The YES movement working together. It does happen!
The YES movement is as broad and deep as Loch Ness. This is its power but it can also be its weakness.
Over the last (insert time period when you first thought “hold on a minute, aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side?”) I will go for “wee while”, we have seen many figures and organisations in the movement bash up against one and another.
All too often in the gaze of Twitter, but thankfully not too often, in the full light of the general public.
But as the year draws to a close I want to highlight what the movement can achieve when it works together.
On the 30th and 31st of December, Independence Live will run a two-day virtual event showing twelve hours of brilliant content: IndyREPLAY#1
Four organisations (and one super productive person) have donated content for the event:
All of those organisations have donated the content for free with all the proceeds going to two Scottish Charities that invest in Scotland’s future: Tiny Changes and the Rock Trust.
So far the indy movement has donated over £800 for those two charities.
The Good Guys
Of course, we have to look way beyond a newspaper, four organisations and a Phantom Power to REALLY see who is behind this.
It is politicians. Campaigners. Singers. Songwriters. Poets. Authors. Journalists: everyone who makes this movement so powerful. There is a wealth of content befitting a wealth of talent in the movement.
The more people who attend the more impact we have. We can:
Show a great example of the movement working together (even if it is just to those on Scottish Twitter)
Put some great content in front of YESers and soon to be YESers (or as others call them “current no voters”)
Raise £1000s for Tiny Changes and the Rock Trust.
The two cheques will read “From the independence movement”
Hopefully, you can tell how united the movement is by how many people will retweet this post AND join the IndyREPLAY#1
Thanks so much to AUOB, Believe in Scotland, Phantom Power, the Scottish Currency Group and Voices for Scotland.
If there is a more tireless, selfless, dedicated campaigner for Scottish independence than Kevin Gibney, then I am yet to meet them.
So I am delighted that my small team at Gallus Events will be working more closely with Kevin and his team of volunteers.
Kevin and I have two shared goals: to help turn Sottish natives into digital ones and to achieve Scottish independence.
And we both believe these are goals are closely aligned, in fact, they are inseparable.
Independence Live will continue to offer support to citizen live-streamers, as well as their prodigious work with Indy Live Radio and the WhatsOnGuide.
The digital output from Independence Live will be beefed up in 2021, especially in offering training and support in multi-media to campaigners and organisations in support of Scottish independence.
We will be running virtual events for independence supporting organisations, as well as taking advantage of our skills, to run our own events to further our two aligned goals.
To help turn Sottish natives into digital ones
To achieve Scottish independence
We are all aware of the support that Independence Live have given the movement for years. It has been amazing and the Gallus Events team strive to have as much of a positive impact.
Since September Gallus Events have supported:
Believe In Scotland
The Scottish Currency Group and
Voices for Scotland
In part, to plan, produce and execute virtual events.
With the support of Independence Live, we will continue to offer that support.
Totally Gallus Events and Independence Live
Next year we will run our own virtual events:
“Brought to you by Totally Gallus Events and Independence Live. All funds raised will support the multi-media campaign for Scottish Independence”
As 2021 develops we will share more of our plans and details of how we will be actively supporting the independence campaign. This is a not for profit venture and our accounts will be open and available to the movement.
Look out for our first event launching this week!!!!!!
The McCrone report has shown many things: the selfishness of the British state, the ability to hide the truth from the Scottish people and the continued potential wealth from north sea oil being the most obvious. But it has also shown the weakness of the YES movement.
The McCrone report another missed opportunity for the YES movement
I’ve tried to look at the McCrone Report as something other than a quite extraordinary example of the UK’s narrow minded and selfish approach to Scotland. But it is impossible. It is there in black and white.
The likely (not potential) revenue and benefits from North Sea oil would, had they been earned by an independent Scottish nation, have transformed the country. This is unarguably the case that you have to draw from reading the report. But I am happy to go further.
If this report had been widely publicised in the mid 1970s, it is no great stretch to say that Scotland may already be independent. It was “secret” and guarded in the Scottish Office for the most obvious of reasons: because successive unionist governments believed that it could lead to Scottish independence!
If you haven’t already taken the time to read the report you really should. I can’t think of a more concise takedown of the British State.
So if it is this powerful (and again please read it, don’t take my word for it) why will it make no more than a ripple on those soft “No” voters? Well, that’s what I wanted to consider here.
