Tuesday 7 April 2015

Are the Media Fawning Over the SNP?

Are they? Nicky Tyrone seems to think so. Well, to be absolutely accurate he's talking about the left wing media here. Continuing our exacting theme, while his piece asks about "the left media's worship of the SNP", he qualifies this by noting "the slightly pro-SNP slant of the left of centre media". Idolatry vs a qualified welcome. Hmmm. Furthermore, the bloody, quivering slab of evidence backing up his position is ... a single article by Zoe Williams. Double hmmm.

I'm not about to offer a content analysis of our centre left press friends at The Graun, Indy, or Mirror. Let's take the Labour-supporting tabloid. Here are a couple of pieces faithfully reproducing the Labour narrative about SNP votes and Tory backdoors. Meanwhile The Graun flags up Nicola Sturgeon's anti-austerity credentials and publishes her offer to Ed Miliband to keep the Tories from darkening Number 10's door ever again. The Indy offers matter of fact reporting on all these. So, in the grand scheme of things, centre left coverage is somewhat balanced - though in the real world far more pairs of eyes get to read what The Mirror says than The Graun.

Not that I'm going to apologise for the SNP. Like Nicky I am as opposed to the project of a separate Scotland as much as a resurgent British, or English nationalism. It is the most pernicious kind of us vs themism, a set of fictions disseminated consciously and unconsciously by the ideas factories of states, institutions, media, parties and movements, and good old commonsense. It's a politics seeking salvation by separating one set of people out from another. In its rightist forms, best exemplified by UKIP, it's blaming problems on the presence of Johnny Foreigner. In the SNP's case, at least in its current social democratic incarnation, the neoliberal power centres in London and the English voters who return governments craven before those interests are stopping Scotland from building a fairer society. As someone who holds a candle for labour movements and the pursuit of common interests cutting across nationalities, left-tinged nationalism is problematic.

Being opposed does not, however, preclude understanding why it's spring time for Scottish nationalism. As this piece for the BBC makes clear, many people are attracted to the SNP because it chimes with their priorities. In short, as Scottish Labour retreated from pretty basic Labourist politics so the support has followed the policies. It wasn't long ago that a former Scottish leader was defining aspiration for Labour as "second home ownership, two cars in the driveway, a nice garden, two foreign holidays a year, and leisure systems in the home such as sound, cinema, and gym equipment." Good grief. This is a crisis of Labour's making, albeit not on the grounds of its own choosing.

If there are elements of the centre left media establishment down here receptive to the SNP's anti-austerity message, that comes as no surprise after having market fundamentalism stuffed down everyone's throats for the last 30 years. However, while the SNP's nationalism puts their social democracy into question, so their social democracy raises a question mark of their nationalism too. This isn't the same as Zoe's argument, but perversely the strength of the SNP rests on appropriating a politics based on solidarity, not division. Nicola Sturgeon's inbox proves it. Here's the bind the SNP find themselves in. Successfully pursuing social democratic politics in a whole UK framework ultimately saps the basis of the SNP's success. But doing anything else risks opening up the SNP's fault lines that, at present, barely register as hairline cracks.

Labour however can turn the situation around and put the SNP and Scottish nationalism back in its box. But not before the election, and not before next year's Holyrood elections either. We're going to have to play the long, long game of not just competing with the SNP on policy and looking for opportunities to outflank them, but use our offices in government and local authorities to consistently work against the myriad insecurities that living in a capitalist society visits on us. If that means structural change, then it means structural change. Far better our party reconfigures British capital than have it, as it has been doing, configuring us.

At the risk of summoning the spirit of Max Weber, what left intellectuals, opinion formers, anyone with an audience ought to be doing is using their voices to press this process on. The SNP is an opportunity and a warning. Huge numbers of people are receptive to a different kind of politics, and if we don't do it someone else will and our party, or worse, our movement could be left in the dust. Both one-sided critiques like Nicky's or one-sided celebrations like Zoe's fall somewhat short.

1 comment:

Vinyl Miner said...

Have you noticed that questions are getting tougher, Stewart Hosie and Nicola Sturgeon both put through the wringer on Underspend,Defence and Fiscal Automony.