An Inaudible Mumble

Alistair Darling at the Better Together rallyToday we hear that Ed Miliband’s main response to the Queens Speech is to decry the fact that there isn’t another immigration bill. What a dereliction of an entire history of social struggle for the Labour movement. As Humza Youssaf says: “His pandering to UKIP is as shameful as it is disappointing as it is dangerous”. Why is this important? Whilst Alistair Darling stokes the accusations of ethnic nationalism, Salmond remains the only mainstream political leader to openly advocate more immigration (see his interview with David Torrance at Dundee University here ‘5 Millions Questions – Ceud Mìle Fàilte’) yet is accused of ‘ethnic nationalism’ by a party engaged in dog-whistle politics.

The Kim Jong-il jibes are the least of it. This is standard Salmond Dictator Bingo, the tired effortlessly cynical utterances of politicians with little to contribute to public debate. Jeremy Paxman called him “Robert Mugabe” and kept his job, David Starkey called him a “Caledonian Hitler” and Labour MP Denis McShane compared Salmond to Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, amongst others.

It’s routine. Now we’re told apparently it’s all Alex Salmond’s fault.

The SNP probably know they are winning the argument if their opponents are reduced continually to these ad hominem attacks. It’s pathetic and Salmond was entirely right to criticise the relentless promotion of Farage through the BBC and the issues it raises about broadcasting, devolution and democracy. It’s worth reading Gerry Hassan’s take on the crisis at pacific Quay on Scottish review ‘A profound absence of leadership, courage and vision’.

But the expression “blood-and-soil” (‘Blut und Boden’) is a term associated with the Nazis and takes us into new territory. This is the leader of the Better Together campaign. It’s not some rent-a-gob TV pundit, some over-reached (and over-paid) current affairs host or some ignorant enragés back-bencher.

The New Statesman has attempted to clarify the ‘error’:

Clarification, 22.36: Owing to a transcription error, Alistair Darling was incorrectly quoted using the words “blood and soil nationalism” to describe the SNP’s non-civic nationalism. The phrase was raised in conversation but not used directly by Mr Darling. This is the disputed exchange:

NS: Salmond has successfully redefined the SNP as [representing] a civic nationalism . . .

Darling: Which it isn’t . . .

NS: But that’s what he says it is. Why do you say it isn’t? What is it? Blood and soil nationalism?

Darling: At heart . . . [inaudible mumble] If you ask any nationalist, ‘Are there any circumstances in which you would not vote to be independent?’ they would say the answer has got to be no. It is about how people define themselves through their national identity.

Is it terrible journalism or terrible politics? Would you print an entire magazine run on the basis of an inaudible mumble? Maybe the New Statesman can clarify? Presumably the audio tapes are available and can be made public.

The attempt to characterise the independence movement as ‘ethnic’ is hopeless and fundamentally dishonest. As Salmond himself said in interview to Jason Cowley:

“One of the great attractions of Scottish nationalism is that it’s very much a multi-layered identity. It’s never been sensible to tell people they only have one identity and that they have to choose . . . People in Scotland are Scottish and British, English and British, Irish and Scottish, and Pakistani and Kashmiri and Indian and Chinese and whatever nationality I’ve missed out. A fact of the SNP is that in the 2011 election we had the support of 45 per cent of the population as a whole and more than 50 per cent support among the Asian community in Scotland.”

Mud sticks but soil crumbles. This pathetic attempt at a smear illustrates only the paucity of Better Together’s failing campaign and will further undermine Darling’s already weakened position, a leader who seems to veer from ‘comatose’ to dangerously abusive. There may be more than an inaudible mumble for his position today. He should apologise or resign.

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