The YES movement habit of looking a gift horse in the mouth
Many in the YES movement seem to spread defeatism on their toast in the morning. Where we could see an open goal, some see the clear opportunity to punt the ball high into the stands.
One of the reasons this report won’t have any real impact is that many in the YES movement don’t see the forest for the trees. This isn’t really about oil: it is about the UK government using Scottish resources to solve UK issues. End of.
Sure there are a myriad of sub texts in this story and oil and climate breakdown are very important issues to discuss. We all have our views on those two related topics, but why on earth would you highlight those issues when you have a major, undeniable win right in front of you?
Some of the interaction on Twitter between indy minded people who actually agree with each other have to be seen to be believed.
It is almost if some see any issue as a way to bash or discredit someone or something they don’t like. This seriously weakens the ties that should be pulling us together.
No strong organisation/s to pull all those loose strings together
A massive amount of credit must go to The National for leading so strongly with the McCrone Report. However it was a massive missed opportunity that this wasn’t a coordinated campaign.
When the movement acts out of sync we have little impact. We can and do bemoan the most bizarre media structure in Scotland and with so few indy supporting media it is crucial that they try and amplify the killer messages.
It is only when we coordinate our efforts that we stand a chance of being heard outside our indy echo chamber.
So what were the alternative media doing the week of the publication? WingsOverScotland has one article (pretty much stating my main points) and in general playing the same tune as The National.
“There’s no need to repeat the epic mismanagement of this resource over time, or replay the envious glances across the North Sea to Norway and its sovereign oil fund. There’s no doubt that the lies, distortion and hypocrisy of those who simultaneously argue that oil is insignificant and then salivate at the prospects for propping up the British economy (again) are remarkable, but there are some real problems with framing the case for independence in this way.”
So that’s the top indy supporting media outlets. What about our collective yes bodies?
Well, Scottish Independence Convention continues to talk about itself and nothing much else. You won’t find the McCrone Report on their home page or Twitter feed. There’s nothing on Business for Scotland either. I am sure I could go on but I hope I have made my point: to highlight these important stories in isolation is to speak quietly in an empty room. And this happens all too often.
What’s old hat for you might not be the case for many voters
What came across from many indy supporting Twitter accounts was that the McCrone Report was old news. Well, not for everyone:
You can get a good jist of this attitude from our established commentators. Here’s a section of that Bella article again:
“There’s no need to repeat the epic mismanagement of this resource”
Well, I would argue that there absolutely is a need to repeat the epic mismanagement, as not everyone has heard it the first 50 times. It is when you see a message again and again that it starts to stick.
Repeating things is a powerful tool in a campaign. When trying to get a message across what we need to do is to REPEAT the most important points. Again and again. How the UK mismanaged this resource should be something we all repeat at every opportunity.
There is a real danger that we speak with the same voice and to the same people, in the same way as we did in 2014. We have to move with the times and we have to be smarter and more coordinated.
An alternative coordinated approach isn’t hard to imagine
Just imagine the Editors of all of our independent supporting new media outlets got together a few months ago and decided to “make the most of the McCrone report”. So co-ordinated articles were commissioned and set to be published the same week. Interviews were arranged to add flavour and substance to the report.
A PR campaign was started with the aim of amplifying the McCrone report to the non independence supporting media highlighting the relevance today.
An outreach to Social Media activists at the same time saw @zarkwan creating several of his brilliant images to be downloaded and shared on social media, and were available to print. @phantompower14 created a one of his killer videos.
How about all of the YES groups had a McCrone week were they focussed all of their campaigning on three central issues that they picked out of the report.
Maybe an independence supporting film maker got in touch with Alan Cumming and persuaded him to don a pin stripped suit, enter a smoke filled set, take on the role of Professor Gavin McCrone, and deliver the report, in its entirety to camera.
Just imagine an actual coordinated campaign with people working together, setting aside differences and aiming for one thing: independence. Ideas like this were as powerful in 1974, the year the McCrone report was delivered, as they are today.
This is how the media works in a normal European country. But Scotland doesn’t have a normal media.
There is a tried and tested media strategy on the European continent. A political party organises a rally. Supporters of the cause and the media turn up. The media point their cameras at the stage and then the crowd. The day’s events are then broadcast.
