Bell end of the Union

When it comes to Scotland, the Guardian’s cartoonist Steve Bell is an uncomprehending humourless twank who long ago crossed the line between satire and a casual patronising racism. In his right on politically correct zeal to condemn everything he suspects may be nationalism, which is of course always bad when it’s not of the invisible British Labour variety, he traduces and shows contempt for an entire country. Steve Bell swims in his Labourite British nationalist sense of superiority exactly like a homophobic Ukip oaf wondering why there are no heterosexual pride marches, and displays the same blank incomprehension of a phenomenon he doesn’t understand yet which he feels threatened by.

As a result the drawings of the left wing cartoonist scourge of Thatcherism would not look out of place in the Daily Mail. Actually, even the Daily Mail might pause and consider whether to publish them – their racist contempt is that obvious. It’s sad and pathetic when a once loved cartoonist becomes an unfunny and abusive joke.

The alleged joke in the cartoon is that the core demands of the SNP are Scottish country dancing and incest. It’s a ham fisted play on the quip attributed variously to Sir Thomas Beecham, Oscar Wilde, or Winston Churchill: “Try anything once, except folk dancing and incest”, which may have been mildly amusing sixty years ago. Somewhere, buried deep below multiple layers of condescension and offence Steve is trying to make the point that the SNP are so unprincipled that they will try anything once, including folk dancing and incest. But the joke falls as flat as Steve’s chances of rescuing Jim Murphy’s band of chancers from electoral oblivion. Because just about everyone in Scotland knows that the real unprincipled party is Steve’s beloved Labour party.

Unforgivably for a cartoonist, the cartoon is poorly drawn. Steve seems to have got confused between Nicla Sturgeon and Susan Boyle. On top of that the cartoon is so poorly structured that the incest line seems to appear out of nowhere, tagged onto a tired old racist trope about kilts and Highland flings. There’s no clear reference to the original quote, no setting up of expectations to be undermined later and so provoke a laugh.

So all that leaves for the reader is the feeling that we’re meant to go ha ha it’s pure dead funny because they’re Scottish and have big hairy eyebrows and they’re wearing kilts in SNP colours and that. Let’s tag on a reference to child rape and fall about laughing. The only thing missing is a reference to sheep shagging – oh right, that’s the Welsh isn’t it. It’s easy to get your racist stereotypes mixed up – they’re all the same really those Celtic types. It’s actually the deep fried Mars bar Buckie cocktail that we’re missing. Here look at me, I’m a parody Scotchman being dour. I can say we’re dooooomed, and there’s been a murrrdurrr by a murrrdurrrurrr. Steve Bell has murrrdurrred a jock joke before even having time to squeeze in a Krankie reference.

Still we should be grateful. At least this cartoon is remarkably light on the Jockanese language, the collection of misspellings and invented words which English cartoonists believe to represent Scots, containing words like “poond”. Is that not the past tense of poon? I’m sure that’s a sexual practice – come over here Stevie boay, and Ah’ll poon ye.

I used to think Steve Bell was funny, and here I am giving him lessons in satire. Memo to Steve – satire doesn’t mean yelling out “You wear kilts and shag yer maw!” Likewise, “You wear Victorian costumes and cover up child sex abuse!” is not cutting edge satire about the state of the Westminster parliamentary system, even though – unlike Steve’s attempt at funny – it is actually true. However “Steve Bell is a snivelling cowardly middle class has-been that cannae draw Mohammed” probably is cutting edge satire. Not that I’d know, what with being a parody dour Scotchman. Tu n’es pas Charlie, Steve, et tu n’es pas drôle.

It’s just a bit of witty banter, not racist at all. But those Scots can’t take a jock joke. No sense of humour those Caledonians. Not like the English, who are happy to fall about laughing whenever a Scottish person makes a funny about their supposed stereotypical characteristics. No double standards there then. Not at all … Oh …

We’ve been here before. Before Ireland gained its independence, British newspapers were full of caricatures and cartoons which depicted the Irish as something less than fully human – not unlike what Bell does with his Scottesque scrawls. The Irish were told they were improvident, incapable of looking after themselves and dependent upon the tender mercies of the Union to supply their needs or face penury and despair – just like the Scots are being told nowadays. The Irish were told it was unthinkable that their Home Rule advocating representatives could have any influence in the Westminster Parliament. Substitute Alicsammin for the Irish home-ruler John Redmond and this cartoon from 1910 could have been published this week.

