Corbyn and the Cybernats

(Written 30th September)

Both the new Labour Leader and the over-zealous, independence obsessed social media patrol have got it wrong on Scotland and Jeremy Corbyn respectively.

Since appearing on the Andrew Marr show on the eve of the annual Labour conference last Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn’s performance has been heaped with praise – both by his supporters on social media as well as some of the most stringent critics of his policies – for its straight talking, no nonsense approach that hallmarks the Labour leader’s public interactions.

However, his comments on the SNP and Scottish secession received far less enthusiasm from within the independence support base.

Marr suggested that he held common ground with the SNP and the wider independence movement on policies such as trident and the economy, and cited Corbyn’s alleged unionist leanings as the only impediment between them and the new Labour leader.

Corbyn said that the SNP had “a headline in that they’re opposed to austerity” but that he was yet to see “the economic strategy behind it which doesn’t either continue the austerity that’s happening now.” And went onto detail examples of the SNP’s underlying pr

Naturally, this assertion that the SNP was merely engaged in populist posturing under ‘an austerity badge’ without the policies to match, was immediately dubbed ‘ill informed’ and the allegations of quietly pandering to austerity rebutted by the party, its supporters, and various pro-independence new media outlets and blogs.

All fine and civil and polite and to be expected.

And then came the Cybernats.

The sudden barrage of abuse aimed at Corbyn that came pouring on social media was inundated with charges of Unionist! Britnat! Snake! Red Tory! Liar! and other similar invectives…

Of course, ensuing headlines full of self serving spin around Corbyn’s stance on the SNP from the anti-SNP and anti-Corbyn media did little to stem the tide of flooding vitriol coming in form all quarters on social media.

But such fringe fanaticism is self-explanatory, and putting is to one side, it is not impossible to see why Corbyn’s position on Scotland has caused the different degrees of disgruntlement among secessionists. Briefly addressing the Scottish electorate during his first Labour conference speech on Tuesday, Corbyn said that he understood that Labour had disappointed Scotland, that he agreed that it had lost its way and that they needed to “renew our party in Scotland”.

However, his method to do this seems to be to rely on the counsel of Kezia Dugdale, the recently elected Scottish Labour leader under whose leadership support for the party in Scotland continues to decline, and who as former leader Jim Murphy’s deputy campaigned alongside the Conservative party against Scottish independence. Dugdale represents everything that is wanting in Scottish Labour and Jeremy’s assertion that “under Kezia and my leadership, it will change” could have only seemed like a badly timed joke to Scottish voters.

It’s clear that Scotland, and the democratic deficit which lies behind the case for independence is unfamiliar territory for Jeremy Corbyn. But it seems that poor briefing rather than a penchant for “Red Tory” unionism is responsible for his repeated blunders on the Scottish question.

In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if most of his knowledge of Scotland comes from Scottish Labour MPs like Neil Findlay, a left leaning Unionist who seems to suffer from selective amnesia concerning Dugdale’s inconsistency on Corbyn’s potency as head of party before and after his victory.

But lack of awareness of Scotland’s political landscape, a weary affliction widespread among even the most well-meaning sections of political classes south of the border, does not warrant the slurs of “Liar politician” and “Red Tory” being slung his way by (the vociferous minority of) independence zealots that are collectively known as ‘Cybernats’. Nor does he deserve the likening of his financial policies with the Conservative party’s havoc wreaking agenda of austerity by the SNP and its wider (and far more moderate) base of devotees.

After all, here is a man who rose from backbench obscurity to parliamentary prominence as the leader of a party whose whip he defied 500 times during the course of his political career. A man who was arrested for demonstrating against South African apartheid; who stood outside the Iraqi embassy protesting Saddam Hussein’s atrocities against the Kurds while the British government armed the former; and whose voting record, whether defying the Labour whip against Conservative welfare reforms or against the Iraq war, smacks of anything but a Tory tendency.

The fact that someone like Corbyn-whose commitment to social justice is as evident in policy as it is in his own rousing rhetoric- now leads one of the two main parties at Westminster must surely be cause for celebration rather than scorn or concern. Surely such credentials must deeply resonate with the similarly anti austerity, socially democratic styled SNP.

So despite his ignorance of the Scottish political landscape, such allegations do little in the way of constructive debate simply because after skimming the Islington MP’s record in parliament for the last thirty years, calling him any kind of Tory, whether red or blue, is no less implausible than branding Nicola Sturgeon a Unionist.

But that said, there were plenty of measured responses from independence supporters who were disappointed at his lack of understanding of the Scottish perspective. For the leader of a party that aims to win back the votes it lost in Scotland, they provided much food for thought.

Broadcaster and journalist Lesley Riddoch wrote that Corbyn “showed no evidence of innovation, recent thinking or even some enthusiasm for resolving the “Scottish question” ’’ and then asked the pertinent question; “How can grassroots politics, self-determination and federalism be right for policy formation, the future of Ireland and the Labour Party itself – but not for Scotland?”

The National’s view was that while “Corbyn’s down-to-earth, thoughtful brand of politics was a much welcome change from the usual spin and smear of Westminster”, his stand against austerity and policies like “ non-intervention in the Middle East, Trident” resonated with readers of the only daily independence supporting newspaper in Scotland, it was “disheartening to see him reel off the same tired lines about the SNP yesterday.”

It’s true, as Corbyn stated on Marr, that flags don’t build houses. But it’s also true that Labour didn’t build very many houses while in power in Scotland and neither has the present Conservative government. And yes, Corbyn has plans to change that as he heads Labour’s new social housing campaign, something to be welcomed by all who wish to see steps towards a more equitable society.

But that is exactly why Corbyn needs to understand the case for Scottish Independence, even if he disagrees with the premise: because the lack of social justice, while a mainstay of the Yes campaign’s drive for independence far from dominated the grounds for seeking self determination.

