Fear is all around us. All they feel is fear. They fear it in their fingers and fear it in their toes. They have nothing to fear but fear itself.
And boy is that a powerful emotion. Especially when your biggest fear is that of losing your job.
The Westminster dinosaurs who once roamed this land with impunity, fearing nothing and nobody, are facing extinction. And they are feart. Running scared.
And here’s the news, newsfolk: just because they think they can make it news, doesn’t actually make it news.
Just because Darling and Murphy have gone to the police and the electoral authorities wringing their hands about how feart they are, doesn’t actually mean they have anything to fear.
Other than fear itself.
If anything told us that they are worried – seriously worried – that the tide in this referendum has turned, it is this little publicity stunt. Because it is designed and intended to keep the Scottish people in their place. To put the fear of God in them that if they turn out to vote on 18 September and to vote Yes, then something terrible may befall them.
It smacks of desperation, that the only way they can prevent defeat by democratic means is by suppressing the democratic process. “We are worried there is going to be absolute carnage”? Yep, I can see why you’d be worried about that. Clearly, the No campaign’s private polls are telling them things that they really would rather not hear. That Scotland is on the cusp of dismantling the United Kingdom. And with that, bye bye job, bye bye influence, bye bye control. The only carnage there is going to be is of the Union and by extension, UK Labour.
I can understand why they’re just a teensy bit afraid of that.
The only attempts to “disrupt and intimidate” are coming from them, from backbench Westminster MPs with nothing but time on their idle hands. Who are choosing to make this historic debate all about them and their craven need to be centre of attention and in a political job for life. Scotland voting Yes changes everything. Everything.
Only men who have spent much of their adult lives plying their trade in another place could make such a vital mistake. For months now, I have suspected that there’s a deep-seated problem at the heart of the No campaign, aside from the fact that it has far too many at the top and too few at the bottom.
It is being led by men – and it is all men – who have ploughed their politics in the last fifteen years in a neighbouring field. They have crossed the fence to plough Scottish politics – either parachuted in on their reputation as big hitters or deliberately inserting themselves in order to create a relevance in their political lives that was hitherto missing – thinking they knew the soil conditions, they knew the way the wind blew and they knew how to grow a handsome crop of No votes. They refused to listen to their colleagues who do know the land better – and many of them do.
And consequently, what they have produced is stunted, wind burned and blighted. It might have bloomed late, but the Yes crop is coming good, patiently nurtured by people who live and work here, who understand the soil and the land and its people, just in time for harvest.
And all that is left to these hobby farmers is to trample that crop. To tell the people of Scotland back in your box, do what you’re telt, ken what’s good for you.
If these Westminster dinosaurs had actually spent much time here rather than there in recent years (excepting the obligatory flurry home at weekends to do the political necessities) they would understand that the political climate and culture in Scotland has changed. Hugely.
The defeats for Labour in 2007 and again in 2011 were not some aberration, brought about by not having good enough Labour politicians. They were part of a shift, a knowing shift, orchestrated by the voting ambitions and actions of the Scottish electorate.
We cannot be telt, we cannot be put in a corner, we cannot be intimidated. Those days when Labour ruled our land, our houses, our job aspirations, our business ambitions are long gone. Labour has only scattered remnants of power over communities and families it once ruled with an iron fist.
Labour didn’t used to bother identifying the vote in many parts of Scotland. It did little in the way of door knocking in the run up to elections. Instead, it would just wait for polling day and then, whole teams would appear, made up of trade unionists, community activists, MPs, MSPs, councillors, They’d simply knock on every door and every biddable person would come out and vote. I’ve seen it in action.
But they cannot do it in this referendum. For one thing, Labour cannot rely on its former trade union allies – many national and local trade union leaders, activists and members are voting Yes. Community activists have gotten used to life under a different regime and many of them like it. Little help to be garnered from there either, then. And even the stalwarts, the old Labour grandees who knew everyone and whom everyone knew? Some of them are at least diffident, others have already decided where the future lies for the communities they belong to and love.
As for the areas they once called heartlands? Well in many parts of Scotland, Labour has abandoned these in this referendum campaign in order to seek No votes in the better off parts of towns and cities. It might have resulted in an easy hit in terms of big sackfuls of early No intentions. But here’s the thing: the more information some of these aspirational voters receive, the more they doubt staying put and the more they are considering change.
The late foray into classic Labour territory to supposedly hoover up undecideds hasn’t worked because the Yes campaign has been working these areas for months, in some cases years. And people in this referendum want to vote for who and what they trust.
They are no longer sure they have the votes to win fairly. And they sure as heck don’t have the teams on the ground to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Hence, why they are running feart to the heidie to prevent the Get out the Vote operation they know Yes can and will put into action. In communities they once ruled with impunity.
Oh yes, I smell fear. And I also smell shite.
It gives me yet another wee spring in my step. Because we are winning. We are winning the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland to choose a different future and to dump these dinosaurs into the dustbin of history.
What they are trying to do won’t work. How do I know this?
Way back in the 1997 UK election campaign, I made sure in my patch that we worked the poorest communities assiduously. We visited them regularly, we engaged them, we listened to them. They too wanted change back then. And they got that in order to dump the Tories, they had to vote SNP. A Labour vote was a wasted vote in that constituency. Folk began taking posters and car stickers. But they kept disappearing. Eventually, one told me what had been going on. Every house with an SNP poster had been visited by one of the local Labour worthies. A wee nyaff who treated this community like his kingdom. He’d fill himself with drink and go up and batter their doors. He’d shout and swear through their letterboxes. He’d threaten to get them evicted, that they’d never get the house they wanted, that their boy would get in bother with the police, that he’d report them to the social, that if they dared to support the SNP, he’d personally bring about retribution.
So they took their posters down. And after some more strong arm tactics, Labour posters started appearing on all these same windows across the scheme.
But here’s the thing. They didn’t vote Labour, they voted SNP. They put on a charade of falling into line, knowing that once their vote was cast, there was little that could be done about it. They talked among themselves – they formed a secret SNP voting society. If they all did it, it would be harder for the Labour henchman to exact retribution. I watched some of them coming out of the polling stations that day, tipping us a wink or a shy wee smile, looking as though a load had been lifted, a black cloud dissipated.
These communities are about to do something similar again. And Murphy and Darling and all the rest of them know it. They thought they’d be welcomed back like prodigal sons. They thought the people of Scotland were malleable, could be fed lies and misinformation and fear mongering and would do as they were telt. They did not reckon on a populace getting close to decision time, giving a final glance over their wares and finding them wanting. They did not think that the people of Scotland would ever, really believe that this is their chance to change things. Forever. For future generations. That this really is their one opportunity.
The mistake they have made is that they thought they knew us and knew how to push our buttons. Well, they ken noo.