remain optimistic – are wary of going on the record when discussing the new leader. There is a clear sense of unease about discussing life in Labour under Corbyn.
One Labour MSP said: “If anyone says this is good news because we can outflank the SNP on the left, then they’re not thinking straight.
“The SNP doesn’t really present a left-wing politics, it just says to people ‘you’re compassionate and wonderful’ and people lap it up.
“There isn’t a majority out there for paying more tax and hiking up benefits. If there was, then the SNP would be doing those things.
“There’s a majority out there that wants to feel good about themselves and to get on in life and the SNP absolutely talks to them.
“The rhetoric is left wing but the politics are centre ground. The SNP is New Labour with nationalism added and there’s no way an Old Labour offer is going to counter it. I despair at anyone who thinks that’s going to happen.
From the Jewish Chronicle:
There is growing unrest within Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team over his approach to dealing with issues of concern to the Jewish community, the JC can reveal.
One well-placed source within his team said that the unwillingness to deal “head-on” with these issues had come from Mr Corbyn himself.
The reluctance, according to the source, was because the frontrunner in the Labour leadership campaign was “partly casual about Jewish concerns, partly [because he knows] hostility to ‘Zionist neocons’ plays well to his constituency”.
Media interest in Mr Corbyn’s association with Holocaust deniers, antisemites and other extreme figures has grown in the past three weeks since the JC posed a series of questions for him to answer.
Another senior Corbyn campaign member indicated this week that the issues raised by this newspaper were not being taken seriously by Mr Corbyn and his team and said some within the team have grown concerned at the Islington North MP’s reluctance to speak in more depth publicly about the Jewish community’s concerns.
“This comes from Corbyn himself,” the source said.
(After Eliot’s Macavity the Mystery Cat)
Our Jeremy’s an activist, he is the brand new hope,
As he pushes Labour to the edge of a slippery slope,
He is the Blairites’ nemesis, the Moderates’ despair
But when you try and pin him down, Our Jeremy’s not there.
Our Jeremy, Our Jeremy, opposer of austerity,
His rivals are so timid, and he’s full of temerity,
But when his friends say, Stone the Gays, he doesn’t really care
He suddenly goes deaf and dumb, no Jeremy’s not there,
Islamist mates say “Holohoax”, and he’s not au contraire,
They’re anti Israel, that’s enough, and Jeremy’s not there.
Our Jeremy’s not besuited, no he’s not poshly dressed,
His shirt lies open for us to see the collar of his vest,
He is the man of Islington, and when he’s holding forth,
His is the stripped pine wisdom that pours from London North,
His world view’s very simple, all wars are Nato’s fault,
And as for intervention – no, he will call a halt.
Our Jeremy, our Jeremy, there’s no one quite like Jeremy,
His followers worship him, yea, amen and verily,
You can see him on a podium, cursing Tony Blair,
But getting a straight answer – our Jeremy’s not there.
He doesn’t live it large at all, politicking is his life,
He doesn’t go out giggng, or dining with his wife,
His idea of an evening off or joyous holiday,
Is standing at a rally, to damn the USA,
His mother marched down Cable Street, so he boasts with pride,
But he won’t detect a Fascist if a Fascist’s on his side,
At shirts of black and swastikas, his rants will fill the air,
But put them in a keffiyeh, and Jeremy’s not there.
Our Jeremy, Our Jeremy, aghastness from posterity,
That eager young politicos were dazzled by sincerity,
His beard is prophetic white, his frame ascetic spare,
But query his alliances, Our Jeremy’s not there.
And they say that all the Andies, Lizzes and Yvettes,
Will be cordoned in a hollow square and stripped of red rosettes,
And the old team of door knockers will be promptly chucked
And social democracy is well and truly fucked.
Thomson: smooth-talking pro-business voice of nationalism
During the Scottish independence referendum there was an organisation called Business for Scotland, whose schtick was that independence would be good for Scotland’s businesses. Their words were treated as if from the CBI or some other big business guns though in fact they were a slug pistol of one-man bands and consultants who did not trade with England. For an estimate of their general puniness check out Chokkablog:-
Given that the potential impact on this £47.6bn of trade is one of the big issues for business in the Independence debate I think we can agree that any “Scottish Business” voice would need to include representation from businesses involved in this trade to have any credibility.
