Today I watched the Edinburgh Festival Fringe lunchtime show ‘All Back to Bowie’s’, inspired by the thin white duke’s bizarre celebrity intervention back in March, via the even thinner and whiter proxy of Kate Moss. As he asked us not to leave him, we stayed round at his. Thus, the theme of each performance is set each day by a different Bowie song, the venue we inhabit is the yurt atop Dave’s Manhattan residence, and there it is that we witness the political debate from the panel as well as songs and poetry. And Cora Bissett played guitar (as one song – almost – goes), Kate Higgins of Woman for Independence (blogger from burdzeyeview.com) delivered a galvanizing ‘provocation’ for the panel with Stephen Noon (Yes campaign strategist) and the renowned Hollywood actor from Dundee (and voice of Newsnet Scotland’s Duggy Dug, explaining the Referendum issues), Brian Cox.
Brian Cox is no recent parachute into politics purely for the 18th September. He has long been politically active and is a member of the Labour Party. This political activity is not dissimilar to Sean Connery’s membership of the Scottish National Party and establishment (through his fee for 1971’s Diamonds are Forever) of the Scottish International Education Trust, where Scottish artists can apply for funding without having to leave their country in order to pursue their careers. Connery has vowed not to return to live in Scotland until it is independent. Another SNP supporter is the musician Fish (normally referred to with the suffix ’ootamerilyan’), who has long been an advocate of independence, but declined to take part in the current Yes campaign because (although he will be here for the vote – and, contrary to David Greig’s ‘The Yes/No Plays’ will actually vote ‘Yes’) he intends to move soon to be with his German partner and her family in Karlsruhe in Germany, so felt it might be portrayed as hypocritical to actively campaign if he was not intending to stay himself and be part of the subsequent Yes future that he would have been advocating.
These considered politically active individuals made me reflect on the oft-criticised role of the celebrity in politics – particularly in the context of this week’s 200 celebrity ‘Lets Stay Together’ initiative…most of whom have very little in the way of prior political credentials. Their presentation seemed a rather clumsy intervention, based on the questionable model of David Cameron’s bizarre ‘lovebombing’ appeal back in February, that at the time seemed instead to produce so many supportive ‘run and save yourselves’ tweets from the electorate down south. This position of ‘don’t leave us we love you’ is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Referendum is about. The constant insistence from the southern establishment-owned press that this is about ‘anti-Englishness’ produces these curious responses – and one wonders whether such an interpretation is really aimed at people in Scotland, or more to support the ‘anti-English’ narrative down south as the sole credible reason for a desire for independence. That, in some way, it would be unthinkable that there might be ANY other reason for voting for independence than ‘anti-Englishness’ – as though this could POSSIBLY be symptomatic of a much broader UK-wide dissatisfaction with the democratic deficit of a Westminster that refuses to change and continues to funnel money down to Vince Cable’s giant suction machine of the (would-be) city state of London. Because accepting that it might be part of an advocacy for broader political change due to a widespread failure of Westminster across the UK would be – horror of horrors – tantamount to Scotland leading a second political enlightenment for London to latch on to. This exposes the crass naïveté of the ‘Let’s Stay Together’ initiative – the Referendum is not happening because of any perceived animosity towards England, the English or any other part of the UK: it is dissatisfaction with the democratic deficit that is the reason for ‘leaving’ (as they curiously like to put it). And this dissatisfaction is widespread and shared throughout the UK.
This sentiment was perhaps best summed up in the final part of the ‘All Back to Bowie’s’ show: a piece of poetry had been sourced from the audience, who had been asked to each provide a completed sentence that started ‘I want to say Yes to…’. One audience member (I believe from England?) had written down “I want to say yes to…an independent Yorkshire, Cornwall and Rutland: England is London.”
Vince Cable may – or may not – have been in the audience.
“For those of us who hold firm to Labour values and believe in a society that has at its very heart a sense of collective responsibility, a Yes is now the only real choice.” (Brian Cox)