Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Club Bonanza

I know we all love our anecdotes about finding Yes voters in unexpected places, so I thought you might enjoy this one.  For the last four years or so, I've been going to the monthly meetings of a book club - in fact, I think I may have been on my way there when I suffered my excruciating pain/Wendy Alexander incident a couple of years ago.  It's exactly how you'd picture a book club - predominantly female and middle-class.  It also tends to attract newcomers to the area who are looking for something to do and to meet new people, so there's always a significant minority of people from south of the border, and a few from further afield - before I even joined, a Korean woman who I was briefly friends with went to a couple of meetings, and since then there have been people from Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.

There's a nomination-followed-by-vote system to decide which books to read each month, and at some point last year I found myself casting a decisive vote in favour of Dominion by C. J. Samson.  I'm vaguely interested in history, so the idea of a speculative alternative history of the Second World War's aftermath appealed to me - but, alas, I was blissfully unaware that a large chunk of the book is made up of deeply offensive "the SNP would have collaborated with the Nazis" propaganda, and that Samson is one of the No campaign's fabulously wealthy donors.  I was intensely irritated with myself when I found out, if only because my vote had indirectly led to Samson selling another 20-odd copies of his book, thus subsidising a tiny bit of his bloody donation!

Luckily, though, I had a chance to cancel out my mistake at the end of last month's meeting, because someone nominated A People's History of Scotland, written by Yes supporter Chris Bambery.  So I voted for it, and thankfully that was again a vote that swung the balance.  The meeting to discuss the book was earlier this evening.  I went along knowing there would probably be a debate about the referendum, and also fully expecting that I would find myself in a tiny minority as a Yes voter.  But I couldn't have been more wrong - person after person identified themselves as favouring Yes, including one who turned out to be an active campaigner.  There was one man who spoke from an Old Left viewpoint, and who kept using the dread word "separation", but even he concluded by saying that his views had moved on and that, at the very least, he wouldn't be voting No.  It got to the stage where it was so one-sided that the assistant organiser appealed for a contribution from anyone who is voting No, and at that point a couple of people who had been keeping quiet made the case against independence (doubtless Martin Boon would interpret that as compelling evidence of Shy No Syndrome!).  But at the end, a quick vote was held, and there was a clear majority for Yes.

Colour me astonished.  I'm inclined to say that if we can win among a demographic like that, we can win absolutely anywhere.  But I know life is rarely that simple...


  1. What they just read may have helped somewhat.

    What is it that people always say? The uninformed are planning to vote no, the informed are planning to vote yes.

  2. On Sunday I was feeling a bit miserable. Why are the polls not moving and all that. I was sitting in my garden in the sun, being grumpy.

    Monday evening I went to a meeting in a friend's house, to plan an event in the village nearer the referendum date. Also showed up, to my astonishment, was my neighbour across the garden fence from where I'd been sitting that afternoon. Complete with a folder of printouts of useful articles, and a page-long list of web sites she reads every day (including NNS, Wings, Bella, Biz for Scotland, NC as well as the more official ones).

    I gave her a few more good sites, including Scot Goes Pop, so if you're reading this, hi Elsie.

    A couple of people at the meeting ventured the opinion that there were very few Yes voters in the village, that we were virtually on our own. I don't think we'll win a majority here, but I don't think they're right about the Yes vote being very low. I'm getting a lot more smiles than frowns when I deliver the Yes newspapers. And I forgot to tell Elsie that her neighbour on the other side came out as a Yes to me when I was delivering the last edition.

  3. I heard a friend of a friend's book club was also surprisingly pro independence. Maybe it's the same book club!

  4. It's not just book clubs, it's art clubs, dance classes, social clubs, and all manner of hobbyist gatherings, meetings and social events.

    That's what grass roots means, and make no mistake, there is a huge wellspring there that you can only get a flavour of when you interact with those communities.

    It's where the No campaign are in deep, deep trouble as they don't seem to have realised just how powerful word of mouth and community still is in scotland.

    I would obviously prefer it if the polls were all superb for Yes but the fact of the matter is that even if all the polls show No ahead Yes can still win.

    James does an excellent job analysing the polls and I am not one of those who discounts all polling. (though I assure you there are many campaigning on the ground who do simply because they are so out of kilter with their own experience.) There is however no reason whatsoever to think the polls will remain as they are and the referendum is set in stone this far out.

    Finally I'd point out that when it comes down to the actual vote scots will be given a chance to make history. Not passively stand by and watch historic events on TV, but actually make a momentous decision that they can point to for the rest of their lives and say - "I was there. I helped make a historic choice that will decide the destiny of my country for me, my children and my grandchildren."

    Never underestimate just how powerful a force that will be at the ballot box.

  5. A determined No of my acquaintance read Stephen Maxwell's book at her book club in Morningside. She's one of these hippyish, can't we all be friends types. Totally changed her mind and is now a Yes. It's happening everywhere. That's why it's called a grassroots movement, have heard so many stories of folk moving from No to Yes but so far none in the other direction.

  6. By some kind of astonishing coincidence the BBC's Radio 4 programme "PM" will be featuring an interview with C.J. Samson on his moronic Dominion 'book' tomorrow.

    I think your blog may well be reaching the same kind of wider audience that Wings is now James. ;)

    On twit reshuffle news, you would need a heart of stone not to laugh at Gove getting demoted to chief whip. The out of touch tory cheerleaders still don't appear to have grasped the main reasons why though. Obviously Gove is deeply unpopular. He is a twit of epic proportions even among a tory cabinet full of them. But the spin that it was Lynton Crosby's polling that was behind Gove getting demoted is hardly the whole story. You can't swing a cat in the cabinet without finding someone deeply unpopular. It's gotten so bad the tory spinners are pretending dire ratings and even negative ratings are good as long as they are slightly better than other dire ratings.

    No, what did for Gove was two things. His spads who were endlessly briefing against Cammie and everyone else and Gove himself getting uppity.

    Who can forget this hilarious career suicide by Gove?

    Gove attacks 'preposterous' number of Old Etonians in Cameron's cabinet


    Sorry Gove old bean, but you don't attack the chumocracy like that and expect to get away with it.


    Hence Gove being on Cammie's shit list from then on.

    There was also the small matter of Gove and Theresa May's furious and very public row which was barely concealed positioning for the tory leadership after Cammie.

    Stuff like that just won't do Gove old chap. Know your place Gove!