At such times as these I'm glad I don't have to make a decision about military intervention in Syria. It is a serious business, and one that should overshadow all smaller concerns. Not that stops some people of course:-
At such times as these I'm glad I don't have to make a decision about military intervention in Syria. It is a serious business, and one that should overshadow all smaller concerns. Not that stops some people of course:-
I get a lot of my social history from novels and second- and third-rate novels can unintentionally tell interesting stories about the customs of their age. So when I listened to Lucy Kelloway's lively History of Office Life (sorry deadline passed – memo got lost in the internal mail/you must have accidentally deleted my message) I was reminded of Dorothy L. Sayers' Murder Must Advertise, which is set in an advertising agency, Pym's Publicity.
Murder Must Advertise is not much of a detective story, as the plot is elaborate rather than ingenious and Lord Peter Wimsey the most annoying of the amateur sleuths from the golden age of detective fiction. But it does pick up the atmosphere of the office – those daytime villages with their feuds, friendships, gossip, rumours, the management being the squires alternatively disciplining and giving the villagers treats.
On the first page we are taken to the typists' room, which is the social hub. The workers are “frivoling” and arranging a sweepstake. Enter one of the managers.
“Mr Ingleby, can you spare me a moment?”
At Mr Hankin's mildly sarcastic accents, the scene dislimned as by magic. .. Mr Willis, rising hurriedly with the tray of carbons in his hand, picked a paper out at random and frowned furiously at it. Miss Parton's cigarette dropped unostentatiously to the floor, Mr Garrett, unable to get rid of his coffee-cup, smiled vaguely and tried to look as though he had picked it up accident and didn't know it was there, Miss Meteyard, with great presence of mind, put the sweep counterfoils on a chair and sat on them. Miss Rossiter, clutching Mr Armstrong's carbons in her hand, was able to look businesslike, and did so. Mr Ingleby alone, disdaining pretence, set down his cup with a slightly impudent smile and advanced to obey his chief's command.
“This,” said Mr Hankin, tactfully blind to all evidences of disturbance, “is Mr Bredon.”
When the city took over from the tribe or clan human beings created a neighbourhood or a guild or a political group or a blog-with-commenters or some other small community. The office workers travel to populate the daily office village and instead of the blood tie it's the work that pulls the group together – the work and the profit if it is a money-making concern. In the early nineteenth century Charles Lamb returned to his East India Office after he had retired and found that he was now a ghost, as colleagues are when estranged from the business of the office and have become merely part of its history and folklore at best.
Sayers herself worked in an advertising agency in the 1920s.* Middle-class women started working in offices around the late nineteenth century. They were first of all kept segregated in case they distracted the men and for fear of corrupting their own morals. In Sayers' office a mild gallantry and a little flirting are allowable but the women were still supposed to stay chaste.
He went and told Hankie once that he'd seen me at the dog-races with a gentleman friend. As if it was any business of his what a girl does out of business hours. … Just because anybody's a mere typist it doesn't mean one's a heathen slave.
And Miss Meteyard, the only woman copywriter, can be blackmailed because “of some man or other”, which the strait-laced owner of the company would take a dim view of.
Later on offices became more raunchy until the 1960s when the secretaries were pinchable bottoms, which preceded our own time of appropriate behaviour and sexual harassment.
The business in Murder Must Advertise is the new profession of advertising which was less hide-bound than, say, law. So it is possible for Miss Meteyard a Somerville graduate, to be a copy writer as Sayers was (she worked on the Guinness Toucan campaign).* The rest of the women are secretaries, typists, facilities managers and cleaners, as they tend to be today.
The typists tapping rhythms on their percussive typewriting machines are the female heart of the office, and they have feminised it, buying the cakes for tea and organising collections for wedding presents – still pretty much part of the secretarial job. This feminisation makes the atmosphere of Sayers' office so different from Trollope's all male clerks outfits where social life was at the chop-house. Many secretaries and PAs take on the matriarchal and social oiling role – buying flowers, offering tissues and concern and handing round the giant Sorry You're Going farewell card for everyone to sign.
From the 1973 television adaptation. They had cups and saucers those days.
