Nobody will find it all that very surprising to hear that as an author I am kind of interested in books. Lots of people are. We still put books up on the kind of pedestal that that films and songs and paintings never seem to get close to.
There is a generally perceived wisdom that books are important. Look at the angst parents go through at their kids' preference of playing the Xbox instead of spending quality time with a quality book.
I reckon that if you were to ask most people if they think books are influential, they would invariably tell you of course they are.
However a canny follow up question might cause them a few problems: it certainly caused me a few.
It goes something like this. OK then, why don’t you name me the top ten most influential books to have been written in
in the last century. Britain
The key word here of course is influential. As in having an influence. Making a difference. Changing the game.
We’re all well used to the whole top ten thing. And I guess many of us would quite enjoy thrashing out our top ten favourite books. Maybe we could also kill some time guessing at the top ten bestselling books of the last hundred years.
But influential books? Not so easy is it?
to the whole of the world and we can call up Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’. Add in
another century and Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’ walks into the top ten. Extend to
2000 years and the Bible, Koran and Talmud enter the fray. Britain
But what about
and the last 100 years? Britain
As ever, when in doubt, go to Google. I was utterly amazed to find that Google was every bit as unable to answer the question as I was and this of course is genuinely rare.
So maybe books are not all that important and influential after all. It certainly seems that way.
You might well be thinking that I must be some kind of seriously artsy type to be spending my days mulling over which books of the last hundred years have had a profound and lasting effect on
To be honest, I’m not. The sole reason that mind wandered in this particular
direction was Stuart Campbell’s remarkable ‘Wee Blue Book’. Britain
First up, I haven’t actually read ‘The Wee Blue Book’ in the traditional sense. I listened to it. I downloaded the audio version from Michael Greenwell’s outstanding ‘Scottish Referendum Podcast’ and took an hour and a half’s worth of time out to walk the dogs and listen to Stuart’s uber-compelling case for a ‘Yes’ vote on Thursday.
Whichever way you look at it, this is one hell of a book on all kinds of levels.
Unlike the trash that drops through the letter box from both sides of the campaign, it contains no condescending, dumbed down photographs of perfect looking smiling families enjoying a healthy day out in the Scottish wilderness, no doubt complete with picnics heavy on ‘5 a day’ items. It speaks to its reader as an adult. It avoids using show off long words and it is thankfully clear of political jargon.
Basically it is a serious book for adults written using words and sentences that everyone can understand. It takes heed of the fact that people have other things to do with their lives by telling the reader up front that it is designed to be read in no more than an hour and a half.
So from the very get go, the reader knows what they are getting.
Then I have to take my hat off to the way that Stuart takes complicated stuff and makes it simple to understand. This is truly a rare thing in an era where politicians of all colours love nothing better than to confuse us with their government-speak words and their collections of initials. How many people have the first clue what Quantative Easing is? Or the Structural Deficit? Get my drift?
Let's just take the whole issue of the border as an example. Ed Milliband, that gallant berk at the helm of the Labour Party, has made a number of speeches threatening the prospect of border posts should the immigration policy of an Independent Scotland differ from the immigration policy of the rest of the
No doubt his spin doctors are laying eggs at the thought of handing yet more
poisonous ammunition over to Nigel Farage to fire off at the massed ranks of
the Labour Party’s blue collar core support. UK
What Stuart does is dismantle Red Ed’s nasty nonsense in a few crisp sentences. Why would there be borders? To stop the Anglo/Scottish border become a preferred entry point for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. OK. So if you were an illegal immigrant hell bent on being a 21st century version of Dick Whittington and making your way down to London’s gold paved pavements to prepare over sized mugs of tall, skinny de-caff latte, what the hell are you going to do when you arrive in Gretna only to be confronted by one of Red Ed’s border posts?
What you do is actually pretty straight forward.
You walk across the fields stupid. Bugger the border post. Who needs a border post if you are an illegal immigrant? So what do countries do who have long land borders? They build fences. They shell out endless millions of border forces. Check out the Texas/Mexico line. The land border which separates
for just over a hundred very lonely, very rural miles long. So will Red Ed seriously
spend God knows how many millions on building a giant fence? And will be spend
many more endless millions on paying for a large force of border guards? England
Of course he won’t.
Which of course means that his speeches are nothing but lies. Yet more scaremongering. It takes Stuart a single paragraph to rubbish this nasty, dog whistle drivel. So why don’t the overpaid political correspondents of the mainstream media do a similar job? Well I wonder…..
It comes as no surprise whatsoever to me that most people who hand over an hour and a half of their lives to read the ‘Wee Blue Book’ almost invariably move across into the ‘Yes’ camp. More than this, they become active advocates of creating an independent land for all of us to live in.