It doesn’t really matter the size of the audience, there were only a few hundred people at this one, or the particular cause. If a party that has elected representatives organises a rally it is news worthy.
You could have a debate around “newsworthiness” of these types of rallies. ButI would like to see a debate around another concept: democracy.
How else are apolitical organisations or political parties able to edge onto TV screens if they don’t run rallies and have them covered? The state is not a functioning democracy if rallies like this are not covered by the media.
It is no stretch to say that, with media a reserved matter in the UK (it is not reserved in Spain by the way), Scotland is not a true democracy. Much that is discussed is not shown on our main TV channels or in the main newspapers in Scotland. This is not normal.
The media blanking of rallies (small, medium or large) is the much bigger picture. We should be focusing the debate on what is not in the media, not what is in the media.
Following Thursday’s latest BBCQT fiasco many of the independence minded commentators (and the various indy supporting new media channels) have been whipping up a storm about the audience. If it’s not the QT audience that gets people going, it’s the QT panel. Both are worthy of disdain and comment but I often wonder if we are falling into the classic trap set by the establishment using the main stream media? Noam Chomsky put it like this:
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate”
I wonder is this the establishment game? Use its flagship shows to ‘noise up’ the dissenters so they don’t focus on what the media isn’t covering? Keep the area of debate around panels and audience and maybe we will lose focus on what they should be covering and crucially what others are saying. And the reason behind this?
Demos, rallies and street protests will play a major role in the independence campaign that lies ahead of us. The campaign may also involve civil disobedience. However, don’t expect it to come to a TV screen near you. You would need to live in a normal country with a normal media for that to happen.
There’s no point organising an event if you don’t set objectives. And of course you have to have the right objectives. Often this basic element of any event is missing from the YES movement’s events.
Saturday’s protest outside BBC HQ attracted around 250 people and saw considerable support on social media – in part down to the ever present Independence Live. But what was the point? Or in event talk, what was the objective of the protest?
BBC Bias Protest at Pacific Quay
It’s no small effort to coordinate a demonstration of this size. Even as the team behind All Under One Banner (who coordinate some huge and important rallies) cut their event teeth, it’s still a challenge. I’ve managed over 700 events, so I know organising and attending every event is time you could be spent doing something else!
The first thing to say about the protest at Pacific Quay is that I would have not advised running it at all. However, doing the planning process one objective should have been penned and communicated to all:
“This protest is being organised not against the employees but against the editorial decisions that appear to be strongly biased in favour of Scotland’s place in the Union and also editorial decisions which seen to “do down” Scotland at every turn. We are seeking a meeting with senior representatives of the BBC to express the views of a large number of Scots”
You have to set an objective this this, otherwise what’s the point?
A pointless protest
Why have people standing outside to listen to a few speeches and wave a few flags unless something meaningful is to come out of it?
Why run an event, if all you are going to do is score a spectacular own goal?
Why look a PR gift horse in the mouth?
The answer is simple: because the event didn’t have the right objectives.
Look again at the objective I suggest and walk through the two possible scenarios:
1. BBC meet representatives from protest against BBC Bias.
2. BBC refuse to meet representatives from protest against BBC Bias. Where’s the PR downside there? It’s a win/win for the movement.
But without objectives we have this:
“We offered the leaders of the protest the opportunity to come in to the building to enter into dialogue with senior managers at BBC Scotland but they declined the offer.”
Made even worse by this:
“I was the person asked and I declined. We don’t want to enter into a dialogue with the BBC to try to repair things…. Do any of you see any buttons up the back of my head? No! We want to see the end of the BBC in Scotland. I hope I made that clear.”
When no one is listening you need to think about what you are saying and how you are saying it. A new Scottish Government communications strategy based on a more experience led live engagement strategy could be the answer.
Like other independence minded voters who are worried about the impact of Brexit, I watched the Scottish Government’s live broadcast on YouTube yesterday morning. For just over 30mins, the First Minister outlined the impact of three different Brexit scenarios on Scotland. The information is contained in Scotland´s place in Europe, an in-depth analysis and modelling of three possible scenarios. The “headline” figure from the paper being a potential £12bn hit to Scotland´s economy.
I highlight “headline” because none of the Scottish daily newspapers went with any headline at all from the paper. This is remember, the first and only, detailed Government analysis of Brexit on the Scottish (or wider UK economy). Can you think of anything more newsworthy?
