Wednesday, August 29, 2007

As Ithers See Us

Last month, Professor Tom Gallagher, Professor of Ethnic Conflict and Peace at Bradford University, hawked several variations of a nasty and vicious little article which appeared originally in The Spectator magazine, around the Scottish and English press. His thesis, such as it was, was that in having the temerity to win the affections of a great many of Scotland's Muslim voters, the SNP had done so only by pandering to extremism.

It was total rubbish, of course, and he attracted a great deal of criticism for his troubles, with many people choosing to accuse him of being little more than a Labour stooge. While seeing no reason to defend him from the charges of writing a skewed, incendiary, ignorant, vindictive and misleading (whether willfully or otherwise) article, I did baulk at the 'stooge' bit, and defended him accordingly on the Herald comments board:

"For what it's worth, he has managed to write with insight and sensitivity before on the subject of the SNP in a book called 'Nationalism in the Nineties', to which he contributed a few years ago. His, as I seem to recall, was a fantastic article - balanced, fair and critical to boot, but also quite respectful for someone who was [at the time] clearly a Labour supporter".

I freely admit that Professor Gallagher puzzles me. His recent attacks on the SNP and individuals within seem bizarre, and I don't think it's a cheap shot to question why his obsession over Muslim involvement in the SNP seems to have coincided with a drop in support for Labour, alongside a notable reluctance in Scotland to embrace the current fad amongst the English liberal-left to proclaim the death of multiculturalism and assert a top-down 'Britishness' [2nd article down].

That said, he has an article in this month's Prospect, which echoes much of what was good, relevant and insightful in his 'Nationalism in the Nineties' article referenced earlier. Sure, the pejoratives fly thick and fast - 'separatism', 'provoking fights', and the commonplace confusion of identifiable spending above English levels with 'subsidy' - old favourites every one, all crop up. But skip over the ad hominem stuff about the SNP and take in the overall flavour of what is, otherwise, a pretty good article. Nats like me might not find a huge amount to agree with, but it's sometimes good tae see ourselves as ithers see us. Professor Gallagher has deservedly lost some credibility over the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean everything he says is always going to be wrong.

1 comment:

Mountjoy said...

Ah, I missed the other article (it certainly sounds nasty), but I agree his Prospect article is quite insightful. On my blog I quoted the following from the Prospect article, and made the comment that follows...

"Only the Labour party stands in the way of the SNP becoming the dominant force in politics, possibly for a long time. The Lib Dems are in trouble and the Conservatives are still moribund. But Labour has a sickly pallor and could even implode, as David Trimble’s Ulster Unionists did after 2000. A look at the extent to which Labour’s majorities have shrunk in those 23 single-member seats it still retains shows how serious is the malaise. This insurgency in the prime minister’s own homeland may well kill any hopes he entertained for a quick election. For he is confronted by the most resourceful and popular electoral nationalist since Charles Parnell in the 1880s. The British state he confronts now lacks the deep reserves of legitimacy which it used to break the SNP challenge of the 1970s. And Salmond probably has a few more surprises up his sleeve, which he hopes will unnerve the Westminster elite and lead to the unravelling of the union.”

If Brown’s party has a “sickly pallor” in Scotland, once its heartland, what hope is there of a snap poll in the UK?