And then when they are done, they pass their copy of the ‘Little Blue Book’ on to a friend or a work mate or a family member.
They keep it viral.
At the very get go, Stuart reminds the reader that every single one of the 37 daily newspapers on sale in
are supporting the ‘Better
Together’ campaign. Almost all of them are owned by huge corporations based in Scotland so it comes as no
surprise that they are such enthusiastic mouthpieces for the status quo of the
British Establishment. London,
It is worth going back a couple of years to Stuart’s decision to set up his ‘Wings Over Scotland’ site. Back then the odds must have seemed pretty well insurmountable. 'No' was leading 'Yes' by 2 to 1 and there were few who saw the big vote being anything resembling close. Stuart set out his stall to provide a counterbalance to the whole of the British Establishment and its compliant media. One guy? Living in
I mean, come on! How long a long shot was that. Bath
And yet over the last couple of years Stuart has completely defied gravity. The perceived wisdom is that you can only sway political opinion if you have the big bucks behind you. Look at the crazy sums that get spent on American elections. Well on that basis, Stuart was surely destined to be the loser to end all losers. He wasn’t famous. He had no support from any party machine. He had no corporate backers. And from what I can gather, he had no vast treasure trove of personal wealth to throw into the pot.
So. An open and shut case. No chance. He was destined to be just another voice yapping away in the wilderness of the internet.
But it didn’t work out that way. Slowly but surely, more and more people found their way to Wings over
and they liked what they
found when they got there. There was a clear hunger to hear the other side of
the story. The unspun side of the story. Scotland
And there was a clear hunger for someone to take on the challenge of picking apart the endless propaganda and lies of the Establishment.
When Stuart asked his readers for a few quid to keep the show on the road, they responded in their thousands. A couple of quid here, a fiver there. Soon he had enough crowd funded backing to take on his task full time and with every passing week his site generated more and more hits.
Until the hits ran into the millions.
Right now not one of the 38 newspapers who are waving the Union Jack with such fervour can dream of generating the kind of traffic that finds its way to ‘Wings Over Scotland’
And still the cash rolled in. A couple of quid here, a fiver there. And all of a sudden Stuart found himself in the position where he had enough cash to produce a book.
The Wee Blue Book.
I might have my figures a bit wrong here, and the odds are that I will be on the low side. Bear with me.
To date the Wee Blue Book has been downloaded 600,000 times.
350,000 hard copies of the book have been distributed to all corners of
5000 people have downloaded the audio version of the book from The Scottish Independence Podcast site.
Check it out.
We’re talking a million people here. More or less a quarter of the electorate. And this is no coffee table book. This is a book that is being read from cover to cover. This is a book that is turning hundreds, maybe thousands, of people from 'No' to 'Yes' every single day.
Right now the polls say that 'No' is two points ahead. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the 'Yes' side carries the day on Thursday with 51% ( I actually think it will be a shed load more than that, but that is just me.) And let’s assume that 85% of the registered voters make it to the polling stations. Here is how that looks
YES – 1865000
NO - 1790000
MAJORITY – 75000
If that turns out to be the case, then I think it can be said with complete certainty that those million copies of the 'Wee Blue Book' will have proved to have been decisive.
The 'Wee Blue Book' will have got us over the line.
Just think about what that means.
Union that has lasted for
300 years will have been broken.
Boris Johnson will have to look under the cushions of his Harrods couch for the £1.5 billion
was earmarked to throw
into the pot to pay for Crossrail. Scotland
The Chinese and the Russians might find a way to remove the
from the UN Security Council. United Kingdom
Countless millions of Russians will no longer be a matter of minutes away from being wiped off the face of the earth care of a first strike from the British Trident fleet.
5 million people will get the chance to live in a kinder, richer and fairer country where everything is not arranged to feed the voracious greed of the richest 1% of its population.
We are talking something that is absolutely huge here. Monumental. And if it happens, one of the biggest factors in making it happen will be Stuart’s 'Wee Blue Book'.
Surely that simply has to make it the most influential British book in the last century.
It really is quite something when you think about it.
One regular, ordinary person thought it up and wrote it.
Thousands of regular, ordinary people threw in the cash to see it printed and distributed.
A million ordinary, regular people took time out to read it.
And now it might just make all the difference.
It’s what they call People Power and there has been all too little of it for far too long.
The Establishment of the 1% really thought they had us all locked down for ever.
Well Stuart, you have proved them completely wrong.
Whichever way things play out on Thursday, you will always have my complete respect.
You have rekindled the dream that the little guy can still make a difference.