Commenting on the lack of coverage: “That isn’t news reporting, it’s confirmation of a top level ownership agenda?” tweeted @scottishpoliticsnews
The agenda of the MSM printed press (and wider across TV) is one of the most important issues affecting democracy in Scotland. The anti SNP bias – via the agenda supporting approach of papers, rather than old fashioned news hunting – is now undeniable. As the above tweet continues, the lack of front page coverage is “incredible but not unexpected” and very few of us, including the Scottish Government would disagree. But here is the crux of the matter, information like this has to make a wider and deeper impact; this is not only crucial for the Scottish Government but for democracy in Scotland.
So how can the Scottish Government make more of an impact?
How can they extend the amplification wider than the #ScotRef online fraternity, retweeting it in that echo chamber? The answer is to update the Scottish Government’s communications strategy to embrace live communications in a more creative and daring manner.
A very traditional launch of the Scotland in Europe paper
The paper was launched yesterday at an event. Like any event a Press Briefing should have objectives. One objective of any press briefing is to have the information covered by the press. Obvious eh? But when you can expect the press to either ignore it, spin it or use it to attack you, don’t you have to question the event itself? As an events professional that’s what I would be doing today. My question is:
Is it time that the Scottish Government ditch this as the default way to launch a significant paper?
It would be great if we could see the objectives of this event and then measure the success or otherwise. I would expect some fairly glum faces in the Scottish Government press office this morning as they search for positive stories. So would a different type of launch event have more of a positive impact?
YouTube Live Streaming
As someone based in Barcelona I had little chance of seeing any traditional TV broadcast, so I missed the extensive 2min to 3min coverage on Sky News (apparently the only broadcaster to show it) so I was very happy to be able to watch it on YouTube. As you may or not be aware, The Scottish Government has a dedicated YouTube channel.
It’s no surprise to see the Scottish Government using YouTube. They rightly consider themselves at the forefront of modern communications in the UK and are keen to promote their position: this is from the Scot Govt website: “The Ministerial Support Directorate has become a centre of excellence as digital has become an increasingly mainstream part of all Scottish Government business. Social media is a key way for the Scottish Government to communicate and engage with its audiences.” The SNP (not the Scottish Government during election campaigns) have been dominating this space since 2011.
However, considering the amount of traditional (MSM) coverage the other main political parties can rely on, the gap between the SNP and others online has to be incredibly large to even start to level the playing field. So, despite the SNP winning the online war during election campaigns, it is sobering to see the Scot Govt YouTube channel has less than 6000 subscribers. To crudely benchmark, the Celtic FC channel has 63,000 and the Rangers one 42,000. The Scottish Government has a few hundred more subscribers than Aberdeen FC.
For YouTube and other social media channels to be effective, they need people to subscribe / follow; in short to have more active engagement. You do this by having interesting content.
Subscribers and followers grow when those online are able to actually engage. Using the launch of the Scotland´s place in Europe event as an example, the only people able to ask a question were those in the room. And most of them were not listening to the answer! The majority of the press aren’t listening, so are they really worth talking to? Online, there was no way to engage. Those who wanted answers had to rely on the press to ask the right questions.
It’s not just the level of engagement that is important at an event but also what type of content is on show. Showing the First Minister talking in front of a lectern answering daft (often inaudible) questions is not gripping content. The Scottish Government, via YouTube and Facebook has a vehicle for delivering innovative content they just need to create “experiences” rater than events.
Ditching the traditional press briefing and replacing it with a content heavy, engagement focussed, event would allow the Scottish Government to start to amplify their message outside of their base and beyond the news gatekeepers, who are all too keen to slam the door shut on anything positive.
If you are interested in contributing to my work on a live engagement strategy for the YES movement please get in touch.
How you engage, face-to-face, with the electorate during an election clearly matters. The three main parties in Scotland decided on very different live engagement strategies. The election results reflect their relative success.
During the GE2017 campaign, I compared Labour’s live engagement strategy against the Conservative one. You can check that post out here. But as a short cut, here’s two images that tell you really need to know about their view of engaging with the electorate.
It is easy to look at the live engagement element of the campaign and see which party was keen to avoid any debate or public scrutiny. Events are wonderful microcosms for many elements of a campaign.