The internal telephone is not used as it would have been in an American office of the same vintage. The British stuck to their messengers for a long time, and in Sayers' novel the office boys have an important part in the plot as the eyes and ears. A modern counterpart would be the IT support person who accesses everyone's computer in person or digitally and can snoop. In the Golden Age of detective fiction the murders were usually done in a country house or village or some other limited community so everyone could be accounted for and alibis concocted. Sayers got round the problem of a hubbub of employees through the office boy's tenacious memory and sharp observation to narrow down the pool of suspects. (Later on P D James stuck to outfits like a publisher's or research unit to keep the number of likely murderers down.)
Sayers' office workers have proper tea breaks and a woman with a tea trolley – something I'm old enough to remember from a few decades ago, a time when you went out for lunch with a beer or two chucked in, instead of the sparkling water, a sandwich and a browse of the internet at the desk. They are still Misters and Misses and will be until the 1960s until there is only one ancient scary bloke who everyone calls Mr (as in my place) and email address lists are organised by first names rather than last.
Lucy Kelloway now has a new series The Joy of 9-5. It was unionised factory workers who won the 9-5 and the paid holidays which spilled over to the office workers. These days though many paper-pushers and email-copyees work punishing hours. However the maternalism still remains in that although the hours hurt, HR and the management hand out pain-killers in the form of stress counselling. Admonitions are wrapped up in praise. Rather than being nosy about our sexual morals the management worries about our personal problems which they investigate with psychometric tests finding out whether you are a Dominant Influencer Steady or Compliant (DISC) . The many courses we are offered on work management, self-realisation, know yourself, how to be more effective – it is a blurring of lines between office and home, along with the other blurrings. So work steals more and more time. Sayers' characters below top management level had to sign the time register; these days it's moral pressure of not wanting to be seen to be the first to leave.
So we are mostly doomed to work and if we can we find something interesting to do among congenial colleagues. Sayers' advertising agency in spite of murder and blaackmail is more fun than than the paper suppliers of Ricky Gervais's The Office.
Miss Meteyard,:- “Sopo Day is Cinema Day.” “Leave the Laundry to ruin itself while you addle your brains at the Talkies.” Muck! Dope! And they pay me £10 a week for that sort of thing. And yet, if we didn't do it, what would happen to the trade of this country? You've got to advertise.'
And everyone smokes as they did to about the beginning of this millennium. I remember when the accounts room was blue with haze.
The big campaign Sayers' advertising agency works on is cigarettes.. “This scheme should carry a strong appeal to women.. We want to get women down to serious smoking. Too many of them play about with it.... You can smoke a lot more of them in the day without killing yourself. And they're cheaper. If we increase women's smokes by 500 percent – there's plenty of room for it-”
That is what really makes this novel show its age. Also, the newspaper that runs the advertisements is the Morning Star. It's a fictitious paper. The Commie rag with that name was then called the Daily Worker.
*She came up with the Toucan rhyme for Guinness:-
I wasn't going to bother with The Last Kingdom. Saxons* vs Danes isn't a period of history I'm much interested in. However Tom Holland, who is researching the Heptarchy was on Twitter saying that the portrait of Alfred was very good, so I scrolled through Episode 2 till he turned up, and he is good (played by David Dawson). A melancholy intellectual, visionary yet shrewd. Fragile, delicate and only an adequate warrior whereas the Danes thoroughly enjoy the whole business of close combat sword and shield play. His intellectualism takes the form as it would in his time, of theological debate, his politics are cool and ruthless.
“Most prudent, far-seeing in wisdom, and hard to overcome in any crisis' - Æthelwold on King Alfred & his heirs. “ (stolen from Tom Holland).
So I went back to episode 1 and followed the fortunes of Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) a handsome young man who was born a Saxon and brought up a Dane. We get shots of him bathing – not just for a sight of his nice body but to reassure the audience that our ancestors weren't the epitome of stench that so repels us now. (They did the same thing for Liam Neeson's Rob Roy).
Uhtred - quite clean you know
He does choose odd times of the year to bathe though. It has been winter for 5 episodes. Once there was a clump of daffodils suggesting it might be at least be late March then it got back to winter. I was hopeful that we would have changed seasons in episode 5 when Uhtred's missus was bathing with a pregnant belly, showing time would have passed since their arranged marriage but evidently she conceived in about May, since it was winter again. This is Wessex, the West Country (though it it was shot in Hungary and Wales) and that part of England has early springs and hot summers. This series won't have done the tourist trade any good.
