Friday, July 28, 2017

Why should a citizen exercising his legal rights cause a "schism"?

As a result of last night's bizarre episode, I was left with little option but to block another batch of 'trendy Yessers' on Twitter, so perhaps now I have even less to lose by saying what I think about the latest controversy related to Wings.  I am, to put it mildly, a bit bemused by the suggestion that Stuart Campbell is causing a "schism" in the Yes movement simply by seeking legal redress.  If a schism occurs over this (and I don't think it will), it'll happen because some people have lost their sense of perspective about Stuart to such an extent that they feel he shouldn't be able to exercise his basic legal rights.  In the first instance, this is a private matter between Stuart and Kezia Dugdale as individuals.  But, in order to bring a legal action against Ms Dugdale, Stuart requires funds.  Some people have sufficient private means to go to court, but those that don't have to seek alternative methods.  There is nothing illegitimate in the method Stuart has selected.  On the face of it, it's very hard to see why anyone thinks they have a right to be angry about what he's done so far.

It seems to me the subtext of the complaints (and for the most part it is only a subtext) is that Stuart is 'obviously' guilty of homophobia, and that the court action is compounding it - in other words that taking Ms Dugdale to court is in itself a form of homophobia.  That's getting into very dangerous territory, and it will come back to bite people if a judge decides that Stuart is not homophobic and was defamed.  It may be a different story if the opposite verdict is reached, but that's a very big 'if', and at the moment too many people are putting the cart before the horse.

My own personal view is that what Stuart said about David Mundell was extremely hurtful but not homophobic.  The comment would have been particularly wounding because it went to the heart of the experience of gay men in a society that doesn't accept them - ie. not being able to be true to themselves to such an extent that they might find a life partner of the opposite sex and start a family with them.  It also arguably implied that any children that result from such a relationship 'shouldn't have happened', which is profoundly insulting for the individuals involved.  But that's the point - it was insulting and hurtful for the individuals.  To have crossed the boundary and actually become homophobic, I believe the comment would have had to say that society is/was right not to be accepting of gay relationships, and in fact it did the complete opposite.

The other justification for the "schism" argument is that Stuart is demanding support for his case as a "test of loyalty".  As far as I can see, that's wholly untrue.  He was irritated by attacks on him from the direction of CommonSpace, largely because he had strongly backed that website's editor in her dispute with the Sunday Herald and felt he deserved better as a result.  But 'deserving better' does not necessarily mean active support - it could have just meant the absence of a rather gratuitous savaging. The idea that Stuart is trying to set himself up as some kind of overlord of the Yes movement is...well, it's a pretty obvious straw man.

More inspiring civility from our friends on the radical left...

It's genuinely quite disconcerting when half a dozen people you don't know from Adam suddenly launch a downright nasty, childish tag-team attack on you on Twitter for no apparent reason.  These are people who clearly know all about me, hold very strong views about me, some of which appears to go all the way back to Christmas when I wrote a satirical poem that was a bit too close to the bone for some people on the radical left.  And yet during all of those months of them nursing such a bitter personal grievance, I heard nothing from them, leaving me unaware of their existence.  Then suddenly it all explodes in the space of a few minutes.  Why?

Having thought about it, I've come to the strange conclusion that this was a pre-planned trolling operation.  I think a few radical left activists got together after seeing me ask an inconvenient question, and decided it was my turn to get a playground monstering.  In my view this sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable, but I'm not holding my breath for the self-appointed Civility Police on the radical left to actually condemn it - as they would do in an instant if it was coming in the opposite direction.

Utterly bizarre.  If anyone has a clue who Richard and his chums are (there was also someone called Rachel McCormack), and what their agenda is, please do enlighten me.

UPDATE: I am reliably informed that Rachel McCormack is "a slightly contrarian, Scottish nationalist food and whisky writer" who has hated my guts for some time, even though she gets me mixed up with my Labour MSP namesake.  You learn something new every night.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

#50YearsLegal (except for readers in Scotland)

As you probably know, today is the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexual sex between men in England and Wales.  It was part of a sweeping range of 'permissive' reforms introduced during the Labour government of 1964-70, which also included the relaxation of divorce law, the legalisation of abortion, and the abolition of the death penalty (except for treason).  The changes were so swift and transformative that it's hard to understand why Harold Wilson isn't remembered as one of the Prime Ministers who 'changed the weather', in the same way that Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher are.  Probably the answer would be that the reforms were generally 'matters of conscience' that the government didn't directly take the lead on, but nevertheless it's hard to dispute that most of them wouldn't have happened, or at least not so quickly, if Wilson hadn't led Labour to overall majorities in 1964 and 1966.