Before I look at the SNP’s live engagement strategy I want to make one thing clear: there were many issues for the relative failure of the SNP General Election campaign. My professional view is that the live engagement strategy, which frames an entire campaign, did not send out the right messages to the electorate. I have decided not to focus on the political content of the messaging (there are plenty of people doing that) but rather on how the overall engagement was framed by live events.
The SNP’s Live Engagement Strategy
I’ve chosen two images which I think sum up the SNP Live events. There were clearly two very different “managed events” so I have one for each.
It may seem rather trite to use a single image to sum up an event, which can then be extrapolated to summarise an entire campaign, however, event organisers / campaign managers, spend a lot of time planning and stage managing these images. We select them exactly because they canencompass the entire campaign.
“The political powerhouse” type image has been a popular one for the SNP since the referendum defeat in 2014. With the swelling of members post indyref, and then post 2015 General Election, the SNP were happy to be seen to be the largest political party in Scotland: these images are all about showing the strength of the political party. These events, and these images, aren’t too different from the images disseminated from the Conservative events: that should have been a worry for the SNP at the very earliest of stages!
They portray a powerful posture and a powerful leader, with a large party behind her. These official images are taken at the well managed, supersize, party political events that the SNP, now seem to own in Scotland.
The second image is the “selfie queen” style image, which comes from Nicola’s “street focussed” live engagement. This guerrilla campaigning has been part of the SNP’s live engagement since Nicola became First Minister. These images portray a leader at ease with herself and with the electorate.
A strong leader at ease with the electorate was undeniably the correct approach to disseminate, through live events, in the last couple of years. When the GE2017 campaign was thrust on us all, perhaps understandably, the SNP obviously thought, why change a wining formula? However, the engagement strategy for GE2017, did not have the expected success.
The SNP’s message of a strong and likeable leader failed to ignite the electorate: especially the young. It is yet to be proven, but it is widely agreed that Corbyn gained the youth vote; with SNP MPs already acknowledging this dynamic.
You can easily tell by looking at Labour’s live engagement strategy that they went after the younger voter: why else would they have their leader standing in front of 15,000 Libertines fans at a football stadium in Merseyside? The SNP lack of a well plotted live engagement strategy let it wth the same old image of the leader standing in front of the party faithful. Certainly, from a campaigning perspective, it is easy to see which images from events were more attractive to young voters.
The SNP doing it’s own thing
Did the SNP’s live engagement strategy portray the SNP as the leaders of the independence movement? The simple answer is, it didn’t. And this was a deliberate approach.
For example, the SNP didn’t take part in the All Under One Banner, deciding not to support Scotland’s largest ever independence rally. We are in a strange world, when 17,000 marching through Glasgow in support of independence becomes a “distraction” (as one ex SNP MP told me) to the SNP’s General Election campaign. Further afield, there was little in the campaign that was designed to show the SNP acting on behalf of a diverse movement.
The messages the next live engagement strategy must portray
The campaign focussed on using live events and images from those events, to show a “strong leader who you could have a cup of tea with” To lead a radical campaign its leader has to be an “inspiring, collegiate leader” The strength of the Labour campaign was exactly that. It was perceived as a “radical” campaign and they had a leader who would listen, inspire and lead. As Kirsty Strickland offers in the National: “This presents an opportunity for the SNP, and the wider independence movement, to take stock, reflect and move forward.” However, nothing in the GE2017 campaign demonstrates a willingness for the SNP to listen.
No matter if the next campaign is another general election, or one for Holyrood or one for #ScotRef, the SNP has to change their live engagement strategy, and has to change the messaging. The SNP have to create an engagement strategy that demonstrates that the SNP is part of a movement, and is an organisation that listens and inspires. With that in mind, look back at the SNP images above. Do either of those images portray a party that is listening and inspiring?
My hope is that the next campaign will be framed at some very different events.
If you are interested in contributing to my work on a live engagement strategy for the YES movement please get in touch.
#ScotRef events will be more successful if more people are aware of them, and if more people attend them. Facebook helps amplify our events.
Facebook has over 31m registered users in the UK. If you want to get your product / service in front of a lot of people, there is fast becoming no better way to do that, than to use Facebook. However, recently I’ve seen a #deletefacebook campaign (ironically on Twitter) that seems to be gaining momentum.
