Monday, 7 June 2021

The 'fading' of great state crimes: why isn't Johnson's Covid failure deemed criminally negligent?

Will there ever be a day of due legal reckoning for Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and others responsible for Britain's staggering Covid death toll?

That's the question most of our political and media class have serially failed to ask and feared to probe.

While covering every daily aspect of the Covid crisis, and airing criticism of the government's handling of it, our 'all-seeing' media remain collectively averse to calling out such failings as criminally negligent. 

Instead, it has helped peddle a narrative of 'learned mistakes' and 'recovered fightback', serving to soften the harsh truth of government culpability.     

Alongside Covid cases and deaths, rising daily figures for total vaccines administered come as welcome, optimistic news. Yet while this signals the effectiveness of the rollout against relative infection numbers, the hailing of vaccine stats by Johnson and Hancock carries a more diversionary message, suggesting that the success of the vaccine effort 'now outweighs', or 'makes up for' the 'regrettable errors' over the virus itself. It's 'look how many lives we're saving' trying to blot out 'look how many lives we've lost.'

Having failed to stem new incoming variants, and with scientific advisors warning of rising cases, Johnson appears to be in yet another business-first rush towards lockdown exit. Again, none of this is posed in terms of continued criminal negligence. 

In dutiful step, Starmer's Labour has nothing serious to say about Johnson's Covid catastrophe, adopting the same, lame 'let's all move on from national trauma' message. 

It's been left to a few conscionable figures like MP Richard Burgon, reported almost alone by the Morning Star, to state what truly needs saying: 

"The government’s actions and its mishandling of the Covid pandemic amount to social murder."

Beyond all the government/media ‘Covid progress’ spin, Burgon's call keeps us attuned to the true scale and gravity of the crime. 

And it comes with now added insight on the dark depravity of those running the rotten state of Britain. 

After over a year of mass human tragedy, Dominic Cummings has just lifted another bit of the creaky lid on the horror show that passes for government Covid 'management'. 

We know from medical scientists like Stephen Reicher that the picture of chaotic negligence painted by Cummings checks out against what he and others around Independent Sage had been hearing since early 2020. 

Not just serial political incompetence, but callous disregard for an exposed public: "Let the bodies pile high in their thousands"; "I really should be the mayor of Jaws". Cummings confirms witnessing it all. 

Cummings knew where the 'bodies were buried', which is why Johnson had kept him so close for so long. Now he's returned and done what Johnson always feared, using the 'confessional' playbook to exonerate himself and take down selected others.

Cummings' own motives for damning Johnson and Hancock can be fairly guessed at: plain vengeance; hitching himself to the Sunak-Gove faction. But it's also an account carefully calibrated to paint him as the 'insider with conscience', finally 'coming clean' in belated 'service to country', the man from the dark side ultimately prepared to shed the light. 

Cummings' 'testimony of remorse' has, it seems, allowed him something of a 'public pass' after the Barnard Castle farrago. Much of his intimate disclosure has been received as serious corroborating evidence, as he fully intended. 

Yet Dominic Cummings is still every bit as guilty. He was there, in situ, directing it all, part of the same criminal cabal. Why didn't he come forward with all his 'deep concerns' at the time? No amount of damning detail or contrite pitch can alter the truth that Cummings is massively tied to everything that Johnson signed off. 

Moreover, his 'confessions' come with a striking absence of human contrition. Nor does he portray Johnson himself as acting in any inhuman way. 

Cummings may have: 
"admitted some responsibility for these failures. But he has attempted to deny the mendacious nature of the Government decisions which needlessly sought to sacrifice British lives on the altar of business interests."

And within that terrible calculus lies the tragedy of so many lost souls, sacrificed to these self-protecting figures and their sordid power play. 

Again, just how do they get away with it? 

Well, power just does what power does, many seem to say. It's as if resignation to such monstrous conduct is now written into what we expect of the elite political class. 

How, otherwise, could someone preside over the staggering loss of 150,000 lives and still not only be sitting in office, but sitting there with even greater public support?

We live not only in a mindless, malevolent state, but in a mass-conditioned state of mind where all this taking of life no longer even seems perplexing. This is the propaganda of 'acceptance' on a grand scale. 

Instead of shock, outrage and the certainty that no one responsible for such crimes could ever survive another day in office, we follow our media in treating it all as a gaze into the criminal set's own political play. We become the passive audience, alarmed, disturbed, angered, perhaps, by what we see, yet still safely seated, beyond the stage, knowing the boundaries of the theatre and the limitations upon which we can ever usefully speak or act ourselves.