The democratic deficit, whereby whatever way the Scottish electorate votes in general elections will never make any difference to the overall result, lies at the heart of the independence argument. And a pro-federalist, united Ireland inclined progressive like Jeremy Corbyn should understand that the principle behind this disparity means that Scotland cannot sit on its hands and wait every five years on the off chance that another inclusive democrat appears and delivers a socially just United Kingdom in which all its member nations can thrive.

And that crucially-something which has escaped members of the commentariat like Andrew Marr- it was the grassroots groups and new media platforms galvanised through the referendum campaign that were and continue to be the driving force behind Scotland’s political awakening and the SNP’s sweeping general election victory.

And Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated that he understands the importance of reaching out to those who possess conflicting beliefs to his own. In the name of that very plurality his shadow cabinet composes of Blairites and those with views diametrically opposed to his on policies as far ranging as defence, the economy and public services. In keeping with this open spirit, perhaps he should think about extending that same hand of friendship towards Scotland’s increasingly popular independence movement.

It doesn’t sound fantastical. Jeremy Corbyn closed his speech to conference yesterday by paying tribute to a Scot; “The last bearded man to lead the Labour party was a wonderful, great Scotsman, Kier Hardy.”

It’s hard to imagine any of Labour’s leaders of the past two decades, drenched in Blairite devotion, invoking the party’s working-class, Scottish founder in such a manner.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, breaking through the pervasive trend of deep-rooted ignorance over Scotland’s political landscape among the Westminster classes looks more feasible than ever.

It’s merely a case of both parties sitting down and listening to one another’s narrative, instead of indulging in or being influenced by accusatory sound bites.

Whiter Than Bird Shit

Scene one. 17th July, 1935, La Cistella apothecary on Calle de la Paz, Valencia.

A young gentleman in a pitch-black bowler hat held up a jar of cream to the light streaming in through the display windows.

“Well, it’s whiter than bird shit.”

“Forty seven céntimos.”

He glanced at the girl behind the counter. Her mouth, set into a firm, stern rosebud, demanded No haggling or No Sale, but her eyes whispered of unrecognised, unwanted Iliads.

“Or Odysseys,” he remarked, her presence tugging at the tethers of his attention.

“What?’

She folded her arms, her starched white work dress setting off the olive sliver of skin above its stiff collar.

He detected a look of faint panic, the kind he had felt during his first week as an apprentice, when old and loyal customers would enter the shop, and he would be compelled to improvise the repertoire that came so naturally to his employer.

Out of step, out of rhythm, too far from belonging within the world that swept by his naïve youth. Already full of loss yet inexperienced in its open roads and wide alleyways.

“I’ll take it.”

He handed her the money, and walked out of the apothecary into the noisy street without changing his expression or heeding her hesitant call that he had given her too much. The shop sign, black spindly letters swept in large font across the bleached wood, arched knowingly above his calculated exit.

It was a week before that that he had heard of La Cistella’s reopening across from the old cartography shop. It had been three days since he had walked past the pristine new apothecary and caught a glimpse of the girl with her piercing Moorish eyes and felt the emanating waves of murderous steel as she wrapped up customers’ orders and purchases and tidied away unsold goods.

A few yards along the busy street, he paused and took something out of his coat pocket. An unused cartridge, with the tiny initials G.O scratched onto its slim, rusting surface. It was exactly one year before he would attempt to use it.

Analysis: The politics of outrage is a detriment to democratic debate

First published on 5th February 2015, on http://news.stv.tv/scotland-decides/analysis/309267-analysis-haniya-khalid-on-the-politics-of-outrage-and-democratic-debate/

By Haniya Khalid

Outrage is designed to be explosive, and the ensuing carnage to have lasting effects.

This was demonstrated rather well when Nicola Sturgeon appeared on the Andrew Marr show for the first time a week ago.

Echoing the BBC’s Nick Robinson during his interview with Scotland’s first minister a few days before, Marr quizzed her on her party’s stance on voting on English matters in the event the forecast SNP gains took fruit in the upcoming general election.

Despite Sturgeon’s repeated response that the devolution of powers and the Barnett formula rendered the fate of areas like taxation and the Scottish NHS inextricably dependent on its English counterparts, and this was the only reason the SNP would consider voting on such matters, it seemed that Marr was searching for a remark that could spark outrage among sections of the English electorate:

Nicola Sturgeon: As long as we are funded in Scotland as we are just now, of course SNP MPs would vote on tax issues because those decisions affect the budget of the Scottish parliament.

Andrew Marr: But you can understand the irritation in England if the Scottish parliament has control over its own fiscal and taxation affairs but Scottish MPs are saying to English voters that we’re going to change your taxation in this regard or that regard.

Nicola Sturgeon: But full fiscal control for the Scottish parliament is not yet being proposed. Now I actually think that where you have matters, purely English matters, that have no impact on Scotland, I think there is a very, very strong case for English votes, for English laws, Scottish MPs shouldn’t be voting on issues like that.

This assertion went unnoticed in the following media frenzy; from a Conservative MP calling Sturgeon’s statements a ‘bunch of twaddle’ that only served to ‘put our union at risk again’, to the Daily Mail screaming that she had claimed the whole of Britain would be better run if Scottish Nationalists sat in Miliband’s Cabinet.

It isn’t hard to trace back this flammable trail to what could be considered its source; Nick Robinson’s BBC interview with Sturgeon in which the matter of Scottish MPs voting on the English matters like health came up.

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In other words, it is clear that outrage leads to outrage, until the issue at hand has been so stifled under all the fiery rhetoric of politicians and pundits as well pages upon pages of seething columnists venting their ire at the injustice of it all that it becomes completely irrelevant and no effort is made to find out the context or reasoning behind the initial event. Regardless of whether the outrage is justified or not, and it certainly can be, it is evident that its impact is the pollution of our airwaves rather than pragmatic solutions to political conundrums.

