Back to the future with Marty Kettle

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle has been making use of his steam powered time machine Delorean to voyage into the future and look back at the independence referendum from the vantage point of 2024, using a route planner that Nick Clegg sketched on the back of a Lib Dem election pledge. Marty was hoping that this would help him find the plot that he lost when the referendum was announced, as previous attempts to locate it had depended on using the same dowsing rod that Iain Gray had employed when he was searching for a Labour majority in the 2011 Scottish elections.

Marty’s time machine tells him that the independence referendum is all a dreadful waste of time, and for some inexplicable reason that Scottish independence is going to spark off a civil war in Ireland – possibly because Gerry Adams will be outraged that he can no longer watch River City on the BBC.

The article was allegedly intended as a light hearted humorous look at a subject which Marty finds both deeply unfunny and intensely perplexing. These articles exist solely in order to give Unionists the opportunity to tsk that independence supporters have no sense of humour, because making jokes about bomb blasts in Belfast is just a bit of fun when Westminster supporters do it. If a Yes supporter was to do the same, it would be evidence of the atavistic nationalism that Marty only espouses when it’s called British. Because then it doesn’t count as nationalism.

Like most UK media commentators whose umbilical cords are firmly attached to the belly of the Westminster beast, Marty can’t conceptualise political debates which take place in areas where Jim Murphy’s bus tour can’t reach. So instead he prefers to blame it on atavistic English hating nationalism, a concept which he can get his head around better than the shocking truth that as far as Scotland is concerned Marty and his opinions are about as informed and informative as a Glesca bus timetable during the Commonwealth Games. That’s his real difficulty – he’s faced with a political discourse in which he is irrelevant, so at least you’d think he’d now appreciate what Scotland has experienced in UK politics for the past 40 years. Sadly not.

Marty’s a fully paid up member of George Robertson’s Cataclysm Club, and his wee prediction checked all the Unionist dire consequence tick boxes with the exception of the plagues of frogs and locusts, and the invasion of lizard aliens from outer space. Which is a bummer because I was quite looking forward to the lizard aliens, they’re far more fashionable than the genocidal robots from the Andromeda Galaxy who’re set to take over an independent Catalonia.

According to Marty, 2014 is the “last golden summer of the UK”. So enjoy those ATOS disability interviews and Danny Alexander admitting he was wrong about the Bedroom Tax while it all lasts then. But the only gold in the UK these days is creamed off by bankers in bonuses, the rest of us are left with the radioactive heavy metals that are the decay products of a Trident warhead and a media without a clue.

About the only thing Marty wrote that wasn’t utterly risible was his premise that Yes will win in September. We’ve come a long way from 2011, when the Unionist parties were claiming that an 80% majority was in the bag and Scottish nationalism would be killed stone dead – again. However at last the penny is beginning to drop that Scotland can no longer be taken for granted. We’re being noticed and told we’re loved by people who never noticed us before. They’re still praying for a No vote so they can get back to ignoring us. Little people aren’t qualified to decide what’s best for themselves. Only people who ignore little people can do that.

Marty and the rest of the UK media are never going to understand the independence debate, because understanding it would mean grasping a true appreciation of the bankruptcy of the political system that they have hitched themselves to. And they have no idea how it should be fixed. They don’t want to fix it. It already works just fine – at least for the only people who count. That would be those who are in it, and people like Marty whose careers depend on reporting them and presenting their views to the rest of us.

Scottish independence is about recognising that the Westminster system of politics is irretrievably knackered. It is not capable of reforming itself. No further evidence is needed than the continuing existence of an unelected second chamber. When it was enjoying its record breaking three consecutive majority governments, Labour abolished the right of heriditary peers – or at least most of them – to sit in the Lords and influence our legislation, but they replaced it with the only system that could be worse. Instead of the lottery of aristrocratic birth, peers are now entirely appointed by politicians who increased the power of their own patronage.

