It can’t be easy being Johann Lamont. It’s bad enough being promoted well beyond your talents and abilities, placed in an important public role which mainly involves communicating with the public, while possessed of poorer linguistic skills than someone who’s recently suffered a brain injury. People in semi-comas can communicate more effectively than Johann, at least blink once for yes and twice for no is comprehensible, which is a lot more than can be said for most of Johann’s public utterances.
Come to think of it, Alistair Darling blinks so frequently that he looks like he’s sending subliminal messages in Morse Code. All the time he’s spouting his increasingly implausible mince, his subconscious can’t help revealing the truth. I… A … M… A… L… I… A… R…
Most over promoted managers can hide away in their office and blame their junior staff. Johann has to do it in public and then when she screws up the entire country points and laughs. She can’t even blame her junior staff, at least not in public what with Labour party tribalism trumping all and everything. Besides, if it came to a fist fight between Johann and Jackie Baillie it’s not at all certain that JoLo would win. That only allows her to blame Alex Salmond. Poor wee thing.
So it was Furst Meenister’s Questions, and Johann had been handed a big, if imaginary, stick to beat over Alex Salmond’s head in the shape of the UK media and Better Together’s misrepresentation of Mark Carney’s comments about sharing the currency. There she was, armed with all the weaponry that the massed forces of the British state and its propaganda department (AKA the newspapers and the BBC) were able to give her, and it blew up in her face in a single throwaway line. When Johann goes off script, she goes off the rails.
Johann thinks that the possibilities unlocked for an independent Scotland are just wee things – like getting rid of Trident, tax and benefits policies, or whether or not we invade a random Middle Eastern country. Johann and the Labour party are focussed on the big picture, the things that are important and relevant to the people of Scotland. Things like airguns, letting Labour councillors pay themselves extra for sitting on ALEOS boards, and the amount of dog shit on the streets of Shettleston.
Although Labour has tried to slough off Johann’s wee things comment, and as cold blooded reptilians they have plenty of practice at sloughing, her words were unintentionally very revealing. They show that Labour in Scotland has a wee horizon, a wee vision, and a wee spirit. The satnav on the Labour bus is firmly pointed down a privatised Tory highway where every pothole is blamed on Alex Salmond. They are genuinely, and scarily, bereft of any vision of where Scotland is going. Who cares if the passengers are unceremoniously dumped in a post-industrial wasteland at the end of the line, all that matters is that the drivers arrive at a seat in the House of Lords.
I’ve been walking a neighbour’s dogs this week, as she has recently had an operation and is still a bit too tender to take her dogs out herself. Last night when I returned with her pets, she asked me about the referendum. She was interested in the wee things, would we be able to get rid of Trident, would we get rid of the bedroom tax. I told her it was a big yes to both.
The neighbour is not a fan of Alex Salmond or the SNP. She’s not a big fan of Labour either, and gave up voting in elections many years ago. “I cannae even remember the last time I voted,” she said. But she added that she’s definitely going to vote in the referendum, and she’s going to vote yes. It’s the wee things we’ll be able to do that interest her. Like ensuring that her daughter, who is in the army, won’t be sent off to get blown up by a roadside device in some foreign land in one of the UK’s many illegal wars.
It’s people like my neighbour who will decide the outcome of the referendum, people who do not normally vote. It’s not that they don’t vote because they have no interest in politics, or that they don’t care about how this country is governed. They don’t vote because they know that under the Westminster system they have no effective voice. Their vote doesn’t matter, doesn’t count, and doesn’t make a difference to the likes of Johann Lamont.
But they’ll come out to vote in September, and they’ll vote for the wee things that aren’t important to Johann Lamont’s political career. It’s a point worth repeating – people who are alienated from politics are not going to come out and vote to keep a system that alienates them. They’re going to vote for change, they’re going to vote for the wee things.