Jamie original picJamie Glackin, who chaired last weekend’s Scottish Labour Conference, cautions against the canonisation of our political leaders, and says when we challenge our politicians we can make better politics.


Following the nationalist government’s car-crash over tax credits, and the First Minister’s angry, shouty response at FMQs yesterday, SNP loyalists have been in a tailspin. Some have adopted a predictably sanguine position whilst others have taken a more reasoned approach to their party’s performance.

By coincidence, as all this was going on, Nicola was awarded the accolade of ‘Greatest Living Scot’ according to YouGov, beating off competitors like Andy Murray and Billy Connolly. Notably she is also rather keen on reminding detractors that her poll numbers are utterly fabulous.

All of which reminded me of something that our esteemed editor, Duncan Hothersall, said in his recent article – ‘Ten Word Answers’. He argued that the SNP focuses on the populist message, but that in fact, politics was much more complex than that. I was also reminded of a similar extract from The West Wing, where Arnold Vinick states that the public are begging to be lied to if they think that the religious observance of their leaders is somehow important.

So a thought struck me. Surely the public are begging to be lied to if we canonise our leaders, especially whilst they are still alive?

Alex Salmond, a master of self-promotion, unveiled a tasteless memorial to himself at (his third choice of) university. Nicola, whilst lacking the more egregious character traits of her predecessor, appeared at the Hydro to a reception normally reserved for Lady Gaga. This response, I suppose, is not her fault. But the fact that behaviour like this is still encouraged among some quarters of the party faithful certainly is.

“Look at our polling,” when volleyed back in answer to any difficult question, is essentially her saying that it doesn’t matter what question the opposition asks; the swelled ranks of nationalist members and supporters will give political cover to any situation, no matter how potentially damaging to the government.

And there is the dichotomy that befalls the SNP. Do they continue, headlong, into an election avoiding the difficult questions from the opposition and journalists? Or do they make an attempt to explain their position in more than a soundbite? With a second independence referendum essentially kicked into the long grass, surely the responsibilities of government demand that the concerns of the public are put front and centre by the SNP, unencumbered by how policy stacks up in terms of support for separation?

Because, at some point, many of those people swept up in the post-referendum euphoria will begin to question what their leaders are saying. Tribally following a party line may be comforting for some and for now, but it will prove ultimately unsatisfying for many.

In Scottish Labour, we took some brave steps last weekend, encouraging real debate within our party and, critically, adopting the resolutions as policy positions, despite knowing that our leader did not agree with at least one of them. Yet in Tuesday’s Trident motion, Kezia voted in line with the new position. In the SNP at the moment, such democratic deliberation is simply unthinkable.

The fact is, the tough questioning of politicians should be welcomed by all of us as it ultimately improves what is put before the public. So the next time a previously sympathetic journalist, or an opponent, questions your party or its leaders, don’t jump down their throat – they are actually doing you a favour. Examination and reflection make better politics. When we take a more critical view of politics and our politicians, and not just the ones on the other side, we will all be better for it.

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36 thoughts on “Begging to be lied to

  1. “Look at our polling”—-This , if uttered in actuality and not another invented quote, should remind Scottish Labour that after 8 years in government ( half as a minority ), the SNP government is still hugely popular. While the opposition are still not trusted, by and large.
    Nor can you have it both ways and boast of the reception Corbyn gets, while whining about Sturgeon’s ability to attract large gatherings of approving support, both in halls and on the street.

    If Scottish Labour WANT to get support back, they have to stop their obsession with attacking the SNP and instead get some policies on the go.
    How about planning to grow Scotland’s economy? You know, the thing that provides employment and ameliorates poverty.
    You might need to insist that Scotland gets more fiscal powers from Westminster, but as Cameron/Osborne are only interested in the North and South of England these days, that should be an open door for a friendly Unionist Party.

    1. Sure,but Labour have to hold the government to account.Thats what the opposition does.Yes,policies have to be developed.Kezia has stated that Smith is the fulfilment of the vow and the culmination of the devolution process,but thats her personal opinion.She has clearly shown that she listens to the membership and is open to debate in all policy areas.Devomax/federalism isn’t off the table entirely and could help bring people home to Labour.The SNP,on the other hand,don’t seem able to compromise on independence which,I think puts a limit to their potential support.A limit which may well already have been reached.Their lead is there to be chipped away if a bolder stance is adopted.