This is why I’m amazed that “Business for Scotland” gets any airtime at all. As I show in painful detail in this post, the identified Members of Business for Scotland can be fairly summarised as;
•30 “business professionals”
•28 people who have Small Company directorships; businesses with no declared turnover or employee figures. These are predominantly consultancies, property companies and service companies; I can’t identify any material trading links with rUK and none can be considered major employers.
Business for Scotland was an SNP front group and now the managing director, Michelle Thomson, is my MP for Edinburgh West after the great Sneep Sweep last election. This piece from Private Eye shows the general contradictions of a party that tries to be all things to all people, except for the common thread of nationalism:-
NEVER let it be said the SNP gang at Westminster lacks ideological diversity. When Mhairi Black, the 20-year-old left-wing firebrand whose maiden speech recently went viral on the internet, attacks the wicked Tories and their tax-cutting ways, many of the SNP MPs nod and cheer her on.
Yet the awkward truth is that it is SNP policy to slash corporation tax and the SNP leadership has made strenuous efforts to crawl to big business, offering desperate reassurance that an independent Scotland would not be the left-wing, high-tax utopia that Black and many of the party’s hard left activists envisage.
At the forefront of that Nationalist push during the Scottish referendum to convince business that it had nothing to fear from independence was Michelle Thomson, then the managing director of an SNP-front called Business for Scotland. She won the Edinburgh West seat for the party in May, defeating Lib Dem Mike Crockart and securing a 3,210 majority.
Thomson was somewhat less successful in the referendum campaign last year, where she was deployed on radio and television as the theoretically smooth-talking pro-business voice of moderate nationalism trying to sell separation to business leaders and their employees. Many of them remained sceptical.
As one of the seven signatories of a letter to the Financial Times weeks before the referendum, Thomson proclaimed that Scotland’s financial sector would always prosper, contrary to the warnings from Unionists about the potential economic risks of independence.
One of Thomson’s fellow signatories to that letter was a banker who knows a great deal about the prosperity or otherwise of the Scottish financial sector. Sir George Mathewson, friend and adviser to Alex Salmond, was the buccaneering chief executive and chairman of RBS who expanded the bank aggressively, hired Fred Goodwin and then from the sidelines cheered on his old bank as it bought the Dutch bank ABN Amro in 2007, on the eve of the financial crisis, in one of the worst deals of the century.
Despite Thomson making a lot of noise and being invited on air by broadcasters in Scotland and London who did too little to probe the credentials of Business for Scotland, it was never clear that the organisation she ran had many serious businesses on board. The tenacious economics blogger Kevin Hague incurred the wrath of Thomson and the Nationalists by conducting an in-depth investigation last year into the group’s membership. Despite the claims that it represented Scottish business, only a few of those involved had major company directorships, Hague discovered, and many more ran tiny firms or no firms at all.
Thomson continued to be presented as a voice of business, and when she won her seat she was hailed by the National, the SNP fanzine that is a weekend offshoot of the once respected Glasgow Herald, as a “breath of fresh air” because she has enjoyed “a broad-based life experience”.
After graduating from the Royal Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow in 1985, she worked as a musician before joining Standard Life working in IT, moving to RBS and then setting up on her own in 2009. But her subsequent business career cannot be counted as stellar. At the time she ran Business for Scotland, she had one active directorship, in a small Fife-based outfit called Your Property Shop Ltd, providing property investment services. Her other property business, Edinburgh Global Property Investments, was dissolved.
At Westminster, in the SNP team, Thomson now has the lofty business, innovation and skills portfolio from which to pontificate about the great economic issues of the day. She may also have to explain to Mhairi Black and other left-wingers on the Nationalist benches that when they joined the SNP, if they thought they were signing up to a party in favour of punitively taxing the boss class, they were sorely mistaken.
The semi-official economic adviser to the Yessers is Stu Campbell of Wings for Scotland. He and Kevin Hague of Chokkablog are at loggerheads on twitter. Wings is notorious for his abusiveness and instead of countering Hague’s graphs and stats goes very very personal:-
This refers to some personal stuff Kevin Hague put on his blog about the various “dads” that floated through his difficult childhood. I can’t parse Wings’ numbers but he really is a prize shit.
The piece is basically a hatchet-job on the man and his personality, unacceptably taking pot-shots at his choice of club, coffee preferences, and work without much evidence to back it up. Unless you take the liberal use of anonymous quotes as evidence – and no-one in the journalism world does. Indeed, the Guardian’s Readers Editor, Chris Eliott has been obliged, due to the flood of complaints to his paper, to put out a statement that ‘the use of anonymous quotes is an insidious way to take a swipe at public figures, and the Guardian was wrong to have used three in this way.’