Uhtred is supposed to be avenging the death of his adoptive father, a Dane, and is also trying to get back the kingdom of Northumbria*, of which he is the rightful heir. He has plenty of adventures but he is a dull character not a patch on Alfred. His girlfriend, Brida (Emily Cox), is an early version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, foul mouthed and wantonly cruel which couldn't be allowed to Uhtred, supposed to be the hero after all. His other companion is Leofric (Adrian Bower) the classic sergeant major rough diamond, obscene-speaking and straight-talking, the kind of part that would normally be played by Sean Bean.
The series is propaganda for paganism. The Danes are buoyant and colourful. They wear wonderful animal skins (though no-one ever scratches for fleas), are finely tattooed, have wild hair, and love a fight, followed by massacre, torture and rape. The biggest, and baddest of them, Ubba (Rene Tempe), has finally been laid low and he really did have the presence of a manic head of a motorcycle gang – The Marauding Mob or the Plundering Pack. Meanwhile the poor Saxons frump about in long drab gowns, go to Church and eat gruel and apples because it is always Lent. And on that kind of diet they have to fight these evil brutes with their ultra cool ships.
The manic Ubba
Some genuine suspense has built up. Uhtred, tired of being pissed over by Alfred, is going rogue and is setting to do a little plundering of his own. With 3 more episodes to go I'm fairly sure Uhtred will be reconciled with Alfred and get Northumbria back. The Danes will be expelled and converted to Christianity. So far when they come up against priest or devout king they have Richard Dawkins style objections to the faith. The nature of conversion is something that the script-writers in our agnostic age can't handle.
This is supposed to be the British Game of Thrones which I don't watch as it has too much explicit torture for me to stomach. Here the violence is knockabout and doesn't make me wince. It looks good, it's lively and there's always the chance of seeing Alfred dragged away from discussing scripture for yet another wretched battle, glumly putting on the chain mail helmet while the Danish roaring boys, in the ninth century equivalent of revving their Harley Davidsons, knock up yet another painted shield wall.
Alfred at yet another sodding battle
* Someone commented that it wasn't Northumbria, but Bambrugh. "The Angle (not Saxon), Kingdom of Northumbria stretched from Edinburgh to south of the Humber. Bamburgh, is a small patch on the North East coast were there was a royal capital. It was a fine time, when Geordies and the Irish ruled.
*Someone commented on another site that it wasn't Northumbria, but Bambrugh. "The Angle (not Saxon), Kingdom of Northumbria stretched from Edinburgh to south of the Humber. Bamburgh, is a small patch on the North East coast where there was a royal capital. It was a fine time, when Geordies and the Irish ruled." I am sorry to see such narrow nationalism enters into discussions of events over a millennium ago.
Update:- In the last episode Uhtred teamed up temporarily with a startlingly evil war-lord called Skorpa who was a cross between Charles and Marilyn Manson with a Sadhu thrown in. The problem with Uhtred is that he is pretty and boring like Orlando Bloom. Whoever appears in a scene with him – his seamed side-kick Leofric,the fork-bearded king Peredur in Cornwall, the clever buffoon Athelwold, even his kind, pious wife Mildrith, over-shadows him by having more character and zing. I cannot warm to Uhtred at all.
Skorpa and Uhtred. Skorpa has his mouth closed so you can't see his blood-stained teeth.
He has now got together with Iseult, a pagan queen resembling Kate Bush and is about to undergo a trial by single combat. Sadly there's no chance he's going to lose, as he deserves.
And it's still bloody winter! There was a hint of green on one copse for a minute but alas, back to the bare branches and brown sward.
Outstanding example of pompous philistinism and the self-awareness of a sea sponge from Alan Bissett:-
Some 55% of Scots voted no to independence on 18 September 2014. This result has been respected – it’s the reason Scotland is still in the UK –
Well, thank you thank you thank you for clearing that up. Was it NOT going to be respected?
Like most Scottish artists I called for a yes vote during last year’s referendum.
How does he know? Did anyone do a poll of artists? Certainly the yes artists were vocal and busy and forming collectives and included big names like Liz Lochead and Alasdair Gray – but there were those who just kept quiet.
The artists have now entered a period of introspection, replacing the creative campaign’s colour and noise with a new ambivalence about what the Scottish arts are for.
