Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Am I genetically programmed to review last night's Sturgeon v Lamont debate? Let's find out!

Derek Bateman's verdict was : "If there's been a worse 'debate' anywhere, I missed it."  To which the obvious response is : "You missed the one with Anas Sarwar, then?"

Of course it was dreadful, but it was hard not to sigh in despair when STV's Bernard Ponsonby of all people made a sanctimonious comment about "learning nothing from that".  These debates are the way they are because of the format that STV have consciously chosen.  The one with Sarwar was lambasted by one and all as a totally pointless exercise in which the only winner was indecipherable noise (hilariously punctuated with the odd random intelligible word from Sarwar such as "PANDAS!"), and yet STV clearly reflected on what happened that night and decided it was exactly what they wanted.  They're not interested in a sober format that helps to inform undecided voters, but in a bear-pit that excites political anoraks and creates the biggest possible social media buzz.

When the debate has effectively been destroyed (as it was both last night and in the one featuring Sarwar), by definition there isn't going to be a "knock-out winner", only someone who won on points.  Nicola Sturgeon was undoubtedly that winner, and although Ponsonby and his fellow pundit Colin Mackay did seem to just about concede that, I found the grudging nature of their verdict incomprehensible.  Yes, Lamont may have held her own in terms of demeanour, but don't we (at least occasionally) have to assess the actual content of what someone says?  Lamont's arguments were the stuff of the playground - how often did she say something like "but that's not your reason for wanting independence, you wanted independence BEFORE that".  Which basically translates as "that can't be your reason because you've got OTHER reasons as well".  Yes, Johann, most of us want independence for at least two reasons.  Some of us have more than five.  Crazy but true.

Probably the most satisfying moment of the night was when Lamont moronically suggested that the abolition of Trident wasn't Sturgeon's reason for wanting independence (yup, you've guessed it, because she wanted independence BEFORE that), and Sturgeon pointed out that she had joined CND before the SNP.  Lamont was momentarily struck dumb, before pathetically trying to rescue the situation by asking Sturgeon what her point was.

And I'm sorry, but how can anyone say that Lamont debated well when she waffled endlessly about extremely vague potential methods by which Trident can be got rid of without independence, and then failed to answer a direct question about whether she even wants to get rid of Trident or not?  It was Alice Through the Looking Glass stuff.

The classic line of the night that will echo down the ages was of course Lamont's mind-boggling "Scots are not genetically programmed to make decisions".  I presume what she meant (although I probably shouldn't be trying to get her off the hook here) is that Scots are not the only people capable of making decisions - from which we're supposed to conclude that it therefore doesn't matter who makes our decisions for us, or what those decisions are.  Decisions are decisions!  I can see how that might look like a fabulous point to a Primary 2 audience, but surely Ponsonby ought to have been raising at least one eyebrow?

It doesn't matter whether Holyrood or Westminster makes the decisions, you "still have to make the case" against things like the Bedroom Tax, Lamont tells us.  Well yes, of course you do.  It's just that it's a hell of a lot easier to make that case in a parliament that is 80% composed of opponents of the Bedroom Tax than it is in a parliament that is 60% composed of supporters of the Bedroom Tax.  Does Johann think Scotland would be in more danger of ending up with capital punishment being put back on the statute book if we were in political union with Texas than if we were in political union with Sweden?  "It doesn't matter, you still have to make the case against it!"  Jesus, give me strength.

Ponsonby and Mackay may think that Sturgeon only came out on top narrowly, but for those of us who inhabit the real world and are willing to form a judgement on the content of what was actually said, I think it was more like this -

Nicola Sturgeon (pro-independence) 7/10
Johann Lamont (anti-independence) 4/10

And Sturgeon is only as low as 7 because it was literally impossible for her to make her points at times due to the wall of noise - I'm struggling to see how anyone could have done any better in the circumstances.  The debates will only improve in quality when STV start placing their public service commitments ahead of their viewing figures.

Final thought : when Johann Lamont repeatedly asked Sturgeon if she was capable of taking "no" for an answer on the currency union, it occurred to me that this was as much a squeal of pain as it was an attack line.  The No campaign evidently thought that their opponents would be rattled by the coordinated announcement on the currency, but the calmness with which the Scottish government have stuck to their original stance (while taking no hit whatever in the opinion polls) has led to a few heads being scratched over at McDougall Central.  I still think that the SNP will eventually have to flesh out the most likely alternative to a formal currency union, but on reflection I think they've been entirely right to take their sweet old time about it.


  1. It is clearly a Labour tactic to switch off the voters' interest by disrupting the debate. They know they can't win by reasoned argument so they have chosen to engender apathy in the hope that lack of interest will lead to people sticking with the status quo.

  2. Thankfully I did not watch it. Holebender is correct about the No tactics. STV have to take the blame for adopting that format. What we need is a public debate in the mode of the NATO debate at the 2012 Conference.

  3. The Moderator was incompetent allowing Lamont to create a wall of sensless noise. Sturgeon made quite a fair fist of it ,for a woman who could bearly get a word in ..Lamonts refusal to engage left me with no understanding of why she feels I should vote No..unless her reason is blind fear

  4. Lamont's theory of genetics was an interesting one. Does it apply only to Scots in Scotland or to people from elsewhere who have moved here? Does everyone's genetic programming change when they leave Scotland? It's interesting that if I move to Berwick I will be, according to the Lamont Hypothesis, genetically programmed to make political decisions, but not if I pop over to Eyemouth. I'm not sure which school of genetics Ms Lamont is a follower of.

  5. There was no winner in last night's programme least of all the undecided voter. As for the moderator, words fail me.

  6. I tuned in right in the middle but had to switch off again after 10 minutes...this was unbearable. I guess Rona Dougall should be sacked immediately for not providing any kind of moderation but allowing the whole thing to disintegrate into silly catfight.
    Though I too saw Nicola as the winner here, I think she wasted a good chance to convince undecided voters by just keeping a bit calmer. Even if you have the better arguments, being seen to be a shouting hyena is not the best way to serve your cause.
    I hope this doesn't set the precedence for the rest of the independence debate, which deserves better (whatever the outcome on Sep 18 will be).

  7. I thought it was just a screaming match, was not impressed at all.

  8. Politics was the loser here. And blaming the formats and the moderator just relieves the speakers of any responsibility to behave like civilised people. In the bits I could bare to watch, Nicola was every bit as bad as Joanne at not letting her opponent speak having asked a question. I'd be properly impressed by someone who manages to respectfully listened to views they don't agree with before putting their own killer points.

  9. I don't think that's realistic - you have to factor in what your opponent is going to do, and if the format allows them to kill your ability to make your point, the chances are they will. All you can do is get your retaliation in so that they don't walk all over you.

    The format is undoubtedly to blame, and this is not the norm - in most election debates, participants simply wouldn't be allowed to talk over each other like that.

  10. The issue of money is not going away; for a discussion of what it is, try

  11. Mistook the web address in a previous anon post-

    the url below offers-a brief definition of what money is which I hope explains why the No campaign has it all wrong

  12. Hey James I think this will interest you!

    A Panelbase poll, commissioned by the SNP, shows that 30% of the respondents say they are now LESS likely to vote Labour as a result of Ed Balls joining Osborne in the currency plot.

    7% (tory voters) say they would be more likely to vote Labour.

    Better still IMO...18% of Labour voters say they are now less likely to vote Labour!

    A Labour 'Own Goal' that is up there with Richard Goughs all time embarrassment at Ibrox against Motherwell haha.


  13. One solution could be to turn off their microphone after their go at the question or answer