BY HAMISH GOBSON
The revelation that Sir Michael Parkinson suffered from “imposter syndrome” would have caused a flutter in the nationalist dovecote were all the doves not so narcissistic. Part of narcissism is factionalism because everyone has to resemble me. Narcissists cannot have allies, only disciples. That is a terrific weakness. The SNP illustrates this perfectly.
Does Humza Yousaf suffer from a bad case of narcissistic imposter syndrome?
As we all know, the Party of national unity is split into two bitterly antagonistic factions. First there is the Alex Salmond generation which relies for its intellectual input on television; secondly, there is the Humza Yousaf generation which has regressed to the “phone age”, and has no intellectual input, only gadgets broadcasting private prejudice. Its only principle is self-advertisement.
Between Salmond and Yousaf came the transitional figure of “Muddler” Murrell. She could never remember whether she was television or phone, or whether she was born one and transitioned to the other. We all watched her saying, “That’s not something I recall,” or “I have no recollection of that.” I wonder if she remembers saying she did not remember. Amnesia in nationalist politicians can be a useful tactical tool when something ugly has to be concealed. But it is a strategic mistake in a Party whose emotional capital is tied up in historical grievances.
Even as the country is rapidly forgetting Murrell, we still remember old Parky – the “bloke from Barnsley” who hobnobbed with Mohammed Ali, Peter Sellers, Dame Edna Everidge and other superstars from the aristocracy of the television age. I doubt Yousaf remembers that any more than he remembers – i.e. has read about – the radio age.
He needs to spend less time looking narcissistically at his image in the public mirror and more time reading Simon Heffer’s amazing and enormous new book, Sing As We Go: Britain Between the Wars.
It is a domestic history of Britain between the two world wars. There is far too much in it to discuss here, beyond the question of imposterdom. Heffer’s story might help us see more clearly the cancer-like wickedness of the preening gang of carpetbaggers, coxcombs and mountebanks who strut around Holyrood today in a simulacrum of government. They all suffer from imposter syndrome, as becomes clear when comparing the government of the 1930s with that of Scotland today. The towering figure then was Neville Chamberlain. What, I wonder, does Humza know about this man and his crusade to save the country which he seeks to destroy – just as his predecessors in the SNP did at the time?
Non-imposter government involves taking the real issues seriously, not those that reflect well in opinion polls, which was the Murrell model that Yousaf pretends to be “continuing”. I am not an expert in the recent historiography of Neville Chamberlain, but I was unaware of just how strongly, persistently and deceptively he went about the task of finding the money to rebuild Britain’s armed forces at a time when the general public was clamouring for more disarmament.
Neville Chamberlain has been vilified by those who blamed him for “appeasement” (a useful disambiguation of that term as it was then used is on p. 563). He was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1931 until 1937, when Baldwin resigned and he became Prime Minister. Since defence preparations are pre-eminently a matter of money, he was the man who could either do what was right or do what would suit himself politically. Unlike most SNP imposters, he did what was right. But that—and this is my main point—was done semi-secretly in the face of hostile public opinion.
The Conservative electorate loved Baldwin, who had been Prime Minister since the implosion of the soppy pacifist Ramsay MacDonald (“the boneless wonder” as Churchill called him). Baldwin once said: “the bomber will always get through”, by which he meant that preparing for defence from aerial attack was futile. His appeal was to the lazy minded sentimentalists in the electorate, not unlike Yousaf’s today. Then it was the orange juice-drinkers, nudists and sandal-wearers who George Orwell sent up in Coming Up for Air.They continued to support the League of Nations after the Abyssinia crisis had shown the organisation to be as weak, dishonest and pointless as our modern-day Green Party. They tolerated Baldwin due to his pipe and his indolence. Churchill shrieked from the sidelines, but with limited effect. It was Neville Chamberlain who put steel into British defence policy—literally.
