Things will swing the other way in 2014

I succeeded in missing nearly all the Olympics, but have been fascinated by the political capital now being made out of them in the media. One of the latest manifestations of it is a poll conducted by Ipsos MORI for British Future, and this graphic in the Guardian shows how large an effect the Olympics have had:

   

Most of the media—and not just the usual suspects—have painted this as something that will be bad for the prospects of a Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum to be held in autumn 2014. But anyone who gives it a moment's thought will realize that the reverse is true.

Surely what the poll shows is that perceptions of Britishness and the way people think Britain is seen by the rest of the world are very easily swayed by events, and especially by the media coverage they receive.

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No-one doubts that the Jubilee and the Olympics have put Britain in the spotlight this summer. But now that these events are over, public attention will soon start to refocus on things that do not show Britain in such a good light.

And the media spotlights will soon turn elsewhere. The World Cup will be held in Rio de Janeiro between 12 June and 13 July 2014, but there will be a two year build up with the first round of qualifying matches being held only next month. Football is much more popular than the Olympics, and the teams competing for a place will be the national teams of Wales, England and Scotland rather than some temporary team that was cobbled together for one event.

Then, only a couple of weeks after that, the Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow between 23 July and 3 August 2014, with no Team GB in sight and all the focus on national teams. We can be sure that the choreographed celebration of Britishness that was expressed in the Olympics will be matched by an equally choreographed celebration of Scottishness in two years' time.

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So if, as this poll for British Future has shown so clearly, the public mood can change by as much as 22 percentage points towards a positive feeling of Britishness as a result of a summer in the spotlight, it should be no surprise to see an equal swing away from Britishness and towards a positive feeling of Scottishness when Scotland is in the spotlight ... just in time for the all-important referendum only a few weeks later.

Far from these Olympics being a setback to aspirations for Scottish independence, they show how important it is to get the tactics and timing right for 2014, not 2012.

    

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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reading this post one would think you are Scottish. You are Welsh aren't you? Sometimes I wonder if the Plaid have forgotten this important point.

Anonymous said...

What does Plaid have to do with this post, Anon?

MH is discussing the Scottish referendum. A few posts down he is discussing the Catalans. He often blogs about stateless nations.

Perhaps you could share your blog with us?

Anonymous said...

MH - can you tell me how much UK Gov money was spent on the London Olympics and how much UK Gov money will be spent on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games?.

Anonymous said...

No....MH was discussing the Olympic effect on the British public and related it to Scotland.

I obviously touched a raw nerve.

Anonymous said...

The whole "Britishness bounce" after the Olympics and Royal events is due to the (British, pro-unionist) media hype created that sorrounded them. The most important word there being HYPE. The media creates it and feeds it to satisfy its own ends. There is no way that the hype surrounding the commonwealth games will be any where near what we've had for the Olympics and Scotland probably won't even qualify for the Football world cup.

Anonymous said...

Sports events do give a bit more national pride but it only lasts a few weeks. Personally, I enjoyed the Olympics and have enormous pride in what Team GB has done, but I equally am proud of what Ireland has done. Even if Wales was independent I would support English athletes as I respect them (the same isn't true in football and rugby for some reason!).

Am I proud of Team GB? Yes. Am I more proud of being British? No, I'd go as far as saying as I am less proud due to the media hype.

But following what the media have said. Are you seriously suggesting that more would be pro independence once Scotland host to commonwealth games?
Again, people will have pride in Team Scotland, but this will fizzle out over a couple of weeks.

But you are correct, I am very worried at how the media have approached this - it is very N.Korea style. And we've had next to no news stories regarding the budget. Normal service I'm sure will resume once the politicians get back to work and the police commissioners go on the campaign trail! (BTW- will Plaid be fielding a candidate in N.Wales?).

Anonymous said...

The Scottish will not vote for independence. Not in 2014. Maybe in 2024. But not in 2014.

MH said...

I'm sure some people would be happier if I only talked about Wales. But if Wales is to become independent we need to learn from other countries that are on the way to it ... both how to get it right and what to avoid.

The Glasgow Games are expected to cost £524m, split 80/20 between the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council, here. I'm sure the costs will go up, but I can't see them costing more than £1bn. I'm not sure if anyone knows the full cost of the Olympics. There are many things to say about the fairness of that, but the thing that matters in this context will be the "bang" of the feelgood factor rather than the "buck" that it costs. In fact, if Glasgow puts on a great show at a tiny fraction of the cost of London's effort, it will only add to their feelgood factor.

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I think it's churlish to put the effect of the Olympics solely down to hype, 12:27. It was a major sporting event that deserved to be covered in full. And I also think people have every right to feel proud of the performance of everyone who was a part of Team GB. Of course it was surrounded by hype, but the hype was only possible because of the event it was built on. You can't manufacture hype out of nothing.

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Anon 13:09 is right to say that the effect will only last a short time. The question is how short a time. I don't know whether it will be a matter of weeks or a matter of months before "normal feelings are resumed". But the matter is of crucial importance if you are looking to use that bounce to get a Yes vote in the independence referendum. That's the main point of this post. I'm sure the swing or bounce will be not be as big for the Commonwealth Games as for the Olympics; but it will be there and it will help the Yes campaign if used properly. I must admit to being surprised at the extent of it. I didn't think so many people could be so easily swayed. But they obviously were.