The statement is not entirely acceptable however because he yet sought to protect the journalists Nosheen Iqbal and David Shariatmadari from further blame by claiming that they felt the use of anonymous sources to be necessary as otherwise those sources could be harassed online, as these journalists now are. In short, they thought it alright to attack a man risking his life among Islamists to do the extremely dangerous job of counter-extremism work, yet they needed to keep sources attacking him anonymous because they were afraid of some online heckling?
Is heckling only alright if a Guardian journalist does it, either via articles or on Twitter? One of the foremost rules of journalism is that the journalist’s presence and especially his biases should not be visible in his articles – unless it’s a column or opinion piece. This interview of Maajid was supposed to be neither, although it ended up in essence an opinion piece. Yet even as an opinion piece, it breaks way too many bars to come plunging down into mud-singling territory. They didn’t just set the bar low, they plunged it.
It’s so incredibly bad, that as a fellow journalist living miles and oceans way, I am embarrassed for the journalism profession which has sunk to this new low. As once colonized countries, I suppose we still look up to British standards in professionalism. Certainly that was very much the case in my own student days at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. “Don’t look to the Daily Mirror,” we were told. That’s a tabloid. “Look instead to the Guardian. That’s the standard you ought to emulate.” Well, we are looking. Where are the standards?
Here in Scotland politics sings its same auld sang, with full overbearing chorus from the Nats. For nature of the political discourse of our present representatives, check out this by the Flying Rodent:-
Good Morning The People Of Scotland
Presenter: …Derek McSmug is the SNP spokesperson for Really Complaining About Things. Derek, thanks for joining us on the show.
Derek McSmug: Thank you, Gary.
Presenter: Derek, you said yesterday that a second Scottish independence referendum is “terrifyingly inevitable”. Does your party intend to bring forward plans for another referendum in the near future?
Derek McSmug: Well Gary, I think it’s no secret that we’re in favour of Scottish independence! (Laughs) But no, we have no plans to hold a second referendum in the foreseeable future. We’re focusing on standing up for the people of Scotland against the Tories’ swingeing cuts to public services, which the Labour Party is fully –
Presenter: Well, if you’re focusing on standing up to the Tories, why do you keep talking about a second referendum? Why not move past that and focus on your work at Westminster, or on governing here in Scotland?
Derek McSmug: Frankly Gary, I’m shocked and disappointed that you’ve said that. You know that it’s for the people of Scotland to decide whether there should be a second referendum and I don’t think it’s for the media to tell the people of Scotland that they mustn’t discuss their constitutional future.
Presenter: With respect Derek, it’s you that keeps talking up a referendum, not the people of Scotland.
Read the rest. It’s brilliant. Also good comments underneath.
Ebenezer Elliott, iron monger, Radical and Corn Law poet wrote a lament for the enemy of his country, Napoleon Bonaparte. To a later generation it sounded shocking. W H Auden said of it, that it was like finding a poem saying Now Hitler lies dead in Berlin.
When working blackguards come to blows,
And give or take a bloody nose,
Shall juries try such dogs as those,
Now Nap lies at Saint Helena ?
No, let the Great Unpaid decide,
Without appeal, on tame bull’s hide,
Ash-planted well, or fistified,
Since Nap died at Saint Helena.
When Sabbath stills the dizzy mill,
Shall Cutler Tom, or Grinder Bill,
On footpaths wander where they will,
Now Nap lies at Saint Helena ?
No, let them curse, but feel our power;
Dogs! let them spend their idle hour
Where burns the highway’s dusty shower;
For Nap died at Saint Helena.
Huzza! the rascal Whiglings work
For better men than Hare and Burke,
And envy Algerine and Turk,
Since Nap died at Saint Helena.
Then close each path that sweetly climbs
Suburban hills, where village chimes
Remind the rogues of other times,
Ere Nap died at Saint Helena.
We tax their bread, restrict their trade;
To toil for us, their hands were made;
Their doom is seal’d, their prayer is pray’d ;
Nap perish’d at St. Helena.
Dogs! would they toil and fatten too?
They grumble still, as dogs will do:
We conquer’d them at Waterloo;
And Nap lies at Saint Helena.