      1. Kev, of course governments have to be held to account, but this should be done on an honest, straight fashion. People aren’t daft. They see through artifice and bluster.
        Is Smith “near federalism, or as close to Home Rule” or whatever was actually promised? I don’t think so, and every time Unionism moves the posts makes them weaker. Bring on Devo Max or Federalism—-that makes constitutional sense at least.
        As for the SNP. They asked for Devo Max when the referendum was lost. FFA, but Unionists voted it down. I suspect that is where we will be eventually, but no thanks to Scottish Labour, who cannot see a gift horse when it’s staring them in the face.
        Check out the polls—they don’t lie.

      2. “Kezia has stated that Smith is the fulfillment of the vow and the culmination of the devolution process”

        then she is flying in the face of the Holyrood cross-party devolution committee, of which Labour are a member – either there is no feedback within Labour or Kezia isn’t paying attention to the memos – neither looks good.

        “Devomax/federalism isn’t off the table entirely” – coming from the party that offered the least in recommendations to the Smith Commission and from the party that stood side by side with the Conservatives to ensure it was off the menu from 2012 and only added in a last minute panic in 2014 – again this sounds hollow.

        Couple that with the latest “Money will be found when looked for/ by not cutting APD” in 2018 we can pay for tax credit cuts in 2016 fiasco and the current anti- trident stance (despite vigorous support for it during the referendum campaign) – Labour are at the very best reactionary and incoherent and at first blush come across as being less than truthful..

        This article is more a guide for the Labour party to look inwards – before criticising others – Labour party physicians should heal thyself.

  2. “The tough questioning of politicians should be welcomed by all of us as it ultimately improves what is put before the public.” Absolutely. This kind of scrutiny and debate within parties are essential to prevent political parties being taken over by cult-like thinking. The main points in this article regarding the dangers of canonisation of political leaders are borne out by research by psychologists and sociologists such as Zimbardo or Deikman. I’d say Deikman should be required reading for everyone in politics. His book “Them and Us,” explains why we all have the capacity for cult-like thinking – a large part of it is driven by a longing for a parental figure to look after us.

    Deikman lists these behaviours as indicative of Cult-like thinking: compliance with the group, dependency on a leader, devaluation of outsiders and avoidance of dissent. While it’s tempting, when reading that list, to think of other people or parties where you see that behaviour, it’s actually more valuable to notice our own tendencies towards them. There’s a section in the book about John F. Kennedy’s handling of Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis that should be a warning to any politician suppressing dissent. During planning for the Bay of Pigs operation, any dissent was seen as negative and unsupportive, and suppressed, with disastrous results. Kennedy learned from this, and during the Cuban Missile Crisis he organised his team to foster debate and consider wide-ranging options. As Deikman says, “the practice of welcoming dissent – uncomfortable and disconcerting as it can be – proved immensely practical.”

  3. Good grief. Well there is reality according to labour and there is reality the rest of the world experiences.

    This is a prime example of the former.

    “The Governments car crash over tax credits”. LMAO. It was Labour who came up with the gem that they could fund tax credits by using the funding John Swinney would raise from the opposition benches.

    This even tops their pledge to deliver 1000 more nurses than any number the SNP would deliver.

    I sincerely hope this is the start of Labours election campaign because it can only go uphill from here.

  4. Comrade Jamie I think it is a big mistake to concentrate on personalities however let me give you my objective assessment of yesterdays car crash as you put it, the way I saw it yesterday from the SNP was that the first Minister Nicola Sturgeon was like Martina Navratilova on centre court smashing her way to victory, on the Labour side the best for me was Jackie Baillie a worthy opponent similar to a tenacious Chris Evert and full of principles particullary her support for the workers of Faslane and Trident renewal for me I think that if Kezia Dugdale who is similar to Sue Barker a trier but struggling ever thinks of throwing in the towel in then there is only one alternative leader for me it is Jackie Baillie she is the star of the Scottish Labour section and a born leader.