In Scotland, of course, homosexual sex between men remained illegal until 1980.  It's not uncommon for southern commentators to use that delay as evidence of Scotland being a more backward country than the rest of the UK.  To which there is a very obvious and indisputable reply - Scotland did not have self-government until July 1999.  The decision was taken for us by an English-dominated parliament in London.  Yes, the point can be made that Westminster imagined it was taking into account different societal attitudes in Scotland, and perhaps a different mindset among the Scottish legal establishment.  But the fact remains that if Scotland had been in possession of its own elected parliament and government in the 1960s, our representatives might well have decided not to be a slave to prejudice but instead to lead public opinion, just as decades later Wendy Alexander took a lead on the repeal of Section 28, and Jack McConnell took a lead on a smoking ban in public places.

Scotland can't be held responsible for something over which it had no power.  All that can be accurately said is that "the British Parliament, for whatever reason, decided to keep homosexual sex illegal in Scotland for more than a decade after it had been decriminalised in England and Wales".

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Next time we're going to party like it's 1987

Stormfront Lite is beside itself with excitement this afternoon about a Populus analysis suggesting that the SNP would lose all but six of its seats at the next UK general election if it found itself tied with both Labour and the Tories on 30% of the popular vote.  (Labour would have thirty seats and the Tories would have eighteen.)  The problem here is not so much that the analysis is wrong (although it might well be - how the votes for each party would be geographically distributed can only be guesswork), but rather that the scenario it's based on is pretty implausible, and therefore not nearly as interesting as is being made out.  Even now, when we have a reasonably tight three-way battle, it looks like the Tories have slipped to third place, and it's very hard to imagine a situation in the foreseeable future in which they'll by vying for the outright lead or even for parity.

Much more likely is that 2017 will prove to be Peak Tory, and that Conservative support in places like the North-East is going to gradually - or perhaps not so gradually - drop back as the realisation hits home that Tory voters were actually voting to help keep a dire Westminster government in power, rather than for the Ruth Davidson Strong Opposition We Said No And We Meant No Party.  If that happens, it's difficult to see how the SNP aren't going to regain seats from the Tories, even if they're locked in a tight battle with Labour nationally - or indeed even if Labour move into a clear lead.  What we could see is a repeat, albeit on a more dramatic scale, of what happened in 1987, when the SNP lost two seats to Labour, but made up for that with three spectacular gains from the Tories.

That translated into a net increase in overall SNP representation - whether we'd be so lucky this time is debatable given that there's much more to lose to Labour than there was three decades ago.  But predictions of one-way traffic against the SNP just don't pass the smell test.  The Tory surge of 2017 may have been much smaller than the SNP surge of 2015, but the two are probably pretty similar in the sense that they were both relatively sudden, were caused by very specific short-term circumstances, and perhaps involved voters who didn't have any real depth of commitment to their new party.  I expect the tide to recede for the Tories at the next general election, and the party ideally-placed to benefit from that is the SNP.  There is no other credible challenger in the vast majority of Tory-held seats.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Has Colonel Ruth FALLEN OFF HER TANK? Another day, another third place for the Scottish Tories

In the continued absence of any full-scale Scottish polling, arguably the most meaningful guide to the state of play is the Scottish subsamples of YouGov's GB-wide polls - the reason being that YouGov are the only firm that claims to weight their Scottish samples separately.  (And, indeed, the figures they produce tend to be more stable than other firms.)  The third post-election YouGov poll has now been released, and the Scottish subsample has the SNP narrowly ahead: SNP 33%, Labour 29%, Conservatives 27%, Liberal Democrats 7%, UKIP 2%, BNP 2%.

Of course, even properly-weighted subsamples have extremely high margins of error, but that problem can be reduced by looking at an average of all three YouGov subsamples since June 8th, which produces the following figures: SNP 33.3%, Labour 32.0%, Conservatives 25.7%, Liberal Democrats 5.7%.

That confirms the general impression of subsamples from across the polling industry, ie. that it's a very tight three-way battle, but that the SNP are probably just about still in the lead, Labour have probably moved up to second place, and the Tories have probably slipped back to third.  There have now been thirteen Scottish subsamples from various firms since the election - eight have put the SNP ahead, four have put Labour ahead, and only one has put the Tories in front.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Logic problems

I'm confused, and I'm wondering if you can help me out.

We've been repeatedly told over the last few days that people are "damaging the Yes movement" by criticising Cat Boyd for voting Labour.

Implicit in that reproach is that people can and should be called out if they do anything to damage the Yes movement.

A prominent Yes activist declaring her "pride" in voting for a rabidly anti-independence party is self-evidently damaging for the Yes movement.  It makes independence less likely.  It makes an independence referendum less likely.

Isn't it therefore logical that such a person should be called out for damaging the Yes movement?

What am I missing here?