Elliott was living through the early nineteenth century. Habeas corpus suspended, tough censorship laws, men press ganged for the navy, a cruel penal code, the poor starved by Corn Laws and shut out of enclosed lands. To many it was a tyranny and the French Revolution, and Napoleon, the Revolution’s saviour, meant hope of a transformation. Elliott’s poem is full of scorn and bitter anger at the injustice within the legal and economic system.
Napoleon was much admired by the progressive spirits of his day as an alternative to old rotten regimes. Martin Kettle in The Guardian:-
William Hazlitt, the most ardent of all British radical admirers of Napoleon, called the battle of Waterloo “the greatest and most fatal in its consequences of any that was ever fought in the world”. William Godwin, another of the Waterloo dissidents we should be remembering this week, railed against the “miserable consequences of that accursed field”, and continued throughout his life to believe that, however flawed Napoleon might be, he was still to be preferred to the restored Bourbon kings.
… William Cobbett put it in this way: “The war is over. Social Order is restored; the French are again in the power of the Bourbons; the Revolution is at an end; no change has been effected in England; our Boroughs, and our Church, and Nobility and all have been preserved; our government tells us that we have covered ourselves with glory.”
William Hazlitt and William Cobbett are two of the best writers and the most generous minds that Britain has ever produced.
Kettle says that they may seem like useful idiots and it is reminiscent of how a powerful figure in a foreign land – Lenin, Stalin, Chavez – is picked up as a sign of hope that the old oppressive power can be broken. Sections of the Left fell into despair when the USSR collapsed, as better a false hope than no hope at all.
Napoleon was no Stalin and a reformer in many ways but his scheme for a conquered Britain sounds more like propaganda than actuality. “I would have proclaimed a republic and the abolition of the nobility and the House of Peers, the distribution of the property of such of the latter as opposed me amongst my partisans, liberty, equality and the sovereignty of the people.”
There would have been some liberal measures – emancipation of the Jews for instance – but Napoleon’s habit was to install one of his useless siblings on the thrones of the countries he conquered. During the nineteenth century Britain went its own way to a more liberal and democratic government, out of Old Corruption to cleaner politics and a less jobbing civil service.
So I’m glad that the Emperor of the French got done over by Wellington and Blucher at Waterloo, the battle that Wellington described as “ been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life. “ Blucher had wanted to call Waterloo the Battle of La Belle Alliance but Wellington decided on Waterloo as more easily tripping off the English tongue. I’ve always had a liking for Wellington if only for his laconic pithiness of speech compared to Bonaparte’s bombast and grandiosity.
There’s plenty of French Empire bling in the television series that Andrew Roberts, the military historian and an admirer of Napoleon, is presenting.
He also has a five parter on Radio 4 on the Corsican Usurper and yesterday he was telling us how Napoleon screwed up winning the Battle of Waterloo.
“The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance. .. “ Wellington.
I can’t say I’ve been keeping much of an eye on Scottish culture and if the outward looking artists she’s talking about are J K Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith she’s talking popularity rather than quality, but I found this article by Gillian Browditch interesting. The whole National Collective project, when a bunch of artists got together to call for independence so at the same time they could be against the establishment (Westminster) while doing the work of another establishment (SNP’s Holyrood) did strike me as a little bizarre.
I do note the writers that really did make their mark on the world stage – Boswell, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, John Buchan even, Spark – left Scotland and wrote about other places and for other places as well as their homeland. The exception is Walter Scott, who really invented Scotland for Europe, and as well as being a pioneer in Scottish folk studies was also a convinced Unionist from his home in the Borders.
Narrow cultural focus will tie us all in a tartan straitjacket
From Gillian Bowditch Published: 3 May 2015
“The kindest interpretation was of a small nation coming to terms with itself in the face of the relentless march of globalisation”, says Bowditch
It is just as well it is nearly over. The way things are going you’d be pushed to get odds of more than 10-9 on the Scottish National party taking 60 of Scotland’s 59 seats. It’s only a matter of time before the Sturgeon surge defies political gravity and Scottish politics enters a fourth dimension.
As it was, Ipsos Mori produced a poll last week which, if translated into seats, would give the SNP the whole of Scotland, wiping out Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. In the past, such a result would have had pollsters overhauling their methodology or wondering whether someone had tampered with the water supply.
Polls are a snapshot not a forecast, but they can identify trends and the trend for a nationalist monopoly, six months after a resounding “no” vote in the independence referendum, appears to have reached its zenith. A similar pattern is to be expected at the Holyrood election next year.
