Graeme Archer

Chapter 1. Keep the heid

“The truth is so obvious to some people that they don’t feel the need to share it. In fact, they resent being asked about it. They just want everyone to behave as if their story is the only story. And the people who ask questions in that situation are treated like traitors. It’s a form of control and a kind of bullying.” The Illuminations, by Andrew O’Hagan.

I remembered Andrew O’Hagan’s latest novel this week, when Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, was essentially attacked in the ongoing ground war (no inverted commas necessary) between the SNP and, well, anyone who isn’t SNP.

What would Pat Kane, the famous thinker, have to say to his fellow SNP supporters? Here he is on Twitter:

So it’s Jim Murphy’s fault that SNP supporters turn up and shove their angry, unreasonable faces in his, and yell so loud that no-one else can hear? There’s really no end to the wisdom to be found within Scotland’s nationalist-pop “community.” For here’s Eddi Reader to add her own advice: <

Glasgow has been renamed: no more the dear green place, it’s now a YES city; and only supporters of the SNP are welcome therein.

Look, I hold no candle for Jim Murphy. Growing up in a country gripped – throttled – by the horrors of the Scottish Labour establishment was no great pleasure, and I can just about manage to contemplate life without Jim Murphy, Dougie Alexander et al. at Westminster.

It’s also grimly amusing to see Labour being treated to their own medicine: for it was 1980s Scottish Labour, as Danny Finkelstein reminded us recently, who sought to delegitimise parties which Labour declared to be insufficiently Scottish.

But what’s been happening these last few weeks in Scotland isn’t just the rough-and-tumble of politics, whatever that’s supposed to mean, still less some sort of new dawn for a brave-hearted vision of national pride.

It’s tiny-minded; it’s aggressive; it’s blinkered; SNP street politics are, in fact, every cliché about Scotland ever sniggered out by some low-rent Clarkson-ist. The nationalists seem intent, as I recently lamented, about replacing one-nation politics with a one-party state, and, don’t forget, this comes only a couple of months after they were defeated in the referendum.

This is, literally, horrible. Vote against this. Vote for union.

Chapter 2. One nation, under the sun

“But they were not aware of her. In the next instant she knew it. They could not see her any more than she could see God.” Monica Ali, Brick Lane.

It’s not only Scottish nationalists who quite like a wee bit of segregation now and then. In England too there are people quite happy to ignore blatant discrimination being practised on borough-wide scales right under their twitching, sensitive, useless noses:

It’s not just Giles, of course. Lutfur Rahman, the fraudulent, Islamist-backed mayor, recently and thankfully expelled from office by a British judge, had plenty of supporters in the Left-wing press. They’ve all gone silent since the judgement which comes after years, years of Metropolitan police indifference to the visible malpractices (to put it mildly) over which Rahman and his faction presided.

The East end was the jewel in London’s crown, and only floppy-haired snobs needed newly-sexy Shoreditch to find a reason to visit. But this last ten years…I didn’t invent those “gay free zone” stickers, and the men beaten up in Whitechapel don’t invent their attacks. Perhaps we were suffering from Islamophobic false consciousness.

Talking of which, this week the Labour Party held a gender-segregated rally, just a few days after Miliband mused thoughtfully on the need for increased criminalisation of “Islamophobia”. Who cares about equality, when there’s all them votes to harvest! Labour vote-farming within Islamic communities: I speak metaphorically, of course.

Vote against this increasingly-accepted way of doing things: it is not inevitable, only if we choose to allow it. Vote always for people who understand that One Nation means a rejection of factionalism. And remember which movement first succoured the career of Lutfur Rahman, however horrified they now claim to be at the (predictable) result of that succouring: vote against such people.

Chapter 3. On empathy

“Conservatives do not often display the moral imagination required to think yourself into the position of someone less fortunate than yourself.” Philip Collins, The Times.

I read that line, from Mr Collins, and it was like a slap in the face, for I like Mr Collins. Is he right? I look up from my iPad.

There’s a man sitting across from me on the tube: big and braw, I’d say, in Scottish.

He’s a worker. Because: he’s tired, wearing dusty clothes (see the opening pages of The Swimming Pool Library). He has a home-made, home-scratched tattoo on his right fore-arm: “Diev [something cyrillic-ish].” His eyes are sharp eastern blue and neither time nor the day’s graft has touched them.

Perhaps I notice men with eyes I find attractive, and then layer my meaning onto them, whether they like it or not. Keith laughs at me for my forced fictions. Obviously the details are wrong. Obviously. Obviously I’m incapable, being a Conservative, of empathy.

This man is tired, though; that detail at least is not invention. His eyes are nodding, and the state of his clothes demonstrates that he didn’t spend the afternoon gadding about the West End in an orgy of lunching or shopping.

The labours of his hands-like-shovels have carried him from his birth-home to this weird city of posh lawyers and skinny youths with metal punched through their eyebrows. The labours of those hands sends money home to his grandchildren.

Coming over here! Coming over here, building our roads, lifting our potatoes, running our shops and restaurants, caring for our sick, starting new businesses, paying taxes to our Exchequer.

Coming over here! and living the sort of life that good people throughout history have sought for themselves: one based on work.

This everyman is not hard to read, whatever the Tory deficiencies in empathy. Because his foreign-ness merely throws into sharp relief that which had hitherto remained hidden in plain sight. Which is a message about work. Work now, for the want of a better life, later.

Voting isn’t about getting what you want. It’s about asking for what you need. So before voting, if you’re tempted towards one extreme party or another, ask yourself: what need would take you on a bus, or an Easyjet, from one side of a continent to the other?

The exact same need that drives you from bed in the morning and sets you to labour, rather than choosing – bien pensant look away now – choosing not to do so.

One party gets this, while another party intentionally devised a welfare system of (unaffordable, but this isn’t my key point) gut-wrenching complexity which, among other things, institutionalised a poverty trap for the low-paid, while “rewarding” couples to live separately from each other and their children.

Thus the policy of the empathetically-endowed Left: we will pay you not to live with your lover or your child, and we’ll pay you not to work. I don’t know what you’d call this, but I’d suggest it’s not evidence of empathy.

Empathy is essential (it’s why I’m not UKIP), but clarity of vision is necessary too. And sometimes we take refuge in a synthetic version of the former, in order to avoid the latter.

“I mean just that one’s ordinary tasks are usually immediate and simple and one’s own truth lives in these tasks. Not to deceive oneself, not to protect one’s pride with false ideas, never to be pretentious or bogus, always to try to be lucid and quiet. There’s a kind of pure speech of the mind which one must try to attain. To attain it is to be in the truth, one’s own truth, which needn’t mean any big apparatus of belief.” Iris Murdoch, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine.

Vote for the party of tired men on the tube, of your haggard self when you don’t want to look in the mirror while brushing your teeth. Vote against cats-cradle welfarism, which – whatever today’s Labour-voting millionaire sleb suggests, for a soundbite on Newsbeat – is not a badge of love. Rather, it’s a way of not looking.

Love, as I think Iris was saying, is about trying to see as clearly as possible, not about an ideology-machine (money in! empathy out!) This isn’t about “toughness”, still less is it a bootstrap-pulling callous disregard of need.

Just this: without labour, there’s no money to care for each other. Vote with clarity, then, and vote for the party of labour. Vote Conservative.

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