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Fear, Loathing and Denial.

Written By: - Date published: 2:20 pm, May 10th, 2015 - 49 comments
Categories: culture, discrimination, International, labour, Politics, uk politics - Tags: , ,

There’s a major and rather obvious contributory factor to UK Labour’s failure in the UK general election that doesn’t seem to have drawn any comment. Until now…

Cameron played the anti-Scottish card. The English Tory press ran with it. Then Miliband, instead of neutralising it, perhaps with talk of Britishness and democracy, pandered to it with all his nonsense about not dealing with or speaking to the SNP.

I’d argue that the undercurrent of anti-Scottishness within England, a sentiment that has always been there, welled towards the surface just enough to ensure a crucial number of votes were either with-held from Labour or went directly to the Tories on the grounds that a non-existent Scottish coup of Westminster had to be avoided.

Now, unable to take a cold hard look in the mirror, UK Labour is simply focusing on some idea that they were too left wing – as though their utter trouncing by a more left wing SNP in Scotland didn’t happen.

You can, as they say, take a horse to water…

Finally, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but cogent New Zealand parallels are all too easy to draw.

49 comments on “Fear, Loathing and Denial. ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    It’s been noted in many comments – straight Crosby-textor wedge politics, exactly the same sort of scare campaign as they ran here. Hell, even the British press noted the similarity between the Crosby-Textor driven 2014 NZ election campaign and the the Crosby-Textor driven UK Conservative campaign. Here it was the Greens and Mana used as the wedge; over there it was the SNP.

    • Bill 1.1

      I think you’re missing the point. It was straight out prejudice being tapped into…something visceral. It wasn’t fear of the SNP that English people reacted to so much as fear of Scots.

      In a NZ context, that would be the race card being played.

      Obviously, that wouldn’t affect the Greens.

      So, no. I disagree that what I’m referring to has been noted in ‘standard’ comments, never mind mainstream commentary, which was what I was referring to.

      • RedLogix 1.1.1

        Still if you substitute “Maori” for “Scottish” the picture doesn’t change much does it?

        • Bill

          That’s one of the things I had in mind when I said the parallels are too easy to draw.

          There are many more, and frankly they’re all pretty fucking depressing.

          Labour Party – posturing, reaction, inability to ‘get it’, denial of the role they play….

          Media projecting innocence while spoon-feeding racism/prejudice….

          General population voting in line with ugly prejudices….


          • Rob

            Yes you are right
            Did CT have any say when Brash’s Orewa speech was delivered?
            The National party are happy to engage with Maori (the rich ones and the property owning ones) of course.

        • Anne

          My thoughts RedLogix… expressed a little differently @2.

      • cogito 1.1.2

        “It was straight out prejudice being tapped into…something visceral. It wasn’t fear of the SNP that English people reacted to so much as fear of Scots”.

        As a Hertfordshire Brit, albeit one who has spent many years in NZ, I do not recall any visceral fear of the Scots. Far from it. Where is your evidence? Your statement is laughable.

        There was not even a visceral fear of the Irish when IRA bombs were going off in London.

  2. Anne 2

    Cameron played the anti-Scottish card. The English Tory press ran with it. Then Miliband, instead of neutralising it, perhaps with talk of Britishness and democracy, pandered to it with all his nonsense about not dealing with or speaking to the SNP.

    Bang on. My knowledge of the ‘ins and outs’ of the British election is way less than many people here (including Bill) but when I read that Miliband had announced Labour would have nothing to do with the SNP (as if they were rabid dogs covered in scabies) I thought what the hell? So, 70% (no, I don’t know the precise number) of the Scots were wrong?

    You could make a similar comparison to NZ Labour’s announcement last year that it would never work with Mana. Why not? Many of their policy aspirations were similar to Labour.

    No, their timidity and fear of the media over-rode rational thinking in both cases?

    • Paul 2.1

      Spot on.
      History will judge these neo-liberal sell outs harshly.

      Christopher Hedges nails it.


    • RedLogix 2.2

      While I agree that the ‘gutless neo-liberal sell out’ meme has it’s merits – it’s worth trying on the imaginary counter-factual for size. What if Milliband HAD thrown his hat in with SNP?

      While the Scots may have treated Labour more kindly – how would the British press have utilised this to attack them, and how many more English votes lost?

      I’m not defending Milliband’s choice, but it’s not fair on him to erase the kind of calculus he had to make either.

      • Sacha 2.2.1

        He needed to be decisive, either way. He wasn’t. That is the sort of character flaw voters punish.

      • Bill 2.2.2

        On the counter factual, I think Labour in Scotland were on a hiding to nothing regardless.

        And I don’t think Miliband should have thrown his hat in with the SNP pre-election. But he should have countered the prejudice by pointing out it was a British election; that (shock and horror!) even Scots are British; that there was a going to be a democratic will expressed by the British electorate that Labour would engage with.

        Hardly rocket science.

        btw, Sturgeon at some point during the election had a public rating across the UK of +30 odd. Every other leader was in negative territory.

