Limp gestures

I am not at all averse to gesture politics. Political gestures can be very effective. Given that they are intended only to attract attention or create an impression, it is difficult for them to fail. And it is perfectly possible for the political gesture to have an impact far greater than the minimum intended. If you doubt me, consider that we are right now celebrating the outcome of arguably the biggest political gesture ever. Neil Armstrong’s small step onto the surface of the moon was the culmination of a political gesture of almost unimaginable magnitude.

On 25 May 1961 when President John F Kennedy made that historic speech in which he committed the USA to a manned moon landing within the decade he was responding to the Soviet Union’s successes in the area of space exploration with a bit of willy-waving on a grand scale. Look at the numbers. By 1967 the Apollo employed more than 400,000 people who spent $200bn in today’s money – 4% of the entire federal budget.

The willy they built – better known as the Saturn V – stood 111 metres tall and weighed over 3,000 tonnes. Waving this particular willy required 6.35 million kilograms of thrust.

As a political gestures go, the Apollo programme is unlikely to ever be surpassed. Fifty years on, the world is still in awe of the Apollo 11 mission’s achievement. So, let’s not dismiss gesture politics.

The SNP Westminster group’s commitment to sit with their arms folded when Theresa May makes her final Prime Ministerial appearance in the House of Commons isn’t quite on the same scale. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t important. But it isn’t. The gesture pales into insignificance, not next to the Apollo space programme, but in comparison to those same MPs’ walkout during Prime Minister’s Questions a little over a year ago.

That’s the problem with political gestures. You’ve always got to top the last one. Unless, like Apollo, it’s one that cannot ever be topped. When a political gesture falls flat its like you wave your willy only to have it drop off and roll down a drain. At which point the willy-waving metaphor just got distinctly uncomfortable.

But a political gesture doesn’t only have to be impressive in relative terms. In absolute terms, it must also meet the expectations of whichever constituency you are seeking to impress. Or satisfy their hopes. Given what Scotland’s independence movement expects from the SNP, declining to applaud Theresa May cannot but look utterly pathetic. If your audience is hoping for the moon, don’t expect them to get exited by being presented with some tawdry bauble.

Right now, a large and growing part of the Yes movement is expecting the SNP to stand up to the bullying British political elite. They hope to see the SNP defying the asserted authority of the British state. They want the SNP to do something bold and decisive.

We’re not asking the SNP to send a man to the Moon. But we are looking for a lot more than them thumbing their nose at some silly convention.



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5 thoughts on “Limp gestures

  1. If that’s the best the snp can do to stand up to the British state then they should get embarrassed at collecting their pays. The whole useless lot of them. The snp are on a different planet from this one. They’re not the snp we so urgently to get us out of this tyrannical state.

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  2. I have said before, we need a new political Party of Independence in Scotland.
    We have come to rely too much on the SNP. And going for a new Party, could be a risk, in that it splits the pro Independence vote ta Elections.
    The SNP has benefited from this reluctance,to split the vote, and that fear is understandable.
    However, if SNP keep delaying, and delaying, if they want to wait, and wit, and we see our country damaged more and more,that faith and that huge trust placed in them will go the same way it did with Labour, in Scotland.
    And waiting ’till after Brexit, is one wait too many for this country.
    We still hope SNP will come up with something before then, and but if they don’t, there may well indeed, be a backlash before too long.

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  3. It can be one of only three things: 1) the SNP leadership has a cunning plan that will all come together on Hallowe’en; 2) there is something that they are not telling us but that has them struck like a rabbit in headlights; or 3) they have not the slightest intention of giving up their kudos before 2021 when most of them will wander off to pastures new and even higher kudos, while the rest of us, who will have stupidly given them our trust, will be let down yet again by self-interest. The Autumn Conference will be the place to demand to be told which it is. Yes, it is always much easier to be radical in opposition than it is in power; we understand that. All we ask is that the party is not taking the michael, as Labour in Scotland did to its members.

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  4. I really do get the frustration with the snp. So much so that I cancelled my membership. I don’t think the current leadership are up to the job of gaining our freedom. The fire just isn’t in them. In the next year or so this is going to become increasingly apparent to the membership. Most of whom are desperate to end the union. I don’t think they have a cunning plan. In fact I don’t think there is a plan. The British state will not leave Scotland & her assets without Scottish blood being spilled. They will orchestrate it. Divide & rule has always worked for them before. And yes they are that nasty. There will be plenty Scottish redcoats only to happy to help the colonial state. They may in the end have to be forced out of Scotland. I suspect some in the snp know this & that may be giving them a sleepless night or two. But it’s our land. We are entitled to be free if we so choose. The snp cannot go on winning elections without delivering independence. So there may in fact be a new party arise at some time in the next few years. That may be inevitable. However I still think clearing out the leadership in power now is the best bet cos a new party & all that entails will postpone independence yet again. Nichola is letting us down now. Alex previously let us down. He agreed to no election monitors when he knew what the British state were capable of…

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