Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Lies_and_the_lying_liarsNaturally a rather provocative title, but I feel Al Franken’s book is a helpful illustration.
(Mr Franken is now a senator.)

Fundamentally, I get on alright with the local Inverclyde Labour activists. I know at least a few are ecstatic with Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, as they – like him – consider themselves socialists, and I would think want to move the party away from the Blairite madness exemplified by their former Scottish leader, Jim Murphy. Already ex-MP Katy Clark and Neil “people actually thought Jim Murphy would be a better leader than me” Finlay have aligned themselves with the new leader in the expectation that they could retrieve some of their Lost Labour Lambs who have fallen under the surely-temporary shadow of Nationalism, crooning a soothing lullaby to lure them back to where they belong. “Leave them alone, and they will come home, a-wagging their tails behind them

The problem is that it’s very difficult to get people to come home to a house that’s built on the shifting sands of untruth – why would you want to? I stress that I do not blame activists and campaigners for this: this is the party line itself, not the grassroots and ordinary mothers who the party’s leadership have let down and exploited so profoundly. That’s how insidious these creatures are – they can take people with the best of intentions and mindsets, and set them on the path to ruin in the guise of guidance and knowledge.

Jeremy Corbyn and John O’Donnell are cases in point.

Yes, the SNP have a headline of being opposed to austerity – fine. The SNP also: privatising Calmac; they also were behind the privatisation of ScotRail; also cutting college places; also privatising services; also cutting local government funding…
– Jeremy Corbyn, 27th September

I tell you now I was devastated by the Labour losses in Scotland. But let’s be clear: the SNP has now voted against a Living Wage; against capping rent levels; and just last week against fair taxes in Scotland to spend on schools. So here’s my message to the people of Scotland: Labour is now the only anti-austerity party.
– John McDonnell, 28th September

Robertson: “You also said on Sunday that they [the SNP] were behind the privatisation of ScotRail. Do you accept that that was wrong?”
Corbyn: “No I don’t think it was wrong at all, because I think – again – they could have taken a different option and could have pushed for public ownership rather than handing it over to the Dutch public.”
Robertson: “But that was about – again – that was about the franchise, wasn’t it? Their argument is that in 1993, that was when ScotRail was privatised.”
Corbyn: “The franchise, yes. But I do think they had a choice, and they could have exercised it to ensure that ScotRail remained – or, er turned, rather – into full public ownership. Surely that would be a much better way of doing things. And indeed the Labour policy, overall, is to return the franchises and the rail operating companies into public ownership, so that we all get the benefits of the rail service and the profits that go with it.”
– Jeremy Corbyn, 30th September


In and of themselves, the statements recorded above are no different from any of the material delivered by any Scottish Labour politician – or in the case of at least 40 of them, ex-politicians. The problem is that this wasn’t Jackie Baillie or Ian Murray or even Tom Harris speaking – it was Jeremy Corbyn and John O’Donnell, the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Chancellor for the UK respectively. Why is it a problem? Because they’re supposed to be ushering in a new type of politics, but instead are peddling the exact same fallacies, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods which got their party into their current mess in Scotland.

One of many treasured memories throughout the referendum was the engagement of my grandfather in the debate. He’s 82, and has long been so disgusted with politicians and scandals that he held no hope of any change. That’s what successive betrayals by New Labour and the Neoliberal Democrats will do to people. He started off deeply ambivalent on independence, worried about all the things the politicians were telling him to be worried about, fearful that we couldn’t do it, that it’d be a disaster, that the independence movement were naive and reckless. But then he started researching, going on the internet, and really looking into things. He told me his Damascene moment was when he asked himself the question: “if we’re truly a burden to the UK, then why is the UK fighting so hard to keep us?” The scales fallen from his eyes, he’s now a regular top commenter on various websites, a veritable Cybernat himself.

He is roughly where I was a good few years ago, just after I had the good fortune to meet Stuart McMillan and become involved in the independence campaign. As such, he remained optimistic when Jeremy Corbyn was elected. Not enough to go back to Labour – he knew that the SNP would support a Labour government, so he could continue to support a pro-independence party without putting the Tories in by default despite the fallacious “fear of the SNP let the Tories in” meme – but enough to hope that the people in England and Wales could capture the same lightning which struck Scotland. He read up on Mr Corbyn’s voting record. He noted with disbelief the similarities between the smears against Mr Corbyn and the SNP by the press. He even sent an encouraging email to Mr Corbyn upon his nomination to the leadership race.


