FOR A WHILE NOW I have been thinking of how best to describe the SNP and its leadership. Then this week I happened to stare up at the ceiling of a hotel lobby.
There shone a bright floating sparkling ring. A ring chandelier is a work of marvellous simplicity because it relies completely upon one thing both to seemingly float in mid air and sparkle and shine.
It relies on deliberate balancing of forces and positioning to capture and reflect light: Passivity.
It is not hard to imagine a heavy ring lifted by a great many people simply by them all pulling at it from their own standpoint. For they all pull up a bit, even if most of their effort is trying to pull that ring towards them.
This is how another balance of tension works too, that of collective narcissism. The fundamental difference in the leadership styles of Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson is that, whether that narcissism originates in the group, or is simply transferred to the group through patronage. That leads to the trade-off of active vs passive efforts to remain aloft and shine, which is partly why Ruth is exhausted and why the Tories are rudderless. That is why the Tories talk far far more about indyref2 than the SNP.
Because they have to continue to float. One is inherently strong and balanced, the other inherently not. This difference is why the SNP consistently outpolls the Tories, because by constantly positioning themselves as an opposition party they can reflect passively in the imperfections of government, all the while of course rejecting any concept of their own imperfection (or accepting they are in government by blaming Westminster).
So where does this odd concept of collective narcissism come from? It comes from a reaction to the challenges of one's background and surroundings by deciding that, "My group is worthy of me". It sounds quite nice and positive at first but consider first what narcissism is.
It is the utter rejection of personal criticism, the idea that that person is always right. It quickly extends to rejection of responsibility too. Narcissists lack the ability to process the impacts of criticism and moderate them through empathy and valuing others' viewpoints. Instead one's own viewpoint becomes paramount. The narcissists will pull tirelessly at an issue until their own absolute position is achieved.
The narcissist must do this, is compelled to do this, because they must be absolutely right or they are nothing, because they have accepted weakness if they compromise.
If this absolutism is transferred to a group something interesting happens. A central position emerges, not a central figure but instead a hollow, a space, a black hole into which those pulling at it to create it are themselves pulled to it.
Perfectly balanced, raising a dead weight all the while locked to look inward. Such abstractions as professions, academia, are also hijacked by this phenomenon whereby those intolerant of personal criticism can hide within the splendid ivory tower of their group. Elevation beyond one's own talents and institutional shield to defend oneself from criticism. No wonder Groucho Marx once remarked he'd never join a club that would have him!
It is in essence the reflection of Scottish Cringe seen darkly through a glass. The same sense of inferiority pours petrol onto a spark. That Scottish Cringe created this collective sensitivity that has fuelled the SNP.
Collective narcissism in politics has three major features.
As narcissists they are beyond criticism. They have an intense need to be right and above all else, they must be taken seriously. Unquestionably seriously.
This is why SNP never laughs with others or at itself. Notice how utterly humourless they are.
The Lib Dems will do silly poses, so will the Tories occasionally because even the narcissists among them do not see their movement as beyond criticism, only themselves. Posing for silly photos in the name of their party is no effort at all.
The hallmark of narcissism for those not yet hiding behind the sofa is these monsters never laugh with others because that requires, empathy, humility, and keen awareness of one's own follies. This is why the stone-faced Gods do not share a joke.
Mocking others is no problem, it is expected. Try remembering a time when you saw a senior SNP activist smile when they were NOT mocking someone else. To bully through humiliation, to push down others to elevate oneself, is very typical of this kind of monster.
With rival groups this accompanies venom. The raw, unsheathed fury and bitterness towards rivals is really ugly. It leads those like Alyn Smith to publicly joke that he had to explain to a group of abusive campaigners that he was one of them and not a Liberal Democrat.
Ho, ho, ho. How amusing. There is the nudge wink that it's ok to bully, harass and intimidate those outside the group. That's collective narcissism.
When the outside group has a perceived authority this presents a challenge. When this can be attacked it will be. Many journalists have fallen foul of this. The SNP likewise are no strangers to resorting to British courts if they perceive British authorities have defied them without the mere hint of irony that doing so demonstrates how effective Britain actually is.
When they can't be attacked such groups are ignored. Govanhill's many social problems? Ignored. Academics, statisticians, who highlight effectively the SNP's failings in office? Ignored. GERS figures not going the right way? Then they attack GERS.
This is why Derek Mackay, with minimal education, having worked in local government, transport, and finance ministries can buy a failing shipyard with our money and be claimed an instant success – even when he admits there was no due diligence done beforehand.
You would think with that level of experience it would have been the obvious thing to commission? Nope. Those who cannot take criticism are incapable of learning from experience beyond learning how to shirk responsibility.
This is also why no SNP health secretary has resigned and why their answer to hospital failings has been… to blame everybody else. That is why they wish to bring hospital building under central control. Because of course, only they can be trusted now that everyone else has failed them.
Finally and most worryingly is how collective narcissists deal with their own. They NEVER attack them. They sideline them. They disappear them. They never accept responsibility and so never accept they are partly to blame by tolerating their deeds.
When your entire political life is spent being the equivalent of a failed suitor, constantly asking a lady out even when she's said no so many times before, how do you deal with those within the ranks who do actually lead lives as failed suitors? There is something creepy about a politician constantly courting your attention, muttering, "Are you yes yet?"
If "No Means No" actually means something then why does the SNP never leave us alone? Why are they still proverbially hanging around a bar, leering over and sneering at us, "Are you Yes yet?"
It is the behaviour of group narcissism that cannot accept they could possibly be wrong and cannot handle the rejection. In my opinion, only a change of leader to someone who is not a narcissist can alter the behaviour of the SNP.