To commemorate a year since the referendum and (we hope) to coincide with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, the Tommy Sheridan Show AKA “Hope over Fear” held their third rally in George Square today.
A further degree of riddy had been added to the festivities by the decision of our old pals at Glasgow City Council to refuse the organisers permission to use the Square, amidst non-existent worries of public order incidents/rival demos/whatever excuses they could muster.
Telling Tam he’s banned from something tends to encourage him and despite the Council’s best efforts, thousands turned out. Speaking of bans, The Sunday Herald were apparently banned from the press area at the event, possibly due to the fact some of their journalists have a record of, erm, reporting about Sheridan and his well documented antics. We cannae say we bothered asking for a press pass but it wouldn’t be Hope Over Fear without A Thousand Flowers lurking in the shadows.
I normally try (and fail) to reflect on the positives of these events as well as the negatives, to remind myself that loads of punters just go down for a day out, that not everyone is a fan of captain shouty – but I can’t even kid on today, this was a gruelling ordeal which raises serious questions about where a significant section of nationalists are heading.
We arrived to find perjuring Pete himself shouting away as per, with the usual mix of interchangeable bands and speakers punctuating his many loud proclamations. Amongst the surprises were the fact we only heard Caledonia and Something Inside So Strong twice each. Not everyone was terrible of course, speakers like Susan Archibald, Roza Salih and Dennis Curran provided some respite and Eddi Reader, The Twa Tenors and Gerry Cinnamon certainly know how to entertain a crowd but bubbling away not so far beneath the surface was some worrying, backwards rhetoric.One speaker told the crowd about how “We had repelled the Vikings…and the Danes” coz obviously, a Scotland which gets rid of foreigners is something to be celebrating in the current context. “Water is going over the border…whisky revenues are at an all time high.” As he furiously bellowed about “traitors”, a woman behind me shouted “burn the Witch” and I breathed a sigh in relief, realising I wasn’t alone in finding all this slightly troublesome.
All this repelling (or is that repulsive?) chat was broken up by the arrival of the Yes bikers, what nationalist movement would be complete without a biker gang?
Following this minor fracas, I returned to find a Solidarity member speaking, following which Sheridan was temporarily replaced in his compering slot in favour of “a more handsome, younger and elected politician” (emphasis his) Pat Lee, a councillor and member of…Solidarity. Although he was elected as a member of the SNP, if we’re counting.
Pat thanked the Police, asked if anyone had lost the keys to their Volkswagen and did some pretty amusing dad dancing for a decent chunk of the day, avoiding his previous calls for Scotland to just declare independence, not that the UDI community weren’t represented.
We were then treated to a speech by “Irish Supporters of Hope over Fear” who talked of “a proud Celtic nation about to break with their foreign masters” and saluted “the bravery of the Scottish people in fighting for freedom throughout the world” (presumably in colonies like, erm, Ireland, where Scots have done a great job shooting the natives at the behest of the British state for the last 300 plus years).
Following Pat Lee delivering good wishes to “a 9 year old celebrating their 10th Birthday today” (perhaps a bit prematurely), we had a nice happy song about dying Westminster paedophiles followed by another one about Pandas, obviously.
After hours and hours of this nonsense, we decided at least one pint was in order, although we were fortunate enough to catch the “Ghetto Croft Movement” (no really) before we went. This seemed to consist of a guy playing the bagpipes over breakbeat records. He then gave us a wee Gaelic rap, the chorus of which focused on how this guy was born and raised in what he described as “the proud nation of Alba.” That’ll doubtless swing the significant percentage on non-native born Scots who voted No this time last year.
We returned to find it all still going, albeit with a smaller audience than had been about earlier in the day, even Tommy’s teacups had packed up.
As one band sang, “hang me from a rope,” we were beginning to have similar feelings about spending more time on the sinking ship. But we couldn’t walk the plank without witnessing the main event – Sheridan being “asked to say a few words” (presumably by the organiser AKA Tommy Sheridan). Of course, we were treated to a proposal and a rendition of The Impossible Dream en route.
Although, we must say we still prefer the original Alice Sheridan version:
He made a blanket call to support the SNP in the first ballot at the 2016 election, to get rid of the “Blue, Red and Yellow Tories at Holyrood” That means support for homophobes like John Mason or Nats like Fergus Ewing, who this week teamed up with Labour’s Jackie Baillie, to denounce Jeremy Corbyn for his promise to nationalise the energy companies.
He predictably called for the crowd to give their 2nd vote to Solidarity, the group set up solely to provide solidarity to him in his ongoing quest to wreck the left to satisfy his own ego.
There was a statement that the audience should vote for parties who put “indyref2” in their manifestos and Tam demanded a vote “no later than 2018.” Actual radicalism has now been replaced by this view, which just demands loads of votes without any real analysis of why we didn’t win last time.
Most gallingly, as always, there was the lie that today represented “all of the Yes family.” This didn’t feel like “the Yes movement” or “the independence movement” as was claimed, it felt like Tommy stoking a burgeoning nationalist movement, one which has strengthened significantly in the last year and which is being fed by Sheridan’s calculation that he can ride on its coattails to Holyrood in 2016. The least he can do is sell T-shirts, CDs and beer to it for as long as he can.
There were no Greens, no SSP/RISE/socialists who weren’t in Solidarity, no representatives from Women for Independence, even Robin McAlpine was under orders not to show his face after the furore following his last appearance alongside the suntanned superman. Come to think of it, there wasn’t a single SNP speaker either, at least not in an official capacity.
After Tommy had finished, I was mildly cheered up by the fact the crowd had clearly only stuck around for Gerry Cinnamon, even I can’t pretend that’s not a catchy tune.
A year ago today, like every other Yes voter, I was greeting and wondering what would happen to the movement which fought for a better Scotland. I need to keep reminding myself it’s still going and that some of it was in the Square today, alongside those seeking to repel the Danes and pretend they’re Ghetto coz they’re from the Highlands – but it’s hard to watch the so called left deliberately replacing socialism with Saltires to try to win a few votes.
As I fought back the tears this time last year I wrote, “My hope is that the independence we are creating in Scotland continues to resist the forces of nationalism.” I sincerely hope it does – but after today’s event, I fear we’ve got a long fight ahead.