Days after Cummings' dark revelations, the great media show packed up and moved on. As ever, it's the spectacle they're interested in, the theatricality, the captured scene, the actual subject matter itself - the mass deaths and suffering - treated only as lurid backdrop. 

'Special correspondents' like Laura Kuennsberg and Robert Peston perform their appointed roles as privileged courtiers, their coveted, confidante access and cloying closeness to Johnson, Cummings and culpable others immeasurably more important to them than any human duty to watch the culprits and report their crimes.

Unlike the media's relentless stalking of Jeremy Corbyn - a real humanitarian, feared and punished for threatening to pull back the curtain even just a little on the whole rotten establishment show - Johnson has been indulged as a 'comedy favourite, a 'playful villain' who, whatever his farces and follies, still gets to be the public's 'roguish own'. Media fascination with Cummings amounts to the same pantomime game.

It may seem a churlish point, but how did we ever come to be using the familiar 'Boris' rather than 'Johnson' for a leader responsible for such acts of inhumanity? Again, our overly-intimate press lobby and leading media has much to answer for.    

Perversely, even the more 'critical' spotlight on such leading acts provides anonymity for the much bigger theatre of power within which people like Johnson and Cummings perform. Where would you ever see the BBC stop, turn and shine a wider, searching light on the system itself? The double depravity of the system is that it not only permits such criminal conduct, but uses people like Cummings as 'proof' of that very system's own capacity for 'critical interrogation' and 'media scrutiny'.

Blurring the memory of great state crimes

The efficiency within which this duplicitous show plays out can be seen in the entrance of other big stage villains. With similar front, mass war criminal Alastair Campbell rolled up for the Cummings 'aftershow', urging that Johnson be pursued for corporate manslaughter. Again, like Blair's frequent comebacks, Campbell's 'moral intervention' was regarded as perfectly normal, indeed admirable, by our selectively recalling media. 

All this is par for the course in obscuring the high crimes of the political class at large. Just as the media so eagerly host the 'sage' Blair and Campbell, so will it come, in time, to excuse, whitewash and exonerate Johnson and Cummings. 

And in doing so it erases the truth of the Tory party itself as a major killing machine. 

Alongside those sacrificed to Covid sits the 120,000 taken by Tory austerityAll these lost souls mean nothing to people like Cameron and Osborne, Johnson and Cummings, Hancock and Gove. That's because such figures of entitlement and privilege, so many raised on the establishment fields of Eton, have always regarded the culling of humanity as fair game, home and afar. 

Johnson is but one exponent of that savage mindset, Cummings a cunning interloper overseeing the whole mercenary process. But they can only get away with what they do because the system itself is so steeped in histories of human sacrifice in the name of conquest, power and profit.

Like all great western crimes, from the million lives taken in Iraq, to the decimations of Libya and Afghanistan, from the failed takedown of Syria to the enduring support for Israel's criminal slaughter of Palestinian lives, all indigenous victims become an ultimate historical footnote. 

Their importance and loss are always subsumed to homely imperatives about our 'national healing', the gradual erasure of their suffering giving way to eventual public amnesia and the need to 'move on' from our national crimes and 'trauma'. 

And the perpetrators, the people who took all those lives, get to live out their own elevated ones in lauded security. Criminals in suits, using the cover of state office and political duty as the pension perk of lifetime immunity. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, Blair, Campbell and Brown, the Clintons, Obama and Albright, Cameron, Osborne and May...

And so it will follow for Johnson, Cummings, Hancock and others, enjoying lifelong protection alongside Trump, Pence and their zealot cohorts.

The brazen assuming of such privilege is matched only by a reluctance to specify the true nature of such crimes and pronounce openly on the need for prosecution. 

As Kamran Abbasi reminds us, in a searing article at the BMJ:

"The “social murder” of populations is more than a relic of a bygone age. It is very real today, exposed and magnified by covid-19. It cannot be ignored or spun away. Politicians must be held to account by legal and electoral means, indeed by any national and international constitutional means necessary. State failures that led us to two million deaths are “actions” and “inactions” that should shame us all."

