In her parting shot about me after the blocking, Mhairi made two complaints - firstly that it was a "poor show" for me to mention her without advance warning, and secondly that the namecheck had led to her being harassed by others, including by one who called her a "Britnat plant". Call me cynical, but I have to say I am extremely doubtful as to whether Mhairi would have been any happier if I had sent her an email in advance - I think she just doesn't want to be mentioned without permission, knows that there's no particular reason why she shouldn't be, and is therefore scrabbling around for some plausible-sounding technical objection to the way it was done. I haven't asked other bloggers whether they usually give advance warning to elected politicians about forthcoming criticisms, but I will openly admit that it isn't my own personal practice to send a telegram to Downing Street or the White House every time I make a comment about Theresa May or Donald Trump. I'll keep that policy under review, but I do think it would get a bit tedious for all concerned.
If for the sake of argument there is a valid point of etiquette here, by definition that would mean personal criticisms in a blogpost must somehow be qualitatively different from personal criticisms on social media, because Mhairi and others who have objected to being named on this blog have no qualms whatsoever about criticising others on Twitter without prior notification. (And I can say that with confidence, because over the years I've been on the receiving end of occasional snide comments from Mhairi on Twitter that I only found out about by chance later on - indeed that happened most recently just a few hours ago.) So is the implication that a blogpost is "properly published" in a way that a tweet isn't? I have to say I can't see it. Twitter now provides viewing stats, and I've learned that my most popular tweets regularly generate more impressions than my blogposts. Tweets may feel casual and disposable, but a personal criticism in a tweet is just as likely to be read by a large number of people, and just as likely to remain visible indefinitely, as a personal criticism in a blogpost.
As for me supposedly being indirectly responsible for a Twitter pile-on, for that to be a credible point you'd have to believe that it was somehow disproportionate for me to draw attention to Mhairi's approving words about Joyce McMillan's article. But I'm afraid that it's impossible to sustain the idea that it wasn't newsworthy or noteworthy that an elected SNP politician endorsed an article that suggested an independence referendum should be put on the backburner for up to two decades, thus ripping up a flagship manifesto pledge. I could have mentioned Mhairi, I could have mentioned Andrew Wilson, I could have mentioned one or two other politicians who endorsed the article. But it self-evidently wouldn't have been disproportionate whichever name I had cited. As a blogger I don't see why I have some sort of duty to hush up 'sensitive' tweets posted by elected representatives. And yes, if those tweets reach a wider audience, people will react to them, and some people will react in a highly inappropriate way - but ultimately other individuals are responsible for their own words and actions. I have no intention of tying myself up in knots trying to predict what the knock-on effect might be every time I make a perfectly reasonable point in a blogpost.
To return to the substance of the dispute, I saw Mhairi being challenged yesterday about the dubious claim that a consultative referendum would be "illegal". Oddly, her reply was that it didn't really matter whether it would be technically legal or not. She said that what people were really getting at was that any referendum that the UK government didn't agree to would be functionally illegal, because Scotland can only become independent if London recognises a referendum result as valid. I can't make head nor tail of that point. The whole purpose of a consultative referendum would be to pressurise London into coming to the negotiating table by demonstrating that there is a mandate for independence. If it's possible to apply that pressure legally rather than illegally, of course that's not a technical or meaningless distinction.
And I've been thinking some more about Joyce McMillan's claim that independence has to wait until "consensus" and "harmony" have been established, in much the same way that devolution had to wait two decades after 1979. It's worth remembering that SNP, Labour and Liberal/SDP politicians of the 1980s did not recognise any need to wait - they were all trying to establish a Scottish Parliament as soon as possible. It would be interesting to know whether Joyce McMillan and Mhairi Hunter, if they could time-travel and go back to the 1983 or 1987 election campaigns, would advise opposition politicians to "cool your jets, let Thatcher do her worst, don't try to take any action for another 15 years".
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