One of the worrying features of the media coverage of the General Election campaign is the emergence of jockophobia. The prospect of the Scottish National Party playing kingmaker at Westminster after 7 May seems to have caused an outbreak of mass hysteria, most noticeably in the opinion columns of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Nicola Sturgeon seems to have become a hate figure for the right wing press, with much of the criticism of her being both misogynist and racist.
As a Scot living in England, I first noticed “jockophobia” in the summer of 2013 when Andy Murray won the Wimbledon title. For some in the south of England the joy of a rare British win was tainted by the fact that Murray wasn’t English and, perhaps more damningly, hadn’t been to a “decent public school”. Many families in the Home Counties have spent thousands of pounds on tennis lessons for their children, so their frustration at the success of a state educated “jock” is perhaps understandable.
Similarly, I can’t help feeling that much of the prejudice against Sturgeon is class based. Unlike Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, she wasn’t privately schooled, didn’t attend Oxbridge and has actually had a job outside of politics. The old boys’ network, which has been dominating politics and the media in the UK for as long as I can remember, now seems to feel under threat.
The attempt by some newspapers to portray the SNP as extreme left wingers doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Yes they want to scrap Trident, but with the Conservatives and Labour both in favour of renewal it’s bound to get a majority in Parliament no matter who is PM. As for their economic policies, ideas such as re-nationalising the railways and abolishing university tuition fees are hardly all that radical and may even find favour among some Telegraph readers.
Of course, there is a huge irony here. Those newspapers which are now saying how outrageous it would be for a group of Scottish MPs to determine whether Cameron or Miliband becomes Prime Minister are the same ones which, just a few months ago, pleaded with the Scottish electorate to stay in the United Kingdom and vote No in the Independence Referendum. The message to the Telegraph and the Mail would seem to be “be careful what you wish for”.