Abbasi is no more sparing of a servile media:

"The media might help here, remembering their duty to speak truth to power, to hold elected officials accountable. And yet much of the media is complicit too, trapped in ideological silos that see the pandemic through a lens of political tribalism, worried about telling pandemic truths to their readers and viewers, owners, and political friends. In fact, truth has become dispensable as politicians and their allies are allowed to lie, mislead, and repaint history, with barely a hint of a challenge from journalists and broadcasters. Anybody who dares to speak truth to power is unpatriotic, disloyal, or a “hardliner.”"

Beyond momentary outrage, a psychology of passive, belated acceptance will likely prevail: 'these things happen', it 'was a crazy time', 'what's the point of blame', 'it's in the past...'

But none of this would diminish and fade from public consciousness if our media were doing their rightful job. How did the 'story' about potential charges of Gross Negligence Manslaughter against Johnson come to disappear so quickly?   

Forgetting is a natural human response. Time helps blank out harsh memories, like a protective mental shield. 

But there's a more encouraged kind of 'caring amnesia', urging that we 'must all get on' with life, accept 'facts on the ground', 'trust in leadership', and, as in Iraq, 'learn from our mistakes.' The 'errors' and losses, thus, become 'ours', not theirs. The dual psychological trick is not only to blur the extent of loss and suffering, but to normalise the actions of the perpetrators and diminish the extent of their culpability.

Typically, it will fall to lofty liberal appeals for a 'new unity of purpose'. The nation will again resound to noble-sounding Guardian-speak calling for formal inquiries and 'due accountability', all as a 'cathartic coming together.'

But like other state horrors, the great Johnson Covid crime will be lost in a fog of institutional obfuscation, political mitigation and media amnesia. 

No embankment wall of hearts or durable monument, no commemorative claps or charity telethons, no dragged-out, Lord-appointed inquiry will ever likely be matched by just, legal restitution for this great act of social murder.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Alba here to stay as Sturgeon again stays the 'plan' for independence

Today the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood swears in its new crop of MSPs. There's much excitement amongst the freshly inducted intake. The first two woman of colour are there, as is the first person in a wheelchair. Small strides for greater diversity in a parliament now composed of main parties and bereft of actual independent members. 

More notably absent will be a ready body of Alba members for independence. That (still shamefully Crown-pledging) ceremony could have included people like Chris McEleny, Michelle Ferns and Kenny MacAskill, all decent leftists determined to push the independence case. 

It could have seen a range of other truly Indy-committed Alba candidates, including the vital political force of Alex Salmond himself, preparing an immediate motion to commence negotiations with the Westminster Government on the back of an even greater parliamentary majority of pro-independence MSPs.

Lamentably, their absence has not been regretted in the least by a returning SNP leadership. Rather, it's been gloated over by the party and it's acolytes at large. 

Indeed, the shrill and vindictive extent of the celebrations over the breaking of a six-weeks-old minnow party for independence tells us a great deal about the SNP's own deepening authoritarian mindset and priority consolidation of party control.

MP Stewart McDonald's malicious and ugly tweets over Salmond's and Alba's defeat, and the defence of them by once promising young radical Mhairi Black, reveals a great deal about SNP members' zealous placement of party before independence. 

As a force for independence, Alba was also mocked and betrayed by much of Scotland's coy 'liberal-left', a much too cosy commentariat that would rather stay safe friends with a neoliberal/centrist SNP and Indy-avoiding leader than be seen associating with a genuine grassroots party trying its best to push Sturgeon and open up new routes to independence.

It's also worth remembering just how much such people sacrificed in leaving their safe SNP positions to join the unknown Alba journey. But they did so out of moral conviction rather than careerist opportunity. 

Just as Sturgeon has sucked the joy and energy from the Yes movement these past six years, so does her 'back to my desk' declaration return us to the same sterile business of party securitisation. 

The 'stand-up to Boris' bravado will be trotted out a little longer for the party's own Indy faithful. The constitutional 'clash', they're being told, is coming, but not yet. Have your moment, it's saying, then settle down to dutiful conformity. That famed SNP 'discipline' has now consolidated into an even more disturbing obedience to party instruction.

And the same ferocious control has been used to nullify a more threatening party. Alba has, for now, been neutralised by the establishment, it's vital electoral exposure blocked at source by the BBC and STV, all dutifully aided by a virulent attack dog Unionist press, and most readily assisted by a cynical SNP leadership. 

Sturgeon's dalliance with the Daily Record - the rag that sold us The Vow in 2014 (authored by the Record's Murray Foote, since hired by Sturgeon as her leading comms figure) - in helping to demonise Alba is an act of historical betrayal in itself.

