Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

How Scotland’s ‘yes’ side mastered the art of mob politics

While distributing free Spectators in Glasgow yesterday, I came across a Labour rally and ended up standing about two metres away from Ed Miliband as he gave his speech. But no one could hear a word he said because the ‘yes’ crowd were eyeballing him, chanting and looking as if they were about to eat him. Compare this to the serenity with which Alex Salmond makes all of his speeches: where are the ‘no’ heavies shouting him down? They don’t exist: you may get the odd heckler, but the tactics deployed by the two sides are fundamentally different.

This underscores an important point, a trademark of this campaign: how the ‘yes’ side mastered mob politics. What went on yesterday is summed up by the superb Michael Deacon:

An aide handed him Miliband microphone. He looked out at the barracking throng of Yessers. “Friends!” he began, brightly. “You’re no friend ae mine!” bawled a Yesser. “You’re a traitor, so you are!” bawled another. It was a blitz of abuse. “Red Tories! A parcel of rogues! You don’t belong up here, Miliband! You don’t have a vote! You’re no’ even Scottish!”

Gamely, but inaudibly, Mr Miliband plodded on with his speech.

At the front of the Yessers, a shaven-headed man in a hooded top was near-delirious with glee. “Slaves!” he hooted at the Labour MPs, his voice a grotesque parody of a black slave from the American Deep South. “Uncle Toms! No thank you, massuh! Just tell us where ah sign mah expenses form, massuh! I is a good white nigger!”

Jim Murphy, one of the leading figures of the No campaign, glared at him stonily. “Go on, then!” jeered the skinhead. “If you’re no’ a slave, what are you?”

“We’re patriots,” growled Mr Murphy.

This is the first time I’ve seen, in print, a phrase I’ve heard a lot of: “Uncle Tom.”

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