Of course, the chances of the SNP turning the whole of Scotland yellow are slimmer than the likelihood of the royal baby being christened Nicola. Undecideds, the level of voter turnout and the extent of tactical voting will all play a role, but we are now looking at a scenario where if Labour lost three-quarters of its Scottish seats, it would be spun as a triumph.
The political consequences will be significant but the cultural consequences could be seismic. Scotland has been through many iterations over the past 60 years; from cultural cringe to Scottish exceptionalism, from a crisis of confidence to a surfeit. Each phase has been dissected, analysed, picked over and then, just when we thought its ghosts had been laid to rest, revisited, exhumed and revised. We have conjured up the past and bejewelled it with a retrospective conceit.
Returning home in the 1990s after a decade of living in London, the Scottish obsession with identity struck me as faintly unhinged. The kindest interpretation was of a small nation coming to terms with itself in the face of the relentless march of globalisation. At worst it seemed to represent a particularly corrupt form of nostalgia. Our writers and artists always seemed to have one eye on the rear view mirror.
In the days of Labour’s central belt hegemony, the kind of privation humanity has spent centuries struggling to escape seemed to be preserved, lauded and endlessly reproduced. From Ralph Glasser’s Gorbals memoirs to the work of Jeff Torrington, and James Kelman to Irvine Welsh, the view of Scotland that was promulgated was that it needed a good boil wash. In the work of Peter Mullan, Ken Loach and Lynne Ramsay, Glaswegian grot was exported around the globe.
In the early years of the 21st century, something rather wonderful happened: there was a cultural renaissance in which Scottish artists no longer felt the need to examine and re-examine the Scottish condition. Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin and JK Rowling were wowing global audiences. Janice Galloway won international acclaim for her book on Clara Schumann. Artists such as David Mach, Alison Watt, Douglas Gordon, Martin Creed and Jenny Saville were finding their way into international collections. Composers and musicians as diverse as James McMillan, Craig Armstrong and Nicola Benedetti were hailed abroad. Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Gerard Butler and John Hannah were the hot stars in Hollywood. They were, as in the words of Auden: “Like some valley cheese, local but prized elsewhere.” After decades of cultural dreichness, it was no longer quite so grim up north.
These talents still exist, but their influence has begun to diminish. The generation following in their wake does not shine as brightly. Patriotism has replaced miserablism as the key to our identity. Culturally, we have started to look inwards again.
If I were a young artist, musician or writer starting out in Scotland, I would feel quite depressed about the situation. There is now so much focus, not to mention grant aid, on such a narrow tradition that, unless you fit the cultural stereotype, it’s hard to see where the acknowledgement or encouragement is going to come from. It’s difficult to imagine the Scotland of today throwing up a writer with the breadth and depth of Dame Muriel Spark.
Perhaps at a time of great political change, when nationalism is the predominant force, that is to be expected, but cultural separatism inevitably leads to parochialism. Our heritage and icons are co-opted to the cause. The focus in education in recent years has not been the pursuit of excellence but the pursuit of Scottishness.
While more Scottish literature and history in the curriculum may be overdue, the tartan straitjacket is concerning. Teachers have been urged to find a Scottish perspective from which to approach topics. One told me that under the Curriculum for Excellence, she had to find a Scottish element to the Holocaust — solipsism taken to a whole new level.
It is no coincidence that the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy 2014, published last week, has found the ability of Scottish school children to be in decline. The percentage of S2 boys doing well or very well in writing is now below 50% at 47%, down from 58% in 2012. There is a similar fall in standards for S2 girls, from 70% to 63%. It’s not as though we were at the top of the international league tables in 2012.
We keep hearing from the Scottish government that, with more powers, more jobs will be created and an economic boom will ensue of such magnitude that it will render irrelevant the pesky oil price fall and the deepening deficit that independence or full fiscal autonomy would bring.
But these children are the employees of the future and if less than 50% can string a written sentence together after nine years in the Scottish education system, we have a problem. Economic growth requires a highly literate, educated and productive workforce.
The education minister Angela Constance has now pledged to redouble efforts but this is to miss the point. If excellence is not at the heart of the education system, then no amount of effort will improve attainment. What is happening in universities is just as worrying. Because of the disparity in tuition fees, a whole generation no longer even explores the possibility of leaving Scotland for its tertiary education.
