This morning, before I wrote the Dear David Cameron post, I witnessed the following exchange between Angus Robertson and David Cameron. My fellow Scots will note that the BBC did not include the good wishes (which the Independent included) immediately preceding the comment. The BBC video is here:
Angus Robertson and David Cameron at PMQs
This scene was approved of by several Scottish National Party members, and my response was appreciated by approximately three of the seventy or so who read my alternative to Angus’s response.
I then took Twisty for coffee, during which he indicated that he thoroughly approved of Angus Robertson’s tone, and that we should not pander to the frivolity of the English politicians, left or right. I vehemently disagreed with this, as my feeling is that one should play the game as it is served to you, so to speak. To the Etonian brain, this is the communication of a barbarous spanked child, not a national statesman.
We returned from this outing, followed by a lengthy drive in which we took in Irvine, Ardrossan, and Lochwinnoch, to find Theresa May standing outside Downing Street declaring war on any notion of Scottish independence.
In the last few hours, the cabinet reshuffle has amused and entertained a dismayed public with Theresa’s appointments. I will say before I start on the issue I plan to address in this post, that I think her choices are inspired and, I am happy to say, bold. I also appreciated much of what she had to say about several foreign companies enjoying tax concessions that we simply cannot afford, although I cannot understand how Starbuck’s alleged 18m tax contribution has been overlooked, or why she would be announcing a crackdown on three companies involved in her husband’s hedge fund.
If this statement is intended to give her integrity, then great, however if it is in error, I suggest an entire department devoted to tax avoidance generally is a better idea than hammering individuals, benefit claimants and the disabled in the manner we have come to expect. Personally, I would introduce a tax concession scheme based on partnering such companies with British nationals who are capable of growing new businesses, and fund a growth of British business without government interference using this method.
To get to the point, tonight’s burning topic is communication. From a Westminster perspective, Angus Robertson’s point, whilst highly relevant, is made at the wrong time, in an over-serious, blaming tone, and has been taken as an attack by the comparatively restrained, and to us, over-polite English. We are significantly different nations, and we communicate in a vastly different way. Hence my demonstration of the rhetorical method of saying the same thing in the form of my last post.
Many years ago, I was interviewed by a government department devoted to gathering numerical and very precise statistics. They came to Glasgow to recruit. After a couple of hours of testing, a roomful of individuals from all over the world were reduced to three. Me, a drunk man who had spend the night on a bench before coming for interview, and a hippy. We were, according to the tests, the most intelligent people in the room. All the passive candidates left.
Six weeks later, I called the department to find out who had got the job, since it evidently was not me. I was told that the department had decided to recruit nobody and would be using English staff.
“You aren’t in England.” I said “People probably look a bit different up here.”
“Ahem.” the uncomfortable English rose who had managed to get three expenses paid days in Glasgow was evidently shifting uncomfortably in her seat. She was unused to direct communication.
“I hope that you enjoyed your free holiday.” I said nastily, and promptly gave up on the job.
Likewise, I have just been weeded out of a job for failing to have demonstrated that I have dealt with people at all levels. I would have thought that this was obvious by the fact that I have worked my way up through two sectors, from dishwasher to Stately home caterer with my own business, and then from general office worker to Senior manager in a major bank, but apparently this is too much of a stretch for your average, dull-witted Human Resources department and they simply cannot be bothered to read or interpret my CV. In short, despite my communication skills, I am screwed by the fact that I cannot understand how people can be this stupid, so am unable to figure out how to compensate for it by spelling out information that I would regard as blisteringly obvious.
Hopefully by now you can see a pattern emerging. If you and your respondent are talking two different languages, you are unlikely to reach consensus. To those trained to play the Westminster game, direct Scottish communication comes across as over-serious and savage stabbing in place of elegant swordplay.
In a game of rhetoric, you pack as many layers into the same short speech as you want, in as few, preferably soothing words as possible. What you never do, is communicate directly. In this way, you can present a fairly savage attack as a string of compliments and gracious thanks. (see previous post for an example)
This, they understand. This is exactly what they are trained to do at those expensive institutions, and this is what they respond well to. It is calculated to make them difficult to relate to, and to make it difficult for them to relate to you. We train cold fish, capable of endless debate, in order to crush opposition.
My point is, Scotland, that in order to win the game, we need to play the game on their pitch. Our direct and honest methods are cutting no ice. Some refinement is in order, otherwise nobody will listen, and if nobody listens, our blunt instruments will fail against a well aimed rapier every time. Yes, we can do it, but we need to listen and learn how to win.
In the meantime, my congratulations to Boris. I think he is a good and bold choice. The UK should not set out to be apologetic at this point. Once you have secured the safety of the UK, perhaps you will reconsider your historically poor attitude to my country. If not, I guess I will pick a fight later.