    1. Kezia has the full support of the party.I think she’s doing a good job under very difficult circumstances.

  5. The problem Labour and Scotland faces is that for many the SNP can do no wrong. That’s why Nicola can get away with warm words and little action – she can take her supporters support for granted. Her hardcore support reject reasoned and fair criticism as “#SNPBad” (anti-SNP zealotry) and, without a hint of irony, engage in #LabourBad vitriol fuelled by memes and badly written blogs.

    Just look at what Iain Macwhirter is facing for saying the SNP could do more:

    1. If the SNP were doing anything wrong we would be reading about it in the media instead of 2 weeks of Michele Thomson & T in the park.

      For example they haven’t taken us to war on a pack of lies.
      They don’t indulge in cash for honours cash for questions or cash for access.
      They don’t sell weapons to despots or terrorists.
      They don’t allow rendition for torture.
      They don’t authorise the use of torture.
      They don’t use the RAF to bomb our citizens abroad.
      They don’t promote or legislate policy which causes our citizens to starve to death due to lack of access to benefits and welfare.

      When they do you and I both can join in the condemnation and criticism of their actions just as you would if Labour indulged in such activities.

      Wouldn’t you?

      1. How about mismanage a hospital resulting in a man dying on a trolley in a corridor who should have been in a ward?
        Increasing classroom sizes following a pledge to make them smaller.
        Having noting to offer after 8 years despite freezing council tax because they were going to bring forward a new local government tax system.
        Public announcements that pay rises and second pension monies would be given to charities, with precious few of it ACTUALLY going to charity.
        Not knowing the terms of the Scotland Bill despite whining about it 24/7 and falsely claiming it stops them from doing anything.
        Zero tolerance for inter-party dissent.
        Zero tolerance for criticism of party leaders.
        Highly nepotistic in nature with husband and wife teams in abundance in the party hierarchy.
        No provision for mental health community facilities – which will lead to serious harm.
        Disastrous situation over Higher exams with a grade of 34% getting people a Maths pass, and an A grade being possible on a score of 56%!!!
        A GP crisis that includes there being no GPs to cover for all those who are due to retire in the next few years.
        Mike, pointing to Reserved issues and claiming the SNP are superior to National govt when the SNP have never held any powers to do any of the things you have mentioned are stupid.

        1. Well, H. I take you consider Burnham and the Labour government culpable for the many deaths in North Stafford health trust?
          The Scottish Government does not regulate for class size—that is local government. Glasgow has the worst education stats in Scotland and we learn they have “spent” £500,000 in “awards” in the last few years. Figure it out.
          Labour promised a new form of council tax a decade ago. Where is it ?
          Next two seem to be mince.
          Party Unity? Labour used to be famous for it.
          Nepotism? From the Party of Kinnock and family@. Or the Benns. Or the Sarwar “dynasty”. Come off it !

          H, “we salute your indefatigability”, blah, blah—in the words of one of your own, a creepy Labour creep.

        2. The SNP are not responsible for the day to day management of hospitals.

          Classroom sizes are determined by the LOCAL recruitment or not of teachers.

          What level of incompetence and stupidity would deliver a new local taxation system in the middle of a series of taxation and authority transfers from Westminster to Hollyrood?

          “Public announcements that pay rises and second pension monies would be given to charities, with precious few of it ACTUALLY going to charity.”

          I don’t recognise that as a crime or a reason to not vote for them. Who would?

          “Not knowing the terms of the Scotland Bill despite whining about it 24/7 and falsely claiming it stops them from doing anything.”

          What are the terms of the Scotland Bill? Do you know? I don’t!
          How can they do anything about a Bill they know nothing about?

          “Zero tolerance for inter-party dissent.”

          They only topic where there is no dissent within the SNP is on Independence. Like every other party there are supporters and detractors of every policy. Its hard for anybody to get 100% support except in the case of the SNP and Independence.

          “Zero tolerance for criticism of party leaders.”

          Can you give an example?

          “Highly nepotistic in nature with husband and wife teams in abundance in the party hierarchy.”

          Whats the percentage relative to Labours?

