On Friday morning, I decided to give myself four birthday presents.
First, to retire from active politics – again. More on that in a minute.
Second, to give up being a media commentator. Third, to give up smoking. And fourth, to retire the blog.
The last pledge lasted about 20 minutes and half way through David Cameron’s speech on the #indyref result. When he got to the part about it being time to answer the West Lothian question as well as provide more powers for Scotland, clearly I had made a rash decision. Politics is going to be far too interesting in the next while to do without my wittering on it all. So the blog stays. No cheering at the back there.
The giving up smoking starts tomorrow. If Alex Massie can manage it on those electronic cigarette things, so can I. Whether I can manage it without putting on all the weight that three months of campaigning has just removed, we’ll see. Still, I’ll live until I’m 95 and become one of those irascible, instinctive conservative voters who sets their face against any change. It will probably take that long for me to make that transition.
On the second, well frankly, my experience at the hands of the media around the #indyref means this one is set in stone. For the entire duration of the campaign, women have had to shout and demand some representation (we gave up on equal as clearly a concept too far for most) as commentators on political issues. We were all booked to the hilt to do stuff over the last week of the campaign and especially, around the results programmes. With only a handful of exceptions, we were all bumped in favour of more luminary commentators. Mostly politicians, mostly men. Without any consideration for the efforts any of us had made in order to try and contribute – childcare, lack of sleep, travelling miles at our own expense. Me? I’m done with it all. We don’t get the media we deserve, we get the media they are prepared to provide for us. And the mainstream media by and large is intrinsically and institutionally sexist. I will return to this theme in later blogs.
So you can all remove me from your contacts lists. I will not be available for any media work but I have during this campaign, worked to create and support a greater, wider pool of articulate women commentators who speak from a pro-independence perspective. Just because they are not “names” does not mean their views are not worth hearing. I hope you continue to approach them and I will do my best to continue to grow the group and support it wider still. Because enabling women to join the ranks of political commentators is clearly not on any of your agendas.
The first is more complicated. I may or may not retire. But can I make a plea to everyone tweeting, facebooking, joining and organising in the aftermath of defeat for Yes? Please calm down. There is time. We do not need to do this – all of it – in the first post-defeat weekend. In fact, decisions and moves made now are likely to be reached in the euphoria of sleeplessness and grief. And that is never a good basis for strategising.
Some of us have been in this game a very long time. Some of us have been on this journey for much of our lifetimes. Some of us are trying to get a semblance of normalcy back in our lives. We need time to lick our wounds, to slob in our pyjamas, to clear the clutter and detritus from the last campaign before embarking on the next stage. I am not nearly as bereft as I thought I would be: I share the sense that this isn’t finished yet, not by a long chalk.
But I am also mindful of listening to what the Scottish people said on Thursday. More powers is what they want, not full independence. Not yet anyway. I’m with the First Minister here – we cannot trust Westminster to deliver this on its own and I do think that if we want to arrive at a destination called devo-max then we need to work with the grain not against it. But how to do that without selling out the 45% who voted yes and without having to climb into bed with the establishment – Scottish and UK – who want to put all this democracy and appetite for ideas away in a box in the political loft and get back to business as usual? That is the thorny issue which we must work out how to address – to keep the 45% on board while reaching out to the soft, reluctant Nos that represent at least 20% of the 55% who voted so.
And thorny issues take time to get our heads around. We do not need to set our course for the next year and beyond this week. Good decisions require space, time and proper consideration.
We do need to be having chats and reflections and sharing commiserations and indeed, celebrations at all that we have achieved. But bouncing into the next phase – and trying to bounce others into it – won’t work. As John Swinney himself just said on the Sunday Politics show, there is a need even for the SNP to have a discussion and debate about the “tactics” for where we find ourselves and the way ahead. And if the party that has been doing this for decades thinks it needs such an approach, then we should all take a lead from that.
But things are moving fast, even in the SNP. Yet, the party does need to have a fairly honest and frank appraisal about its future direction. I’ll blog on that in due course.
It would appear that there will be no leadership contest and that Nicola Sturgeon – who has not yet declared her hand but is doing the canny thing of allowing all potential rivals to count themselves out this weekend – will be elected unopposed. That would be a fine testament to how she has grown and prepared for the role in this last year in particular. But the party does still need to create space for a venting and to hear how Nicola intends to take the party forward. Shutting down the opportunity for a greetin’ meeting at conference in November wouldn’t be wise nor even respectful. A lot of SNP folk put their all into this campaign – they deserve to be heard on what worked and what could have been done differently. Constructive criticism is nothing to be afraid of.
But it seems that the real contest will be for deputy leader. Names are being bandied about. So, here’s my choice. Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee East and Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, who also has the equalities brief.
Tomorrow’s blog will explain why.
That’s not a cop out. It’s my birthday today and I have a house and a garden like a coup. I’d like to spend some of the day in the sunshine, righting some of that. And trying to get back a little normalcy in my life. Before my nerves are shredded by giving up smoking tomorrow.
And just in case anyone is listening, I’d advise a little normalcy for us all. Step away from the social media. Stop promulgating conspiracy theories. Stop planning the next stage of our nation’s political evoluation/revolution. Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Sleep. Read. Drink and be merry. But leave the politics alone for a day. It will do us all good.