Everyone has a right to express their opinion on Scottish independence, that’s perfectly fair. So it’s not at all unfair that a number of celebs have appeared in a new video telling Scotland how much they love us and why they don’t want us to leave Westminster’s tender embrace. They love us, we’re their best friend, but they still don’t trust us with the TV remote control or with determining our own spending.
Despite being touted as an unofficial intervention in the campaign, the video is a tactic straight out of the Canadian Government’s Quebec referendum playbook. Get a whole load of celebs to tell voters in anguished terms how much they love us, they need us, and they don’t want us to go. Westminster misery is no fun if you can’t share it you see, and obviously little unimportant people are going to be swayed by the opinions of famous celebrities.
Well I say ‘celebs’, you’d be hard pushed to recognise most of them. I recognised wossiface from Eastenders, him that used to be married to Rebecca Wade of the Sun and didn’t think let’s stay together when the couple were divorcing. He may have been traumatised when he hobnobbed with Tony Blair when his missus was schmoozing with the arch warmonger. He was certainly traumatised after he visited Glasgow for his programme about gangs. The wee lambie thinks Easterhoose is as dangerous as Afghanistan. There was Eddie Izzard, taking time off from his campaign to become the Labour candidate for London mayor. I recognised Baldrick, who’s previously appeared in Labour campaign videos, I recognised Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered Stephen Lawrence who was given a peerage by Labour in recognition for her work exposing institutional racism, and I recognised Richard I Don’t Believe It Wilson because he’s always believed in the Labour party, but that was pretty much it. Oh and John Barrowman was in it too, but it’s best not to draw too much attention to John, in case he attempts humour, wears that jaiket, or tries to sing.
I don’t have any problem with any of them expressing their opinions. That’s perfectly fair, even if the only people I was actually able to put a name to all have long standing associations with the Labour party which they omit to mention in their paean of lurve to Scotland.
What’s less fair is that the organisation behind the new video doesn’t tell us that its founders also have close links to the Labour party, and that this new initiative is about as grassroots as Vote Nob Orders. It is in fact Vote Nob Orders the C to Z list Celebrity Edition. Let’s Stay Together is the work of two advertising and PR executives with close links to the Labour leadership and the Westminster bubble, MT Rainey and Andrew McGuinness.
Mary Theresa (MT) Rainey is chair of digital advertising agency TH_NK which clearly suffers from irritable vowel syndrome. TH_NK, which is pronounced “thunk”, the noise that the Let’s Stay Together campaign made as it landed in the indyref debate, has a number of high profile clients, including the BBC, Channel 4, and the TV Licencing Authority.
In November last year at Labour’s Scottish conference in Inverness, Magrit Curran announced that Labour was to set up a new Employment Taskforce to be headed by former Labour MP for Dumbarton John McFall, who now rejoices in the silly made up title Lord of Alcluith Tywysog of the Strathclyde Britons, and another former native of Dumbarton, a certain MT Rainey.
In March this year, Labour’s national leadership announced it was setting up a review of the Creative and Digital Industries, one of the members of the review board is the busy Ms Rainey.
Andrew McGuinness, head of advertising agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay, was described in the advertising industry website Campaign Live as a Labour supporter who contributed to Tony Blair’s successful General Election campaigns in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Campaign Live goes on to say that Andrew has mainly worked for Labour in a personal capacity, but his agency did some work for Labour during the English local elections. In 2011 Andrew McGuinness became the chairperson of Labour’s New Creative Network, an initiative which Labour claimed aimed to “signal Labour’s support for the creative sector”.
The third big name in advertising who is associated with this entirely unofficial and not connected in any way with any political party oh no campaign is a certain John Braggins. According to Let’s Stay Together’s website, the new campaign is being promoted by John, director of media company BBM. John has previously worked closely with the Labour party on elections and planning campaigns and proudly claims the credit for Labour not losing a single by-election in the period between Blair’s annointing as Labour leader and the 1997 General Election.
So we have three highly paid, well connected executives in the advertising and PR industry who appear to be the driving force behind this new and entirely unofficial initiative, all of whom have close connections with the Labour party and work on the party’s behalf and who are insiders in the Westminster bubble, who have quite spontaneously and without any prompting decided to intervene in the Scottish referendum debate. There’s the people’s party for you, with their new definition of grassroots.
Update: Thanks to DougtheDug for pointing out that the Let’s Stay Together video was made by Silverfish Media, owned by Marc Lucas, who was described by the Independent newspaper in 1996 as “Labour’s in-house film-maker“. Doug also notes that Let’s Stay Together do not – as of the evening of 16 July – appear on the Electoral Commission’s website as a registered participant in the referendum campaign.
Meanwhile, it’s also come to light in a delicious little irony, that the Let’s Stay Together website is officially registered as belonging to “Think Limited” – which is a perfect description of the aspirations of the No campaign. That’ll be some of that Acanchi karmic chi going on there then.
Meanwhile here’s a real grassroots video for you, courtesy of the National Collective.