          “No provision for mental health community facilities – which will lead to serious harm.”

          A very stupid bare faced lie and probably born from desperation at this stage.

          “Disastrous situation over Higher exams with a grade of 34% getting people a Maths pass, and an A grade being possible on a score of 56%!!!”

          I’m pretty sure the Scottish Government doesn’t determine the pass or fail marks of School exams.

          “Mike, pointing to Reserved issues and claiming the SNP are superior to National govt when the SNP have never held any powers to do any of the things you have mentioned are stupid.”

          This is the pits. Your utter desperation to add to an already pathetic list of non complaints culminates in this utter rubbish.

          There is nothing you’ve listed that even comes close to lying about the causes of going to war or delving in Cash for honours or cash for questions or cash for access or rendition for torture or giving authorisation to torture or murder or sanctioned paedophilia etc etc etc.

    2. Maybe that’s just where things are at.Forty five percent of voters believe in independence.They vote for an independence supporting party.Fifty five percent believe in the union.They vote for three unionist parties,largely,though about a tenth of them vote for SNP for various reasons.

      1. No. You’re a year out of date. The support for Independence is now hovering between 52 to 55% and support for the union is down to 44%. According to consecutive polling.
        Support towards Independence has been steady and consistent for the last 5 years. It has never fallen back towards support for the union in that time.
        Another term of Cameron or Boris and you will see it go above 60 or 65.

        1. I don’t know where you got those figures from but I doubt their accuracy.Support for independence most certainly did drop in the week before the referendum.In fact,it slumped.Support for independence in opinion polls does appear to be up a fbit but how much of that increase would melt away in a real vote?

          1. You doubt the accuracy of published figures? Well at least we can agree on that and yet you and Labour consistently use published figures as the foundations of all your arguments and claims.
            Even when they come from the Conservatives!

        2. I meant to say that support for Independence has been steadily and consistently increasing over the last 5 years. It of course has not been steady and consistent at all as a result.

          Sorry about the error and misunderstanding.

    3. Comrade Scott, take a wee tip from me you would be better off getting used to it otherwise it will drive you crazy because the only time that the SNP may be beaten will be in a post Independent Scotland until then normal rules of politics have be suspended, the SNP and can do no wrong newspapers, polls, media can criticise and highlight whatever the SNP are doing good or bad it does not matter because the people are supporting something bigger than politics and any political party which is a cause and that cause is the inevitable Scottish Independence and supporting the SNP is their ways and means to getting to Scottish Independence.

      1. Labour is also a movement.A Scottish one.A British one.An international one.That movement includes a large number of people who support independence and,currently,vote SNP.Theyll come back to voting Labour when Labour moves closer to where they’re at on policy and on constitutional matters.I think there’s a recognition now that Labour have to offer something radically different to the Tories and Libdems,constitutionally,in order to move forward and that offer must be made jointly by UK and Scottish Labour.

        1. Nothing short of Home Rule & Devo Max?

          Considering Labour keep telling us Home Rule and Devo Max has already been delivered I don’t think we will be seeing any movement anytime soon if they now start telling us they intend to deliver it in the future.

        2. “Theyll come back to voting Labour when Labour moves closer to where they’re at on policy”

          Comrade Kev the position Scottish Labour section and the Labour Party UK are akin to SOMEBODY walking up to a bus stop and just missing a bus and on the front of the bus the destination sign it says INDEPENDENCE the route has been set and the bus continues the journey and when it comes the next bus comes along going to the same destination INDEPENDENCE you will have to decide if you will get on the bus.

    4. As a Scot that reads Burn’s, I do love those that like to introduce themselves as titled. In this case we have Doctor Scott Arthur.
      The doctor makes a massive academic arse of himself when he tries to compare the Labour Party’s downfall with the state of the nation.
      Let me reassure the doctor, you are, as a self professed academic wrong. Scotland is doing ok, where as Labour are slowly in there death throes.

      1. As a blog editor I do love those who try to score points with personal attacks but lack even a basic grasp of grammar.

