Shallow. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I listen to Richard Leonard. And anybody who can share a platform with Jeremy Corbyn and still sound shallow has to have taken shallowness to the molecular level. To appear more shallow; more banal; more devoid of substance than Corbyn takes a very particular talent. But Richard Leonard seems up to the challenge.

I keep waiting for the slogans to stop and the serious stuff to start. I’m all for a bit of colour in my political rhetoric. But when the adjectives and adverbs arrive in such profusion it leaves you longing for a noun or a verb like a man wandering lost, alone and desperately thirsty under a fierce, relentlessly blazing sun in the parched, arid and unforgiving desert craves a cool, refreshing, revivifying drink of clear, fresh, delicious water.

We are told repeatedly that British Labour has a bright, shining vision. But it remains a mystery what they actually see. We are told that theirs is a message of hope. But what they hope for, other than power, isn’t at all clear. We are assured that British Labour is promising change. But neither Richard Leonard nor his boss appear to have a clue as to what the situation is in Scotland, so they end up promising us stuff that we already have and/or stuff that the SNP administration is already in the process of delivering.

Leonard’s promise to take publicly owned Scottish Water back into public ownership clearly demonstrates the shallowness referred to. Not only did he not know about Scottish Water, he didn’t bother to find out. It wasn’t important that he be properly briefed. It’s only Scotland. And, besides, it’s not like the media are gong to give him a hard time. He’s a British politician. Moreover, he’s a British politician in Scotland. He gets a free pass from the BBC and the British press.

But there may be more to this than the casual indifference born of contempt and the confidence of privilege. It could be just sloppy preparation such as will happen when a politician has absolutely no respect for voters. Or it could be an error born of an overarching imperative to deny a particular Scottish perspective or a distinctive Scottish political culture. It could be yet another manifestation of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

If the dogma of your core ideology holds that Scotland is just part of some ‘Greater England’ then you will tend to the default assumption that it is just like the bits that you’re most familiar with. If you are accustomed to water services that are privatised, and ideologically predisposed to think of Scotland as part of a homogeneous entity called ‘Britain’, you’re going to assume that Scottish Water is a private company. And you’re not going to bother to check. Because that would require a mindset that admits the possibility of difference.

It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but this shallowness can be profound. There is a curious sense in which a certain breed of career politician can plumb new depths of shallowness. A case in point is the notion that British Labour can simply latch onto the ethos and spirit of Scotland’s Yes movement. Clearly, Leonard knows no more about the Yes movement than he does Scottish Water. If, as seems evident, he supposes it to be no more than a set of campaigning techniques which can be adopted and adapted by British Labour, then he has less than no idea what the Yes movement is. He is totally deluded on the matter.

Leonard doesn’t understand that the ‘hope and optimism’ of the Yes movement arose from the grass roots. It came from the people. It was not conveyed to them by way of slogans and posters and speeches from politicians. It percolated upwards and spread outwards in a process that was organic rather than mechanistic. The Yes movement wasn’t created. It happened. You don’t just ‘do’ a Yes movement. It has more in common with a natural phenomenon than with a political machine managed in every minute detail by clipboard-wielding technicians taking readings from focus groups, interpreting polls, pandering to the media and expertly manipulating the masses by expertly moulding the message.

Hope! Optimism! Aspiration! These are more than mere items on a campaign director’s checklist. They are not things that can be ordered from some propaganda supply company. They are the feed-stock the fuel and the product of a truly democratic movement with a great common cause at its heart.

British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) cannot possibly emulate the Yes movement because it has nothing at its heart but bitter resentment of the SNP, a very British sense of entitlement, and a desperate craving for the status withdrawn by an electorate hardly less detested than the party chosen to replace them. There is no plan. There is no purpose. There is no principle. No essence. No core. No depth. Only shallow.

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10 thoughts on “Shallow

  1. Jockanese Wind Talker

    Or it could be that he was breifed by Blairite BritNat Labour in Scotland so he lasts no time in post and Anas Sarwar gets the job?

  2. Hugh Wallace

    BLiS, the gift that keeps on giving…

    And to think we wanted Anas Sarwar to be elected leader because he would boost the Yes cause? Dick’s pronouncements are music to my ears.

  3. SandyW

    Think you nail it there, Peter, with their lack of ‘a mindset that admits the possibility of difference’. Its the simplest and most believable explanation for why unionists, and Labour in particular, continually make mistakes about the real differences between Scotland and England. Even those from Scotland believe that the nation of Scotland was extinguished in 1707 and that those seeking Scottish Independence are motivated by hatred of those down South.

    1. LC - Lorna Campbell

      It isn’t just Mr Leonard either. I think that the overarching non-appointing of Scots to positions in the police, culture, environment, etc., and the equally overarching idea that people from the ‘big south’ are somehow more able, has led to a diminishing of Scotland and its differences. These police chiefs from the Met, with their Met ideas, find themselves in trouble when they venture north because they simply apply Met ideas or Strathclyde ideas, imported from the Met, to the whole of Scotland. In every sphere of Scottish life now, those in charge are almost always English, and grave errors are made because many of them have not taken the trouble to see beyond their own mindset – which is that Scotland is just the most northerly bit of a Greater England. Even the SNP is occasionally infected with the ‘big’ concept of promotion to Scotland’s institutions. It would be very interesting to find out just how many of our institutions are headed by imported people from rUK and if knowledge of our specific Scottishness is ever part of the interview process. Granted, there are many Scots in positions in England, but, somehow, they do not appear to bring their Scottishness south with them to bear on the jobs they do in England – quite the opposite if the politicians are anything by which to judge.

      I think it all has to do with respect for others’ differences and different approaches, but, if you have been led to believe your whole life that Scotland is just the another part of ‘Britain’, and ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ are interchangeable terms, then it is no wonder we have problems arising.

  4. Robert Graham

    whats the point in expending energy on him

    he will be in his job for a few months then the next clown will stab him in the back just like all the others

  5. Clydebuilt

    Excellent analysis Peter. . . . BBC Shortbread will be administering plenty of the airbrush treatment to Lenny the Liar’s utterances

  6. Brian Powell

    “A case in point is the notion that British Labour can simply latch onto the ethos and spirit of Scotland’s Yes movement.”
    I’ve made this point as often as I can. I came to the conclusion that Labour think if they can damage the SNP enough they would inherit the Yes/SNP energy and commitment.
    I remember speaking to a Labour supporter who said, “I wish the SNP was Labour”.
    Not going to happen.

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