We had a ton of goodwill extended to Mr Corbyn, because even after everything that’s happened, we dared to hope. We dared to think maybe, just maybe, Mr Corbyn could be the miracle England and Wales needed – while still acknowledging just how slight the chance of that miracle was. But as ever, the Scots’ greatest enemies are themselves – and it’s Scottish Labour who have destroyed their own fightback in perpetuating the same old nonsense as before, and tainting their strongest champion with the same old poison.

This is hardly unique to the Scottish branch, of course. Mr Corbyn had a tremendous mandate from his party on several issues which distinguished him from his three opponents: opposition to Trident renewal, his republicanism, and his pacifism. His own party have all but dismissed that mandate by shutting down a debate on Trident renewal so they could vote for it in secret, announcing that he will be expected to perform all the humiliating monarchist rituals in spite of his republicanism (which was to be expected, of course), and his stance on NATO has been softened. So complete is Mr Corbyn’s rebranding that he’s started wearing suits and ties, and his handlers at Labour HQ are now insisting that he would sing the national anthem in all future occasions, and that he would start wearing the red poppy at the Cenotaph rather than the “controversial” white one. In the effort to keep the party together with its internecine factions, Mr Corbyn is having all the edges scraped off: if this continues, he’ll end up being as worthless and toothless as any of his leadership challengers.

Much as I’d love to think Messrs Corbyn and O’Donnell had more sense than to listen to the same outfit who lost 42% of their voters while the Labour vote in the rest of the UK actually rose by 4.8%, what choice do they have but to listen to what their Scottish compatriots say? How are they meant to know that Labour losing to the SNP in Scotland and to UKIP in England is not comparing like for like? Why would they have any reason to believe that they are being fed such bald, patent absurdities that they risk alienating the very people bending over backwards to extend an olive branch?


Yet it is not just the SNP who have cause to take exception: by stating Labour are “the only anti-austerity party,” you’re not only dismissing the SNP, but the Greens, the SSP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Féin, and the newcomers RISE – all of whom stood on explicitly anti-austerity platforms. This sort of unthinking arrogance, to claim anti-austerity as belonging to Labour and no one else, is yet another telltale sign of a party that still views votes as an entitlement – not an understanding between the movement and the agency of politics.

So Grandad is done with Mr Corbyn – not because he attacked the SNP, but because he lied to the people of Scotland. First he claimed the SNP were behind the privatisation of ScotRail (presumably using that time travel machine kept under [REDACTED UNDER 2150 TIME POWERS ACT]) which is untrue from any perspective. Then he compounded the lie by claiming what he meant was that the Scottish Parliament could have done something else – which just meant he told a different lie. And, if one considers that Mr Corbyn already talked about the “privatisation of ScotRail and Calmac” as if they were current events regarding devolved powers as opposed to years-long processes of reserved powers, that means Mr Corbyn has perpetuated this lie on at least three occasions in the past two months alone.

There are two explanations, neither of which speak well of Mr Corbyn. The first is that Mr Corbyn is unaware that the Scottish Government cannot realistically do anything about ScotRail or Calmac, and trusting his New Labour colleagues in Scotland not to lead him astray: in this case he is speaking on something he clearly knows little about, and should consider there might be a reason he was elected while almost every one of his Scottish colleagues was not. The second is that he is fully aware of the situation, and is complicit in the lie. He’s either lying, or he’s stupid.

Jeremy Corbyn might be the loveliest man in the world. He might be for socialism, equality, nuclear disarmament, and so forth. But a lie, is a lie, is a lie, regardless of who says it, regardless of whether you yourself knew of its falseness or not – especially Big Lies. “The SNP were behind privatising ScotRail” is a lie. “The SNP are privatising Calmac” is a lie. And while the idea of the Big Lie is compelling when you have a broadcaster up to its neck in your party and a compliant media, in these new days of broader political awareness and engagement, it is far from guaranteed to work.

Nothing illustrates this better than the most recent Big Lie – “the largest party forms the government.”

Mind this?

labourlie biggestparty beggbiggest sarwarbiggest hunglie asimplefact biggestlieMcKenzie12

Many disagreed, from constitutional experts, to government institutes, to research groups, to psephologists, and even Labour politicians. And they knew damned well that this was a lie.

