I wasn’t going to post anything today, but for the past couple of days Scotland has been subject to the most intense napalming of fear and scares since the referendum campaign began. We are warned of meltdown on the markets, a plunging pound, share prices wiped out overnight. Prices in our supermarkets will double, all businesses will leave the country, and since we won’t have any currency we won’t even be able to club together to buy a cairry oot for the party we’ll have when Michelle McMoan moves south. And all this because a country which is too poor and insignificant to notice, which has oil reserves due to run out at 10.01 pm on Thursday, and has nothing to offer except a ticket on the Megabus to London, might decide to start governing itself. Something doesn’t add up.
Let us suppose that Scotland is indeed the high risk basket case of No campaign myth and legend. This country in a geo-politically stable part of the world, with a strong democratic tradition, a country with a highly educated population and an embarrassment of resources. Taking that raw material and turning it into a poverty stricken charity case requires governmental incompetence of a quite spectacular degree. And yet our poverty and dismal future is the very reason we must continue to put our faith in the system of government which produced the poverty and failure. Something doesn’t add up.
I was trying to write a few words for Andy’s funeral service this evening, trying to reduce a beloved man’s life into a few paragraphs and failing, so I stopped for a bit and watched the news instead. It was wall to wall with unexamined threats, claims of ruination taken at face value by a BBC which has abandoned all pretence of neutrality as all hands rush to the pumps to rescue the sinking British ship of state. I remembered something Andy told me, many years ago.
In the 1960s when Andy was a police officer in the East End of London, he arrested one of the Kray twins. There was no big and thrilling police chase, it was nothing like the telly or the movies. He arrested Ronnie Kray for traffic offences. He knew exactly who it was he was going to arrest, he knew all about the Krays twins’ reputation. And Andy went by himself, into a crowded café in the East End of London, armed with nothing more than a truncheon which now lives in a drawer in the bedroom, and said “You’re nicked” to one of the city’s most intimidating gangsters. Andy was tall, and powerfully built, confident in himself and capable of a gaze that could pierce right through you. Ronnie Kray had no chance.
He huckled Ronnie Kray along the street, into the police van. On arriving at the station he dragged an unwilling and protesting Ronnie out of the van. Two nuns were passing along the street at the time. Ronnie screamed at them: “Look at my face! It’s unmarked!” He was convinced he was going to be beaten up. It was only when the prisoner was signed in that Andy noticed the smell, and discovered that Ronnie Kray had shat himself.
Ronnie Kray called his lawyer to pay the traffic fines, and was home within a few hours. Face unmarked but in desperate need of fresh underwear.
This episode didn’t make it into the movie with those guys from Spandau Ballet.
I asked Andy if he had been scared. He shook his head, and smiled. He said that Ronnie Kray was just a bully. He was very brave when he had his mates, but what really scared people was his reputation. When you looked past the reputation, all that was really there was a nasty and selfish little man who was too used to getting his own way and who crapped his trousers when someone stood up to him. Bullies, said Andy, are always afraid of people who are more confident than they are.
Westminster is too used to getting its own way, and it’s trying to frighten us with its reputation. It’s calling on everyone in the gang to help it do its dirty work, calling on those who have a vested interest in its reputation. But there is nothing behind the reputation except selfishness. They held us in contempt because we were afraid of them, and now they’re trying to scare us into allowing them to continue to hold us in contempt.
But we have confidence in ourselves. Hold a steely gaze. Pierce through the rhetoric. Do not be intimidated. We’re challenging their reputation and they’re keeching in their pants.