It was he as Chancellor who, as early as 1934, found the money to develop the Hawker Hurricane. Later he put the weight of public finance behind the Spitfire, radar, shadow factories for future aircraft production, and the laying down of more capital ships for the navy. He did an even greater service by keeping quiet about all that so the country got slowly stronger while the public thought nothing much was changing.
Clement Attlee was leader of the Humza Yousaf wing of the Labour Party at the time. In the House of Commons in 1936, shortly after Hitler’s reoccupation of the Rhineland, “Attlee made a speech [in which] he began by saying that the Rhineland coup did not affect Labour’s opposition to rearmament.” (p. 617) Heffer emphasises that Attlee opposed every rearmament initiative until 1939.
I was glad to read that the government were sufficiently “open and transparent” as to lie to Attlee within the Privy Council. He was never told, as he should have been, about Chamberlain’s policy of covertly equipping the armed services, even on Privy Council terms, until after Munich. Partly this was because the little man channelled his inner Patrick Harvie when he said “he favoured a ‘long term policy which will envisage the abolition of the conception [sic] of the individual sovereign state’.” (p. 590)
The Labour Party was in fact split, with Ernest Bevin arguing forcefully that Hitlerism was a mortal threat to trade union rights and freedoms. Stafford Cripps, the most Murrellish member of the Labour Party, argued that if the League of Nations took any action against Italy after its invasion of Abyssinia. “it would bring about a ‘capitalist and imperialist war’ with which Labour should have nothing to do.” (p. 607) Cripps, it will be remembered, was the millionaire patent lawyer who fell in love with the Soviet Union and was viewed by Churchill with contempt for his cleverness in the service of servility to communism.
Though Chamberlain was aware of strong opposition, he did not change course. To quote only one set of figures from the hundreds Heffer gives us: “Spending on the RAF rose from a pitiful £16.8 million in 1933 to a still mediocre £50.1 million in 1936; however, the following year, as Chamberlain really brought his influence to bear, it rose to a meaningful £137.6 million.” (p. 616) Overall defence spending was now “thought [to be] around one-fifth of Germany’s, but it was in fact around half.” (p. 622)
Finally, those who have read Nicola Sturgeon: the Years of Ascent will be aware of the Attlee-ish attitude of all the Scottish political parties in Holyrood except the Tories to defence, especially nuclear weapons (chapter 7). This narcissistic approach to threat, which Muddler Murrell still maintains in the face of Putin’s nuclear willy-waving over Ukraine, is the equivalent of the disarmament fantasy in the 1930s.
Chamberlain pre-answered the pacifists’ objections in September 1935 when he addressed a meeting at Floors Castle in Roxburghshire. He said, “We have tried unilateral disarmament in the hope that other countries would follow our example. It has proved to be a complete, costly and dangerous failure. The time has come when we must now face realities… disarmament must follow and not precede the establishment of a sense of security.” (p. 609)
Even Baldwin eventually conceded defeat, saying he had been wrong in his assessment of the pointlessness of defence against bombers. Eventually reality dawned even on the public. One of the last opponents of rearmament was Stafford Cripps. He promoted European-style socialism by saying in 1936 “it would not be a bad thing for the British working class if Germany defeated us.” (p. 624)
The extreme of narcissistic imposterism is self-deification. Parky was blessedly free of that, but Stafford Cripps was not. After the war, when Cripps was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Atlee’s socialist government, Churchill pointed to him as he walked by one day in the lobby of the House of Commons and said to a friend: “There, but for the grace of God, goes God.”
Can the reader think of any senior SNP politician to whom Churchill’s observation would not apply today?
Republished by kind permission of Think Scotland. Hamish Gobson lives on the isle of Great Todday (Todaidh Mór) and features in Hating Tories: How Nicola Sturgeon Got into Government (1970-2007) – A Citizen’s Biography of a Driven Woman in a Drifting Parliament (Ian Mitchell, 2023) – available on Amazon.co.uk and also reviewed here by Tom Gallagher.