What the British establishment wants, it usually gets. But, unlike its efforts to take down the unified Yes front of 2014, the Unionist state relied this time on the internal forces of the SNP itself.

Likewise, the siren voices of a Nicola twittersphere in deriding Alba and gloating over Salmond's misfortune was matched only by its dull silence on the great #BothVotesSNP deception.

As Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey lament:

"There’s an irony in the SNP suffering from unionist tactical voting, having traduced Alba for allegedly gaming the system. In the end it was perfidious Albion not Alba as Labour and the Tories gave each other hauners – when will the SNP ever learn that the British can’t be trusted? They may write the rules but they sure don’t play by them."

That million plus votes in the end garnered the SNP a grand total of two additional seats. How the Tories and other Unionist parties watched in thankful prayer at this great act of munificence in granting them safe return and banishing the common Alba foe. 

This element certainly understood how to 'game' the List, just as Sturgeon knew how to play the List game in order to break Alba.

Because, of course, those 1.1 million SNP List votes weren't actually 'wasted'. They served Sturgeon's precisely intended purpose of locking out any serious opposition to her and the upper echelons of her party.

So, with the Alba 'threat' now contained, how is Sturgeon to manage expectations of her 'pledged' referendum? With the same playbook calls for 'caution', it seems.    

It's pretty plain that both Sturgeon and Johnson are on the same mutually-serving page here. Neither will make any actual commitment to a referendum, or timescale for it. Neither wants court action to test the issue. And the endless 'recovery' from a never disappearing Covid threat will be the ready pretext for both in the now indeterminate years of prevarication and evasion to come. 

As MacAskill and Hanvey note:

"Leaving aside how there can be recovery without the fiscal and economic levers provided by independence, Johnson can delay matters indefinitely by simply saying “now is not the time”, knowing that he and Nicola Sturgeon are now singing from the same hymn sheet."

Political blogger James Kelly makes the same essential point:

""Stop Indyref2 in its tracks" galvanises the unionist vote behind the Tories, and "tell London that Scotland's future is Scotland's choice" galvanises the pro-independence vote behind the SNP.  It suits both sides down to the ground for that conflict never to reach a resolution, for Indyref2 to always be there, just beyond the horizon."

Alongside deriding Alba, the unionist parties and media are running the usual 'divided Scotland', and 'the people don't want another referendum' lines - not, of course, 'some people don't want', always 'the people don't want'.

And, like the predictable reappearance of Union-saver Gordon Brown, that other tired 'once in a generation' mantra is also back. 

Ciaran Martin, the leading civil servant behind drafting the Section 30 order in 2014, notes that this phrase is completely meaningless, a piece of political-speak no more relevant to the legal and constitutional issue of the Union than the claims appearing on the side of certain buses during the Brexit referendum.

In a recent speech, Martin also stated that "a Union is not a Union of equal partners if one does not allow the other the option to leave", warning that, for the first time in history, with any UK denial of a referendum, the Union will no longer be based on consent, but on the force of law. And all that law, with more potential vetoing powers to come, will still reside with Westminster, while all the votes reside at Holyrood.

Martin also noted here that there is nothing particularly special or sacrosanct about a Section 30, a procedure, usually used for other administrative fixes, that was put together in a kind of improvised manner to facilitate the 2014 referendum.

This is the new, unprecedented and dynamic space in which an Alba parliamentary body could have been so effective in constructing more inventive responses. Instead, we're stuck with Sturgeon's fearful deference to constitutional niceties and failure of nerve.  

Encouragingly, for all the SNP's squalid efforts, Alba will continue. Indeed, it may become an even more vital refuge for alienated SNP people as we enter the next prolonged period in the wilderness of Indy hopes.

For MacAskill and Hanvey, Alba will grow as both an electoral and extra-parliamentary force:

"Alba is readying itself to push for independence and promote a radical policy agenda whilst preparing the policies on borders, currency and so many other issues that the SNP have shamefully failed to do, as well as contesting council elections next year."

And as the SNP return to their comfort benches at Westminster, having won not a single vote there since 2019, Alba have pledged to use their own limited presence as a disruptive force for independence:

"Room for manoeuvre is limited, as the days of Charles Stewart Parnell and the ability of Irish Nationalists to disrupt has passed. Powers have been centralised and the government dictates the agenda more than ever...That said, there can neither be supine deference to it nor any role taken in the administration of the British State. Partaking in pageants such as the Queen’s Official Opening of Parliament will be forsworn, as will participating in issues that are neither relevant to Scotland nor of concern to her people. Seeking official offices within Parliament is not the role of an MP of a party seeking to be independent of it, and neither’s holding posts that simply entrench British authority, whether over our land or other provinces."

