6 March 2011

That SNP "just us girls" PPB...

As a full time working mother with a rampaging get; as a soul who has successfully combined youthful fecundity with a parliamentary career; as an MSP living with my family (as opposed, I suppose, to an MP living with someone else's family. David Blunkett, perhaps...); as a balding, sexually jaded lamp fetishist...

All right, I admit, I made that last one up. All the rest, give or take, were the little touches of identity politics in the SNP's most recent party political broadcast on Channel 4.  I'm no great admirer of sentences that begin "As a ...", but I'm a curmudgeon. This is a case of ask, and ye shall receive. Regular readers will know that I've been going on (and on) about women and the SNP. The piece seized the neat opportunity of International Women's Day (8th of March) to shoot an explicitly just lassies bit of pro-Nationalist politics, starring four female SNP MSPs - Nicola Sturgeon, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Fiona Hyslop Aileen Campbell and Angela Constance - who I admit, has always struck me as a slightly spacy, out of body tribune. In the associated blurb, Sturgeon is quoted thus:

"This film, featuring only women MSPs, is a first for a Scottish party. As Deputy First Minister and the SNP's Depute Leader I believe we must always ensure that the voice of women in politics is heard equally and clearly. The SNP has a long track record of strong women speaking up for a successful and fairer Scotland and the MSPs who join me in this film are part of that tradition."

Quite right too. This is a welcome development. I know of nobody whose mind was actually changed by a party political broadcast, but they can contribute to the atmosphere of a campaign, its tone - and can, at the very least estimation of their efficacy, contribute and contribute helpfully to the smoothing out of old snags and sustain compelling secondary melodies. What's more, there are doubtlessly voters whose shell-likes are particularly sensitively attuned to what parties have to say on particular issues or who are seeking more than a few low-octave rumbles, but are looking for a clear-throated incontrovertible expression of a position. Over the last weeks and months, there have already been signs, I suggest, that the SNP are alive to the issue and are trying to make the most of opportunities to sound more positive notes, explicitly to woo the serried ranks of Caledonian Bellas. Of course, all of this rests to a great extent on things we might reasonably disagree about. In particular, what do the SNP take to be the root cause of the party's diminished appeal on the distaff side of the electorate? Premised on this, what alternative values are they attempting to project? What, if anything, might this particular reel of footage tell us on that score? 

Remember what Ipsos-MORI polling has told us about the gendered differences in emphasis, when it comes to which issues folk thought were of vital import. For example, on the NHS, while only 16% of men identified it as the most important or as an "other important issue" facing Scotland today, 26% of women did so. Similarly education, with the gendered division being 25% of men avowing more acute concerns, compared to 35% of women. The broadcast is not, I fancy, very subtle on this score. Much wean-wielding. Fiona Hyslop standing amid a bubblegum scenery of baby clothes, including a rack of rather gender normative looking pink swaddling suits. I'm struck by the fact that it is hard to imagine the party producing a broadcast that would have seen John Swinney, himself a new father, clutching his son while talking about law and order. But then I'm a cynical villain. If you haven't seen it yet, take a peek. I'd welcome your thoughts. 


  1. I thought it a rather good attempt to engage and identify with the women of Scotland.

    "I believe we must always ensure that the voice of women in politics is heard equally and clearly."

    I do admit, however, to being slightly put off by gender and race politics. I couldn't care less if every SNP MSP was a black female if they were the best person for the job.

    Don't give me quotas - give me talent.

  2. McGonagall

    Don't give me quotas - give me talent.

    Integrity Is more important than talent as we can all make mistakes and as long as they are for the right reasons then they are excusable.

  3. Good point cH - without integrity raw talent is a dangerous weapon.

  4. Luckily, the Labour front bench in Holyrood are unarmed.

  5. I didn't see the PPB on broadcast. It struck me that it was a bit twee.

    It also struck me that I, as a politics geek, had never heard of two of the women in the film. A third was a complete failure as Education Secretary.

    It may bring in female votes and it may not. Many women don't like the underlying assumption that their vote can be bought with a picture of a politician holding a babay, or surrounded by baby clothes.

    The other thing was the fact that, women or not, they still repeat the same old lies as male SNP politicians.

    I can give examples if you want.

  6. No thanks Braveheart - I've read your "lies" before. So are you going to do a guest blog on The Universality of Cheese blog? Or did you chicken out?

  7. Hello McGonnagall. I've only ever come across you once, and it was a comment you made regretting that Labour and the SNP haven't worked more closely together.

    I agreed with your sentiment entirely, but for some reason you didn't respond. Can't see what that has to do with "lies"

    As for the invitation to write for Mark. I'm sure he didn't make it with the intention of crying "chicken" if I refused. That would be a reprehensible motive and shockingly low moral and ethical standards.

    Don't you agree?

  8. Braveheart, I don't know what the condition is that impels you to repeat your argumentum ad nauseam on various blog sites. However, I'm sure there is some medication that could help reduce the severity of the symptoms. And, as of the first of April, prescriptions are free - courtesy of the Scottish government.

  9. @McGonagall:

    Blogs are for comment: they're not much use for much else.

    You might not agree with everything everyone says, but that's no reason to launch into insult, IMO.

    Anyway, and as I said, we are in agreemnet that it's a pity that Labour and the nats don't work more closely together.

    From my point of view I know a number of nats who are decent people and who are wasting their time in the SNP, chasing "independence", when we could all be working together to build a better society...

    As you said, and I agree, it's such a waste....

  10. Thanks for your comments all. Just a few wee observations that leap out for me.

    McGonagall, I wonder how you'd define "talent" in the context of being a parliamentarian?

    Conan, excellent mischief.

    Braveheart, for my part, I found the ad's wean-fixation a bit overdone (the kids clothes shop wanted subtlety...) On those involved, your politics geekery report surely reads: "must invest in larger anorak". On Angela Constance, you are a pretty unforgiving fellow. If you believe that the SNP hasn't come up to snuff in that area - and that is a debate for another day - Constance was appointed on the 15th of December 2010. Even if we accept your argument about failures, substantial responsibility for them would surely rest elsewhere. I also don't disagree about trying to extract some of the poison from SNP-Labour relations.

  11. LPW, I had never heard of Constance and did not criticise her (except to say that I had never heard of her, if you can call that criticism)... I did criticise Fiona Hyslop's performance as Education Secretary, an easy target, I know...

    It is my sincere and long-held belief that the SNP/Labour split is deeply damaging to the people of Scotland and to the UK. We spend all our energy fighting each other when we could be directing it to solving the problems the country faces.

    United we would be much more effective IMO.

    read my profile here... http://braveheart-braveheartsblog.blogspot.com/

  12. Braveheart,

    Apologies, the error is mine. Embarrassingly enough, I've just realised that I had totally forgotten that Fiona Hyslop was an education minister in an earlier incarnation - and that she was the minister you were referring to in your comment, rather than Constance, who presently occupies the position. Ahem hem.

    Thanks for the link. I believe I've linked through to your blog for a wee while now, via my RSS feed (left).

  13. PPW, I've added you to my contacts.

    I'm always looking for the voice of reason...