It has always been the case that politicians will attempt to highlight their opponents’ deficiencies.
There is nothing wrong with saying an opponent’s strategy would result in a poorer outcome, provided you explain exactly why that is the case. It helps if you also tell the truth.
Politicians have always argued: essentially, that is the nature of the business – a conflict of ideas. However, in relatively recent times the natural order of discussion and debate has largely been replaced by anger, aggression and lying.
We don’t hear politicians say of opponents, “Well, there is some merit in what they propose, but our party would do it differently, and here is why.” Instead, we are now told anything other than one particular party’s policies would result in chaos, catastrophe and disaster.
There is now very little reasoned and objective analysis of politics in the so-called mainstream media – mainly London-based newspapers and broadcasters. Instead, the more rabid comments and claims of politicians and commentators are reported as if they were fact.
The last couple of weeks have perfectly illustrated this decline in political debate and media behaviour. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s democratically-elected First Minister - someone who articulates moderate, centre-left social democratic policies – has been described by English newspapers as “the most dangerous woman in Britain”, with the right-wing, Tory-supporting Daily Mail carrying a photo of the SNP leader next to a banner-headline saying “How I’ll blackmail England for £148billion”. We are supposed to believe Ms Sturgeon actually said she intended to blackmail England, which she did not.
Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London, went as far as saying of Nicola Sturgeon, “You wouldn’t get Herod to run a baby farm, would you?” Just for the record, Herod was the Roman-appointed King of Judea from 40 to 4 BC and was described by the Jewish Encyclopedia, published in 1906, as being “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition”. Herod was also the person who ordered the ‘Killing of the Innocents’, the execution of all male children in order to prevent the loss of his throne to a newborn ‘King of the Jews’. Remember, Boris Johnson was talking about Scotland’s democratically-elected First Minister.
Nicola Sturgeon is not Britain’s most dangerous woman. She is not a threat to children, she does not want to blackmail England, nor would she commit any crime to further her own ambition, yet all of these assertions are reported as if they were facts.
We are also now becoming accustomed to British Unionist politicians and commentators given television airtime and newspaper column-inches to savage Scotland and what they claim is an ‘undemocratic’ attempt by Scots to influence the governance of the United Kingdom. Some of the comments broadcast and printed, again mainly by London-based media, have been entirely based on ignorance and arrogance, not to mention massively offensive.
It is only a matter of months since the same British politicians and media were ‘love-bombing’ Scots, telling us how we are all one big family in these islands and that we should stay together and reject independence. Now, though, Scots are being told not to get ideas above their station.
Scotland decided – by a majority of 10% - to remain within the United Kingdom, the British Union of nations – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales. However, what is absolutely clear is that England calls the shots in this union or family.
We are told it would be ‘undemocratic’ if Scots elected sufficient numbers of SNP MPs in order to maximise Scotland’s voice in the UK Parliament. It would, apparently, be ‘undemocratic’ if Scots had sufficient power to even just influence the outcome of decisions taken in the House of Commons, decisions that impact on the lives of Scots as much as those in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
It is plainly ridiculous to assert the result of democratic elections would be ‘undemocratic’ if the outcome was not that favoured by the largest population-block. Scots have every right to vote for whichever political party they wish: that is democracy.
Despite this democratic reality, British Unionist politicians and media create a parallel universe where anything other than their view and interest would be ‘undemocratic’, not to mention chaotic, catastrophic and disastrous.
The new political reality in Scotland reflects the fact many people are thoroughly sick of having Tory governments imposed on us by the electorate of England. Many Scots have had enough of a Labour Party that has turned into a clone of the Tories and offers little more than a continuation of austerity, public spending cuts and other unwanted Tory policies. Cameron or Miliband...what is the difference?
Even in Scotland, though, the reality of increased support for the SNP and rejection of the Blue and Red Tories is reported in constrained terms. Most so-called ‘Scottish’ newspapers actually have their editorial policy set by head-offices in London, which results in Scots being presented with blatant lies attempting to advance the cause of British Unionist political parties and keeping Scotland in its subservient place.
The BBC in Scotland, which during the Independence Referendum was little more than the mouthpiece of the British State, recently broadcast a ‘Leaders Debate’ in which viewers were presented with three Unionist politicians shouting over Nicola Sturgeon. Apparently, this was the BBC adhering to its obligation to be an impartial broadcaster.
It really is remarkable that the SNP has reached unparalleled heights in terms of membership and public support despite being faced every day by blanket media coverage that opposes the party and its policies. Recently, the creation of one pro-independence daily newspaper – the National – has provided an alternative view, but we remain very far from any kind of media balance.
With less than two-weeks until the UK Election on May 7th, it looks very likely that Scotland is about to flex its political muscles by electing a majority of SNP MPs. This is despite the hyperbole, aggression and lying of British Unionist politicians, reported faithfully by British Unionist newspapers and broadcasters.
With a large group of SNP MPs at Westminster, Scotland’s voice will be heard, for the first time, in Britain’s corridors of power. That is democracy in action.