 Hanvey has also expressed his own relief in being freed from the “toxic, aggressive and hostile” SNP group at Westminster:

"You are not allowed to have a critical mind. There is no place for debate. It is policy by diktat. It is a really uncomfortable place. It was frustrating to see how many of the SNP cohort were far too comfy with Westminster life - that really galled me."

Despite the establishment onslaught, Salmond is also likely to have an invigorated, ongoing role in such efforts. And as someone who actually did use his own time at Westminster in serving to subvert the UK state, both Sturgeon's circle and the UK establishment will still have to contend with his now re-energised presence.

Salmond made the astute observation on a post-election blogger interview that at no point in history was any just concession or quest for independence ever granted by the British state through submissive begging, or Sturgeon's kind of timid requests.

As the SNP's posturing continues, people for Indy, particularly people of the left, should be looking to help Alba grow in challenging imperious Albion and in holding it's submissive cohorts to account.

Friday, 16 April 2021

The concerted smearing of Alex Salmond only exposes the servile mediocrity of Scotland's 'mainstream' media

As campaigning for the Scottish Election intensifies, so does the smearing and vilification of Alex Salmond.

From its founding event, the classic signs of a concerted take-down of Salmond and his newly-formed Alba Party have been all too apparent. 

Whenever you see the 'mainstream' media, and particularly it's liberal commentariat, running major adverse 'news' and opinion pieces on such persons it's a fair bet they've been marked down as an immediate and present threat to powerful and establishment interests.

And there are useful illustrations of just how pernicious that response can be.  

Jeremy Corbyn and Julian Assange are both, in their own ways, figures who have threatened to disrupt and expose the prevailing order. Both have been subjected to intensive attacks on their characters in order to demonise and marginalise them in the public eye. 

It was notable how, without a shred of actual evidence, the weaponised 'antisemitism' tag was enough to help take Corbyn down. 

The enduring persecution and torture of Assange has seen another such offensive in containing and punishing those who dare expose the crimes and deceit of power, all serving as a threatening reminder to prospective others. 

As Caitlin Johnstone's excellent smear-debunking guide on the Assange case explains:

"If everyone can be paced into viewing him with hatred and revulsion, they’ll be far less likely to take WikiLeaks publications seriously, and they’ll be far more likely to consent to Assange’s imprisonment, thereby establishing a precedent for the future prosecution of leak-publishing journalists around the world. Someone can be speaking 100 percent truth to you, but if you’re suspicious of him you won’t believe anything he’s saying."

The same kind of media-generated campaign is now underway against Alex Salmond.

And the process is remarkably similar: 

  • Select favoured smear - sex slur, antisemite, Kremlin lover, variation of  
  • Media outlet or hostile opponent initiates allegation
  • Individual denies 'charge'
  • Denial amplified as 'news'
  • 'Opinion' columns take up attack
  • More enemies of individual pile-on
  • Pile-on covered as further 'news'
  • Individual issues further denial
  • 'News' of 'denial story' grows
  • Individual is bogged down in 'denial story'
  • Actual task of running election campaign, exposing the powerful, public interest whistleblowing, all now obscured by 'character story'
  • Drip-drip of smears and slurs feed into public 'consciousness'
  • Associations made, suspicions registered, impressions formed
  • Individual damned and marginalised
  • Damage done

Alex Salmond represents a substantive political threat to the Union. If the establishment could have found any 'dirt' on him prior to or during the 2014 independence campaign you can be sure it would have been used. 

But, with public support for independence undiminished, such forces are now using anything at hand to break him. Rather than engage what he actually stands for, the modus operandi is to slander, feed suspicion and destroy.

Salmond has already been through a trial of endurance. Hounded and subjected to unwarranted civil procedures and police investigations, he has faced a criminal court led by a female judge, his defence backed by numerous female witnesses, and been cleared of all charges by a female majority jury. One prior incident of 'inappropriate behaviour' has been privately apologised for and mutually resolved. He has also won the civil case against those who used and abused the procedures to deal with such matters. 

This is a man who has been relentlessly persecuted, who has contemplated being jailed, his life almost ruined. Yet those responsible for that set of malicious actions remain in office. And an entire establishment campaign is still being waged to bring him down with more mendacious messaging.