The fury and bile originating from the UK media vastly outstrips in volume and quantity any anti-English sentiment found in Scotland. That’s not to say there is no such thing as anti-English sentiment in Scotland, it does exist. But it’s identified for what it is – an unacceptable prejudice. Anti-Scottish sentiment is dressed up as fair comment and is plastered all over mainstream UK newspapers.

But folk like Steve Bell need to spout their bile, because they are incapable of understanding the most simple basic fact underlying Scotland’s entire campaign for home rule, for self-determination. And that fact is that it’s not about England at all. It’s about Scotland.

The Tory commentators and the Labour supporting Steve Bell – who is indistinguishable from them in this issue – find is easier to conceptualise being hated than then do being irrelevant. That’s what really scares them – in Scotland in 2015, they are no longer relevant, and we no longer listen to them, we no longer define ourselves by them or their words. So instead they try to provoke a reaction by insults and abuse in a desperate attempt to cling onto their self-importance. And that’s the real joke.

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47 comments on “Bell end of the Union

  1. diabloandco says:

    Having googled ” bellend ” some time ago , I heartily endorse the description of the obnoxious, insulting and unfunny cartoonist.

  2. Doug Porteous says:

    The only joke here is the sad entity that is known a Steve Bell.

  3. Pam McMahon says:

    It’s becoming quite tempting to ramp up my anti-english sentiment, I’ve got to say. But
    1) I realise that is the purpose of the rhetoric.
    2) My mother used to be English.

    Thank you for this excellent reminder that they just keep killing themselves. Saves US from becoming deranged homocidal maniac serial killers, after all.

  4. Nigel Mace says:

    Steve Bell’s gin-belt prejudices against Scotland and the Guardian’s unwillingness to publish letters criticising them, ended my decades of Guardian buying over two years ago. He has recently been outdone in the tasteless ignorance stakes by some incompetent in The Independent whose depiction of Sturgeon’s head as a sporran worn underneath a kilt plumbed new depths of idiocy. It was, however, better drawn than Mr Bell’s latest effort – though not by much.

  5. jimnarlene says:

    Freedom of speech does not come in to it, this was a racist slur at worst and piss poor judgement at best.

  6. thesairfecht says:

    Ma favourite attempt tae render Scots in yin o Bell’s cartoons wis whan he haed Salmond cry the Tories the “Toories”. I aye thocht a toorie wis yin o thae bunnets they wear i the North East.

  7. James Cassidy says:

    The drawing of the images remind me of the winning drawing of an age 5-7 category of a Blue Peter competition. The cartoon strip lacks direction, meaning and humour. When I was a wean I entered a short cartoon strip in the Sunday Post competition — it didn’t win as it was shite, but Bellend’s cartoon takes on a new dimension of shiteness.

    Anyway, Mr Kavanagh, hope you are well, settled into your new hoose and maybe a relationship. Still off the ciggies? Take care pal!

  8. Steve Bowers says:

    You’re not hated, you’re just irrelevant. Hmmmm, think i might be using that one a lot. cheers Paul

  9. Your comment on Steve Bell not drawing Mohammed hit the nail on the head. Maybe Mr. Bell should put on his big boy pants and show us real freedom of expression

  10. tom donald says:

    It’s sad that Bell has lost his touch to so extreme an extent, he used to be so funny… thirty years ago. Now it’s not just his drawing, but his judgement that is shot. This is a new low of witlessness even by his recent standards. How are the mighty fallen, eh?

  11. macart763 says:

    Very well said Paul.

    I can only imagine that both sets of tories and their propaganda wing have gone completely insane. The tsunami of anti Scots rhetoric in the media is dangerous and irresponsible in the extreme.

