“Traitor” is a word that’s highly emotive and confrontational, and implies a deliberate and malicious act against a group’s interest: the reality is that one can easily be duped into committing treason of some sort, even when they think they’re doing good. It’s no surprise “traitor” has become a dirty word, because why wouldn’t it be? Any nation or government is threatened by any action against the state, so treason is inflated into a mortal sin, greater and more heinous than any crime. We saw during the referendum that civil servants put aside impartiality, for the integrity of the United Kingdom was at stake. So it’s natural that “traitor” is used as an insult, a slur, a defamation against political opponents – and don’t let it be said that it’s purely pro-independence Scots who are tarred with the word.
Yet treason is relative. One people’s traitor is another people’s hero. Many of Scotland’s most celebrated heroes were tried, convicted, even executed for treason – Thomas Muir of Huntershill, Thomas Hardy, James Graham, the Two Margarets, Simon Fraser, Archibald Cameron, John Baird, James Wilson, Andrew Hardie, John Ogilvie. Some, like William Wallace, were murdered under the name of “execution” for “treason” despite never swearing fealty to the crown against whom they were supposed to have committed such crimes. Were the American, Indian and other revolutions failures, Washington and Gandhi would likely be romanticised as the same sort of glorious failures as Guy Fawkes, Che Guevara or Bonnie Prince Charlie. Even now, in the age of Assange, Manning and Snowden, people are called heroes and traitors simultaneously. One’s traitor is another’s hero.
So let me see if I have this straight: it’s less than two months since the General Election. New Labour’s had its worst defeat in history (if you include Labour Classic, since 1987). It has lost 40 of its 41 Scottish Westminster MPs. The UK leader has stepped down. The Scottish leader, campaign organiser, and shadow secretary of state didn’t even get elected. The leadership contest is between three Blairites who all gang up on the one lone socialist who might stand a chance of reforming the party – which is why the electoral college will ensure it won’t happen even if he wins the majority of individual votes.
The Tories are preparing an assault on the people of the UK even Thatcher wouldn’t have dared. They’re planning a referendum with a mockery of a franchise that seems practically gerrymandered for an Out vote. They’re working to “reform” human rights while the devastation caused by their “reforms” of benefits, welfare and the NHS continue to destroy lives and livelihoods. And with an overall majority, the opposition have to fight harder than ever to defeat their plans.
With all this happening, what do New Labour in Scotland do? They compile a list of people who said bad things on Twitter. This is all they could think of to do with their time. Not work with the SNP to fight the Tories in Westminster. Not work with the SNP in Holyrood to see what could be done to mitigate the worst of the Tories’ attacks. They feel that more attacks on the SNP is the best use of their time. Why are you wasting our time? Why are you wasting your time? Every time I think New Labour in Scotland has reached the doldrums, they scrape through to a new depth. It’s as if they’re starting to look at Willie Rennie’s pitiful Neoliberal Democrat remnant as something to aspire to rather than something to avoid at all costs.
There really are no words which adequately convey my contempt for this. “T” words and “Q” words are insufficient, for whatever you may say of a traitor or quisling, betrayal of your country requires guile, cunning, and guts. Do you really think this is what the “Red Flag” is about? Is this your idea of carrying on the work of Kier Hardie, of James Maxton, of of John Mackintosh – of compiling lists of people saying bad words on the internet when the Tories are destroying everything your forefathers bled and sweated and wept for? This is what you choose to do, instead of fight for the people who need you most at the time you’re most needed?
To call New Labour in Scotland traitors is an insult to the brave and the bold. It is an insult to those who refused to sacrifice their principles and were deemed betrayers of the crown in return. It is a spit in the face to the radicals who fought for representation and reform, and exiled for “sedition.” It is an affront to the political revolutionaries who sought to bring power from the nobility to the common people, and decried as “communists.” They were called traitors, quislings, renegades, outlaws, apostates, rebels, double-crossers – betrayers. Because they dared to want change. And the establishment doesn’t like change – especially change that threatens their dominion.
You only have to look at The Times’ to see who the real “traitors” to the British Establishment are – and what such treason really means.
Thomas Muir of Huntershill. Thomas Hardy. James Graham. Margaret McLauchlan. Margaret Wilson. Simon Fraser. Archibald Cameron. John Baird. James Wilson. Andrew Hardie. John Ogilvie. These men and women were called traitors – because they were. I call them heroes, because they were.
I will never call New Labour, in Scotland or elsewhere, “traitors” – for they are not worthy of the name.