What politics anorak in Scotland could possibly resist that headline? How could anybody fail to feel an irresistible urge to find out the identity of this “Senior Scottish Labour activist”? Who didn’t kick themselves on discovering that the “activist” in question was none other than Scotland’s favourite cringe-monkey, Duncan Hothersall? Who else? We should have guessed! It’s not like there are that many “Scottish Labour activists” to chose from. And calling Duncan “senior” is no more ridiculous than awarding yourself the title ‘Editor’ on your own blog. Maybe I could call myself ‘Chief Political Correspondent’. Or, just to outdo wee Duncy, ‘Editor-in-Chief’.
You’ll understand if I don’t ask for suggestions as to what I might be called if I had a by-line.
Duncan has been a bit of a vanishing cringe-monkey of late. Either I’ve perfected the art of ignoring his British Nationalist nonsense or he’s been blessedly quiet this last while. Maybe he was otherwise occupied to the extent that he was unable to fulfil his editorial duties. I don’t know. I confess to ignorance of the seasonal habits of cringe-monkeys.
But he’s back with a bang, as they say. Reprising all the old hits and presenting his latest ideas on how BLiS too might rise from the ashes of self-immolation into a blaze of self-immolation again. I think the headline was supposed to be a shocker. It has the words “expel” and “independence” in it. And at first glance the suggestion that BLiS should throw out nearly half its members seem a tad outré even for the Duncster. But when you think about it, there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before. There’s the bitter, bilious, burning hatred of the SNP, of course. We can dismiss that as filler. But what else is there?
Essentially, it’s just yet another rehash of the now far too familiar refrain about BLiS needing to ‘Learn and Change!’. How many times have we heard that one? More times than I’ve heard Eden Kane sing Well I Ask You that being the only record that came with the new Dansette record player which Santa brought to our house back in the days when the only thing we knew about streaming was that you had to avoid splashing the rim.
The B-side of this scratchy old record – the BLiS’s Listen and Learn not Eden Kane’s Well I Ask You – is another gold-coloured base metal oldie, Follow The Tories. The feature that Duncan hopes will get him and his band back in the charts is tacked on to these two standards. And it’s not original either. It may be new to younger listeners but those of a certain age will surely be able to whistle along to a tune called Stalinist Purge by Joe and The Commissars. Amazing to think that it’s nearly a century old.
(Remember the dance!? You had to stand stock still as if in the dock at your show trial then shimmy and shake and flail your legs like you were dangling by the neck from a rope. That was fun!)
But Duncan “Beria” Hothersall brings it right up to date with new lyrics calling for a purge of ‘Nationalist Sympathisers’ rather than former Russian Imperial Army officers are members of the White Guard. The underlying theme remains unchanged. It is the rhetoric of purification and renewal that has surfaced at intervals throughout history as one self-glorifying elite or another sought to blame its failure to win the respect and affection of the masses on ‘subversives’ and ‘infiltrators’ and ‘undesirable elements’.
The flip-side is a bit more up-to-date, but still nothing new. Having seen faded star Ruth Davidson enjoy some success with her ‘Queen of the BritNats’ show, Duncan has decided to do his own horribly derivative version. I can’t see it catching on. After all, British Labour has been doing little other than covers of Tory material for some years now. OK! They brought in a new lead singer with the idea of ‘going back to their roots’. This appealed to the purists – the kind of people who refuse to listen to anything Fleetwood Mac did after Peter Green left. But the crowds only want to here the new stuff. So Corbyn had to go and they brought in some nondescript guy they’re still trying to ‘big up’ with PR puffery.
There’s a fundamental flaw in whatever it is that Duncan Hothersall and his ilk have instead of reasoning. Actually, there are several. But I’ll start with the fact that he thinks he can both copy the Tories and keep what BLiS fans regard as their distinctiveness. The trouble with that it that the Tory sound is itself so unique – uniquely awful! – that it’s impossible to copy bits of that discordant noise without sounding exactly like them.
Then there’s the fact that Duncan wants BLiS to emulate a group that is massively unpopular in Scotland in the hope that doing so will make BLiS more popular than the current chart-toppers whose success they view with corrosive resentment and all-consuming envy. Am I alone in failing to find the logic in this?
I think I can explain. Being a British Nationalist cringe-monkey Duncan thinks that “Starmer backing” is totally different from the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) latest marketing strategy of portraying themselves as “Boris backing”. But that’s not what the voters see. They just see two politicians whose only loyalty is to the British state and who both exude indistinguishable contempt for Scotland. Duncan Hothersall – who shares this devotion to the British state – will protest that there are significant differences between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer, and he may be right! But the differences a significant only in terms of the politics of England-as-Britain. They don’t relate to Scotland. So Scotland doesn’t relate to them.
Poor wee Duncy seems to imaging that, just like the Tories again, he can turn the clock back to a time when the British two-and-a-bit-party system was all there was. He is in deep denial about the fact that the politics of Scotland and England-as-Britain have diverged beyond compatibility and beyond reversal. He remains convinced that Scotland’s voters have been suffering from some kind of mass hysteria for the last 14 years and that they’ll shortly come to their collective senses and learn to live with the politics they’re given rather than try to create something more in accord with their needs, priorities and aspirations.
One last lesson in how to ‘think’ like a British Nationalist cringe-monkey. Duncan’s cunning plan is to purge BLiS of anyone who is not on record as having referred to Nicola Sturgeon as Wee Jimmy Krankie or who can say the word ‘referendum’ without gagging. Ridding BLiS of independence supporting members, he suppose will transform the pretendy party into something more British Nationalist even than BCUPS and so take them to the dizzying heights of totally hyped ‘success’ enjoyed by BCUPS during Ruth Davidson’s brief spell perched on a shoogly pedestal like a moggy in a cat-show as the British media’s favourite Jockess.
What Duncan fails to take account of is that the 40%-50% of BLiS members expelled will retain their pro-independence leanings while shedding whatever residual loyalty they had to British Labour. Do the math! In absolute numbers, 40%-50% of BLiS members may not amount to much. But it’s minus for BLiS and plus for the Yes side. So that number might be effectively doubled in terms of relative strength. A couple of thousand new activists, while obviously welcome, would be a small increase when compared to the sheer size of the Yes movement. But it’s hard to imagine BLiS might suffer the loss of even one activist without feeling the pain. Unless, perhaps, that activist was the distinctly unhelpful Duncan Hothersall.
Nice to hear from you again, Duncan. Always amusing. But if this is your big idea for bringing BLiS back into the mainstream of Scottish politics, then obscurity beckons with unbecoming impatience.
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