Natalie Bennet, leader of the Green party of England and Wales, underwent something similar last week after appearing Andrew Neil’s BBC show Sunday Politics in the wake of the Green Surge. After being vigorously grilled on Green policy, which included a universal basic income for every UK citizen and legalising membership of extremist groups in the UK, the result was headlines dripping with outrage like Drugs, brothels, al-Qaeda and the Beyonce tax: the Green Party plan for Britain and Australian-born British political leader Natalie Bennett says public has right to sympathise with ISIS..

Another example was Paul Nuttall’s rant on BBC programme Question Time in which he said that he was “absolutely sick to death of Salmond, Sturgeon, and SNP”, and that since they had lost the independence referendum it had been “take, take, take, take, take, take…they’re taking your tax, people in Scotland get an extra £1600 than people in England…nothing is ever enough for them and now Sturgeon is saying that Scottish MPs are going to vote on issues that only effect England.”

The tremors of ensuing outrage were evident on social media as various users took to Twitter to reply to the UKIP deputy leader and MEP’s remarks. And of course, the replies were equal in their level of outrage.

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It should not be forgotten that this kind of attitude from established entities, particularly at Westminster, towards emerging political players such as the SNP and Green party is not a new phenomenon. Until last year, before the EU elections, UKIP too bore the brunt of mass media flare-ups and the dismissal of their party as a racist, ignoble movement, so much so that the Prime Minister himself branded it a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.

Whether these accusations were true or not, following UKIP’s EU election victory, their standing in the media spotlight shifted towards more honest portrayals of their policies. Whether these depictions are positive is beside the point, for it goes without saying that every media outlet offers their own take on the world, and varied outlooks are constructive to society as a whole. But to halt the transfer of information and purposely mislead the public over something that most know nothing about contradicts the founding principles of a free press.

It cannot be too outrageous then, to assume that such a mode of discourse can be detrimental to democratic debate. This is not only because it bypasses the analysis of multifaceted matters that are critical to a functioning democracy, but also capitalises on inflammatory tactics like mischaracterisation and ad hominem attacks to mislead the public on vital issues.

Last week marked 100 days until the General Election in May, but as the nation hurtles towards the day on which it collectively decides who it will be governed by for the next four years, one wonders whether it is the politics of outrage and intellectual dishonesty rather than that of logical reasoning and critical analysis that will dominate the political conversation.

A Letter to my departed Grandfather

Dear Grandfather,

It’s been a long time coming.

In the winter of 2014 I left my home in Glasgow and travelled down to London to live with you and grandmother for a while. That ‘while’ stretched into five months that saw the bitter British winter, milder there than anything I’d experienced in my home country of Scotland, fall carelessly into a chilly spring.

Those five months were, and remain to this day, the happiest months of my life. I was nineteen years old, universally recognised as a difficult age for a young woman, regardless of her background or the time period in which she lives. To be a young woman suffering from something that you also suffered as a grown man after the death of your father and my great-grandfather so many years ago, something that in those days was surrounded by an even higher caliber of stigma than it is today, did not help matters. To belong to a culture that, for all its merits, did not encourage talking about or even acknowledging depression and mental illness probably did not make it easy for you-and it would have been so much harder if you hadn’t had my devoted and loving grandmother by your side. The horse tranquilizers the doctors of that time gave you were the only thing they could do to ease your pain.

You married my grandmother, a woman who has indelible strength rooted within her. No tragedy could weaken her caliber. She was exactly what you needed-and you, with your gentle, rational presence, measured words and utter kindness, were always perfect for her.

I come from a family whose inhabitants are scattered among all corners of the world, whether by necessity or design. My brother left home at sixteen. My parents divorced when I was a teenager. The love, respect and appreciation I saw between you and my grandmother is unparalleled with anything I have ever seen before. I can’t help but think that if I can feel such pain at your passing, having only truly known you for half a year-living so far away, the most time I had with you were a few annual visits-that your wife of fifty years, the love of your life, must be going through unimaginable torment. The respect I have for her, and her patience, is impossible to measure and cannot be expressed.

When I lived with you, all the hurt that I had felt up to that moment; the divorce, the responsibility that fell on me as the eldest after my mother left, my failure to complete the second year of my journalism course due to depression, the arguments, the isolation I felt despite having so many friends around me as I descended into something dark and impenetrable which spiraled into an attempt on my own life, all culminating in me taking a clean break for it all and come and live with you-all of that vanished like an old sheet being thrown out to make way for the freshly laundered.

I have never felt so taken care of in my life. Sometimes, I almost wish I hadn’t experienced it-the fear that I never will again engulfs me from time to time.

Well, dear grandfather, I did not realise until a few days ago, hardly two months after you left all of us, how much I miss your existence. I have never experienced the death of someone close and yours is undoubtedly a hallmark, a guiding compass that will point me towards the tunnel of loss that every one of us passes through at various moments in our lifetimes.

The last night that you spent on this earth is etched into the back of my eyelids, not least because besides the nurses coming in to monitor your hospital bed every now and then, I was the only witness for all of it. You suffered, grandfather. Your breathing was heavy, laboured, and painful to listen to for the twelve hours that I did as I sat at your bedside. The wheeled table upon which had sat fruit and flowers was my makeshift desk as I inscribed the cryptic symbols of Teeline shorthand over and over again-practice for an exam I was to have in a few days. An exam I had failed twice, before I came to live with you, that they said was vital for any journalist who was serious about their profession, that I spent months after practicing as both you and my grandmother showered me with prayers, and love and encouragement and good, healthy, traditional Pakistani food.

After your funeral, after arriving back in Glasgow, one year later than everyone else who had been in my year, I passed that test.