    Dear God the societal damage they’re likely to cause within these islands may take decades to repair. These are the self same titles who were happy to repeat the BT line ‘a stronger voice within the union’, ‘stronger and better together’. Now? Well now not so much. Now Scots are to be shunned, feared, pilloried at every opportunity and by every title. All Scots, including those who voted for continuation of the treaty.

    Of course they lied their collective arses off during the referendum. We know exactly how the establishment view a massive outbreak of democracy on their doorstep. That they were going to turn the screws on the Scottish electorate in the event of YES losing? Well we always suspected that would be the case. However they’ve well and truly ditched the subtle approach. Yes, no, don’t know doesn’t matter, these loonatics are out to other the entire country.

    And what of those who voted to retain the union? Most especially those who thought Westminster would honour its promises, deliver positive meaningful change, treat us as ‘one of the family’? Those who at least honestly hoped devo max was on the cards? I hope they are good and angry at how they were manipulated, because we’ll need the numbers in May. Westminster, if ever there was any real doubt, will not give them what they hoped for, its going to have to be taken back and that means sending down SNP representation in numbers. Its clearly what both Conservative and Labour parties fear most. They cannot govern the whole of the UK without our permission, without MPs willing to carry through legislation.

    If you’re out there folks and scanning this thread? Personally I’d say welcome aboard.

    • jacquescoleman says:

      “Those who at least honestly hoped devo max was on the cards? I hope they are good and angry at how they were manipulated,”

      Most of them are not, if tweets by Unionists are anything to go by. They are still deluded.

      • macart763 says:

        The journey of a thousand miles…

        Most, as we know, isn’t all. There’s a few popped up on the indy sites, held their hands up to their decision on September past and have been welcomed aboard. We need to keep that up and with hard work and an open hand a trickle will hopefully become a flood before long.

        We need them and almost certainly they need us jaques.

  12. Bella has from John Robertson of WQ of Scot Uni an e-mail exchange between the two last year

    “From: Steve Bell []
    Sent: 29 April 2014 19:51
    To: John Robertson
    Subject: Re: Cartoons of course
    n 29 April 2014 16:50, John Robertson wrote:
    Please stop the anti-Scottish stuff
    You don’t understand
    It’s upsetting me because I still love all your other work
    Gonnae no dae that?

    How dare you accuse me of being anti-Scottish, ye fatuous nationalist dupe. As a half breed myself I can say what I like about Salmond, and youse can stick yer report on bias up yer airse.

    On 29 April 2014 16:50, John Robertson wrote:
    Please stop the anti-Scottish stuff
    You don’t understand
    It’s upsetting me because I still love all your other work
    Gonnae no dae that?

    I queried whether Steve Bell was really only a half breed and the comment had been moderated into the middle distance.

    I thought it was as relevant a comment as his on incest as a Scottish pastime, as his, but apparently not.

  13. Rosa Alba Macdonald says:

    While all you say is true – and it is at very best poor judgement in the freedom of speech stakes on these grounds, play on what Beecham said, or not (and at least he said it was not something to try but even then it was probably not funny to many), this cartoon is horrific in that it is published the day after International Women’s Day. We are still protesting this shite as one meme says: this shite being a condoning of an objectification of women, and a less hidden than usual culture of rape.

    Incest is a reality a day in/day out reality for too many children and young people around the world. A bleeding 8 year old screaming themselves silently to sleep is not material for humor. A fourteen year old being pimped to a friend of the family is not funny. This reality still pretty much fucks up an adult life, even if the abuse stops.

    The cartoon falls short on many aspects beyond this: had it stuck to the trope of kilts or haggis it might have been vaguely humorous to some, and certainly acceptable without crossing the bounds, not just of xenophobia but of revealling the type of society we really are (the world) – and projecting that on the Scots.

  14. arthur thomson says:

    Thank you for this Paul. Your role in explaining and clarifying issues is so helpful for me and I’m sure for many others.

