Even the hecklers get soaked in this old style political tour

1st August, 2014 1:29 pm

In the first of a new weekly Scottish Referendum column for LabourList, Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary Jim Murphy, writes from the Western Isles and seaside towns leg of his #100Streets tour.

Scotland rain rainbow

When I started my #100Streets in 100 days speaking tour a couple of weeks ago I thought the biggest threat would be Scotland’s summer. Despite the weather you’ve seen on television at Glasgow’s brilliant Commonwealth games it has taken until yesterday for me to get properly drenched by a downpour.

As LabourList readers may know this tour is me standing on street corners, my Irn-Bru crates (as a stage), a microphone and whoever turns up. I’m 28 meetings into the tour with ‘only’ 72 to go. It wasn’t Labour’s idea to have the referendum but I’ve never enjoyed any political campaign more than this #100Streets tour. There’s an authenticity about it. I have no idea who is going to turn up or what is going to be said or what insults (or bottles) are going to be hurled at me. Every meeting is different. This week there’s been two legs to the tour; five street meetings on the Western Isles and seven in Seaside towns.

In Stornoway it was defence. In Benbecula it was a Latvian shell-fish worker with an emerging Hebridean twang asking me about the future of Sterling. In Saltcoats pensions dominated. In Troon, for reasons I don’t understand, the fate of England’s football team was the main gist of one Nationalist’s eccentric heckle.

Labour’s case for the UK is different from the other parties and comes from a different political tradition. Ours isn’t a sentimental attachment to the world or an Empire as it once was. Instead it’s a sense of solidarity. One of the arguments I make as I balance my size thirteen feet on my two Irn-Bru crates is a Union case rather than a Unionist one. I believe in workers joining a trade union in a workplace because they are often better paid and better trained. I have a similar approach to a union in a workplace as I do to a social union on this island. In an always complicated and often dangerous world being part of the UK can make all of us stronger and more prosperous.

Rightly most people have tried not to seize on the Commonwealth Games for referendum purposes. Although Alex Salmond just couldn’t help himself when declaring that Glasgow can be the ‘Freedom City’. It was a discordant rallying cry that sounded more like a confused movie extra montage of Mel Gibson in Braveheart and Denzel Washington as Steve Biko in ‘Cry Freedom’.

My sense is that more people now realise that the SNP are putting Scotland second – a peculiar predicament for any Nationalist party. For them it’s Party above country. Can you imagine going into a General Election hoping to come out the other side as victors but not knowing what currency we have in our purse or pocket, what would happen to the State pension or what passport you would be using. That’s exactly where we are in Scotland.

The SNP have had eight decades as a Party, seven years as a government and two years of the campaign to have worked all of this out. But their failure to be open with the public shows that Alex Salmond is putting his Party before our country.

As I head off on another round of old style political tour there is a real energy about a lot of the arguments on our street corner meetings. People want to debate the future of our country, the fate of a three hundred year old Union and what should happen next.

Yesterday in the rain by the seaside even the hecklers were happy to stand in the pouring rain.

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  • Hamish Dewar

    Why does LabourList promote a consistently negative attitude to the forthcoming referendum in Scotland?
    Labour-minded people support the cause of independence movements around the world, but seemingly not in their own back yard.
    It is the norm for nations to govern their own affairs.
    There would have to be compelling reasons for Scotland to be the exception to that rule.
    I see no such compelling reasons.

    • Danny

      If the people of Scotland vote against independence, that is a compelling enough reason.

    • Steve Stubbs

      Well I for one have always promoted Scottish Independence on this website. I really look forward to the day England gets it’s independence.

    • Tom Miller

      As if Scotland does not govern its own affairs? It is in a voluntary union and also has a devolved parliament. Hardly Western Sahara, is it?

    • Paul Adams

      But Hamish, there is a difference between independence and separatism. If the Yes campaign were promoting true independence – Scotland with its own currency at the bare minimum – you might be on to something (although as a Welshman I’d still be sorry to see you go!)

      But what is on offer from the Yes campaign is the worst of all worlds – all the disadvantages of separatism without any advantages, Scotland’s economic policy would still be run by the Bank Of England (clues in the name ) and the Westminster Government (more likely to be Tory without Scotland), trade and agriculture run by Brussels and Scotland would have even less say in these matters than at present.

    • gunnerbear

      Because if Scotland goes ‘indie’ bang goes all those Red Mob MPs……that’s why the Labour Party is s****ing itself over if the Jocks decide to leg it.

  • swatnan

    Salmond could win a YES vote on the tail of a very successful CW Games.
    Shows taht Scotland is quite capable of staging a major event, just as capable as London. Well done the Scots!

  • Steve Stubbs

    The debate between Salmond and Darling on Tuesday will be well worth watching.

  • Wasn’t “Freedom city” a reference to the Nelson Mandela thing?

    I find it sad how much vitriol that Scottish Labour has towards the SNP when both parties (ignoring Lamont’s ‘something for nothing’ statements) are left of the centre and share many common policies, apart from the obvious one. Instead of sniping at what they see as SNP encroaching on Labour ground, both parties should be working a hell of a lot harder than they are to mitigate the damage being done by a ConDem coalition. Irrespective of the result of the referendum, I really hope that Labour and the SNP can find it in themselves to work together to support the progressive cause. Ha.

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