And after you passed away that morning, I didn’t have time to grieve. I stood by your coffin, probably the only dry eye in the room. I don’t recall feeling any heart in my chest for the next few days. Where was the time? So many people came to mourn your passing. Thousands passed through the doors of your home-so much so the flat opposite had to be borrowed for all those coming to pay their respects, a gazebo set up outside in the residential yard, chairs loaned from the mosque down the road and left there for weeks after. There were those who came all the way from America, Australia, Africa to bid you their farewells.

And of course they would. Carrying on the legacy of your own father, who was a journalist, an intellectual, scholar and excellent debater, you have achieved so much in your life.

Grandfather, for the last few weeks it has come to my attention, through the testaments and reaction of those who I love and who have come into contact with me, that I am breaking. That all the calm and coolness I had preserved during those sweet five months is slowly, surely tearing apart at the seams as I lash out at those who loved me, as I turned away to those who want to listen.

The biggest indicator that something is wrong is that for the last two months I have not been able to write-not as I used to, not in the way that reminded why I had fallen in love with the calling. I sit at my desk, my fingers typing, their movements dictated by ghosts longing for past things, until mere mimicry can no longer sustain the hollow words hanging limply against my peripheral vision.

But tonight, for the first time in a long time, for the first time in months, I am pouring my heart out to you, someone who has long departed from our atmosphere, someone who will never breathe the same air that is flowing in and out of my lungs. It’s strange isn’t it? I can express myself better to a dead person than to any of the living.

And perhaps this is the catharsis I needed and the way I should have done it before. Why drag the living with my dreams of the departed?

Now, I can’t help the tears as I remember you one crisp February morning, sitting on your special chair, it was designed for your back, and telling me that you thought what an annoying grandfather you must be to me, always making me run errands and make you the tea. I remember saying it was no such thing, and thinking how, even in your weak and sometimes confused state – you had survived a heart attack, pneumonia and a stroke at the same time the year before – you cared about my feelings. Why didn’t I express myself fully? Why didn’t I tell you how happy I was there? How much I had grown to love you, and all your eccentricities, your peaceful, ever smiling mien as you constantly cracked jokes and laughed heartily even in the fragility of old age? The way you, with the sharp tact of the most ethical diplomat, always came to my defense in the subtlest way if someone put me down in any way, or suggested my opinion was worthless, my position untenable, myself inadequate, even if it was a family member. The way we would discuss politics and history, whether of your adopted country, England, or those of your birth and childhood; India and Pakistan. The way you exacted a blanket of peaceful calm among the whole gathering no matter what tensions lay beneath the surface, and became the life of the party with your well-timed quips and anecdotes. The way you would let me sit in your chair, the way you would have me sneak you sweets without letting grandmother know, the way you would greet me so lovingly no matter how tardy I was getting up in the morning.

For me, these memories are static, unmoving in their warmth. Even now, as I write this in a darkening room, I have a fancy that if I just reach out my arms far enough, I will jolt awake into the blissful reality that was my life for those short, breathless five months. I will sit up on my sofa bed, blink as a sliver of sunlight streams in through the gap between the hazel curtains, hear my grandmother moving up and down as she cooks and cleans and says a few words to you or comments on the television and the ‘wretched’ political talk shows that you constantly watched with great gusto. I move through the day, watching as my grandmother teaches me to cook the aromatic, spicy food that made my taste buds water and you and your children smile in all your old photos, feeling the gust of fresh air sweep me forewords as I walk through the tree-lined park, feeding the swans gathering at the lake’s edge, breathing in the darkening sky and, after it starts to get chilly, come back home to a warm, lit house with a home-cooked meal and your smiles waiting for me.

Dear Grandfather, I am almost twenty years old, and although it seems you are slipping further and further away from me as time hurtles me on, I will never forget you. The impact you have had on my life, my thinking, everything, is highly unlikely to ever diminish. It doesn’t matter to me if one person or no person reads this. I don’t know if the dead can see their loved ones going on with their lives, but I never wrote a letter to you while you lived.

So as I write this now, don’t think of it as a belated epitaph or an elongated elegy.

Think of it as your oldest granddaughter making a promise.

A promise that from now on, whatever mistakes I make in my life, whatever hurt I feel or inflict, I will always think of you and remember your example, the peace that emanated from your soul to bask all of us in its soothing glow and I will do better.

I will try to right my wrongs, love as hard as you did, respect my fellow beings and take care of everyone as much you did.

I will work hard and focus on achieving something worthwhile. I won’t cry anymore or wallow in a grief that will never transport me to any place worth passing, that is impeding me from fulfilling the relationships and potentials of the life god that gave me to live. Remembering you, knowing you, feeling you, I, Haniya Khalid, daughter of your oldest son, will try my best to echo your life with the blood that thrums in my veins.

It is Tuesday, the tenth of August, 2015, 2am GMT.

My dear grandfather, your train left at different times for different people. For me, it is only just now, this very second, beginning to move. I see smoke rising from its old fashioned chimney, I hear the conductor’s last whistle piercing through the still air and your thin suitcase swinging casually in hand as you step on board. You only need to travel light.

Grandfather! Did you notice? I’m writing again. And I’m writing in the dark, not with fear or apprehension, but with the realization that at this time I will always be enveloped in the comforting softness that night brings. Thank you isn’t enough.

Before your train rounds the bend and disappears forever, let me say it now, let me shout it as I gaze at your smiling face leaning out of the carriage, as you wave cheerfully, as I return the gesture. Let me say it for the last time.

Goodnight.

Haniya Khalid

Grand daughter of Ata-ul-Karim Shahid

Demystifying UKIP

By Haniya Khalid

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Farage, it seems, has tapped into an incredibly lucrative mass market: electorate disillusionment with the establishment and mainstream politics in general. Couple that with the swift capitalization of crimes and social faux pas perpetrated by who those happen to be the perceived ‘other’ and thus threats to their way of life-ethnic minorities, immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, all considered alien by tight knit, largely homogeneous communities-and you have a firm monopoly on the mindsets of large sections of the working class; the group hit hardest by an incompetent government’s fiscal, social and foreign policies.

