t’s a week since the horrific scenes at Capitol Hill and details are still emerging which are endlessly chilling. The initial disbelief and satire about the love child of Jamiroquai and America’s Dumbest Criminals has given way to something much more unsettling and frightening. Could it happen here?
It’s easy for us to feel comfort by telling ourselves that Trump’s America is a very different country — uncouth, populist, polarised and wedded to guns. Thank God most of us aren’t allowed to carry a firearm, but I don’t think we’re off the hook. There are many flash points in our politics which should trouble us. Brexit is the obvious one. An issue which tore us apart and led to pretty vicious scenes outside our own Parliament on a daily basis. The Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered during the referendum campaign.
But it wasn’t just Brexit. Before that, there was the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 which was hugely aggressive and split communities, families, friends. We’ve gone full circle, and the issue of a second referendum will dominate the Holyrood elections in May (if they go ahead) and indeed British politics. And with that we are about to enter a really choppy period. I make no comment about the merits or pitfalls of Scotland leaving the UK, but one thing I will put money on is how nasty things will get. And if there’s one thing we should take from the American nightmare it is that political leaders aren’t just responsible for their own words and actions but also for those of their followers. In fact, the more popular they are, the bigger their duty of care. The words of leaders have always mattered but social media plus polarisation has turned them into conductors who can whip up thousands if not millions. And that applies across the spectrum.
No wing of politics is immune from stirring the mob via a dog whistle. Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women written in the Telegraph in 2018 have been linked to a surge in anti-Muslim abuse. Self-styled “man of peace” Jeremy Corbyn has an army of supporters who would come after his critics with a ferocious intensity.
Many eyes will be on Nicola Sturgeon next. She is much admired as a skilled communicator and is the most popular politician in this country. She is also pushing for another referendum this year on breaking up the United Kingdom. How will she use her huge base? Especially if the SNP wins a large majority and the Prime Minister refuses her a second referendum, which would understandably lead to anger and frustration. I have a great amount of respect for Sturgeon as a leader. But the teachable moment from events in America is to judge a leader by the mob they keep and ask this question — when they feel robbed, will they tame or inflame?
I’m all for girl power but I spat my cornflakes out when I read that Ivanka Trump still thinks she’s got a shot at being America’s first female president. Her dad’s just incited a riot and is about to be impeached again. Read the room, lady. There’s having a positive mindset and then there’s class-A levels of delusion. Joking aside though, like her stepmother Melania, she has shown no self-awareness or compassion. She called the rioters who stormed Capitol Hill “American Patriots”. The sooner this nasty, corrupt and dangerous family are out of power, the better. And don’t kid yourself Ivanka, the first female president is on her way and her name is Kamala Harris.