By Jim Slaven
There really should be a question mark after that headline but we’re doing so well with our predictions we didn’t bother with it. Following the SNP’s election victory earlier this year I made the somewhat bold (many thought deranged) prediction that Paul McBride would join the SNP. The thinking went something like the following. Paul McBride likes himself, actually he likes himself very much indeed. Let us remember he left the Labour Party because his talents were just not recognised ie he didn’t get a job, a really big job. He then joined the Tories and was for a time happy to make up party policy on Newsnight Scotland as the Tory ‘Justice Advisor’. But really, that title was never going to satisfy this genius and following the Tories abysmal election result it seemed logical he would look for an exit.
Fast forward a few months and many media appearances later and McBride leaves the Tories. What is instructive is the issue he chose to leave over. McBride claims to be leaving the Tories because they will not back the SNP’s Offensive Behaviour Bill or as he says “This was a party whose whole cabinet was almost destroyed by the IRA and they are refusing to criminalise people singing songs celebrating the IRA”. Now this is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly McBride says what the SNP have alluded to but refused to come out and say, that this bill is targeted at people singing Irish political songs. It has nothing to do with religious bigotry and everything to do with the state trying to criminalise certain expressions of Irishness and/ or political expressions. And let us be clear once the state labels Irish songs of resistance as criminal what’s next? Whatever the SNP or the Police find ‘offensive’ that’s what.
Secondly it is interesting because this Bill is a disaster and no opposition party is supporting it. So McBride’s high profile (is he ever anything but?) resignation has been designed to assist the SNP politically as well as making his exit from the Tories seem political rather than personal. However we all know that McBride only acts in the interests of McBride. Not long ago I asked someone who works with McBride what motivates him (publicity aside), given he had left Labour for the Tories I was interested to understand where he was heading politically. The answer was instructive, his colleague smiled and rubbed his thumb and index finger together and said ‘Money’. I found this hard to believe and pointed out he must already have plenty of that and he clearly had some political ambition. The conversation that followed confirmed he had no allegiance to any particular politics and we have already established he has no loyalty to any political party.
Having backed a rival, Jackson Carlow, in the leadership campaign and continued to make up his own policies as he went along the writing was on the wall. His latest policy idea is for potential jurors to be forced to divulge their backgrounds, including their employment history. How about we do the same with QC’s and we start with McBride’s financial dealings? He also wants people excluded if they can’t read or write to a standard he finds acceptable and wants their grasp of the English language tested too. Underpinning this rubbish is a deep prejudice exposed when he attempted to justify his plans by claiming “It is supposed to be a jury of peers but you tend to find that most are unemployed or retired because employed people often get out of jury duty It is not a jury of peers”.
So could this chancer really end up with a position in the SNP government? The answer is absolutely. Two months ago McBride announced to the world that sectarianism would be worse in an independent Scotland. This struck me as being the type of thing a Tory and a unionist would say. However days after this story broke I was talking to an SNP official and asked them what they made of it. To my surprise they said McBride had phoned Alex Salmond’s office to say that was not what he meant and he did not think sectarianism would be worse in an independent Scotland. Over this summer he has also supported the SNP over various unpopular justice reforms including getting rid of double jeopardy to allow the state to prosecute people again (and again) if they are acquitted. He was also happy to join the SNP in backing the Scottish legal establishment over the Lockerbie case and reject calls for an inquiry. And he is obviously very keen on the draconian measures in the Offensive Behaviour Bill.
So he is not as hostile to the Nats as many imagine and lets face it the Nats are not as hostile to his politics as they should be. The SNP leadership seem to be moving towards inclusion of some sort of second, British state question in the independence referendum. The SNP have already abandoned plans for a post independence referendum on the monarchy and come out as pro monarchist. And of course they are rabidly pro-British militarism.
I don’t think McBride would be that out of place in the SNP and let’s face it he is running out of parties. The Labour party in Scotland are a shambles but surely they wouldn’t take him back or would they….