The result is that UK politicians are the least accountable in any democracy. To cite my favourite example of odiousness, during the 1997 General Election Michael Forsyth led the Tory party in Scotland to a wipeout at the polls. Politicians like to tell us that they must listen to the message sent to them by the voters, and in 1997 Scotland sent Michael Forsyth a message. We told him that we didn’t want him, we didn’t want his policies, and we didn’t want his party. Every single Scottish Conservative MP lost their seat, and the party has apparently abandoned any hope of ever recovering. Short of sending him to the bottom of a coalmine in Sverdlovsk, this is the strongest message an electorate can send to a politician in a democratic system. And the message was “Away you tae fuck.” But what happened? Mikey got a seat in the Lords and he’s still casting his baleful influence over our legislation and our lives.

But lack of accountability also means that political manifestos have become even less fact based than the proverbial Glesca bus timetable during the Commonwealth Games. They mean little or nothing. So we get a series of political parties making promises they have little intention of keeping, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Vote one lot out and the next lot will take over and do exactly the same. The only difference is the PR. The Magic Roundabout of Westminster, it’s the only ride in the Magic Kingdom amusement park where the little people aren’t admitted. We press our noses against the fence while Marty drops nuggets of wisdom for us to digest gracefully.

The independence debate has upturned the old certainties. Now it’s Marty who’s pressing his nose against the fence, complaining that a debate is taking place that he’s not a part of. The single biggest prize we can achieve with independence is a written constitution that spells out the checks and balances required to keep our politicians accountable, and which will put a spanner in the works of the Magic Roundabout.

And then perhaps we might even achieve a media which understands the country it’s reporting on. But it won’t be one involving Marty.



47 comments on “Back to the future with Marty Kettle

  1. Rosa Alba says:

    Not only do I believe that after the Referution we need to rename the “gentlemen’s club association” of M(S)Ps with the termiinology of Representative of the People of (Kirkton, Dundee) at the Scottish Pariiament (RSP/RPSP), but that we need to follow the Swiss system of holding referenda on matters of conscience, to with the Right to Die, Termination of Pregnancies, Gay Adoption (I am in favour and part company with Church on this), Armed Police etc.

    I also think there is a need for a separate bottom-up overseer (Common Weal might do nicely) with local to district to regional to national committees. Like the Cooperative and the way the Constituency Political Parties used to operate.

    I need to return to blogs. School hols….

    BTW how is Mr Ginger Dug doing – still in hospital?

  2. JimnArlene says:

    To call that man a fantasist, would be an insult to fantasists. Jim Murphy as the leader of an independent Scotland, f**k me, I’d vote naw if I thought that would happen. A total load, from start to finish.
    You sir, however; are quite magical in your wit and prose. Always a pleasure to read.

    • hiorta says:

      Aye, definitely and without the shadow of a doubt. Hilarious, witty and informative yet still down to earth.

  3. […] The Guardian's Martin Kettle has been making use of his steam powered time machine Delorean to voyage into the future and look back at the independence referendum from the vantage point of 2024, us…  […]

  4. Bamstick says:

    I read the Kettle piece yesterday but didn’t get it at all. Your writing is much better!
    Was stopped today in my YESmobile when visiting my wee old dad. One of his neighbours said “I was going to vote to keep things the same” (NO voter, thinks I what do I say?), “But I’ve been watching the Commonwealth Games and the reporter said There are two English runners, one from Scotland and one from Wales”. The neighbour than said “I’m sick of it, I’m voting YES”
    So I told him about the wee ginger dug and wings. Panic over. I never seem to know what to say.
    I think I can count that as my first conversion or maybe it should go to the BBC?
    Out delivering more leaflets this afternoon. Quite a small village and quite a few Union Jacks and No stickers. Bummer. But I did meet a lovely black and white cat and a beagle so the afternoon was still a success.

  5. David Agnew says:

    Michael Forsyth – regarded at the time as the most Hated Man in Scotland – once said of his own people that the idea of them having a devolved parliament, was like giving an alcoholic the keys to the drinks cabinet. That is the measure of the man right there. Utter contempt and a deep loathing for the country of his birth.

    The idea that if we win, people like him will suffer the fate they fear more than anything; Irrelevance, puts a smile on my face.

    That is how we make these people pay. We don’t just elect them out, we boot their over paid arses out completely. The only thing they get to do in Scotland is pass wind, not policy.

    Davidson, Sarwar, Lamont, Rennie and all the other dreary little rat-bags – consigned to the dustbin of history along with their precious union. A fate they richly deserve.

