Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A question of trust

Jim Murphy is hardly the first unionist politician to try and "draw a line" under the referendum. British politicians in Scotland are understandably anxious to have us forget Project Fear and the generally despicable behaviour of those who campaigned to deny the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and preserve the structures of power and privilege which define the British state. What is truly offensive, however, is the fact that Murphy assumes his rehabilitation in the eyes of Scottish voters will be a simple matter of saturating the biddable British media with posed images and banal sound-bites. This is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Scotland and a lamentable failure to recognise the changes that were wrought on Scotland's politics by the positive, aspirational Yes campaign.

Like all British politicians in Scotland, Murphy is desperate to get back to business as usual. Their fervent hope and foolish expectation was that a No vote in the referendum would destroy, or at least cripple, the SNP and kill the independence movement "stone dead". They wanted the coming UK general election to mark a return to the politics that they understand and are comfortable with. They craved the familiar faux rivalries of British politics. Needless to say, things have not worked out as they hoped.

Ironically, one of the reasons that the referendum remains an issue in Scottish politics is the fact that unionists have continued their campaign of distortion, disinformation and dishonesty. While they bleat futilely about how independence supporters should now shut up and go away, they continue to run the propaganda machine that they labelled Project Fear on account of the interminable stream of increasingly frenzied scare-stories that it churned out.

Look, for example, at the British parties' sickeningly gleeful reaction to the collapse in oil prices. Reading their contrived, contorted comments on the imagined implications of this blip one might be forgiven for thinking that the referendum was this September, not last.

We do not forget that Jim Murphy was an enthusiastic participant in Project Fear. We do not forget that he happily aligned himself with the Tories, Ukip and numerous other even more disreputable parties. groups and individuals. We do not forget the viciously slanderous attacks on those who dared aspire to the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status and the creation of a better, fairer, greener nation.

Murphy's efforts to reinvent himself as some kind of modern-day Braveheart figure are as crass, clumsy and cringe-worthy as his attempt to associate himself with the traditional values of the Labour movement. We do not forget that, as an unapologetic Blairite, Murphy is marked as one who contemptuously disavowed those values, spitting on the legacy of the Labour movement's great social reformers.

So, what are we to make of Murphy's claim that he is not a unionist in the same mould as the British nationalists with whom he stood shoulder-to-shoulder during the referendum campaign? He belatedly tries to distance himself from those narrow, insular British nationalists by resorting to the entirely specious and frequently derided "solidarity" argument. It is an argument devoid of ambition in that it assumes working-class solidarity is constrained by political boundaries. It is a defeatist argument which states that if we cannot improve the lot of all the disadvantaged everywhere then we are somehow betraying the cause if we so much as attempt to improve the lot of any of the disadvantaged anywhere.

Most notably in the context of Murphy's insistence that he is not a unionist, it is an argument which assumes that the UK is acceptable as a limit to solidarity whilst vehemently rejecting any suggestion that solidarity within he nation of Scotland is just as legitimate. If that is not a unionist position, nothing is.

As Murphy tells it, he is not like the British nationalists with whom he lately allied himself because he is a trade unionist. A claim which will be met with gape-mouthed incredulity by those who are aware of his record as President of the National Union of Students. And with extreme scepticism by those who pause to wonder why this supposedly staunch trade unionist did absolutely nothing when in power to rescind any of the anti-union legislation that was a legacy of the dark days when Thatcher squatted over the land.

If I was asked to come up with one word which defines the fundamental issue in this election campaign in Scotland that word would be TRUST. Who are we to trust to truly represent the interests of the people of Scotland in a British parliament which is increasingly hostile to Scotland's political and social institutions; intolerant of our distinctive political culture; and contemptuous of our aspirations?

Jim Murphy's brazenly disingenuous denial of his unionist credentials confirms that he is unworthy of that trust.

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