Outshined by a potato

John McTernan, former aide to Tony Blair and erstwhile special advisor to Jim Murphy, has been crowing in the pages of the Scotsman that the independence referendum has already been won for the Union.  The nasty separatists have lost, brought down by the combined forces of the Westminster Avengers.  George Osborne will grasp at any opportunity to dress up as Captain America in a skin tight leotard, and Ed Balls was hoping his Iron Man costume would let him outshine Ed Miliband.  Though to be honest, you can do that with a potato.*  Even Wee Danny Alexander was thrilled when he was asked to play the comedy sidekick.

And ever since then we’ve had a succession of concerned businesspersons with absolutely no business or personal connections to former UK cabinet ministers lining up to tell us that if we vote for independence they’ll jolly well move south of the border and take their bonuses with them.  And then we’ll be sorry.

So it’s all bash, kapow, slam.  And all us rupturists or herniaists or whatever we are this week have been besieged out of existence.  So I am not writing this and you are not reading it.  We don’t exist.  They’re always telling us that the indy debate needs to raise its tone, and here we are already in a Kafka novel and it’s all thanks to John.  That’s yer actual Czech philosophy that is.  And we have the Union to thank for it.  If we were foolish enough to vote for independence we could go through our entire lives without having an existential crisis like Czechoslovakia.  Oh wait, bad example … sorry John …  And there’s former Czech President Vaclav Klaus thinking Scottish independence isn’t a bad idea, just to pour salt in the split pilsner.

John’s looking forward to a return to business as usual.  It’s just as well, because he doesn’t have many special powers and doesn’t look good in a superhero costume.  Tights are so revealing.  But still, we ought to listen to him when he warns us fissurists that we’ve already lost  because John fondly believes that his secret superpower is his ability to manipulate public perceptions.  He’s done exceedingly well at this.  The results speak for themselves.

He was a spin doctor for Tony Blair, a man unrivalled in popular affections – everyone hates him.  It takes a very special public relations spin doctor talent to achieve that.  Mind you, the illegal wars did help a bit too.  John helped spin those too.

He masterminded the Labour campaign in the Scottish elections of 2007, which managed to avoid any incidents in Subway Sandwiches even if it still ended in defeat.  Defeat for the first time and the first of many more.  Ouch.  Then he went off to Australia to spin doctor for Julia Gillard, only for her to get turfed out of office by her own party.  And then the Ozzie Labour party went on to lose to Ozzie Tories that make Boris Johnstone seem like he’s in touch with reality.  You know that when John has his finger on the pulse, it’s about to turn into a corpse.  Thank god he never took up a career in nursing.

So John truly has the most impressive spin doctoring abilities.  They’re on a par with putting a heavy bag over your head, and rocking gently back and forward inside a dark wardrobe while muttering “Why did you leave me Tony”.  And when he’s trying to manipulate public opinion, sorry, writing an important article for the Scotsman, we should pay attention.

John wants us to stop all this constitutional nonsense.  For the first time in decades untold thousands who had previously given up on politics with disgust [waves shy hand] – in no small measure due to the machinations of the likes of Tony Blair and his troll minions – are discussing politics, with passion, interest, and for the most part an enormous dollop of good humour.  Calling him a troll minion is good humoured, because it makes me think of one of those wee plastic figures from the fun fair.  Only with a grumpy face.

But it’s the wrong sort of politics, and John doesn’t approve when people stop taking him seriously.  He says it’s “the politics of the magic porridge pot”.  He’s quite right there, there is no magic porridge pot, there’s only a magic gravy train in Westminster.  Labour’s Scottish contingent know a lot about that.

Back in the real world, as opposed to Project Fear’s pale imitation of manga, John’s sole superpower is the uncanny ability to hitch his horse to the wagon with the broken wheels and Magrit Curran as satnav.  When you’re a Blairite and only have Jim Murphy to talk to, you don’t have many choices.  And if we vote no in September, neither will we.  That’s why John is looking to the future with barely restrained glee.

And I too shall place my faith in John’s political antennae.  Because you know that whatever he’s predicting, the opposite will happen.  He’s reliably unreliable, just like the rest of his former colleagues at Westminster.  I know that.  The dug knows that.  The woman along the street knows it, and so do her pals at the bingo.  The only person who’s heid is in a spin in John’s.

He’s longing for things to get back to normal when Scotland has already changed forever.  Things will never be the same again.  John’s normal is the normal of back room deals, of Labour establishment and Pacific Quay together in cosy harmony.  That normal died when 13 years of majority Labour government gave us ATOS, the first incarnation of the bedroom tax, wars, privatisation, PFIs, and Stephen Purcell’s cocaine fuelled implosion which went mysteriously unreported.

What he’s trying to do in his crude spinning way is to send a message to the unengaged that there is no point in discussing independence since the game is a bogey.  But we know how his game works, which is why we’re playing a different game.

John’s game is called “not giving any answers, and gloating like Gollum”.  It’s as close as he’s ever going to get to a positive case for the Union.  He only thinks he’s winning because he lives inside his own spin.  The problem with spinning is that everything around you is a blur.  It’s a game played in TV studios and in newspaper columns.

Our game is called “talking to people, not at them”.  The rules are simple, when someone asks a question about Scotland’s future, give an honest answer.  Provide them with information, or show them where to find it.  That’s not a game Westminster can play.  It means looking people in the eye.

It’s a game we’re winning.