        I suspect – counter-factual hat off now – that he was getting flooded with advice from Labour mps in Scottish constituencies who had nothing but their own sorry arses in mind. They wanted any leverage against the SNP they could get. So far up their own arses they had no idea of how the wind was blowing (eg – Willie Bain – of Bain Principle infamy – was quite a sight as he, shellshocked, leaned on other peoples’ shoulders,just in order to be able to walk out of the hall after results in his constituency were called)

        • weka

          The cross globe parallel there is two Labour parties thinking that democracy is served by them getting all the votes at the expense of their allies (or not caring). At least UK Labour still have an actual FPP system that encourages that thinking (although it’s pretty bloody obvious now that it will no longer work for them). NZ Labour have no such excuse for well over a decade.

          What exactly is wrong with voters choosing a range of parties to represent them? As far as I can see the downside is less power and control for the likes of Labour, who apparently don’t want to share.

          • RedLogix

            Which is a fair point weka.

            The UK Labour Party operate in a FPP environment, so it’s hardly surprising they continue to operate accordingly.

            As for SNP – there was never any guarantee that they would go into coalition with Labour. After all they only have to look at the fate of the Lib-Dems to see what usually happens to junior coalition partners. It ain’t pretty.

            Sometimes I just think this whole Party business is a complete PITA.

            • Bill

              There was never any chance of the SNP going into coalition with Labour.

              Neither party wanted that arrangement. The SNP repeatedly stated they were fine with locking the Tories out of Downing Street and to then proceed on a case by case basis with a Labour government.

              • Colonial Viper

                The Labour hierarchy hate the SNP with a passion. Labour views all other parties with a great deal of suspicion and will habitually work to suppress or sideline them.

        • Tracey

          Also interesting to note (as an aside) under a MMP style election SNP would have far fewer seats than they have today, so maybe FPP has an upside afterall 😉

      • Lanthanide 2.2.3

        Same thing with Cunliffe – Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira were already characters detested by middle New Zealand, and people probably would have had preconceived ideas about Laila Harre too.

        National had already attacked Labour as working with them (and pointing to the polling as proof to say “it doesn’t matter what they tell you, based on the polling they’d have to work with them in government”). It would be very difficult to come out and *agree* with National’s attack strategy that yes you would work with a bunch of unpopular, untested and extreme-sounding MPs.

        • Bill

          And so…the solution is a Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

          No need for coalitions or Confidence and Supply arrangements. No ‘baubles of office’ up for grabs by smaller parties.

          Just a government, formed by a party receiving a 50% + endorsement of parliament, getting on with governance using the cards dealt it by the electorate.

        • TheContrarian

          I think Harre had a lot of respect across the political spectrum and the preconceived notions of her were what was destroyed in her alining with Dotcom

      • Anne 2.2.4

        What if Milliband HAD thrown his hat in with SNP?

        I think Bill has answered that question much more cogently than I can @2.2.2

        …he should have countered the prejudice by pointing out it was a British election; that (shock and horror!) even Scots are British; that there was going to be a democratic will expressed by the British electorate that Labour would engage with.

        Something along those lines would have been much harder for the British press to attack Milliband on without looking rather stupid. As I said @2: … their timidity and fear of the media over-rode rational thinking…

        • Colonial Rawshark

          And to think that the UK LAB party spent hundreds of thousands on campaign advisors like Obama’s former hacks while people like us who are actually connected to ordinary voters can come up with the better answers than they can. For free.

          • Anne

            …people like us who are actually connected to ordinary voters can come up with the better answers than they can. For free.

            Well, all good pollies know if you get something for free then its not worth listening to. 😡

    • Tracey 2.3

      That it preferred NZF to the Green Party…

      Many think the answer here is for the LP to be less “Left”, inotherwords more like, well National…


  3. Sable 3

    I have mentioned this and so have others. Its the same problem that infects Labour here. “New Labour” aspires to be more like a middle class party that offers a milder alternative to the Nats. Still business like and stable embracing neo con principles that new Labour view (incorrectly) to be as an accepted norm.

    As a result they avoid association with what should be natural alliance partners on the left for fear of alienating middle class voters. The result, however, is they loose a big slab of traditional working class voters who don’t feel their voice is heard. Middle class voters who are Labour often see little point in voting for change given how much they look like the right and either don’t vote or actively migrate to a known quantity, National.

    A further problem for Labour with this strategy, I think, is the right are more experienced in this kind of electioneering. Its their game and Labour do not know how to play it as well.

    Now Labour are between a rock and a hard place. They have watered down their message to traditional middle class Labour voters and alienated their core base of working class constituents. Pretty foolish if you ask me.

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    The anti-Tory riot was interesting.

    • Anne 4.1

      There’s going to be a lot more of those in the future. I see a similarity with the British riots of the 20s and early 30s and what is happening in Britain today. Mutiny among the working classes (so-called) is an inevitable outcome under this Tory regime.

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        And given that roughly 67% of the people did not vote for them – they will inevitably have to resort to increasingly draconian and desperate measures to impose their agenda over the next 10 – 20 years they are in power.