The problem for Harman and every other Labour politician on air was that their detailed media briefings were completely unusable. Written on the assumption that there would be a hung parliament, there were two pages of bullet points on ‘The Constitution’, with details of Ramsay MacDonald’s appointment as Prime Minister in 1924 – he had fewer seats than Stanley Baldwin – as well as Winston Churchill’s victory in 1951, and Ted Heath’s resignation in February 1974. Quotes from constitutional experts Robert Hazell and Michael Pinto-Duchinsky were even included, as well as a reference to paragraph 2.12 of the Cabinet Office manual, which states that an incumbent government ‘is expected to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to be able to command’ the confidence of the House of Commons ‘and there is a clear alternative’.
Joe Pike, Project Fear

In 1924, Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour won 191 seats, while the Conservatives gained 244 – but the 158 Liberals supported MacDonald’s Queen’s Speech. Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister despite the Conservatives having 53 more seats than his own party.

In 1951, Winston Churchill’s Conservatives won 267 to Labour’s 295. However, the Unionist Party of Scotland won 35 seats – and they were added to the Conservative vote, despite being a separate entity at the time. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister despite Labour having 28 more seats than his own party.

In 1955, Anthony Eden’s Conservatives won 274 seats to Labour’s 277. – but, again, relied upon an electoral pact with the National Liberals, Scottish Unionists, and other parties who followed the Conservative whip. Anthony Eden became Prime Minister despite Labour having 33 more seats than his own party.

So, to recap: it was clear from historical precedent that the largest party does not automatically form the government. It is clear that this has happened three times in the past 100 years. And we know that the leaders of New Labour were perfectly aware that this was the case.

You could have argued that it would be difficult. You could have argued that a minority government would result in compromise and be fraught with uncertainty. Instead, you presented a “simple fact” – that the largest party forms the government – that was demonstrably false. And you knew it.

New Labour lied to the people of Scotland, the UK broadcaster and media perpetuated the lie. But it didn’t save them.

You might think they would’ve learned. You may think they could have gotten some of their money’s worth from their consultants and aides. Yet New Labour have been failing miserably in Scotland for decades now. First we had Dewar, McLeish and McConnell’s underspend fiasco leading to the ascendancy of the SNP. Then the party stabbed the most intelligent and capable leader they had in the back. The next leader went into the 2011 election a laughing stock. His successor wasn’t much better. And I don’t even have to talk about Jim Murphy leading Scottish Labour, the supposed heirs of Keir Hardie, to their most cataclysmic Scottish result since the party’s foundation. The current leader hasn’t learned, and Scotland’s only New Labour MP is still clinging to the fiction despite its all-but-complete and abject failure in May:

The SNP guaranteed the people of Scotland that ‘if you vote SNP we’ll deliver a Labour government’, and it didn’t happen. Why didn’t it happen? They won most of the seats in Scotland and it stopped us being the largest party.

You would think Ian Murray would give up on the “largest party” fiction when only 1 of 59 New Labour MPs ended up elected on that particular line.

A lot can happen in the next eight months, and we’ve all seen how foolish it can be to make predictions this far out. But at the same time, New Labour in Scotland have already been given so many chances to change and reform, and all they can do is keep doing the same damned thing over and over and over again. And if they think they can just carry on the same way they always have, and just rely on Mr Corbyn’s personal popularity to carry them…

Last night were seven council by-elections across Scotland. Here are the results.

And here are the latest Holyrood voting intentions:

Eight months to go.

6 thoughts on “Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them

  1. says:

    Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.

  2. morvenm2014 says:

    Great analysis. Well done. Very disappointed in Corbyn, but not surprised. Thanks also for the reminder about Al Franken’s book. Have been meaning to read it for years, but had forgotten the author’s name.

  3. Alexander MacDonald says:

    Excellent article and analysis. I followed the blog last week, can’t believe that I’d never discovered it up until now.

  4. tccokey3 says:

    Hell mend those lying toads.

  5. Patrician says:

    After taking control of the Labour Party, Jeremy would have been taken into a side room where the “Grown Ups” would have explained what is required from him. Acting as a rebel was OK when he had no chance of power; but now he could possibly be in charge, it was now time for him to knuckle down and do what is expected of every Brit. Playtime is over and he will conform like all the other good boys and girls.

  6. FuckAllPoliticians says:

    SNP the party against austerity but happily implement £23 million in cut in Dundee.

    Just another bunch of liars just like Labour before them.

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