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Gavin Greig [userpic]

I Am An Extremist

January 7th, 2012 (01:26 pm)
current location: KY16 8SX

Being somewhat averse to blowing up balloons, never mind anything else, I was somewhat surprised to wake up this morning as an extremist:

Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems vision of Home Rule represented the views of the Scottish people and argued that those who were for independence, or keeping the current constitutional settlement, were extremists.

“All the evidence suggests that is the mainstream of opinion and the extremists are those who either think that we need to yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow, or those who say there should be no further change at all,” Mr Clegg said.

“Well, I don’t agree with either of those two extremes.”

From The Scotsman (article link).

Leaving aside the other hyperbole in his statement (I don’t know anyone who wants to “yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow”, rather than negotiating a new relationship with the rest of the UK in the wake of a successful referendum), can it possibly be the act of a reasonable person, an honest, responsible or even just pragmatic politician, to label people who believe in peaceful self-determination for their country as extremists?

I wanted to be sure he actually used the word extremist, because I would just about have let him off if he’d just said that independence and the status quo were at two extremes of a spectrum of possible constitutional outcomes. That would have been a poor choice of words, but accurate. But no, he actually called supporters of independence and the status quo extremists. I hold no brief for supporters of the status quo, but this isn’t fair to them either.

Definitions of extremism tend to agree that extremists are people with beliefs or behaviour far outside the societal norm. Recent polling suggests that 39% of voters in Scotland support independence, as against 38% who oppose it, with a large number of “don’t know”s. It also suggests that 65% would support independence if they believed they’d be £500 p.a. better off. Not the most noble reason for voting for independence, perhaps, but it appears that opposition to independence is weak and driven by financial fear (a £500 loss reduced the percentage preferring independence to 21%). Finally, somewhere in the region of 80% (can’t find the figures) would support full financial autonomy, with only Foreign Affairs and Defence handled by Westminster.

Even the lowest of those figures could conceivably produce a majority for independence in a referendum, so I’d love to know where Nick Clegg gets the idea that supporters of independence are  extremists “far outside the societal norm”.

Nick Clegg, you’ll probably never read this, but just in case you do, I’ve frequently voted for your party since the 1980s, but you have lost me and you aren’t likely to get me back with personal insults. Your party was tanked in Scotland in May last year, and guess where a lot of your votes went? If you ever want them back… well, don’t hold your breath, oath-breaker, but if you do, you need to get over the fact that the SNP are a legitimate and peaceful political party, with the support of a larger proportion of the electorate than the other parties put together (51% in a recent poll), with many supporters and members including at least one Cabinet minister who are English, with widespread support among Scotland’s ethnic minorities, and with a policy of encouraging immigration. And they got there without the support of any UK or Scottish media, and with politicians like you saying stupid things like this. If that’s your extremism, it seems to me that the world could do with a few more extremists.


Posted by: Scotty (scottymcleod)
Posted at: January 7th, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)

he's talking shit and I live in London and fully back Scottish going its own way by negotiation

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Artificial Outrage?

I'm sure - especially since you gave me a hint ;-) - that you're deliberately misunderstanding what I've said.

However, it seems to me that there's no misunderstanding what Nick Clegg's about. He parades a statistically non-existent opinion (those wanting to "yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow") alongside a genuine minority opinion (those who want no further change) because he wants you to have a negative reaction to something that would be unreasonable, and associate that reaction with the SNP, just as you're likely to associate the other extreme with the Conservatives, even though that's not their policy either. And he throws in the extremely loaded word "extremists" first just to make sure you that you have the emotional reaction before the bit that requires thoughtful analysis comes along. "I am reasonable and my opponents are dangerous fundamentalist nutters."

In a country (the UK) where we've had real "extremists" blow things up and kill people every so often over the last 40-odd years, an attempt to associate the word with those in peaceful, tolerant politics is beyond the pale. I would say the same of Tom HarrisIain Davidson (Labour), who referred to the SNP as "neo-fascist"; but he wasn't quite so worthy of my wrath at the time, being a back-bencher. Nick Clegg is Deputy PM and leader of his party.

Edit: Talk of "rigged" referendums when no details of the referendum are available yet, never mind any actual evidence of rigging, falls into the same category of unacceptable language in a democratic debate.

Edit 2: My sincere apologies for naming Tom Harris incorrectly. It was Iain Davidson.

