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By Jason Michael
Titles are socially constructed as a consequence of hierarchies. Whether we are Mr or Mrs, Dr or President, or simply given our first name, titles are always deployed to give people their place – and put people in their place. “Dear Theresa” does just that.
Political power is a dance every bit as intricate as the Gay Gordons. As a consequence of the modern televised marketing of political campaigns we have all become used to the physical posturing of ambitious politicos; the gorilla handshakes, the pecking orders, and the carry on around who gets to put the hand on whose shoulder. At bottom it is all a big confidence trick, engineered to imbue those who play the field best with the ephemeral visage of power. Each character in the drama gets to know his or her place on the stage by learning and replicating the ques – who speaks first, who is given their proper title, and so on.
Partisan news and media outlets have turned this into a literary art form; from the specific vocabulary they use to describe particular people and events to the way in which job descriptions are typeset. Upper and lower case letters can make all the difference, and can be employed on the written page to signify or intimate who the reader is to favour or otherwise. In the British press we have been used to seeing Nicola Sturgeon described as the “first minister” of Scotland, as opposed to the First Minister – where Theresa May is only ever the Prime Minister. You can be forgiven for not having noticed this, you’re not really meant to notice it. It is meant to be subtle.
So you can imagine my joy when, only the day after the British prime minister addressed a letter to the President of the European Council with the words “Dear President Tusk,” something was being penned to her by the Scottish First Minister – addressed: “Dear Theresa.” A power play if ever there was one. In a world where people are groomed to read the signs, and if they are not – they quickly learn, Theresa will get the message. What is more is that Ms Sturgeon has every right to play this game. Of these two heads of government Ms Sturgeon is the only one elected to her office, the one with the mandate, and the one representing the will of Scotland.
May will not like it. She isn’t meant to. By refusing to respect the will of the Scottish people over Brexit and by callously ignoring the concerns of the Scottish government she has positioned herself as the hostile party – as the aggressor. Of course this is a dance that will continue over the coming months and the winner is a long way from being decided, but – as we have arrived at the end game of the British Empire in Scotland – this is a showdown. The language and the posturing are merely reflecting the reality that we are now in the midst of a conflict that will determine the future of Scotland and the United Kingdom. The trash talking has begun.
Nicola Sturgeon tells Theresa May to respect the will of the Scottish parliament