    Kettle and all the rest have never understood this. The evidence was staring them in the face. Holyrood. Do they think we voted for that in 1997 because we trust in the union and the status quo? Hell no! we voted for that because we do not trust in the status quo.

    They are actually going into the final months of this campaign with nothing whatsoever to offer no voters. Nothing. 5 will get you 20 that Darling will pull out of the debate. All that’s left is BT wittering on about expats and rehashing last years scare stories.

  6. mary vasey says:

    Flipping great post. Don’t know how you do it but each one is better than the last and so spot on. Fandabbydozy – hope I don’t get banned for quoting the krankies was it? Lol😎

  7. […] Back to the future with Marty Kettle […]

  8. handclapping says:

    You’re absolutely right about the bubble journalists. It’ll be like up here when the SNP got in in 2007. All the political commentators who’d made their reputations in the Kremlinology of Slab politicking found that a degree in Kremlinology was toilet paper so they asked their chums in Slab who’d helped them to the dizzy hights of editorship and bylines and they got the same message as Slab, hate the SNP.

    Now your actual editors are looking at the sales figures and wondering why they are employing “political editors” whose total input is to remove the “Press Release from Better Together” from Press Releases from Better Together. Shoogly peg time.

  9. WRH2 says:

    Fantastic post. I read the Kettle piece and thought he must be on LSD. I don’t think anything else can explain such rubbish. Initially I was taken aback by the nonsense about Murphy but then realised that Kettle doesn’t know anything about Scottish politics at all. He doesn’t know anything about our MSPs which is why he chose the most glaikit one of the SLAB Westminster bunch. I would suggest Kettle and the rest of the southern press should do a little homework and try to connect with reality instead of writing tripe. September 19th is going to be seriously difficult for them.

  10. macart763 says:

    Nice one Paul. Had a fit when I clocked that one myself.πŸ˜€ I thought at the time – odd I didn’t realise serial drug abuse was allowed in editorial these days?

    The London meeja has been irrelevant in this debate from start to finish. Its not just that they’re part of the establishment themselves, and kinda disinclined to consider an opposing point of view, but that they lack knowledge, empathy and understanding of the debate on every level. They cannot conceive of ordinary people forming their own opinions on how they wish to be governed.

    Oh no, they’re too damn busy gazing into their own metrocentric navel to care what wrong headed rowdy natives think about the management. I mean after they’ve pattered away on their keyboards for half an hour and waxed lyrical on the lack of appreciation amongst locals for the gift of civilization, they’ve got important shit to discuss. I mean just what flavour will they add to their half caff rich Belgian Mocca? Cinnamon or nutmeg? And will they munch on the biscotti or slum it with a kit kat? Fuck it no, they’re on a diet. Make it the Earl Grey, slice of lemon and a Jacobs, no spread. Those are the real decisions at the beating heart of big name editorial, nane o’ yer pish popular democracy nonsense.πŸ˜€

    They are as divorced and distant from the needs of our electorate as it is possible to get. They may as well be commenting from the other side of the globe.

    • hektorsmum says:

      Wish I had thought of the serial drug abuse bit, he must be on something, well something more serious to come up with that piece of tosh, drivel, pish pee, I am running out of adjectives for it. Has been watching science fiction films whilst composing his article me thinks. Labour Party in charge down South and Dougie Alexander Prime Minister of Fuk, he has to be on something. Not only is there very little chance of Labour getting elected in the present conditions but a Scotsman, fake or otherwise, not a chance. I cannot even see them getting elected to a safe seat if they do the chicken run, when we vote for Independence, why on earth are they making the fuss they are Mr Kettle. Away and bile yer heed.

      • macart763 says:

        Like I said they are as divorced from the reality of our conversation as it is possible to get. I mean I knew they were struggling with the concept, but Kettle’s piece exposed the London meeja’s lack of understanding in the equivalent of ten foot high neon letters.

  11. DougtheDug says:

    “Like most UK media commentators whose umbilical cords are firmly attached to the belly of the Westminster beast, Marty can’t conceptualise political debates which take place in areas where Jim Murphy’s bus tour can’t reach.”

