The Hyperbole of Hatred, or, Slain in the Ratings (Again)

It has been yet another grim few days for Nicola Sturgeon. The day before she launched the SNP’s manifesto, Boris Johnson dedicated his Telegraph column to her. Whereas Piers Morgan could only come up with a depiction of her as a ‘mini-Godzilla’ (surely an oxymoron, Piers?), Johnson characteristically began by wishing to advertise his classical education, but – unusually for Boris – instead of Hector (the Greek hero, rather than the dog with the house from the BBC) he began with Herod. Sturgeon in charge of the SNP at Westminster would be like the venerable king left in charge of a baby farm – or Attila the Hun as doorkeeper to the Roman Senate. They would be the fox running the henhouse, weevils hired to protect the ageing timbers of a local church, the convicted jewel thief interviewed to be the custodian of the Tower of London, the temperance campaigner running a brewery. [A scorpion even made it in as a comparator.]

He overegged things a bit when he tried to invoke Shakespeare though, with his portrayal of Nicola as Lady Macbeth requiring him to present Ed Miliband as King of Scotland…um, maybe he has not seen the polling results in recent months? The latest TNS approval ratings for the UK’s political leaders came out a couple of days ago, showing that in Scotland Sturgeon is on +55%, whereas Miliband is on -2%. If sovereignty remains with the people in Scotland, then Ed is going to be nowhere near King of Scotland (let alone MacBeth – whose presentation by Bill Shakespeare is actually pretty similar in terms of accuracy and impartiality to the treatment reserved for the SNP by the press).

Ed wouldn’t make King of the UK either, if he is wondering – fair enough, he does best of the Westminster leaders in Scotland compared to Cameron (-7%), Farage (-15%) and Clegg (-34%, remember him?) – but UK-wide Cameron is on +7% compared to Miliband on -8%.

But all of these are kind of irrelevant, when it is noted that Nicola Sturgeon, UK-wide, with the vigorous hate campaign targeting her through the press in these last weeks, is polling at +33%. That is +33% across the WHOLE UK. She is being presented (if I can go to a less classical comparison, with the new TV series starting on Sky) as Lizzie Borden getting ready for her Xmas family reunion, leading a party standing in only 59 seats, and yet she is the highest rated party  leader across the UK, uniquely even running her own Twitter account. It is not for nothing that one journalist noted she is the only party leader to appear on a manifesto – at a time when some candidates of other parties in Scotland (solo Tory David Mundell and the leader of something called the Labour Party in Scotland, Jim Murphy) actually fail to mention their parties at all on their election literature. Her linkage of herself with her party benefits both.

Also, as Lesley Riddoch has suggested, the attacks on Nicola may well have peaked too early: despite the hyperbole of hatred consistently leveled at her as this very exemplification of her party, and thus being the biggest perceived threat to establishment politics at Westminster since the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920s, her star continues to rise. [On that point, it is interesting to note that one correspondent recently compared the Scotland Office’s fabricated memo (referred to as “a piece of grubby espionage” by Martin Hannan, with Carmichael clearly encouraging spying on the Scottish Government) leaked by Alistair Carmichael, to the Grigory Zinoviev letter of September 1924. This letter, purporting to be written by a representative of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union was allegedly fabricated and released to the press by the Foreign Office, as it was intended to discredit the Labour Party in the run-up to an election…but I digress.]

‘Despite the hyperbole’….or, perhaps, because of it?

Home Secretary Theresa May declares that any SNP influence would create the worst constitutional crisis since the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 – and yet 59% of voters in Scotland say that the current labelling of the SNP as ‘dangerous’ is putting the Union in danger, and one can sort of see where they are coming from. The ‘othering’ of Scots is astonishingly flagrant – the continued attacks on the SNP as some rabid group, verging on terrorists, who simply should not be permitted within the hallowed halls of Westminster, seems to spectacularly fail to realise that rather than persuading the rather substantial numbers of voters who have expressed that preference of the error of their ways, it is alienating them further from Westminster, consolidating their choice…and also making it seem the more logical choice for others.

And it is not just the bizarre future leader of the Conservatives that seems deranged in his writings on the subject (although deranged has to be relative for Boris), but the current incumbent, as well. When David Cameron, normally calm and controlled, starts going beyond words like “nightmare” to using phrases like “a match made in hell”, he starts to sound like he is actually starting to lose control for the first time. The idea of him losing the plot like this, with a little naked venom openly leaking out, is something I really do not recall seeing before…and when it brings former Thatcher cabinet Lords Michael Forsyth and Norman Tebbit out seeking to temper the Conservative campaign, saying it is too negative and could endanger the Union, that really is something new.

We’ve been here before, of course, from representatives other than the PM. This pretty much reflected the often-hysterical tone in the run-up to the Referendum last year – with the Westminster mob only pulling back from the brink 48 hours from the end, by trying to position the question of independence resulting in a ‘No’ vote being a vote for DevoMax.

But they’ve kind of used that option up. With apparently 25% of ‘No’ voters being bought or persuaded at the last by Banquo’s ghost (to torture Boris’s metaphor some more) of DevoMax turning up to be offered at the 11th hour of the electoral banquet provided that the electorate only voted ‘No’, the subsequent failure of the Emperor’s new tax raising powers to look anything like the more powers that those voters were allegedly looking for with their use of the franchise, and noises from both Lords and Commons that make it sound as though they fully intend to water the final Smith proposals down even further, it would be rather difficult for them to turn around and say ‘No, don’t vote SNP, because now we are REALLY offering you DevoMax – the last time doesn’t count – Gordon Brown, Jackie Bird and Alistair Darling didn’t know what they were talking about, we’re serious this time.’ That ship has sailed. But they don’t really have another fallback position to go to – they broke the glass in case of emergency, and did not have time to replace it with anything else for the next crisis just over 7 months later.

And now we witness the result. William Hills revised its odds on the SNP taking all 59 of the Scottish Westminster seats from 1,000 to 1 in 2010, to 3 to 1 this week – which was before today’s 30th April results from IPSOS-MORI for STV showing SNP 54% (+2), Labour 20% (-4), Conservatives 17% (+5), LibDems 5% (+1), Greens 2%, UKIP unchanged at 1%. The key thing about that, is 54% means that the Electoral Calculus tool predicts all 59 Scottish seats falling to the SNP for the first time – whereas other sites more conservatively put the figure at a mere 58 seats resulting from that percentage of the vote.

Voters across the UK were taught by the press over a number of years to hate and fear Alex Salmond, to generate that kneejerk unthinking ‘ah dae like that Alex Salmond’ response to his name. With seven days campaigning to go, the media seems to be learning that they are running out of time to do the same to Nicola Sturgeon before May 7th.


 “People in Scotland should think that anything that is a nightmare for David Cameron is a good thing for most other people.” (Nicola Sturgeon, 23/2/2015)

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