On 7 April, BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland ran an audaciously loaded line of questioning on Salmond's supposed 'links' to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Salmond comperes an independently-produced show which, like many others, is aired by RT. This gave presenter Gary Robertson the supposed cue to drill Salmond on his 'connections' to the Kremlin and, astonishingly, whether he thought Russia was behind the alleged chemical attack on the Skripals in Salisbury. Though preceded, in hostile fashion, by some actual points on independence, Robertson spent longer on this 'topic' than any other, consistently repeating his risible questions. With so much at stake in this election, and with so many immediate issues to probe and discuss, it is truly revealing that the BBC made the decision to run this line of 'enquiry' and give it such air time.

The 'story' of Salmond's 'denial' was, of course, picked up by the entirety of the Scottish press, notably the Daily Record's vitriolic Paul Hutcheon, and turned into predictably shrill headlines. The same 'story' was then exploited by every opposition party, including, and most vehemently, the SNP. 

Altogether, a neat example of how to construct, amplify and peddle a smear. 

However, Salmond has shown an admirable ability to take on such media and its smear tactics. 

In an illuminating interview, hosted by political analyst James Kelly, Salmond gave vent to his feelings on the dismal state of the BBC, STV and other 'mainstream' media in Scotland, stating:

"These are people who should look to themselves and what their public duty is."

He also reinforced such points in another discussion with Galician journalist Pilar Fernandez:  

"The establishment of these organisations is totally and utterly decrepit...They're incapable of organising their coverage in an intelligent, or fair, or impartial manner...In the case of the BBC, well, it's par for the course."

In a further disgraceful interview, LBC presenter Iain Dale also tried to run the same 'Kremlin-serving' and 'inappropriate person' smear lines. 

Again, as Dale was to discover, Salmond showed himself not only adept in his own defence, but ready to shine a critical light right back on the media running such smears.

Salmond has no need to express contrition for appearing on RT. As he reminded Dale, his programme is made by an independent company and hosted without interference. 

More usefully, Salmond's critics should be mounting serious interrogations of the BBC, and thinking about their own appearances on it, British state media having the worst record in world history in fronting imperialist propaganda and covering for the UK's mass crimes against humanity.

That damning truth cannot be countenanced by such journalists, just as it's now beyond the SNP leadership itself, a party now in the grip of anti-Russian hysteria, as amplified by the NATO-promoting, MI5-liaising Westminster duo Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith.

Their relentless attacks on Salmond, Russia and RT are now part of the same establishment agenda.

And it's that very same set of slurs that are being repeatedly run by Scotland's 'leading political journalists', Paul Hutcheon, Tom Gordon, David Leask, Kenny Farquharson, David Clegg and others.

Lamentably, a further 'left-liberal' commentariat in Scotland have joined in this petty denigration of Salmond, with their posturing cries of 'Kremlin stooge', 'ego trip' and 'inappropriate person'.

Few amongst this parochial media class have made any serious effort to address the actual dynamics of the independence issue, the SNP's refusal to deliver it, why that has opened up new political space, bringing Alba into play, and how it came to be led by Salmond. Instead, a major political development, requiring commensurate analysis, has been reduced to sneering jibes and woke virtue-speak. 

There's no acknowledgment either that substantial sections of women are not only comfortable with Salmond's leadership, but have abandoned the SNP for Alba because they see it as a much greater protector of women's rights. Indeed the majority of Alba candidates are women. 

Where's the real critical analysis of how all that came about on Sturgeon's watch, particularly given her own avowed feminism?

Another such attack line has been to denounce Salmond and Alba as 'homophobic', as in a particularly ugly message from BBC-favoured political commentator Gerry Hassan.

Impressively, Salmond called-out Hassan's mendacious comment in his interview with Dale.

(Presumably concerned at this and the damage to his 'academic reputation', Hassan later took the tweet down.)

Hassan has been pouring out a whole range of these facile claims, from 'Kremlin paymaster' and 'male Alba', to 'reactionary Salmond'.

The crude attempt to taint Salmond and Alba in these ways demonstrates just how readily such media have pandered to an 'on-board' identity politics, failing even to acknowledge Salmond's own past record on such matters. 

Salmond, of course, was the First Minister who introduced same sex marriage in Scotland. 

Alba's women's 'and equalities statement also includes a very clear pledge to defend all minority rights, initiate a citizens' assembly to look at the gender recognition issue, and to work in a much more consensual way over these matters than what's been going on inside a highly-controlled SNP. 