    I agree with that but for those like Martin Kettle their British identity also means that Scottish politics are unfathomable. I’m not talking about unionism which recognises that the UK is a union state but about those who think of Britain as one country and one nation.

    Since they can’t understand the idea of a Scottish identity which is national and not regional they can’t understand what drives the debate up here. It’s got to be something else and simple anti-English sentiment fits the bill. Not everyone in the Yes campaign is driven solely by the issue of Scottish identity but their Scottish identity whether overt or not has weakened their British identity to the point where they are not bothered about rejecting it.

    For Kettle, Scotland leaving the UK is as puzzling as East Anglia leaving England would be for us.

    • Illy says:

      I must be wierd then, because for me, a Yes vote isn’t about identity at all, it’s that Westminster isn’t fit for purpose any more (if it ever was), and Scottish Independence is the only way I can see of fixing it, for any part of these islands.

      • DougtheDug says:

        In no other region of the UK has the option of independence as a means to reject Westminster become a reality. Plenty of other regions of the UK do not like Westminster politics but there are no independence movements in say Yorkshire or the West Midlands because both retain a strong British identity.

        Only in Scotland is British identity weak enough to make independence an option when rejecting Westminster politics and it’s weak because of a competing Scottish identity.

        • Illy says:

          I thought Yorkshire and Cornwall had pretty strong identaties as well.

          Maybe I’m just outdated?

          • DougtheDug says:

            Each with a strong regional identity. Not a national identity which is strong enough among the population to form an independence party and get the electorate to vote for it.

            • Illy says:

              Was talking to my dad about this a while back. Apparently their regional identities have been steadily eroded over the last 40 years or so.

              Somehow Scotland hasn’t let that happen. Hopefully we’ll see a resurgence of regional identities in England after we leave the union.

  12. Juteman says:

    I’m a Yes for serious reasons, but the thought of giving a big GIRUY to certain people adds a little spice.πŸ™‚

  13. Jan Cowan says:

    Another excellent post, Paul. Thank you.

  14. Paul M says:

    I agree the piece is a lot of shite – but it doesn’t say anything about bomb blasst in Northern Ireland or a civil war. Just that Gerry Adams proproses a referendum in N.Ireland. So that was a misrepresentation and you’re the one raising the prospect of violence in this scenario.

  15. Paul M says:

    Whoops, it does – “March 2016 – the month in which Northern Ireland voted narrowly to join the republic, thus reigniting the Ulster civil war”. My error. Didn’t see that first time.

    • DR says:

      Not to be mean, but that’s *exactly the problem*. I mean, good for you picking up on it and saying so, and since the article it comes from was a particularly impenetrable list of nonsense, it’s not the most egregious example. But every single week I lose count of the number of times this ‘misrepresentation, and *you’re* the ones promoting x’ happens to people *only quoting No*. I don’t believe it usually is malicious, even. It’s just how the repetition of a dominant narrative (in this case, that Yes misrepresents people *and* are only ever one small step from violent ultra-nationalism) always works: it affects what people even *see* when they look elsewhere.

      When this sort of confirmation bias is affecting even open-minded diligent folk of good faith (you’re reading here as well, and checked yourself) it’s a serious problem for *everyone* whatever their politics. Creating this sort of situation is a keystone of negative campaigning, because if one can manage to successfully characterise political opponents as ‘the minority other side’ *and* the ones being negative, then everything negative (including awful things one says oneself) gets attributed to them, or taken as proof of how extreme one’s ‘forced’ to be to counter them.

      The particular problem with this in a referendum (although it’s bad enough in party politics!) is that the effect is *not* to change minds on the issue – the effect is simply to put people off engaging with it, or voting. The other problem is that this tactic cannot actually create a consensus, even if it creates a winning vote. (Folk remember they were being manipulated and that they lost the will to counter it.) When the issue is our collective future, I can’t see any way that’s not dangerously irresponsible.

      Are Yes saints, then, who do none of this? No. But the practical reality is twofold. Yes have neither the money nor the media coverage to effectively go negative. And Yes cannot afford to win on a low turnout (whereas the No point has always been that no-one except SNP fanatics even wants this ‘divisive’ debate, nevermind a vote on it). So Yes have to get *all* the votes in, and that means positive campaigning.