But in his recent column for the Independent, with its eye-popping title, Kurdos to Russell Brand and the Guy Fawkes Protesters, Nigel Farage says something that those bearing the worst of the fallout from the bloated whale that is Westminster would be hard pressed to reject.

Everywhere you look there is discontent with the mainstream, the establishment, with the corporatist politics that we’ve been spoon-fed for the past few decades. Never more so was this evident than this week in the mid-term elections in the United States, and in the Parliament Square protests that took place on Wednesday evening in London.”

Consider, for a moment the situation here. Farage, very much on the right whose party has connections to the European ultra right (whether due to business reasons or ideological), praising an anti-UKIP comedian-actor-turned-activist socialist for going on an anti-capitalist, anti-establishment leftist protest throughout the streets of London with a million other people, marching against quite a few of the principles Farage himself ascribes to-such as the free-market and the crackdown on Johnny foreigner.

“Look to the fact that almost every week, there are protests on the streets of London and elsewhere around the country: some about Isis, some by trade unions, some about Gaza, and some about niche issues like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).”

Most probably, Farage is unaware that the Million Mask March that he speaks of takes place every year and has done so for the last few years across the world’s cities, from London to New York. And that the ‘Guy Fawkes’ masks are donned to denote Anonymous, the online ‘hacktivist’ entity that claims to fight state oppression and corruption across the world through infamous hacking ops targeting government institutions and corporations. But that isn’t the point, and he doesn’t make it the point, noting his difference of ideology with people like Brand and his supporters and yet recognizing the glaring similarity between those who are increasingly attracted to anti-establishment parties like UKIP, and its counterparts on the left such as the Green party, and in Scotland at least, the SNP.

“So I have a lot of sympathy with people who want different policies from the “three major” parties. Sure, they mistake“capitalism” for “corporatism”, and have a slightly different view as to what a society should look like. But we’re driven by the same inate passion to see radical change in our politics. It’s this discontent that is leading a left-wing populist party to success in Spain; a right-wing, populist party to success in America; and an anti-EU, policy-wonk party to successes in Germany.”

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Citing the increasing popularity of Spain’s Podemos party, America’s latest Republican winin the mid term elections slating a Democrat majority, and Germany’s Alternative For Deutschland (AFD) regional win, Farage, despite his faults, says what every other politician and civil servant in Westminster and Whitehall won’t. There is something wrong with the way things are going, and the masses simply won’t sit on the sidelines anymore.

 

“The people of Britain are hungry for change. And why? Because they can’t tell the difference between Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband, and Mr Clegg. Their propositions are just not that different when you think about it: more borrowing, more debt for future generations, more wars, more powers given away to the EU, more corporatism, more cronyism, and maybe a few billion pounds’ worth of difference in their spending plans.”

Despite his renowned oratory prowess, when Nigel Farage writes he is no Shakespeare, nor is he inclined to verbosity. But anyone can understand what he is saying. Like most successful political leaders, he himself is populist and uses emotion and anecdote to reach out to current public sentiment, sometimes at the expense of statistical facts. This is something that Owen Jones seizes upon in a recent article for the Gaurdian on the latest study by University College London that European migrants contributed £20 billion to the economy:

“Anecdotes end up trumping statistics…earlier this year, Nigel Farage was confronted with figures demonstrating that immigrants did indeed pay their way. His response? “There are some things that matter more than money.” If, he added, the arrival of another 5 million to British shores left us “all slightly richer”, he would rather that we were not slightly richer. It was ingenious trolling of the pro-immigration left, painting them as money-obsessed neoliberals, while he was the champion of community and people.”

There’s no doubt, therefore, that UKIP has a penchant for scapegoating the more vulnerable members of society, although the fault of this may lie more with individual donors and members of UKIP who have joined due to the circumstance that it’s an easy outlet for plain racists, rather than what Farage himself may have promoted. This is not to say of course, that Farage is innocent in the world of politics, having dabbled in the favorite pastime of many of his would be peers at Westminster and escaped not entirely unscathed.

But unlike the Prime Minister, who whines about the EU bureaucracy one minute – like a dazzled child vying for the approval of his much cooler and popular older brother – then throws a tantrum over an extortionate EU bill that anyone with half the economic literacy of he who is supposedly running the country would have predicted months before, Farage doesn’t just talk the talk. UKIP policy, however objectionable most Scots find it, is crystal clear. On the EU: get out. On immigrants: extensive crackdown, and for those who come in, assimilate, abide by the law, work or leave. On terrorism: fighting home grown extremists should be the top priority for British security services, rather than sending off troops fight expensive wars in foreign lands, which are what fuel terror at home and abroad in the first place.

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But it is a testament to the monolithic structure that is the establishment that everything they said about UKIP before it made significant enough gains in the EU elections to warrant Westminster sitting up and taking notice, and Cameron retracting his “loonies and fruitcakes statement”, was repeated with ten times as much vitriol during the referendum campaign against Alex Salmond and the SNP-and is repeated still, towards what they perceive as ‘nationalists’ and the SNP.

At a time when every single Westminster party is in a state of perpetual crisis, perhaps a first in that noble institution’s proud history, none more so than Labour-the Scottish referendum being attributed as the catalyst for said meltdown-every new day bringing fresh news of disaster and dissention in the ranks, the threat felt by the establishment, whether by UKIP or Scotland, is almost tangible.

Looking through the prism of UKIP’s success, it is clear that it is not exclusive to Scotland that people are fed up with the way things stand and the way they have been working for a long time, although one may note that Scots may have born the brunt of the Thatcherite politics which have since been ubiquitous in every Westminster government’s policies for the last two decades since the Iron Lady’s reign. But the English certainly aren’t happy, neither the Welsh nor many of the Irish, and it isn’t because they are a bunch of whining scroungers, the way Scots are consistently perpetuated as by media outlets and society outside of Scotland in general.