Attempts to portray Alba as some kind of right-leaning entity are similarly spurious. Essentially, this is a left-of-centre social democratic party, with a primary focus on independence. Indeed, with figures like Kenny MacAskill, Chris McEleny, Michelle Ferns and George Kerevan on board, it stands considerably to the left of anything currently evident within the SNP leadership. Forthcoming Alba policies are also likely to veer leftwards of the SNP's essential neoliberalism. The key appeal, for now, is the vital opening it presents for an immediate and more effective set of routes to independence. 

It's also well worth remembering that the Alba Party itself was founded by admirable leftist investigative journalist Laurie Flynn, someone the current media crop couldn't remotely hope to match.  

All told, this whole set of events has revealed the dire poverty and shameful prostration of 'mainstream' journalism in Scotland. Likewise with much of its liberal-left online circle.  

Little wonder a serious indy-pushing blogging community is gaining rapid attention and support - feeling the same hostile backlash for doing so.   

As the entire effort to ruin Salmond has shown, there's a deep seam of political and establishment corruption to be mined and exposed here. But there's a dearth of serious investigative journalists willing to do so. 

And the continuing denigration of Salmond in the course of this campaign has been another example of a service media lining up with the prevailing order to break a dangerous and threatening figure.   

Glenn Greenwald has called the British media the most servile in the world. That's quite an indictment. 

And there's a particular case study of it to be viewed here, right now, in Scotland.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

The simple case for Alba and #MaxTheYes as the way to independence

The Scottish Election on 6 May represents the most vital and perhaps last realistic chance we might have for securing independence in the foreseeable future.

In approaching it, we should be aware of what has led to this crucial impasse, and how we can best utilise the opportunity.

In positive anticipation of that task, all independence-seeking people should be directing their energies in making the most assertive case possible for leaving this defunct and all-constraining Union, while being clear about the reasons for still being held captive by it.

How we got to this juncture 

It should be glaringly obvious by now that there is no realistic prospect of Boris Johnson or any other political defender of the British state granting, permitting or facilitating the means of its disintegration. 

The near-death experience for the Union in 2014, and significant rise in support for independence since, means that it will not risk allowing another referendum. Any measured view of how we now advance independence should start from this primary point of recognition. 

As such, relentless condemnation of Johnson and cries of 'he must respect the democratic rights of Scotland' is totally wasted energy. The more useful question to ask here is why Ian Blackford and the SNP are still spouting this futile line from their secure positions at Westminster.

Beyond what we now expect of Johnson and a rigid British establishment lies the more obstructive problems and political failings of Nicola Sturgeon's own party and government.

Most notably:

  • The SNP's centrist politics, a Growth Commission-led neoliberalism that has inhibited radical economic and social development. This rightward drift has dulled any party/governmental ambition for serious change, resulting in devolutionary complacency and Westminster compliance, while also locking Scotland into UK 'defence' interests and unwanted NATO militarism.

  • Sturgeons's presidential-styled leadership, party-first authority and centralising control, resulting in multiple erosions of internal party democracy, ruthless purging of opponents and damaging divisions. 

  • The takeover of the SNP by identity politics and its zealot adherents, resulting in a fixation with the GRA and Hate Crime bills, the demotion of women's concerns, and a now more disturbing civil climate. There must be justice and protection for all in society, but these authoritarian impositions are not the way to realise it.

  • The unconscionable pursuit of Alex Salmond by an inner elite, their malign attempts to put him in jail, and the sordid efforts to cover their own careers and political backs when duly exposed.

  • The Scottish Government's failings over Covid, in its default acceptance of Westminster policies and 'mitigations'. Sturgeon has also refused to present the Covid crisis in Scotland as a public health emergency that could have been much better handled as an independent state.

  • The SNP's failure to deliver independence. The most damning reason of all, and the primary context for the emergence of an Alba Party and associated Yes forces. Obsessed with reversing Brexit, the lost years, wasted resources and unused multiple mandates for independence has left a deeply disillusioned and alienated movement seeking alternative strategies. Beyond all the 'Salmond's ego' smears and deflection, it is Sturgeon's and the SNP's own repeated failure to pursue independence that has created this impasse and consequent space for Alba. 