  15. fillofficer says:

    I’m sure their intent is to incite over-reaction by us, which would only escalate & be counter productive in our desire for self determination. best to leave all the shitery to them, but lets not forget such vile behaviour. much worse is yet to come, to be shure

  16. Hetty Wilson says:

    I really hope that mr bell already regrets this cartoon, the mention of incest meant as a joke is just disgraceful.

  17. carthannas says:

    A really great article Paul which is reasoned and moderate. I’ve left your site address on the Guardian’s website under a piece by John Harris in which the question of the cartoon arises. I’ve suggested that some may wish to read your article. Hope you get some takers.

  18. aitchbee says:

    He can’t even spell pwned (pronouced ‘pooned’) correctly, which is a shame because that’s exactly what he has been in the comments 😉

  19. stewart says:

    more like it, paul

  20. smiling vulture says:

    Steve bell starts from Scotland has no right to self determination

  21. Jamie says:

    You always know when a political movement is doomed…when it loses the ability to laugh at itself. Farewell ye yessers, embrace the hubris.

    • Brian Fleming says:

      “This land in which we live
      Where people laugh and you’re meant to forgive.”

      You’re not quite the full shilling, are you Jamie?

  22. Even if you give this cartoon the benefit of the doubt on every count, it still doesn’t work as a joke.

    1. It’s badly drawn. Let’s say it’s characterful.
    2. It’s sexist, depicting the First Minister with helmet hair. Let’s say male politicians’ appearance is lampooned viciously by satirists, and female politicians can’t expect different treatment.
    3. It’s racist. Let’s say it’s really clever and some of us didn’t get the reference to unscrupulousness implied by reference to the quote “You should try everything once, except incest and Morris dancing”.

    Even on these terms the joke fails on point 3. Why? Well, the original quote works because the average English person wouldn’t be caught dead engaging in incest or Morris dancing. But the average Scot engages enthusiastically in a bit of a ceilidh dancing at the average wedding. So positing it as something unthinkable just doesn’t work as a joke.

    Mr Bell: that would seem to suggest your joked failed because you know nothing about Scotland.

  23. Excellent piece Paul. Hope you received the mags ok…

  24. John says:

    Excellent article as always.

    I recently found out that ex-pats can still vote in General Elections up to 15 years from the date that they left the UK. Normally I wouldn’t think it fair that a person who chose to leave Scotland be able to still vote, but having seen the litany of anti-Scottish shite coming from the English tabloids I am in the middle of putting my principles aside (no, I’m not Labour or LibDem) and registering for my proxy vote and voting SNP.

    If you know any ex-pats please give them the heads up about voting.

  25. givinggoose says:

    What would you do if someone called your Mother a Whore? Your Mum, the one that gave birth to you, brought you up, tucked you in at night, loved you? Would you accept it? Would you meekly roll over and take that insult? I certainly wouldn’t. But I’ll bet that there are many Scots that would.

    Steve Bell, The Guardian, The London Establishment. The Labour Party, The LibDems, The Tories; they might just as well have said that Your Mother’s a Whore! Scots are Incestuous, Kilt wearing Barbarians. “Fuck you Jock and Jockess! We can get away with saying anything. Any insult goes, you spineless, haggis eating gits! Who’s going to stand up for you? Labour? Don’t make me fucking laugh, Jock!”

    Who are those Scots who will willing take this insult?

    They are called Unionists. Labour supporters. Dyed in the wool LibDems. Tories.

    Who are the people churning out the insults?

    You see Steve Bell and the Guardian; Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and the Labour Party; Danny Alexander, the Guardian and the LibDems. David Mundell, Steve Bell and the Guardian.
    There are all one and the same.

    They represent and serve the London Establishment. They are the London Establishment. Murphy, Mundell and Alexander might have funny accents to the ears of your Established, London Establishment, but they are welcomed with open arms as long a they are prepared to play by their (Londons’s) rules.

    One of those rules is to accept the insult. Know your place, Jock. Keep your mouth shut. Do as we tell you to do. In return you’ll get a cushy job, career advancement, a big house, a big salary, a big expense account and when it’s your time, a shoe in to the big House (of Lords) upstairs.