        1. Criticise my grammar, poke fun at my spelling, Duncan, but as long as you understand the message then I don’t care.

          When a self proclaimed academic makes a statement such as “The problem Labour and Scotland faces is that for many the SNP can do no wrong”, then I am duty bound to point out the absurdity of the remark. Once again, Scotland is doing OK, where as Labour is finished as a political entity in Scotland.
          Maybe Scott Arthur should reflect on that last point i.e.’Labour is finished as a political entity in Scotland’, does he agree? am I accurate in my claim? how did it come to this?

          1. Except your claim is self-evidently false, unless you are redefining “finished” to mean something else; which, given your history, I imagine you are.

          2. I don’t think you want to talk to me anymore Duncan, that wee ‘Reply’ box under you last comment has disappeared. That is so unfair of you. Others will get confused.
            However I stand corrected, you are of course correct, Labour is not finished, yet.
            I apologise for getting carried away but this is something none of us have seen before; the gradual drift to extinction of a political party. There was I know, the SDP back in the 80’s but they were not a real political party. The SDP were no more than a construct by four self opinionated has beans.
            The death of the Labour Party in Scotland is something else completely. It is phenomenal the speed of the decent. Yes you are right to point out that I am presumptuous when I say Labour is finished. There is a bit to go yet. Should the pollsters predictions become reality and the Tory’s become the opposition to the SNP after May 2016 then that will be another nail driven home. Then we have the council elections in 2017. Tell me Duncan are these local council elections still a FPtP ballot? If so that should do it.
            There are also the outside factors, out with our control in Scotland that cant be quantified. Jeremy Corbyn and the recent head office reorganisation could play a big part in the process. Who knows what Labour will look like by next week never mind next year with JC running the ship?

          3. I love the idea that you think a reply button not showing up is part of a dastardly plot.

            For your information, local council elections in Scotland are run under STV, and have been since 2007.

            Perhaps you should pay more attention.

      2. Comrade Richard, I havent got a clue what your on about please can you enlighten me on this doctor thingamjig thing I don’t get it Is there a doctor in the house or something what’s it all about I am confused. .

        1. Will, Check out the link on Scott Arthur’s comment to his Tweeter account.

  6. Jamie Glackin – ‘Following the Nat Gov car-crash on tax credits’ we had the big debate on Radio Scotland this afternoon when Gordon Brewer failed miserably to get Ms. Baillie to see sense. Then again going by your comments above you are from the selfsame stable.

  7. This article typifies the Labour Party’s mind set and also points to why they are edging toward their inevitable end.
    Yes, the SNP government’s performance recently has been open to fair criticism, but the electorate are’nt stupid. Labour’s over the top overt hatred and unfair criticism does not go down well with an educated electorate. They don’t like being treated like mugs. And they don’t like nasty politics. Labour don’t seem to realise this fundamental point. The electorate understand effort and they understand decency.
    When Labour politicians use the death of an old man as a chance to score a point they the voters, are offended, repulsed at the depths their politicians will stoop. Voters are or know teachers, nurses the police. Labours continual disrespect for our public servants is the reason why support has disappeared.
    They see a government that represents them trying their best and an opposition that has lost its self control.
    This article sums up why Labour are on the road to oblivion in Scotland. Little wonder their chairman sounds deranged.

  8. This article by Jamie Glackin needs further comment.
    The title ‘Begging to be lied to’ Im not sure who Mr Glackin is talking about. I assume it is Scottish voters. If so it is yet another example of Scottish Labour’s disrespectful attitude toward the people they are looking to for support.
    Second sentence; “Jamie Glackin, who chaired last weekend’s Scottish Labour Conference, cautions against the canonisation of our political leaders, and says when we challenge our politicians we can make better politics”. Jamie Glackin needs reminded, the only politicians in Scotland to be ‘canonised’ (I think the preferred euphemism at Westminster is ‘elevated’) are retired unionists politicians. Recent Labour examples that come to mind are Lord George, Lord Jack, Lord Alistair, Baron Mike. Im sure there are others.
    Finally, rather than criticise others Jamie Glackin should reflect on his own performance as Chairman of Labour in Scotland. Since becoming Chairman he has presided over the greatest defeat in the history of his party. Should he choose to stay in post until May 2016 he will I predict witness the extinction of the organisation he heads.

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