Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Abuse of a domestic violence analogy

It's hardly an original criticism, but yesterday's semi-hysterical reaction to Joan McAlpine's debut in the Daily Record is surely making a meal of political hyperbole?

The MSP and close Salmond confidante compared Scotland's place in the UK to a wife subject to a domineering husband in a failed marriage, and in particular used the phrase 'abuse of power'. Predictably there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the 'anti-independence' (formerly known as 'Unionist') MacCommentariat, not to mention more than a little disquiet from the less slavish of the nationalists.

In particular, several of the critiques seem to have latched onto the phrase 'abuse of power', and this has led to claims that Ms McAlpine was comparing Scotland's relationship with the UK to that of an 'abusive relationship' or 'domestic abuse', with the word 'abuse' clearly representing the common link.

However, there's surely at least a nuance of difference between the former and the latter two. For example, a local authority acting ultra vires and subject to an adverse court judgement could rightly be said to be guilty of an 'abuse of power', even if the case concerned something like an obscure licensing law provision of little great import. But 'abusive relationship' and 'domestic abuse' suggests something of a different order. In particular, the latter phrase at the very least implies violence. But Joan McAlpine's article neither mentioned violence nor alluded to it.

Of course, it's hardly surprising that many of her opponents have made a bit of a meal out of what they claim she said rather than what she actually did state or imply. Equally, it works both ways politically, as indeed my last blogpost suggested in relation to MP Eilidh Whiteford and her reaction to MP Ian Davidson's ill-judged but clearly metaphorical remark about her getting a 'doing'.

And there's plenty to take issue about in Ms McAlpine's article without going over the top. For example, there's her slightly elitist reference to a "talented, well-educated girl with good prospects and her own income", as if an unemployed women with no qualifications should somehow have less grounds to complain about that domineering husband.

Moreover, on the more purely political level she makes her now fairly predictable reference to the 'unequal Union', when of course Alex Salmond claims that Scotland wants to be at the 'heart of Europe'[-ean Union), which on one level is either falling apart, or moving towards a United States of Europe on another, but either way makes our more domestic Union seem like a marriage made in heaven.

And of course Mr Salmond now also wants an independent Scotland to be part of the poundzone rather than the eurozone (not really at the 'heart of Europe' at all then), thus with Scotland subject to Bank of England monetary policy and with constraints on borrowing via what he now calls a 'fiscal stability pact', there's surely not a whole lot of difference as regards that and what's proposed in the Scotland Bill. So much for divorce from a failed marriage and an unequal union then, not to mention McAlpine's effective image of Scotland as some sort of oppressed colonial outpost at the height of the British Empire.

At the broader level still McAlpine's article underlines the fact that the SNP's claim that their campaign is all optimism, positivity and sweetness and light more generally, is just hogwash. But of course this most obvious of myths seems to be little more than one of these things the politicians think that if they say it often enough then it takes on the characteristics of an unquestioned truth, whereas the reality is that it's largely the opposite.

But it was particularly unfortunate for Joan McAlpine that her article appeared only a couple of days after the revelations/allegations concerning her SNP MSP colleague Bill Walker. Now that really is what could reasonably be called domestic abuse, but it's hardly surprising that the juxtaposition of her article and the weekend's exposé has added fuel to the metaphorical fire on the domestic violence analogy. Presumably her piece was drafted previously, or perhaps it just didn't click?

(For anyone still reading, I found the sudden urge to blog again!)


Allan said...

Ahhh, good to have you back.

Braveheart said...

it will be interesting to see if Joan McAlpine has anything interesting to say, and the ability to say it in an intersting way.....

Braveheart said...

btw agree with Stuart.

Crass and silly, hardly shocking.

Certainly not as shocking as saying people who disagree with her are anti-scottish.

Stuart Winton said...

Thanks chaps, don't know if it's just a flying visit or not!!

BH, yes and as always it's how these things play with the great unwashed rather than the anoraks and partisans of Scottish politics that's perhaps more pertinent, and of course the latter have a very slight tendency to exaggerate and overanalyse such matters.

Barbarian of the North said...

Nice to see you back.

Might be useful if she could clarify her comments. But again she'll be having to react.

And apparently there is something going around about a potential abuse of power by the SG itself, with civil servants apparently telling someone that a certain Jim Wallace was not acceptable as a speaker at some function. Tsk tsk.

Stuart Winton said...

Thanks, BotN.

And good to see that your own hiatus was relatively short-lived.

The Jim Wallace/Loganair story was in the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, but wasn't widely reported, but maybe there's a new angle on it now?