    Your Mother’s a Whore Jock. Jim. Douglas. Danny. What? You’re not going to react, do nothing? Just as I thought and expected. Your Mother’s a Whore and you’re a conniving, spineless, money grabbing, two faced bastard and we love you for it.

    Vote Labour. Vote LibDem, vote Murphy. Vote Alexander. Vote for the insult and take it laying down like the spineless, supine Jock that we know and expect you to be.

    Jim, Danny, Douglas, Magrit, You, what’s-your-name from Orkney! Here’s some cash, here’s some ermine. Now get your spineless selfs up there to Jockland and fucking well make sure that those haggis eating, Mother shagging morons up north know they’re bloody place and continue to vote vote Labour, LibDem and Tory. Clear enough? Got your orders and instructions?

    You can go along with this.


    Or you could show some dignity, some self belief, gallons of self esteem and on polling day you can show London Labour, London LibDem, London Tory where they can get off.

    Your Mother’s better than them. Than that.

  26. […] Wee Ginger Dug on the UK Press Vs The SNP […]

  27. arthur thomson says:

    Well I’m glad you got that said. Now let’s steady the ship and keep going remorselessly until we get to where we want to be. After the GE I will still be pursuing Scottish independence whatever the outcome. No disappointment (or unlikely celebration )will be so great as to put me off course. No criminal interference in the conduct of the election will persuade me that we cannot ultimately win and should just give up. In my opinion, the trash cartoon in the Guardian will influence public opinion in our favour. We can win but we need to be so patient. We must never forget that we are set against a British regime that has demonstrated a readiness and a willingness to annihilate people.

    • turra loon says:

      You are correct Arthur. In Tasmania the british wiped out the Aboriginal People. Shot them like wild dogs.

  28. @KiltedSplendour says:

    I too was a fan of Steve Bell to the extent that I still own a CND tee-shirt from the 1980s featuring a cartoon strip that was quite clearly a satirical criticism of the UK’s decision to replace Polaris with Trident. How ironic that Steve Bell should now be so scathing of the SNP when a central plank of their policy is removal of Trident from Scotland. Does he now love our nuclear deterrent? Is he so blind in his faith in the Labour Party that he’s lost his ability to look beyond their narrow neo-liberal agenda and see that there can be a different way forward which doesn’t involve be beholden to the will of international finance?

  29. Jan Cowan says:

    Thanks, Paul. Excellent read as usual.

  30. Capella says:

    Interesting link to the Irish cartoons in Punch. Unlike Steve Bell’s, they are amusing as well as racist.
    Here’s a more modern Scottish one which is also funny rather than merely racist.
    Sad that Steve Bell has gone down the road of racial stereotyping but more worrying is that the Guardian publishes this type of slur. The MSM in England seem intent on whipping up racial antagonism in the run-up to the election. I wonder why.

  31. “You’re not hated, you’re just irrelevant” Can’t wait to see that being used in the Guardian against some frothing-from-every-orifice Britnats. They want to be hated so they can moan about it. Being told they are irrelevant will be like telling publicity-seeking celebs they’re being shunned by the media.

  32. Hector says:

    Yes, not just “irrelevant” but a complete, utter and boring “irrelevance” to what is happening in Scotland. We Scots are now setting the pace for ourselves…and for our own self determination! We have our own alternative media in Wee Ginger Dug, Wings Over Scotland etc. We are watching YOU, make no mistake about it…. and we like less and less what we see.

  33. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Political cartoons should be funny and incisive and a little barbed and should also make a significant comment (even if it is one with which we don’t agree).

    Can anyone point me to any of these boxes Steve Bell ticked with this “cartoon”?

    It’s not incisive; it doesn’t expose a clever barb; and it’s tells you nothing about the politics of Scotland or of Scotland within the UK.

    Most of all it is simply not funny. But, of course, despite me having five decades of life experience (some of which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – not that I have any) and despite me having at least thirteen letters after my name I clearly am not clever enough to “get it”.

  34. Bibbit says:

    Well said.

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