        • Anne

          One hearty sign history has taught us is: that no matter the terrible cost they might incur in the meantime, the power of ordinary people always wins out in the end.

        • Bill

          “…over the next 10 – 20 years they are in power.”

          heh – quite a few people are suggesting maybe a year 🙂 Alex Salmond has postulated mere months.

          Hope they’re right.

          • dukeofurl

            Salmond his own big problem.

            The election was won with Sturgeon as the figurehead, but in Westminster it will be Salmond who calls the shots.

            The pupil has outshone the master. Im not sure of all the inside politics of the SNP but Salmon is from the radical wing . Once he was pushing for a more socialist and definitely republican Scotland, but has been quiet in that area fro some time.

            Can only be trouble with the Jock in Westminster and the lass in Holyrood. The next years election Scotland will be interesting as its with their proportional system it wont be so lop sided.

            • Colonial Rawshark

              It’s a bit silly trying to sell pretend divisions and ructions in the SNP. Compare the SNP with Labour and the Conservatives and see where the next few months go.

              Ed Milliband steps down and within hours ten Labour MPs signal that they want to be leader. UK Labour is going to be torn apart at the seams for months. The tories have a single digit majority in Parliament; last term they had a number of backbencher rebellions which cost them 30, 40, 50 votes.

              Scottish Labour has utterly imploded. They cannot accept why, but they know that Holyrood elections next year might signal the end of Labour in the Scottish Parliament as well.

              Against this backdrop, I suspect that the SNP will do just fine.

              • Bill

                Just standard ‘Dukeofurl’ nonsense as far as I’m concerned.

                Angus Robertson leads the members of the Westminster Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon leads the party.
                Alex Salmond is a smart operator in a big team.

                I agree CV that Labour are screwed. Talk is of a split from UK Labour. Murphy is being urged to go and find his glue bag but doesn’t want to go.

                UNITE, the UK’s biggest union is splitting off its Scottish presence and looks likely to stop paying all dues to the Labour Party ( a portion going the SNP’s way in future)

                UK Labour eating itself. (I don’t think Miliband should have stood down btw) Tories on a precipitous majority.

                The Libdems might bounce a bit in the Holyrood elections next year. The Scottish Greens will probably do well.

                As long as the SNP maintains discipline over their new Westminster mps so that they don’t put themselves in harms way vis a vis the media, then everything’s sweet.

                • Colonial Rawshark

                  UK Labour eating itself. (I don’t think Miliband should have stood down btw) Tories on a precipitous majority.

                  Shadows of Cunliffe. No doubt Milliband’s front bench were also making it clear to Milliband that he should move on to clear the way for their careerists.

      • Tracey 4.1.2

        And the Thatcher years

    • SHG 4.2

      Just what the new government needs in order to justify broader police powers. You could almost argue that the riot was exactly what the new government wanted… hmm….

    • SHG 4.3

      Just what the new government needs in order to justify broader police powers. You could almost argue that the riot was exactly what the new government wanted… hmm….

      • DoublePlusGood 4.3.1

        Perhaps they’ve been taking lessons from a few famous novels on the subject and started the riots with willing plants….

  5. Liminal 5

    This talk of Hibernophobia in England is grossly overplayed and it seems a massive insult to English people (I am an English New Zealander). I don’t recall any real anti-Scottish sentiments during my first 40 years of life there other than the usual soft jibes – and no more than the stereotyping that Scots receive here in NZ – and far less than the vicious and visceral Anglophobia that is constantly expressed in the MSM, by establishment figures and even sites like this.

    If anything (if it can be proven) it was a political fear not a ‘racist’ or ‘ethnic’ reaction. How do NZers here respond to the Anglophobia shown by some Scots as well? I am sick of listening to NZers being smug and superior to the English. Grow up.

    • Bill 5.1

      You note I didn’t use the term ‘racist’ or the term ‘ethnic’ in the post? There are very good reasons for that.

      On ‘political fear’,well yes and no.

      50 odd Labour mps from Scotland taking seats in Westminster would have, as usual, passed without a mention.

      326 mps from parties promising an end to austerity and to promote progressive policies would have passed with no mention of Scottishness.

      That 50 odd mps from a particular party that was formed 70 odd years ago and that pursues civic nationalism is succesfully portrayed as a bogey man is only possible if, I think..

      i) those people the fear was peddled at don’t understand civic nationalism and/or
      ii) are people happy with chauvinistic nationalism (eg UKIP)
      iii) (perhaps) are so inured to viewing Britain as England as Britain, that certain British aspirations (Welsh or Scottish) will naturally be viewed as an unacceptable threat.

      I’m curious as to what you consider to be “the usual soft jibes” and why you believe that any stereotyping is acceptable?

      ps – On the understanding the comment was aimed at the post and therefor me, the author, you should know that I’m not a New Zealander.

  6. Colonial Rawshark 6

    Why did UK Labour not get the votes? Because people in traditional Labour areas stay at home when they have no one to vote for. Scotland on the other hand…people turned out strongly.

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