Sunday, 15 February 2015


The other day at the gym I met an acquaintance, a retired man and a passionate supporter of independence.  We got to talking about the upcoming general election, and he was very vehement on the subject.  Having been a Labour voter all his life, he will be voting SNP in the forthcoming election and in every other election in the future.  His anger against Labour was almost palpable.  He feels that they have utterly betrayed the working people they were supposed to represent, and the final straw was them teaming up with the Tories during the referendum.  In this he is typical of what seems to be a large number of ex-Labour voters.

I have also this week been trying to get through David Torrance's '100 Days of Hope and Fear', and am finding it hard going.  It's in the format of a diary covering the period of the referendum campaign.  Normally I can get through books fairly quickly, even if they turn out to be not as interesting as they sounded.  However, this one I am struggling with.  Mr Torrance comes across as a middle-class lad (although probably not by birth) with a penchant for name-dropping.  The use of the word 'bright' to refer to people he appears to consider his social inferiors is a bit of a giveaway.

What has this to do with my angry pensioner friend?  Mr Torrance's entry for Sunday 15th June contains a throwaway sentence which I think holds the key to the anger. He attends a debate between Michael Forsyth and Jim Sillars, and he says this:
Predictably, the debate - although engaging at times - didn't lead anywhere terribly useful.  Both Forsyth and Sillars are undoubtedly big beasts, albeit from a bygone age, but banging on about socialism and 'Great' Britain belongs in the 1980s.
And there, I think is the crux of the problem.  Jim Sillars came from the working classes and had direct experience of the working and living conditions of the working classes, hence his passion to do something about it, a passion he has never lost. 

During the late 70s and early 1980s I was a student at Glasgow University.  I remember well how fashionable Labour politics was in the Thatcher era among students, especially middle-class students.  They would organise bus tours around the poorest parts of Glasgow (poverty-porn has a long history) and would endlessly debate about the finer points of political theory.  It was the same at most universities at the time.  Think Rik from The Young Ones.

Now those same students are leading the Labour Party.  But for them, the working class struggle is at one remove.  They sympathise, they try to empathise but they have never experienced it directly.  For them, a change in the policy direction of the Labour party is simply a change in political theory, and there is a level of incomprehension as to why the working classes can't understand that.  The Labour party is simply seen as one more route to a lucrative career in politics.  Whether you choose to go the Tory route or the Labour route is purely a matter of taste.  And socialism is so 1980s, darling.

This is, I think,  why Labour have lost a large amount of support in Scotland - the party was taken over by a bunch of Riks.  The SNP have gathered up that disaffected support because they have actually done some things to help all of Scotland's people - free personal care, free prescriptions, no tuition fees.  And actions count for a hell of a lot more than fine words and political theories.

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