My guess is that it will be best to hold the referendum earlier rather than later. I think the third week in September 2014 will be just about right. It will be quite soon after the Commonwealth Games; the school holidays will be over; but college and university terms will not have started, so there will not be the influx of non Scottish domiciled voters. The Yes campaign will also be able to make full use of student volunteers if the referendum is held before October.

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If Scotland do make it to Rio for the World Cup, that will be a huge boost to national pride. But as they will have to beat us in order to do it I hope we get there instead. Yet even if Scotland fail, it might turn out to be no bad thing for the Yes campaign. England will almost certainly be there, and the usual "it's all about England" coverage we've come to expect from both the BBC and ITV will result in many Scots wondering why they have to keep putting up with coverage that is geared primarily towards English viewers. Unfairness is just as powerful a motivator as pride.

Anonymous said...

Scotland will get its independence. I'm worried about Welsh existence after that though. Could the English abolish devolution after Scottish independence/when they become an ethnic majority in our country?

Anonymous said...

"I think it's churlish to put the effect of the Olympics solely down to hype, 12:27. It was a major sporting event that deserved to be covered in full."
"You can't manufacture hype out of nothing. "

But that's exactly my point! The Commonwealth Games is no where near as big an event event as the Olympics and as a result the coverage / hype surrounding it will be much much less. (Anyone remember Manchester??). And not that I want to be down on the Scottish football team but they can hardly be relied upon to even qualify to get to Rio let alone do well in the final stages. So by saying that these 2 sporting events will have anywhere near as much pro-independence effect as the olympics has had for pro-unionists is optomistic in the extreme.

MH said...

I have come across a strand of opinion within Plaid Cymru that isn't exactly enthusiastic about Scotland becoming independent, 17:22. The thinking is that if Scotland gets more devolution within the UK, then Wales—holding onto Scotland's coat tail—will also get more; but that if Scotland leaves the UK there won't be any coat tail to hang on to.

Maybe there's some truth in that. But it's a lazy sort of truth. I accept that, for now, there is a good argument for saying that Wales should have the same devolved powers and responsibilities as Scotland and Northern Ireland have. That would include major things like energy, policing, justice and being a separate legal juristiction. But ultimately I don't want those things because Scotland and Northern Ireland have them. I'd want them for Wales even if Scotland and Northern Ireland didn't have them. And I'd want Wales to be independent even if Scotland decided it wanted to remain part of the UK. Scotland does quite well as part of the Union; we do very badly. We need independence much more than they do.

We need to develop a self-powered nationalism rather than one that is pulled along in the wake of Scottish nationalism.

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As for what will happen if Scotland does leave, I don't think devolution will be abolished. However I think there is a very strong chance that Labour will revive their plan to introduce devolution to the regions of England. On one level, the level of democratic accountability, it's hard to argue against that. But in effect, it will mean that Wales becomes no more than a region of England. From the point of view of our distinctiveness as a nation, it would be a backward step.

But none of that has anything to do with ethicity.

MH said...

You seem to be getting very worked up over things I haven't said, 18:43.

Anonymous said...

MH - I don't see why a series of regional assemblies established in England would, as you put it, mean that Wales becomes in effect no more than a region of England. We have a 'National Assembly' (clue's in the name!)and the whole language of government in Wales is geared towards reinforcing the identity of Wales as a nation. This will never be the case in relation to any English region (with the possible exception of Cornwall, should it ever be given its own 'regional' assembly). Perhaps what you meant that to say was that Wales would have no more power than a region of England. Personally, I very much doubt that the level of devolution granted to the English regions by any of the parties would ever extend to primary law making powers as we now have in Wales. What is more, I am not aware of any reason why the concept of regional assemblies in England would be any more popular amongst the population at large than it was the last time Labour attempted to introduce it. I think it is far more likely that an English parliament of some sort will be established (probably by the Tories - some of whom already favour the idea). This would be likely to enhance rather than detract from our own standing as a nation.

YM


MH said...

I'm not particularly impressed by names and titles, YM. What an institution can do is more important than what it's called. I'd therefore be wary of saying that the whole language of government is geared towards reinforcing the identity of Wales as a nation. We might see it that way, but that doesn't mean others do. There are many in the Labour Party who see devolution solely in terms of more local democratic accountability rather than in terms of national identity. Perhaps the same thought process can be seen in the Tories' desire to devolve down to local authorities.

As for primary lawmaking powers, how can anyone argue against "laws that affect only the West Midlands being made in the West Midlands". And local byelaws have been around since the 19th century. The detail might be different but the principle is the same. I don't see it as a big deal.

But I agree with you that the major battle that needs to be won is for England to be recognized and given power as a political identity rather than the regions of England. So when someone mentions "English devolution" be sure to ask yourself whether they mean devolution to England or to the regions of England. There's a world of difference.

Anonymous said...

You underestimate the importance of terminology MH. The name by which something is known is enormously influential in the way in which is it perceived and our reactions to it. Just imagine, for example, what would happen if the National Assembly decided to call itself the Regional Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government started referring Wales as a region rather than as a nation. It would make no difference to the powers of the Assembly or the Welsh Government but its effect would, nevertheless, be enormous, not least on your blood pressure (and mine).

YM

MH said...

Yes, I suppose I am glad that we have something called a National Assembly rather than a Regional Assembly, YM. I'd just advise you not to assume that everyone sees it as a hugely significant difference.

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