So it is easy to see how a party like UKIP has risen in all the turmoil in English politics-for UKIP has very little, if any, traction in Scotland while the membership and support of the SNP grows day by day, having shot up three-fold simply within weeks after the referendum.

And it’s important not to take everything said about UKIP by the mainstream press at face value. It’s easy to label anyone and anything deviating from the party line as racist. You disagree with Obama? Racist. You are critical of Israel’s settlement policy, which is illegal under International Law? Racist. You voted UKIP? Racist.

After all, if we are to exercise critical thinking, the very thing we complained was absent in the press’ coverage of the referendum, media and political bias is not something unique to the cause of Scottish independence, but to anything that is a threat to the London centric Establishment. And that’s why it’s not us, who are fortunate enough to have alternatives to the Establishment, such as the SNP and the Greens to choose from, that need to worry about UKIP. It’s Westminster.

EU-debate

The trouble with Scotland…is that it’s full of Scots!

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My post indy-ref piece on BellaCaledonia.org.uk

The trouble with Scotland…is that it’s full of Scots!

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Published on http://www.bellacaledonia.org.uk

Cameron’s stomach ulcers, the Queen’s new look, Labour and toast, and the Butterfly Rebellion.

By Haniya Khalid

I’ve been rather guilty of lashing out at those of my friends who voted No to Scottish Independence in the last week. I know for a fact that I am not alone in this infantile behaviour. Grief speaks in strange ways to each of us, and sometimes we are unable to channel that negative energy into something pragmatic and constructive, no matter how optimistic our disposition.

However, I’m no fool, although weeping about the loss of what I perceived to be the last chance at self-determination that Scotland had before it became engulfed indefinitely by Westminster’s Blairite convulsions, may seem foolish to many of those apathetic to the Yes campaign’s two year trajectory. And that includes both of my closest, and No voter, friends, a fact that I won’t deny hurt almost as much as losing Independence.

But you can’t suddenly lose something you haven’t had for 307 years, right?

Correct. And that’s what prompts me to say, as I wipe my eyes and get on my feet as per Robin McAlpine’s advice, that here lies the beauty in this tragic affair.

As many of us are beginning to realise, Scotland has gained far more than it has lost-and in fact it has lost nothing and gained more than perhaps even independence would have brought in such a short space of time.

1. We’ve got the mainstream press clutching at straws. That in itself is an achievement to be proud of.

Whether it was the Scotsman’s embarrassing story in the last few days before the referendum asserting that Scottish Independence was, according to nameless intelligence analysts, an ISIS plot to weaken the British state by using former hostage situation of aid-worker David Haines to secure a Yes vote, or the general media’s attempts to dilute the reality of the unionist riots in George Square last Friday by framing them as ‘light banter’ (Sky News), or the bullying of ‘pro-unionist skinheads by Hundreds of Yes supporters who booed them out” (The Evening Times) or, according to the Independent, Unionists burning Saltires, giving Nazi and Red hand of Ulster salutes and committing acts of violence, and as the Sunday Herald covers extensively, homophobia and racism, was nowhere near as consequential as the fact that, as it asserted in its headline, “’Dishonest’ social media users accused of fuelling panic with pictures from London riots.”

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Of course, on the last assertion, anyone who visits the Twitter account of the only user that BBC journalist Andrew Neil leveled said accusation towards, and which the Independent and various other outlets reported on, will indeed see this:

Potbelly

And then this…

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And also this…

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And most recently, this…

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If this doesn’t cry out troll to an established journalist like Andrew Neil, then the future of journalism is bleak indeed. That or they’ve run out of ideas for believable spin. (It’s important/hilarious to note that user @potbellyman123 seems to reside in Australia.)

And after the arrest of eleven unionists by Police Scotland for ‘various offences including disorder, breach of peace and vandalism” (As reported in the Sunday Herald) on September the 19th, as well as the appearance of many in court for charges of assault, vandalism and abusive behaviour, the emerging videos of unionists burning Saltires or ripping them out of girl’s hands and the homophobic abuse leveled at a young counselor, it’s probably time to remove the inverted commas around “riots”.

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On top of senseless churnalism, we have shoddy sub-editing.

In an interview with Channel 4 last Sunday, outgoing first minister Alex Salmond said: ‘There’s a huge difference between being a public service broadcaster, and being a state broadcaster and I’m not certain that the BBC understand that difference.”

And it is highly important that any new alternative media that is born out of this whole debacle via the collective efforts of any pro-independence groups also take heed of these words. Alternative media does not necessarily mean a raw and unbiased angle and there’s such a thing as extreme leftism-and such a possibility as that being a worse alternative to the increasing rise of right-wing extremism in Europe and Britain.

2. We’ve got Jack Straw clutching at straws

In his piece for the Times, former justice secretary Jack Straw, now Mp for Blackburn, suggests that “We should follow the example of stable federated countries (the US and India, for example) and say: “This Union is now indissoluble.’”

If only Straw, the political beast he is, would mention the difference between these two countries and the United Kingdom. The size and structure, and political ideologies, of the ‘states’ in this country as opposed to that of both the former nations have something to do with how federalism will play out here -and it’s something that will indeed eventually happen, say the experts, now that the catalyst has begun its cycle, thanks to that desperate, last minute vow published in a tabloid, of all things.

According to Professor Tom Devine at Sunday Herald’s Bloody Scotland conference on Saturday, “The future is either federalism or another referendum – either way, the UK state is dead.”

So you heard it, it’s the old, now they’ve done it, and scared us shitless, let us make sure we never have to take laxatives again. After all, that motion promised in the vow courtesy of the Daily Record for the 19th of September was a day late.