One of the most depressing things about the referendum was the number of Scottish writers and artists cravenly hitching their wagons to the SNP. Last week, National Collective — a pro-independence cultural movement which engaged thousands of people, organised petitions and campaigned — shut up shop. Its key founder has been absorbed into the SNP as “an engagement strategist”.
The nationalists’ programme for government is called One Scotland, but for a truly confident nation we need to let a thousand Scotlands bloom.
Here’s a sober rebuttal of the nonsensical and totally irresponsible remarks George Galloway made about forced marriage.
It’s from the Muslim Women Network.
Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) is a charitable organisation with the aims of promoting equality, diversity, social inclusion and racial/religious harmony, and does not support, nor is affiliated to any political party. However in order to defend and strengthen women’s rights and in particular to promote the empowerment of Muslim women and girls, we regularly engage with, and if required challenge, politicians, political candidates, public servants and any other body or organisation where considered necessary.
It is for this reason that MWNUK deems it necessary to challenge certain insinuations made about forced marriage and domestic violence victims by George Galloway, currently the Respect Party’s PPC for Bradford West, when he commented on Labour candidate Naz Shah’s forced marriage and domestic violence experience. Given his influence, we consider Mr. Galloway’s insinuations to be irresponsible and which will have a wider, counter productive impact on victims of forced marriage and domestic violence or those at risk.
When Ms. Shah shared her story publicly, she explained that she was married at the age of 15 and suffered from domestic violence. Many women tend to remain in abusive relationships and suffer in silence. Cultural concepts of honour and shame often prevent women from articulating their experiences openly even when they have escaped their situations. We therefore commend Ms. Shah’s courage in sharing her very personal experiences. It is important that when survivors share their stories, which is often very difficult, that they are heard. Only with open discussion will more victims or those at risk come forward and ask for help.
Although we cannot comment on the details of Ms. Shah’s personal experiences, we are very concerned about the misleading information regarding forced marriage and domestic violence being alluded to in the statements made by Mr. Galloway and his officials. MWNUK challenges the assertions that have been made as follows:
¥ It has been alleged that Ms. Shah could not have been married as a minor at the age of 15 because her official marriage certificate registered with the authorities in Pakistan states her age as 16 and a half.
It is not uncommon for victims of child marriage to have an unregistered Islamic (nikah) ceremony while they are under age and to later register the marriage officially once the child is over 16 especially if documents are needed to make an application for a spousal visa. It is important to recognise this can happen to children. In fact we have come across victim stories where this has indeed happened.
¥ It has been alleged that Ms. Shah’s marriage could not have been forced because her mother was present at the marriage.
Parents are often the instigators of forced marriage, coercing their children to marry against their will and therefore present at the marriage ceremony. In fact parents themselves can be pressured by members of the extended family to accept marriage proposals for their children and feel they cannot back out due to dishonor.
¥ Ms Shah has been questioned as to why she did not (as a British citizen) simply get on a plane and come back to the UK if she had been forced into marriage.
Girls are more aware of their rights now due to forced marriage campaigns, yet the crime continues to be under reported. Twenty-five years ago victims faced even greater barriers to disclosing. The Forced Marriage Unit did not exist then and there were far fewer women’s rights organisations. To imply that it is easy to escape a forced marriage suggests that victims are at fault for not leaving abusive situations.
¥ Ms. Shah has been questioned about why she had not gone to the police, social services or an imam if her husband had subjected her to violence.
This indirectly suggests that women who do not report their abuse cannot be suffering from domestic violence. Such assertions are very dangerous. Women from all communities find it difficult to come forward and report abuse and the reasons can vary such as: fear of consequences; women blaming themselves; women not realizing they are victims; lack of awareness of the help available; being isolated from family and friends and not being able to reach help; being worried about finances; and hoping the partner may change. Asian women face additional cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking help such as, fear of dishonouring family, shame, stigma, taboo and being rejected by the community. Also women in these communities are expected to suffer in silence. They are also usually blamed for any problem within the family including the violence and abuse to which they are subjected. This fear of blame can also prevent women from coming forward and getting the help they need. Not surprisingly domestic violence is therefore under reported in Asian / Muslim communities.
¥ Ms. Shah was questioned about her domestic violence and child marriage because her first husband has denied the abuse. [WELL HE WOULD, WOULDN’T HE?]
Denial by the alleged perpetrator should never be used as evidence to determine whether abuse has occurred or not.