I am not sure if there was a particular incident, article, TV programme, or annoying advert that prompted @neilmackay to post the above Tweet, but obviously his point of view has had some traction. But let me state this clearly: if you are a #ScotRef event organiser you HAVE to take advantage of Facebook. Our campaigning will play out heavily on this platform.
Top of my list is there shady business practices. Facebook paid less than £5,000 in UK corporation in the UK in 2015. I remember seeing and disbelieving the headline on the news the morning of the revelation. That same morning, I cast my eyes over my inbox to see the detail of the email from my accountant: Facebook paid less corporation tax than my tiny event business!
Facebook made over $4Billon profit that year and stated that its profits in the UK were 0.00005% of their turnover. If that’s the case, the company is clearly run by eejits eh?
The legal case for Facebook to pay a higher percentage of their turnover is black and white: they have done nothing illegal. The moral case for Facebook is equally clear: they have done nothing right.
Such bad business practices alone should be enough for the “intelligent and honest” to heed Neil’s clarion call and ditch the platform. However, if those honest and intelligent people stop engaging and using the platform, then we leave it open to the total abuse by the acolytes of Trump and Farage. If we do not engage we are complicit in placing the power in their hands.
Facebook is a crucial tool for #ScotRef Event Organisers says Scientist (kind of)
Dana Fisher @Fisher_DanaRis an American Scientist, who does nothing else (it seems) but study Protests and Protesters. Her belief in the power of Facebook as a campaigning tool is clear:
Facebook is an invaluable amplification tool. And importantly for our movement it is FREE. An event can gain literally thousands of attendees from a smart use of Facebook.
So, should #scotref event organisers use Facebook? Well, we are all too aware of the negative aspects of this social media platform but we also have to be aware of the benefits to the #ScotRef movement. We have to understand it and use it. So, if you are organising a #ScotRef event don’t #ditchfacebook. Hold off displaying that anger, and let it boil over when Scotland sets and enforces its own corporation tax.
If you are interested in contributing to my work on a live engagement strategy for the YES movement please get in touch.
From initially broadcasting other independence events, to creating their own, Independence Live cement their important place within the movement.
There’s little glamour at IndyLive headquarters on Morrison Street on the south side of Glasgow. Brightly painted walls do their best to welcome you into the collection of nook and cranny spaces that Independence Live call home. A “Yes” banner, gaffer taped to the wall, hints at what lurks inside. With a small office and a slightly larger (but totally empty) meeting room, they are clearly in the settling in stage. The reception (which they share with another organisation) has to double as the studio.
That makeshift studio can only be constructed once the staff from the other office have left for the evening. So with a 7pm start the plugging, unplugging, testing and wiring begins in haste. The clock is ticking. Welcome to the world of live broadcasts.
With the few audience members seated, shushed and supplied with coffee, the “1.2, 1.2”, – as much a ritual to the broadcasting Gods, as of actual use to the engineers – seem hurried. Instructions boom from the huge frame of the floor manager. Going live approaches. “It’s OK if we don’t start exactly at 7?” asks one of the apprehensive crew.
Success in the second independence campaign will be built on stories and journeys like these. The growing number of tales will provide vital social proofing to others, outside the 45. They contain clear evidence that is it OK to change a previously strongly held view, plus the knowledge, that you are far from being alone.
Both Steven and Eric, of course, cite Brexit’s defining role in their transformation. However, the central reason for their support for independence, was the realisation – in the form of Jeremy Corbyn “leading” a disintegrating Labour party – that a second No vote would lead to two decades of right wing Tory rule from London.
In assembling this panel Independent Live show they have the nose for a story, as much as an eye for a camera angle. They have demonstrated over the last four years that they are central to the independence movement in Scotland.
The one defining skill of this Conservative Party leadership is its unmatched gift for political timing.
Political timing or base opportunism?
In politics timing is everything and right on queue enter our ever opportunist Prime Minister. If the Paris tragedies were the final pieces in the war making puzzle the first were dropped out of the box and placed on the table at the onset of summer.
But summer seems like a long time ago. So shocking was the carnage in Paris in November that it is hard to cast our minds back to the political landscape that preceded them. But should we take a moment we can see that the summer soundtrack was a monotonous Tory megamix with the aim to make us all dance to a particularly bloodthirsty tune.