3. We’ve got the Welsh and the Irish wanting more straws

As Iain McWhirter writes in the latest edition of the Sunday Herald: “Voters here were handed a gun to shoot themselves with it. But the gun backfired. It turned a crisis for Scotland into a crisis for the UK state. The entire UK is now in a condition of constitutional ferment, with regions and nations demanding autonomy.”

The Welsh first minister telling the Labour conference to extend home rule to Wales and Northern Ireland, Cameron’s talk of “English votes for English laws” stirring up a hornets nest left, right and centre, and Lib/Lab/Con put under pressure to deliver both the Scottish promise and grant similar pledges across the board as a matter of principle, with Nigel Farage smugly shaking his head at the whole motley crew whilst rubbing his hands with glee from the sidelines , there doesn’t seem to be much hope for this stable, secure, all encompassing Union.

4. We gave David Cameron stomach ulcers, for which he plans to sue.

In the famous video where Cameron divulges his latest conversation with the Queen, A.K.A Catwoman’s granny, involving a surprising amount of feline behaviour from an 88 year old monarch (or maybe that’s just what Dave thinks of her), the prime minister of Britain also reveals his gripe with the polling companies: “I’ve said I want to find these polling companies and I want to sue them for my stomach ulcers because of what they’ve put me through. It was very nervous moments.”

 

5. We also helped David Cameron reveal his true feelings concerning his Queen.

No comment. Most of us are still trying to get over this little sweetheart

6. Labour is toast. Jam, anyone?

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Labour MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne Begg, No-campaigning with Dave McDonald, leader of the National Front for Scotland.

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Ed forgets some of his speech...guess which part

Ed forgets some of his speech…guess which part

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7. After picking the short straw, things are starting to look up for Scotland. To incredible lengths. You may be surprised.

And so the biggest asset won in the aftermath of this bloodless battle, something that no amount of oil or whiskey or nuclear arms deals could ever hope to counter; the Scots themselves.

That cheeky one-liner from Edward Longshanks in the film Braveheart ironically sums up Scotland’s situation-and Westminster’s predicament.

Yes. Real live Scots. Our former political apathy went to the winds, as 97% of Scottish citizens registered to vote in the referendum, and over 80% of us actually did it. Which effectively constitutes the biggest voter turnout in the whole of British history.

To those of you still disillusioned with the whole debacle, think about what that means for a minute. Reflect on exactly which kind of fearless, northerly, Irn-Bru fuelled force this referendum has galvanised.

It means we are the problem for Westminster and the solution to it.

It means that the 37,228 new members that the SNP has gained in the last five days, and the 3000 that the Green party has, are all numbers that do not smack of those who have easily accepted defeat and now pledge to be subservient to a stagnant system which just over more than half of their countrymen and women chose to vote for.

It means that the genie is out of the bottle, to quote the phrase most widely used to describe the sudden and magnanimous surge in political involvement in Scotland in the last few days, a positive and radical continuation of the pre-referendum landscape, and though we have come to accept the outcome of a democratic vote, we will not go quietly into the night.

This much is clear, in both in the grassroots pro-independence groups such as National Collective and Generation Yes among others, and the pro-independence parties, SSP, SNP and the Green party. Whether its talk between the parties of forming an alliance and run collectively in the next general election or the creation emergence of a new alternative media by pro Indy groups, the will of the Scots, and that includes the will of the people who invested every sinew of their being for the last two years and more into campaigning for Scotland’s self rule, will not stay unheeded, it will not go to waste, and we shall not be swayed by the rhetoric of Darling, straw, Lamont, Cameron and their ilk.

And thus, these are the things we have gained and the things that are now set in motion.

These are the things that should lift the weight from our hearts, and heal the bruises on our butterfly-winged souls, because the butterfly rebellion was never more significant and relevant than it is now. We are still here. We are still breathing, our minds whirring, our hearts beating, our wings ready to launch us up into awesome heights. The kind of heights that those in whitehall couldn’t possibly be expected to imagine- it was never in the job description.

And perhaps it can be said with almost certainty that in persuading/scaring many Scots into voting No, especially the senior citizens, Westminster and its cronies in the established media started something they cannot hope to finish without facing immense opposition from those it dared to wrong.

Perhaps we can then say, with open hearts, and open minds, that Westminster has just orchestrated the demise of its own beloved “union”, as Peter Arnott so wittily points out“And, as it looks to me this Sunday night, they might be doing a better demolition job on this blessed Union of Nations than we ever dreamed of. And doing it even faster than we had in mind.”

 

And now we must come to the negative aspect.

As columnist Iain McWhirter writes in last Sunday’s issue of the Sunday Herald, “The challenge for Scotland after the Independence referendum is to realise what they have won, which is more difficult.”

 

The new self-styled “the45” movement/hashtag/group, which has come to the fore on social media, representing the 45% of Scots who voted Yes to independence.

It strikes of prolonged mourning, the inability of someone to let go of their dead relative’s corpse. And though I understand absolutely why it came into being, and that there must be a time for grieving just as there is a time for rejoicing, I cannot help but think that it has gone on long enough.

And it only became more ridiculous and pitiful after the announcement that all those corporations and businesses that expressed their allegiance to Better Together and its ideology in some form or another were to be ‘punished’ in the form of boycotts by the 45% that voted Yes.

I will explain exactly why it is unrealistic, ridiculous, and morbid.

Among the many things listed as targets for boycott on social media, are various media outlets like the Daily Record and the BBC.

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A. If we stop consuming all the media that we perceive as being biased, then one might as well never read or watch any source of news again-all outlets are biased, that includes the Sunday Herald-it is just biased in our favour. In other words, this kind of thinking does not strike at the root of the problem.

