“RED TORIES OUT, RED TORIES OUT”. This was the chant that met the Scottish Labour Leader, Jim Murphy and comedian Eddie Izzard as they tried to campaign in the centre of Glasgow yesterday.
On Friday Ed Milliband received the same treatment, as he arrived in Glasgow to try to stop Labour’s continued poll slide north of the border. Fringe groups of nationalists have continued to shout down Labour candidates in an attempt to stop them spreading their campaign message.
It’s sinister, it’s ugly and there is no need for it.
Lets be clear, nobody is breaking the law here. Freedom of speech is alive and well, using a megaphone to shout down people you disagree with is legal but it debases political debate and makes a mockery of democracy. The likes of Sean Clerkin, Piers Doughty-Brown and fellow anti-Labour shock troopers are creating an undeniably hostile atmosphere during this election. Nobody (not even Jim Murphy) deserves to have crackpots screaming inches away from their face.
Then there is the sheer lunacy of this particular chant, perpetuated by a very vocal minority of semi-professional campaigners: “Red Tories Out”
For one thing, the Nationalists will have to form some sort of pact or agreement with the “Red Tories” if Nicola Sturgeon’s Westminster wing is to have any hope of becoming a meaningful partner in Ed Miliband’s government.
‘Get the Red Tories out….now, can we work together in government, please?’
It’s almost beyond parody…
I find it hard to see what these people are protesting about? They’ve all but won. Labour are on track to be absolutely annihilated in Scotland, with some polls suggesting they could lose all their seats to the SNP!
Yet, rather than sitting back and enjoying the run-in to their electoral triumph it seems some nationalists are getting more and more venomous as polling day approaches. It is like the thought of holding the ‘balance of power’ in London after 7 May has stoked the bubbling religious fervour within the nationalist ranks.
However maybe the SNP are not getting a fair hearing, it is true that much of the mainstream UK media is overtly anti-independence and the party has acted decisively (if belatedly) to suspend errant members.
The SNP and their support have even been compared to Nazis by the right wing press. This is a hyperbolic comparison that is completely unfair and total rubbish. Indeed, Unionists with short memories should remember the disgraceful scenes of violence that erupted after the referendum in George Square.
However those activists shouting at Murphy and Miliband are a joke and are merely feeding the national press’ desire to build upon the ‘angry nat’ stereotype that has been cultivated by tabloids and broadsheets alike for some time.
All parties have their fair share of abusive supporters online but it is rare that these incidents make the news. Is this media bias? Very probably. But if the SNP aren’t playing on a level playing field then their supporters need to rise above these negative stereotypes.
For floating voters like myself the kind of harassment demonstrated towards opposing parties by SNP activists coupled with the online abuse dished out by faceless troll Twitter accounts, puts me off voting for SNP. Why break into a Conservative rally in England and scream at the Prime Minister? Why “hunt” Labour candidates like Margaret Curran on the street, shouting and filming them? At best it is embarrassing to the rest of SNP members at worse it is a form of intimidation.
There is a lot of disillusionment in Scotland and the SNP have attracted many of those alienated from UK politics and converted them in die-hard supporters. However all political parties must be taken with a healthy dose of cynicism. No party should be blindly followed without being questioned.
Alas, it is a sad fact that the words ‘unionist’ and ‘nationalists’ have become part of the political landscape in Scotland now. Our nation, which has a penchant for tribalism and hatred based on differing views, continues to be split between those who want independence and those that do not.
Difference is opinion is fine, aggression is not.