It should also now be obvious to all serious pro-independence people why the Unionist press, media and wider establishment are pitching for Sturgeon at the expense of Salmond. He's an immediate threat to the Union. She isn't. There's a common set of interests at play here in attacking Salmond and talking-down independence, which is why Sturgeon has been so keen to engage and feed such media.

How we use the opportunity 

The sole task for the independence movement is actually gaining independence. And it is now a greater potential reality than at any time in the last, lost six years. 

The arrival of Alba is, effectively, the re-manifestation, and all the energetic optimism, of the 2014 Yes movement.

The frustration and resentment many Yes people have felt towards the SNP leadership in the new political landscape since that momentous event is understandable. It’s been a legitimate response to a politics of prevarication and betrayal. 

But that shouldn't be used now to cloud rational assessment and mature political action. 

Serious advocates for indy within the SNP fold should also recognise that the presence of Alba can only help raise the stakes for independence.

All such forces should be uplifted by the significant political opening now before us.

Kenny MacAskill puts it well: 

"Alba has already transformed this from a rather dull election, where the questions were whether the SNP could win a majority and who would come second. Indyref 2 was only to be a debating point, with the SNP accepting a Johnson veto but the Prime Minister making it clear he’s not granting one. There was to be just enough rhetoric to allow Tory and SNP leaderships to rally the faithful without threatening the status quo."

The arrival of Alba - with the gracious endorsements of AFI and ISP - has made this election an indy game-changer.

Whatever one's party leanings, or none, this is a vital chance for independence. Successful electoral returns for Alba will raise the pro-indy parliamentary majority, change the political configuration of the indy parties, and, most significantly, open up the very options for delivering independence.

That's the crucial opening any serious advocate for independence must now engage.

Which means two simple actions: 

  • Give your Constituency vote to SNP
  • Give your Regional List vote to Alba

This is not about prioritising one vote over the other. 

It's about #BothVotesYes and #MaxTheYes 

As The Proclaimers simply state it:

"We're backing Alba for the Scots Parliamentary elections in May. We want to build as big a majority as possible towards putting pressure on Westminster to grant Indyref2. Vote Alba on your list vote."

Impressively, Alba has established itself in a very short space of time. If it can drive up its vote to anywhere beyond 6 per cent share of the list vote it starts to look like an even more effective force. 

The vagaries of the D'Hondt system show that independence-seeking voters giving the SNP both votes are wasting their list vote on a massive scale, not only depriving seats to another indy party but keeping Unionists in place.  

There's also the reverse paradox here that if indy people don't give their constituency vote to the SNP, any loss of those seats for the SNP only raises its chances on the list, thus threatening Alba's own list hopes. 

Think of that constituency vote for the SNP both as a necessary addition to an overall pro-indy majority and - in improving the prospect of more Alba list seats - as a necessary check on any sole SNP control of the indy agenda. Practicality and principle.

It's also important to see that the Unionist media aren't just attacking Salmond and Alba because they see them as a real threat to the Union, they're doing so to try and protect those very Unionist seats which Alba now threaten to take.

More fundamentally, it's also important to remember that all pro-indy votes, as with all pro-indy parties, should be regarded as a means to an eventual end. For serious independence supporters, the entire purpose of the SNP, as now with Alba, is to get to that point. 

All other issues, debates and, yes, even political hostilities will continue to be played out before, during and after that event - which, one hopes, will generate a whole further new set of radical political possibilities and openings.

A big Alba parliamentary presence will raise the immediate case for independence. Anyone voting for Alba will expect them to move quickly on pushing for alternative options should, as seems likely, Westminster refuse another referendum. 

Even with expected resistance from the SNP, it keeps the issue to the forefront, live and prominent. With any new supermajority mandate, the SNP leadership can finally be pushed into action.

Nicola Sturgeon has made much noise about refusing to work with Alex Salmond. The reality is usually very different in the actual theatre of parliamentary politics. Whatever the case, it's of little relevance to the key impact any Alba presence will have. Disreputable as these statements are in not just taking-down Salmond but talking-down independence, Sturgeon's position, reputation and legacy will become much more crucial if Alba does well. She must at that point raise her game, rather than be seen as continually stalling, and risk being remembered as the leader who split her party and failed on indy.

All independence supporters in this election have much to gain in voting Alba. If they don’t give it their support, a lame, self-serving SNP leadership will only have an ongoing 'mandate' for more indy deferral. If they do help ensure a significant Alba presence, it places all the pressure on the SNP to end that dissembling and finally move with decisive intent on securing independence.  

#BothVotesYes #MaxTheYes