9 April 2010

Sentencing statement - Indygalling in re: Stuart MacLellan [2010] LPW 13

When Anne McLaughlin went to Holyrood in 2009, replacing the sadly deceased Bashir Ahmad MSP in Glasgow’s SNP parliamentary delegation, I suggested the following addition to our useful ragbag of political concepts:

I want to propose a new term. It’s a useful little word, I think. And is of particular interest to we creaturely characters of the politicised and speculating “blogosphere”. Indeed, I firmly anticipate that its significance and incidence will only increase as time marches by. It is, in short, a good coining investment. But I’m getting ahead of myself in the red heat of the neological prospects. Here is the proposed addition to the lexicon:

To indygal (v.) A state experienced in the early stages of a blogger turned politician’s life when the media discovers their candid reflections on individuals or sensitive subjects on the internet, and immediately seeks to embarrass the fresh-faced politico with lurid incidences and choice examples drawn from their free flowing prose. Frequently a matter for repentance.

That is our theory. Onto the instant case. Be upstanding, prisoner at the Bar -  Twitterer No. 000001A, otherwise known as Stuart MacLellan, would-be Westminster representative of bonny Moray.  Seems that someone (probably at the Sun newspaper) used their day yesterday to dredge through the uninterrupted stream-of consciousness crotchets and minims that were MacLellan’s symphony of tweets on Twitter, noting and reproducing the more jarring, inharmonious things he had to say about various public figures, the blameless and sinless people of Moray themselves – and on, and on, and on. Consult the article above if you wish to peruse the full compliment of chirping comments he made. I’d submit, bearing out the prophecy, that this is the first substantive indygalling we’ve seen of this campaign. But wait! My lord, I protest! Ought twitter to fall under the macro-category of blogging, or is it an alternative social practice and hence, sui generis? Ought the doctrine of indygalling to be distinguished and mclellanising substituted? Sometimes folk describe Twitter as a micro-blogging phenomenon, with its 140 character limit, suggesting that if the limit was inflated, our tweets would turn into full blown birdsong. In short, be indistinguishable from a blog.

Personally, I’d suggest that the distinguishing feature of the two social practices is in terms of immediacy. A tweet is a casual aside. An infinite regress of narcissistic personal occurrences. Life's small chortles and the toadstool thoughts thought to be worth the sharing. A blog entry (typically speaking) is more worked up, more considered. This is somewhat reflected in the fact that generally, more time needs to be spent before the final click exposes your frail reflections to the hungry public. In this sense, we might chart some ambivalence which is the guiltier medium for a putative, scandalous remark – whether blogged or tweeted. Effort suggests involvement, protracted consideration – and as a result, it is harder to shrug off your chortling insult as a bit of casual frippery. Want of casualness equates with cognition equating with culpability. Equally, in the lay psychology of commentary on these matters, there is also the idea of the unguarded and unmediated remark that unconsciously reveals the thinker’s true nature and real opinions, unfiltered by the written niceties and grammatical courtesies of an essay. This theorem, incompatible with but often appealed to alongside our first, takes it that casualness equates with cognition equating with culpability. Really, the short substance of the thing is that you are jiggered either way, hoisted by your own petard, whether it is composed of 140 characters or 1400, strangled by blog or tweet. According to the BBC, this hoisting now seems fatal, the Labour party, after much judicial rumination and equivocation, having determined to give MacLellan his jotters, excising him as their candidate up in Moray - and apparently suspending him from their ruddy gathering of the elect. 

For these reasons, I crave that the court upholds the judge at first instance’s conclusion that this is a case of indygalling simpliciter, deny the candidate's submission that the interlocutors pulping him be recalled and punish the offender in the traditional vaguely hysterical fashion. Which is hereby pronounced for political doom...


  1. Yes and now the hypocrisy of Jim Murphy has been exposed to all - rather typical Scottish Labour (New Labour) hypocrisy actually. Murphy is a total prat.

  2. I suppose that is why I could never stand for public office, as I have been a sweary wee tit in my time on the internet.

    We need a change in public attitudes to this sort of thing, although, to be honest, we are unlikely to get it....

    Be very, very careful what you say at two in the morning after a couple of drinks.

  3. I would very much not like to be in Mr MacLennan's shoes today. As I tweeted earlier, for a PPC, former Party Researcher and general political animal such as himself (and at such a young age), it must be truly devastating not only to lose your candidacy but to lose his party membership due to your own actions. Unlike Steven Prucell, who had built himself a reputation and (annoyingly) appears to be undergoing a political rehabilitation, I'm not convinced Mr. MacLennan can come back from this.

    Of course, (having reflected on the matter following my comments on Twitter earlier), he shouldn't have made the comments in the first place with a position in the Labour Party such as his. While the insults to politicians were fairly run of the mill, some of the remarks demonstrated a staggering arrogance and lack of respect for his potential constituents. It's understandable why Labour sought to defuse that bomb so quickly - I doubt the P&J will be kind to the party over the coming days.

    Excellent sketch regardless.

  4. Davosa,

    Although I don't have a telly myself, from seeing a clip of tonight's STV coverage of the tale over at Moridura , which included clear footage of both Gray and Murphy defending MacLellan this morning, you may be right. If they hadn't been caught on film, the morning's equivocation could have disappeared in the detail of the story. The media could only have run the clear denunciation later in the day.
    Juxtaposed in the evening, however, defence then repudiation - on any ledger both Labourites looked decidedly daft. Murphy particularly so. I don't know how BBC Scotland dealt with it, however, although wee Brian Taylor was (I thought rather uncharacteristically) scathing over in his text treatment of the tale.

  5. Bah!

    I had written a decent response, Douglas, when a blogger misstep devoured my prose. To reiterate the basic point I was going to make, in brief - you might well be grateful. Many wise men have doubted whether joining the exalted company of persons of public repute is a recipe for a life spent reasonably cheerfully.

  6. I'm sure he is crushed, Hythodaeus. Given the stories we're hearing about his history at the University of Edinburgh and the subsequent party developments described in his working life after graduation, he is quite clearly a mustard keen Sir Politick Would-Be.

    As is so often the case with these manic and mechanical Labour Student types, ego and group inclusion is, in my experience, very much part of the package. As is hunger for internal party promotion and positions. I'm sure he thought that the election would be a great adventure, a chance to big-man about a constituency he knew he couldn't win, recompensed by the tickle of introducing himself as the Labour Party Westminster candidate with a slight air of self importance. And of course, to gain experience, fight the good fight as only losers can - and promote whatever internal conception might have existed of him as an up and coming, "bright young thing" in Labour circles.

    Instead, it has all doubtless proven rather less fun. He's awfully young to have himself traipsed out in front of the nation as a gormless oink. If he does not retain what I understand to be the party advisor's position he occupies at the moment, I can't imagine getting another job will be terrifically straightforward either.

    Future party prospects, I suppose, will rather depend on how sympathetically forgetful people are. Given that he nobbled Brown's visit to Scotland today, I suspect he'll have acquired a number of internal critics, and they'll keep the smouldering embers good and hot for a long while yet.

    As is so often the case, no doubt vanity will be the most wounded faculty of all. That good conceit he had of himself as a smart little cookie crumbling so pitifully and so embarrassingly publicly.