The problem was never that the BBC was biased, a fact that anyone who has watched and understood the mainstream long enough can see. It was that too many fell for it, and continue to fall for it. That it was trusted, and still is by many, and mainstream media in general, as a source of veracity. It’s almost laughable in the 21st century if it wasn’t so painfully true for the majority of the citizenry of the developed world.

What one needs is to consume all media even what is touted as the “British Biased Corporation”, as well as alternative media, to gain a broader-and fairer, more concise-understanding of world affairs. News literacy is the key issue that many of those, in their blind anger and disgust at the BBC, something I understand and sympathise with completely, are failing to recognise

This time it was us who felt the punch, but we must take care to remember that there are people all over the world, whether in Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe and elsewhere that are stripped down daily by the monolithic, war mongering, elite pandering establishment that is the fifth estate, in front of our eyes, as the news of their lives are reduced to statistics, or unambiguous actors in the Good vs Evil paradigm.

Towards this kind of media mischaracterisation, we don’t bat an eyelid. We don’t flinch or think what effect it must have for so many to be dehumanised for so long and with such zeal. All that needs to change, of course.

B. Boycotts are not an end, or the aim. They are the means to an end-which as yet, seems undefined.

As far as boycotts and movements who adopt this kind of tactic are concerned, it takes an awful long time for something, if anything to happen-and that’s only if one sticks to it for a certain period of time.

Do you want people to change their bank accounts? Take a possibly longer and more expensive route to work everyday?

This is ineffective precisely because it will peter eventually – it is impossible to uphold something that requires effort without specifying exactly what you are fighting for. Because beside the vague statement that these institutions, big business and corporations will be “punished” for their unethical behaviour during the campaign, by such tactics, that remains unspecified.

And it’s unfair. Remember, we are a first world nation that still requires food banks. A country where a fifth of our people live below the poverty line, 47% of children in Glasgow, and one in five children throughout Scotland. Not everyone can financially afford such ‘resolve’ for a cause that remains a mystery. What exactly will a few thousand or hundred people boycotting M&S achieve?

C. If you want to boycott something, do something that will make a difference-in other words, something that will achieve a specific aim constructive to what an Independent Scotland meant for many.

And an independent Scotland was about a fairer, more equal society, that embraced the diversity and talent of the people , and looked after its weary, its old and its poor. A society that took a clean break from the capitalism-on-steroids that has become the rest of the UK’s favorite fix, and strived for something more conscious and healthy for the betterment of society. And that doesn’t necessarily imply socialism, but a reform of the current system.

So boycott. Labour, the party that threw their traditional values of equality and care of the vulnerable straight out of the window and joined with the Conservatives (and the National Front, and UKIP) in their campaign of fear and deception.

Because doing that truly will make a difference, as a member of the electorate. You know that yourself, if you voted in the referendum. Join the 37,228 people who have joined the SNP in the last week alone-many of them hailing from traditional Labour families, a tradition that stops right here-putting it at a strong 62,870 and making this Scotland based party the third biggest party UK wide, its members comprising 1% of Scotland, and one in ninety Scots.

Boycott ignorance and become literate in the way the media works, instead of closing one’s eyes to that which does not appeal to your philosophy.

Boycott bigotry and the lack of critical thinking. Boycott hate and bile and hearsay and embrace love and understanding and documented primary source data.

So who am I to say any of this? Why should anyone listen to me?

There’s no reason.

I am 19 years old. I am a student, at college, of journalism. I was a first time voter in the referendum. I was born in England and spent just under half of my life there, the rest of it in Scotland, and I am neither ethnically Anglo or Celtic or any kind of white European, something that may cause a few to retort that I have no legitimate voice in this debate.

But I voted Yes. I am a citizen of this country. My greatest desire is to be known as Scottish. And I love this land. I would die for it. And I refuse to be demonised-as those of my ethnicity often are -by the mainstream media, once again but from a new angle; as a rabid ‘fascist’ nationalist.

I only speak for myself when I say I was completely heartbroken when the verdict was clear as the results tumbled in, the margin widening and hope crumbling before my very eyes. The crack increased as I wondered into George Square the morning after the results, eyes still sore from complete lack of sleep and numbing tears, and witnessed the taut faces and downcast mien of every person that I passed in Glasgow’s city centre, through Buchanan street and beyond, coming to rest in a small, funeral like gathering in what was to be Independence square.

The heavy dullness as the sky wept with Glasgow and Dundee and West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire – four out of the six poorest regions of Scotland, the four that all yelled aye, we want change, and we need it the most – was all the more magnified as a lone bagpiper began a melancholy rendition of Flower of Scotland in the middle of Buchanan street, the tears that it prompted to sparkle in the eyes of many who had gathered there a reflection of the joy that could have been in an alternate reality.

But that was and is our reality.

And we’ve wept. And we’ve screamed. And we’ve been childish.

And now it’s time to grow up and make it better, and ourselves better, and this country better, without compromising on our principles.

So, I refuse to be a victim, while at the same time refuse to bow down to Darling and his grey-suited, tie-clad brethren, and I refuse to indulge in the corpse of what could have been.

And I refuse to stay cushioned inside this suffocating cocoon of boycotts and Yes badges and the 45% – a small number, a mean number and a number that outweighs everything that already has been and will be-with our sweat and tears- achieved. And let us not sit back and let the SNP or Nicola Sturgeon or the already established pro-independence organisations, whether affiliated with political parties or not, do the talking. Because for every word they talk, we should be doing.

So, on a lighter note, what do you say folks? Perhaps it is time we spread our wings, and our imagination, our skills, our intellect, our knowledge, our talent, over the whole of Scotland.

Perhaps it’s time for the Butterfly Rebellion: Take Two.

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Dr Richard Rooke: news and policy development in the EU........ Photography and artwork are original ©Richard Rooke.........Does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this commentary, and has no relevant corporate affiliations.......... At present, working at HWR Berlin School of Economics and Law on International Security and European Union issues including trans-national agency work and the media.