(This may seem like a trivial issue, but I think it is actually quite important.)
Very quickly after the results of the referendum came out, people started talking about ‘the 45’ – meaning the 45% of voters who had supported Yes.
Indeed, when I started this particular blog, I called it ‘We are the 45 – we’re going to be the 55 (or more)’ – yes, a bit naff, but I had something I wanted to say and needed to quickly create a space to say it. I also, for a couple of days, had a ’45’ in my Twitter profile photo and regularly used the #the45 Twitter hashtag.
In the meantime, you’ll notice this blog has changed its name. That is because I no longer think we should use ‘the 45’ as an identifier for ourselves as Yes voters. If we need to identify ourselves by how we voted, I would suggest we call ourselves… ‘Yes voters’. Radical, I know…
So what is wrong with ‘the 45’? Two things in particular come to mind:
- it is exclusionary: surveys suggest 25% of No voters voted No because they believed the offer by the British nationalist parties of (undefined) ‘more powers’ – so using ‘the 45’ divides us from these people, who are actually almost on our side in this debate. ‘The 45’ tells them that we got it right in September 2014 – but they did not. It tells them we were smart enough to realise that the offer being made was a pig in a poke – but they were not. It tells them we are ‘true believers’ and long have been – but they are not. These are attitudes of exclusion, even if unintentionally so.
I remain convinced that many in the 55% would have joined the 45% had the civilised but exciting debate we were engaged in not been drowned out by the lies, distortions and wilful misinformation of the British state. By this, I mean things like the lie about pensions being under threat from a Yes vote, the lie that Polish and other migrants would be expelled if Yes won, and much much more. Those working for the interests of the British state perpetuated these lies (take a bow, BBC News!).
Furthermore, the British state is only interested in the 1% – this is something we have learnt from the Occupy movement. I suspect many in the 55% think the British state is interested in them. It is not. The tools of the British state are not designed to work for all, or even for a majority. They are designed and work for the 1%, nobody else. But we, the 45% are interested in (almost all of!) the 55% – our vision is broad and inclusive, and it offers space for the involvement of all.
- it also (inadvertently, I think) makes a link to The ’45 and Jacobitism – and that’s not a link I want to be associated with. As Christopher A Whately puts it, ‘Most Jacobites were irrevocably committed to the idea of indefeasible hereditary right on the part of monarchs.’ That’s hardly where I want to be! The Bonnie Prince Charlie songs etc. are all very pretty and so on, but the ideals of the Jacobites have more in common with the No campaign’s desire to preserve the unelected House of Lords than the Yes campaign’s desire to create a new democratic system!
So ‘the 45’ may have been useful as a rallying cry in the brief period after the referendum but now I think it no longer serves that purpose, or at least, it does not do so for me. Now, as I said in my previous posting, we need to work together with No voters, within certain parameters. The terms of cooperation must allow for self-definition of all parties, especially since many of the calls for co-operation on the No side come from people who themselves behaved in a profoundly divisive and manipulative manner during the referendum debate, such as Duncan Hothersall from ‘Labour’:
My response to this was:
I’d add this from Yes campaigner Natalie McGarry:
I do think this is important. Those of us on the Yes side lost, the No side won. However, it is NOT for the victor to decide how the loser should react or understand themselves – accepting such a pattern is simply classical imperial behaviour (of course, you might say that’s hardly a surprise, given we’ve been struggling against the British state, of which ‘Labour’ is a key part!).
So, it’s for us to decide how we describe ourselves and we should do that as we see fit and in the terms that suit us best – but ‘the 45’ is not a term I want to use for myself. When it’s relevant, I’m happy to say that I was and remain a ‘Yes voter’.