* Seriously, potatoes really do shine more brightly.  All you need is a potato, a wee LED light, and a couple of other household bits and pieces.  Science fun for all the family, and infinitely more illuminating than John McTernan:


7 comments on “Outshined by a potato

  1. […] Outshined by a potato […]

  2. Macart says:

    Yeah, must admit to being at a loss with the whole head in the sand routine by the press and their spad connections. Its just not the response I’m seeing simply talking to people. Whether at work or in the street it is becoming increasingly rare for me to encounter a hard no voter. At worst I’ll find someone in the throes of going from undecided to yes or a one time no voter, now voting yes and literally pushed there due to the unremitting negativity of the anti independence campaign.

    Even should a no vote win on the day (shudders), how the hell could they possibly reconcile themselves with a populace they denigrated and openly mocked on a daily basis for almost three straight years? They deliberately induced fear and uncertainty within their own people to manufacture a desired outcome and they’d seriously expect us all to go back to being buddy, buddy? Go down the pub for a pint afterward, then put our cross in the usual box come the next GE? One way or another its over for them, either on September 18th or not long thereafter Scotland will be independent. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. People have had a taste of good government and they are going to want more, explore more of their own democracy. Maybe even write their own chapters on how to improve that democracy.

    This gleeful pillock McTernan. Does he imagine what he’s doing is for the good of anyone other than those and such as those? Mind you, I don’t suppose his like suffers a mirror in the house anyway and probably shuns direct sunlight, shaves by memory kinda thing.

    • Spot on, Macart. I am hearing this morning that Alexander is due to make a speech in Edinburgh confirming the co-alition’s absolute refusal to enter into a currency agreement in the event of a Yes vote in September. Do these people never listen? I’m talking in this case on the opinion of the Nobel Laurate Professor Andrew Hughes- Hallett, who said the other day that he would not allow his first year students to consider such a course of action. The Scottish Government has bent over backwards to be reasonable on all the issues that will affect us, Scottish, or English, when we become an independent country, but it’s just thrown back in their faces. This, along with the news that the S.G weren’t even told of the radition leak at Dounreay, should tell us, what we already know of course, the kind of comtempt that Westminster holds us in, and the only way out is to become a nation again, taking responsibility for all matters concerning the people of Scotland. Whatever the result of the referendum, I for one will never forgive, nor forget, the parcel of rogues, B.B.C Scotland, S.T.V, almost the whole of the so-called Scottish print media, but most of all the “proud scots” who took the Westminster gold and tried to sell us down the river. That feels better, so now I can get on with my canvassing/leafleting and at least try to convince even more people that the only way is Yes on the 18th of September.

      • Macart says:

        Oh it’ll get worse before the end. I reckon they’ve got a few beauts left to fire off before September in terms of the big lie. What we can’t do is lose the plot. Stick to our guns and the proposals of the white paper. Best answer to all of the above spin is laugh in its face. Keep pushing what we can do, what we are capable of. The bigger the lie, the more we laugh at it. I wouldn’t even try to answer their ridiculous scenarios anymore. Just point out what we offer as opposed to what they do. If we try to fight their lies on their terms we wind up slugging it out in the same sewer. We’re better than that.

  3. Marian says:

    McTernan may have had a hand in the upsurge in the number of of Project Fear trolls on the Scotsman and other newspapers comments on independence as he appears to have done this when employed by former PM Julia Gillard of Australia as her spin doctor. ABC’s News reports that leaked emails show he encouraged Labor staffers to mobilise so called “Twitter armies”‘ to ridicule the Tony Abbott-led opposition and attack individual Coalition MPs online, which he would later point out to journalists as proof of public opinion.

    Westminster politicians are complicit in attempting one of the greatest confidence tricks ever perpetrated on the people of Scotland and to facilitate that they are now engaged in a scorched earth policy that will ensure that the people of Scotland will never trust Westminster or the BBC and newspapers again after all this is over no matter what the outcome of the referendum.

  4. JGedd says:

    First, welcome back, Paul, we missed you.

    As to John McTernan of the permanent sneer, if he and his kind have produced public revulsion at the way the media and spin doctors have manipulated opinion, then it’s been a long time coming. Having long been dismayed, over several decades, by the distortion and partisan reporting of political events I have been saddened at how successful they have been.

    It isn’t even particularly clever. Any one of us will have encountered at some time a point of view, or someone’s personal reputation, being traduced in social groups, from the playground to the golf/tennis club, social club or work place staffroom and been similarly surprised at how easily people can be persuaded to accept an unjust or facile judgement. These are not black arts; it has long been part of the human condition. What is so dangerous is the reach of the media’s influence and through them, the spin doctors. If people have become more inclined to be questioning and less trusting about the media output, then that will be a plus, but I’m not holding my breath.

  5. liz says:

    Indeed welcome back – your blog is a must read.

    What surprises me is that people still employ the likes of McTeirnan when he has been such a failure at what he does.

    I agree the genie is out of the bottle and if it is a No – God forbid – it will be because enough folk have been presuaded by fear and these folk will not be happy either – deep down they will know it is not right.

    At the Edinburgh march last September, we met a guy in a pub who said he was very inpressed by us but was voting No cos he and his pal worked at Fastlane – his words were ‘there is nothing I would like more than an indy Scotland but’….

    I never thought even a year ago that I would go from watching most political programmes on the beeb to watching none and not believing a single word that comes out of their mouths.

    Keep up the good work.

    BTW I know you are just back from London and there was a scathing piece in the NYT about London money laundering – they’re reputation across the world is being trashed.


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