  16. faolie says:

    Read Kettle’s piece too yesterday but I prefer your deconstruction!

    I wonder if we’re entering the days when the London-based media has accepted that, shit, these guys are serious and they really are going, so best to look into the future now and write pieces that laugh and sneer at their inability to run a country without us.

    So; oh haw haw haw, excellent piece by Kettle in the Guardian. Just exactly what’s going to happen dontcha think?

  17. hektorsmum says:

    Aye, I read this little bit of UK dreaming, got right to the bitter end, now I know why it is called bitter end. I have Macart to ahem, thank for that. Note to myself “Stay away from the Newspapers? ahem”
    Fine as a premise until you got to the end and then you knew how Alice in Wonderland must have felt.
    Afraid I told him then and there it was Pee.
    I liked your bit though, much funnier than mine. If they left enough room I would love to put it onto the comments page, that is if I had not promised never, never to return to my Hubby.

  18. arthur thomson says:

    Just brilliant. Thank you.

  19. Cag-does-thinking says:

    What the English political intelligencia can’t stomach is that the biggest change to their place in the world could be coming without them being able to lift a finger to argue for the status quo. i find it hilarious seeing these lords and old school ties starting to quake in their boots as their world of certainty is challenged by the great Scottish public.

  20. JGedd says:

    What I have been noting is how certain members of the establishment have reacted to the idea of Scottish independence. I’m not talking about politicians but supposed non-aligned members of the establishment whose reaction is surprisingly old-fashioned and purportedly sentimental.

    Instead of the sophisticated post-imperial ennui which they usually affect, they have been displaying the same sense of upset and pique reminiscent of the British Raj when they realized that they were about to lose the “Jewel in the Crown”. Who would have thought that Simon Schama, with his air of being so laid-back he was in danger of falling over, could swing into action to save the union with something which read like any imperial Victorian waxing sentimental about the inclusiveness of the Empire? Or that David Bowie could even remember where Scotland is any more?

    It only goes to show that a deep sense of ownership was not confined to those brought up in the days of Empire. We have trodden on their dreams it appears. Who knew that buried in the psyche of so diverse a cast of characters was such a close identity with the British establishment that they feel shaken by the fact that it might change?

    Those of us voting Yes don’t care about their emotional attachment to an imaginary entity. We are going to vote for reality. Time to wake up and get out of the nursery..

  21. Union Jack says:

    This is the first time I have ever replied or commented on anything like this! Never been on Trip Advisor or any forums etc. I find the whole preceding article absolutely nauseating. Why have people in this wee suburb got such an issue with being BRITISH ???? I would never say anything other than BRITISH not scottish.I am embarrassed!. Yes Enland has its share of ***h**** but my God get real up here! That arrogant man is on a major ego trip and when things go pear shaped he will stand up dust himself down and leave the mess to his wee noddy sidekick. I and many I know will be out the next day if this ludicrous vote goes through. Union Jack

    • Bamstick says:

      Union Jack
      You are entitled to your own opinion. But you must respect that of others who do not feel British, but who feel Scottish.
      Please could you explain your “***h****” comment as I don’t understand it. Thank you.
      Also you say you will be “out the next day” where do you intend to go?

      • weegingerdug says:

        I think he meant “arseholes”.

        • Bamstick says:

          No, that doesn’t fit with the number of stars used. I counted them very carefully.
          I think he meant potholes. South of the border does have lots but we have more. I think that’s his point?

          • handclapping says:

            Now I am really confused. What do people that will put up with using a gazunda have to do with the price of fish?

            • Bamstick says:

              I have to admit to confusion also. I don’t know this Mr Trip Advisor, any clues? Maybe he’s famous? Sounds American with a name like Trip.
              I much prefer a good old commode to a gazunda though. My choice.
              I’m getting more and more anxious that Mr Jack hasn’t told me where he intends to go the next day.

  22. Union Jack says:

    The United Kingdom should remain united. This pace will be a third world country in 5 years, heading down begging. And people should surely see that guys plot. It is a no go! EVER. surely.

  23. Rosa Alba says:

    Back to the future: 1914-2014, from War Graves to George Square, Glesga Green and Glasgow 2014.

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