The march to war started back in July
At the end of July Mr Cameron made, what was billed as, his first major UK speech on tackling extremist ideology. In that speech he set out the Government’s “five-year strategy” to deal with extremist ideology. With this speech and the anticipated media coverage he was of course building the narrative that may well lead to an increase in hostilities in Syria. Extremist ideology so the speech goes has to be dealt with at home and abroad.
The content was the focus for most but as this speech was just a rehash of one he made ten years ago I focus on the timing. The horrific massacre of tourists on a Tunisian beach at the end of June allowed Mr Cameron an opportunity he couldn’t miss to support his grand narrative: that to root out and end terror we must heap more terror on far away lands.
The echo of that last gun shot in North Africa was the sound of an increased march to war in the UK. David Cameron placed a direct link connecting those beaches – where the Foreign Office has withdrawn tourists – to the battlefields in Syria where the Ministry of Defence is already – on a small scale – engaging our military hardware.
Another piece of “good timing” over the summer came when it was “leaked” that UK armed service personal were already involved in attacks on the sovereign state of Syria. This revelation was a very useful test of likely public and parliamentary opposition to a new campaign. This “leak” approach to policy follows on from years of Labour Party spin. Every successive Government has built on the experience and knowledge of the last to become peerless in the management of the dissemination of information. The media is the first theatre of any war. Victory on that battlefield is of profound strategic importance.
Simply judging by David Cameron’s actions over the summer there was never any doubt that the aftermath of Paris would lead to more opportunist warmongering in the UK. We knew this would happen because the Government had recent form. Using the humanitarian crisis over the European summer months to propagate war Cameron and Osborne, et al, have shown beyond all doubt that they will never balk at any opportunity that comes their way.
Over the coming days, weeks and months – depending on the resilience of Labour MPs moral fibre – they will continue to skillfully and munipilatively push towards war: somehow shielding from the media spotlight that their cure is in fact the cause.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria spilling over into Europe could not have come at a more opportune time for a Government hell bent on war
As the end of summer approached The Establishment’s vile mouth piece The Sun was already depicting those against increased military action – including Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbin – in Syria as “Cowards”. Not to be outdone by the Government in the Shakespearean duplicity The Sun told its readers that going to war in Syria is the best way to show anger and frustration at the death of Aylan Kurdi.
No coincidence that Parliament was in recess at the start of this propaganda war
As MPs headed for a break from Parliament over the summer the Tory Party had a couple of months to lobby MPs to back a fresh military campaign in Syria.
Strengthening your position while your opposition was weak was too good an invitation to miss for the opportunist PM. Labour as the main parliamentary opposition – if only numerically speaking – welcomed their new leader in September. With the entire party focused on internal matters over the summer the timing, once again, from the Tory party perspective was priceless. With Labour electing a leader who was exceptionally unlikely to vote for military action in Syria the Tories took full advantage to split the opposition.
Mr Cameron has a well respected and recognised gift for rolling the political dice at just the right time. There is an accepted narrative that we admire his astuteness and adroitness. It is more correct of course to rile at our Prime Minister for being a callus opportunist who used the death of 130 civilians in France and 30 civilians in Tunisia to catapult his argument that we need to be at war into every home. But that is what Warmongers do; there is no level that they will not sink to bolster the blood thirst.
The power of imagery is not to be underestimated
On the political battlefield imagery is almost as important as timing. The militarisation of the return of those murder victims from Tunisia, emerging as they did from an RAF aircraft, to be carried slowly and solemnly by military personal, seemed rather incongruous for the repatriation of murdered plumbers, post office and factory workers who had tragically but simply set out on holiday. They were and remain civilians caught up in horrific tragedy.
President François Hollande’s choice of Les Invalides – the home of the military museum of France – to commemorate the victims of November’s attacks in Paris come straight from the Warmongers Handbook. Theses subtle decisions are important, deliberate and meaningful steps in the abhorrent process of militarising the civilian population.
We know and we are continuously told that ISIS are hell bent on bringing civilians – across the Middle East as much as Western Europe – onto the battlefield. We are disgusted at their approach and their aims. Yet our politicians – by honouring the dead in such overt militarised style – do little to draw what should be a clear and profound distinction. Civilians even when they are targets are not military personnel. It is past the time for the west to draw this line and stick to it. To remove all military connotations from civilian tragedy.
It is time to say no to increased military action by the UK in Syria.
An independent Scot's view on the search for an independent nation