I take it he means the Yes artists not people like Don Paterson, say or Douglas Dunn or Janice Galloway or James McMillan or McCall Smith who presumably know what they are for – for creating art. What is this rubbish about art as a national project? As with so much of the Nat debate (first independence then utopia) it was reminiscent of old Communist ideas that art was for “the people” I.e keeping to the Party line, which in its extreme versions meant poets with anything like a spine being executed by Stalin.
This had been anticipated, pre-referendum, by the novelist Alan Warner, who wrote: “A no vote will create a profound and strange schism between the voters of Scotland and its literature; a new convulsion. It will be the death knell for the whole Scottish literature ‘project’ – a crushing denial of an identity that writers have been meticulously accumulating, trying to maintain and refine.”
As a No voter I'm certainly happy not to read Alan Warner if he thinks there is a “whole Scottish literature 'project'” - I see he needs those quotation marks as there isn't any 'project'. There are works that get written, some good, some bad. (As a side note the great novelist on “Scottish identity” was Walter Scott – a devout Unionist and anti-Radical.)
There have been good books with an overt political message – Uncle Tom's Cabin or Animal Farm – usually about screaming injustices, not about a referendum in a liberal democracy. And as usual when reading the Yessers I think, god, what grandiose airs those people give themselves, what heroic attitudes they strike.
I understood my own purpose. I’d presumed to give voice to a people, the majority of whom had turned out to be indifferent to the message.
Could be that you're a shite writer. Also, some of us weren't indifferent but totally hostile.
The poet Jenny Lindsay, a key organiser of the yes-backing artists’ group National Collective, recently staged a show called Ire and Salt (swap those words round and you get the drift). It examined the difference between a movement and a campaign, the clash between artistic autonomy and the feeling of being a cog in a machine built to persuade.
I've seen Jenny Lindsay perform and she's a definite talent. It's not surprising she's sick of doing Yes, Yes, Yes and would like to move on.
there can be no definitive “schism” between Scotland and its artists. Scottish nationalism – as both a political concern and an ongoing cultural project – is enlarging, not shrinking.
Errgh. He doesn't realise how creepy this sounds. In fact he's right. The Scottish Government is trying to control the universities and things like the Scottish Language Centre became not even disguised propaganda for nationalism.
Bissett doesn't want regard himself as a vulgar propagandist. But if course that is what he is. That's what he thinks all artists born in Scotland should be. He is a propagandist on the side of the Scottish Government. He's a Government apparatchik, an Establishment stooge. Under Stalin he would have been writing paeans to the glorious leader and lyrics about tractor production while sitting on committees frowning over the ideological soundness of other poets.
He has inspired one small gem. In the comments thread is:-
Scotland's civic nationalists = Clan Nicola's nativist Scots ID
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?
So what were we fearty goats of Unionists getting in a stooshie about today?
This on the Scots Language Centre, a site where the bairns are directed to learn about the Scots tongue:-
Of course we muzerable Nawbags' faces were trippin' us. We did our own sums. 1.6 million of the population voted for independence while the remaining 3.9 million either voted against independence, didn't vote, or never had a vote.
So mibbe the dominie that scribed that was showing the weans how you can mess with numbers to tell what story you wanntae - something that we grown ups learned in the referendum especially with economic predictions of an indy Scotland involving the price of oil.
I was just starting to get a blog post going on the following lines:-
1. A Scots Language Centre which gets the folk into border ballads and Burns and all the sangs out there and James Hogg is a very good thing but; (2) why does everything cultural have to be politicised towards the same result i.e. being Scottish=being Nationalist; (3) with a caveat that though the Centre may be funded by the Scottish government it doesn't follow that some apparatchik at Holyrood writes every entry any more than they check out every script produced by Creative Scotland (though I bet pro-Unionist projects wouldn't get much sympathy). And the Natz are control freaks keen to grasp their mitts round broadcasting and the universities.
There was the usual Twittering including one from Ruth Davidson:-
and then Tom Martin from the Daily Express got in touch with the director of the site and now the page reads:-
To be fair it might have been one wee chappie/wifey at the Language Centre making a bit of mischief and now I even find it funny that s/he sneaked in a cheeky political point among the language studies.
But today I spittit with despyte (to quote the great Scots poet Gavin Douglas) and Lord, you have to keep yir e'en on those Gnats. They're a flock of corbies with beaks of blood desperate to feed on our unionist corse.
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 rise of nationalism 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.
During the 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 mat 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:-
Some song writing, some verse writing and too much blogging about culture, politics, cycling and gardening.