31 May 2008

On leeching off the popularity of others

I note with interest the report in The Herald that the new gender-balanced SSP Leadership team of Colin Fox (the National Convener before they changed their constitution, and former MSP for the Lothians) and Frances Curran (former MSP for the West of Scotland who didn't want to return to Holyrood anyway in 2007) have announced that they're in co-operation with the Greens. Now, had this co-operation been in place before the election, it would have yielded them a sum total of no extra seats. So you wonder what either party has to gain.

Certainly, the Green party has nothing to gain from this but baggage: the damaging split the SSP faced in 2006, the Party's playground approach to politics (think of the temper tantrum they held in the Chamber when they weren't allowe to ask a question about the G8; or Rosie Kane's slogans on her hand; or Colin Fox's mediocre singing voice); the hard-left tack that jars with the middle-class guilt which makes up the Party's appeal to soft Labour and LibDem voters.

(And, incidentally, middle-class guilt isn't necessarily a bad thing: rather, it shows that those who are doing OK for themselves - not badly, not magnificently, but OK - care about the world they live in and want to do things to make it better, even if they're not sure how to go about it. Ron Ferguson once wrote, "Three cheers for middle-class guilt" and he had a point.)

So it's no surprise that the Green Leadership is lukewarm to this idea. They say that they'll work with anyone who shares their beliefs on certain issues - hence their agreement with the SNP, though arguably, all that's delivered for them so far is a Committee Convenership - and Robin Harper says that no proposal has emanated from the Green leadership that would sanction joint working on this scale: that suggests that the SSP's claims that talks have been informal are bang on the money: in fact I'd go so far as to speculate that it consists of a drunken chat between Colin Fox and a Green activist in a pub somewhere, with the Green slurring something along the lines of "we could work together on this", only for Fox to hear that as a cast-iron agreement that the two would get hold a joint Conference later in the year - a stance which the SSP Conference has backed, though no doubt caused Greens to choke when they read the online version of the Herald.

The SSP in this case remind me of a co-worker of mine, X, who has managed to rub the entire office up the wrong way. She is desperate to be everyone's friend, but she takes the wrong approach to making that happen, and the most positive reaction that anyone seems to have towards her is to blank her, but she acts in a way where that is impossible, so disdain is the general feeling towards her. She has a real need to be validated - she burst into tears when she was told that there were no plans to have her analyse the bank statements, then took the huff when she was indeed asked, only for someone else to be asked as well - and has tried all sorts of ways of getting into various social circles.

For instance, the guys in the office tend to go to the pub for Friday lunch, and I'm told that one Friday before I worked there, as the guys headed down the stairs, she ran after them, caught them up and joined them at the pub without an invite (I waited till I was invited before I started going). I'm told the conversation was a bit unsettling, but in January, her interest revived. "I'm inviting myself!" she announced to me, having been angling for an invitation from me for weeks (it wouldn't have been forthcoming as I'm not fond of her, and anyway the guys wouldn't have forgiven me).

"Mm-hmm!" I grunted, while frantically typing an e-mail to the supervisor who was the ringleader of the trip, with the subject heading "AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Fortunately she proceeded to talk herself out of the idea, and I cancelled the e-mail, and cracked a joke about our not having to pull the treehouse ladder up. She cackled maniacally, and I related the tale to the guys later, who uttered a collective "Oh, Jesus!"

So where am I going with this? Well, the SSP seem to be behaving like X. It's clear that the Greens aren't overly enthused by the idea but the SSP have got it into their heads that the Greens love the thought of being shackled to them, and that their contribution will be valued. All the while, the Greens are silently panicking, ready to make any excuse for this not to happen.

But one word of warning: recently, X has begun to realise that she is not Miss Popularity, and the reaction has not been a good one. She heard another co-worker, Y, announce she was going on a diet, and inferred from that a jibe by Y on X's weight. There followed a blazing row where X effectively pinned Y to her desk, and Y refused to continue any further conversation with her until a manager was present. We now factor into everything we do the possibility that we may offend X.

The SSP could handle a rejection of their overtures equally badly - when being liked is all you care about, to be told you aren't is undoubtedly a crushing blow - and we could have a ding-dong on our hands. Except that there's no manager present to pacify this one.

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