Edited at 2012-01-09 09:25 am (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 9th, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Artificial Outrage?

My "outrage" is real; I only touch on politics here when I'm really quite annoyed about something. I don't really want politics here, but sometimes I feel obliged to use the platform I have.

You appear to accept that Clegg intends his words to be misconstrued in the way I've described, which rather undermines your contention that my anger's artificial. So I think most of our difference is around the acceptability of using the word "extremist", and we may just have to agree to differ on that.

I can't attribute it accurately, unfortunately, but "the SNP's rigged referendum" or "the SNP want to rig this referedum" has been thrown around quite a lot by opposition politicians. It's quite possible that no Lib Dems have contravened on that one, but I mention it because I see a pattern of trying to associate the SNP with criminality and even violence (depending, of course on how you define "neo-fascist" or "extremist").

** Agreed ;-)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC)

So when are they going to deliver it?

I think there are two potential stable end-points for the relationships between the countries of the UK, and particularly between Scotland and the others. One is federalism, and the other is independence (and possibly confederalism). Anything else is likely to result in ongoing tensions, continual needling and tweaking and general bad feeling.

Either of them would be acceptable to me, but frankly one can happen and the other can't. The one that can't is federalism. It can't happen for two reasons. One is because of the extreme imbalance in population sizes between England and the other countries of the UK, which will make a federal structure unacceptable to England. The other is because it's only being championed by one political party, who're not pushing it very hard, aren't in a position to do anything about it anyway, and appear to be marching into the wilderness as far as the next generation or so is concerned.

Given the Lib-Dems' solution isn't feasible within the foreseeable future, I would rather go for the alternative as quickly as possible.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 9th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)

ROFL, good one.

I think Calman's credibility is summed up by the wonderful revelation (from Calman himself, if I recall correctly) that there was literally no analysis done to justify setting the income-tax-varying power at 10% - it was pulled out of the air.

And surely you're not going to argue it's anything like either full financial autonomy or federalism?

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 10th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)

We could differ on "big", but I'll accept the rest. They could have done more by forming a coalition with the SNP in the last parliament, but that boat's long sailed.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)

Why do we need a term to label ~20% of the population who don't even share a single opinion? It's probably so that we can indulge in ad hominem attacks on them without discussing their policies. And so that we can then attempt to attach that label to others in order to discredit their opinions.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC)

No problem. I accept that manifesto "commitments" aren't promises in the sense that people usually interpret them, and that in the real world no government is going to be able to deliver all of their manifesto; and in a coalition, even more so. I'm comfortable with the idea of coalitions, and on the whole think they are a good thing, though I reserve the right to think that some are inappropriate.


The NUS "Vote for students" pledge said "I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative." Nick Clegg signed it, along with all the other Lib Dem MPs elected in 2010. It was signed as a personal promise, and it was made much of in the election campaign. When someone makes a personal promise, I expect them to hold to it.

After the formation of the coalition, clearly there was a difficult situation for the Lib Dems who'd signed the pledge. Given that both the Conservative and Labour parties supported increasing fees, the chances of actually being able to prevent it were small to non-existent. But they'd given a personal promise. It's clear that the pledge was still regarded as important, because the coalition agreement specifically allowed for Lib Dems to abstain from the vote. I retain some respect for the 21 who voted against, especially since it must have been a difficult situation for them. As a realist, I'm prepared to accept the 8 who abstained. But the 28 who voted for, including Nick Clegg, broke a personal promise that each of them gave to the electorate and I have no time for them.

Our local MP, and former leader of the Lib Dems, said "My credibility would be shot to pieces if I did anything other than to stick to the promise I made". He was right.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 11:08 pm (UTC)

Yes, it'll be interesting. I expect we're in the much-vaunted honeymoon period and that level of support will drop back. But if it's a protest vote, what are the other parties doing to respond to that protest? As far as I can see, they're digging in, which is not the thing to do.

I'm sure that it's not as simplistic as "51% for SNP" == "51% for independence", and I reckon the odds are still somewhat against success in a referendum. But the second poll I mentioned seems to suggest opposition is soft, and as far as I can tell, not being an economist, odds are that Scotland is likely to be better off in the case of independence, so there's certainly room for people to be persuaded. And that's before UK-level politicians like David Cameron wade in with their size 10s...

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