Friday, 15 October 2010

The SNP: What Went Wrong In May & How They Can Win Next Year

Whoa!, that’s a big title…

The most depressing thing about the night of May 6th (apart from the prospect of a Tory election win, remember they were only about 160,000 votes short of an overall majority – with many UKIP votes denying the Tories that majority) was the glacial movement in the political landscape in Scotland.  This weekend, the SNP will gather for the first time since that election, perhaps to mull over May, but also to make plans for retaining their tenancy of Bute House.

The SNP went into the General Election with high hopes of a breakthrough.  However as the campaign went on, they became more and more sidelined.  They became pre-occupied about the Leaders debates, and the effect the increased exposure for the big three was having on the exposure of the SNP and their policies.  As a result of their attempts to get Alex Salmond on to the podium (who lets not forget, wasn’t actually standing for any form of office at this election), the SNP came across as surly.  Having said that the debates were a poorly structured attempt to Americanise our much more complex democracy.  I would hope at the next Westminster election, that more flexible structures can be agreed.

The main problem with the SNP in May was simply that they had not worked out their narrative for this election.  This is not a new problem for the SNP, there has not really been a reason to vote SNP in General Election’s since the inception of the Scottish Parliament.  As the pro independence party, you would have thought that devolution would given the SNP the opportunity to push the case for independence at Westminster elections, and the opportunity to push for government/policy ideas in Holyrood elections. 

Yet the SNP have not gone down this route.  For this election the SNP went with an anti-cuts agenda, with the slogan “More Nat’s, Less Cuts”.  As a result, Scottish Labour massacred the SNP, with their variants of the “Ripped-off-Glasgow” campaigns.  That was before a bunch of parents drove a coach and horses through the SNP’s slogan by bringing up the cuts implemented by…  er…  the SNP led Renfrewshire Council.

Until the SNP choose the narrative for future Westminster elections, the Holyrood elections represent their best chance of electoral success.  With an OK under the circumstances parliament behind them (with a lot of popular policies being postponed due to adverse “electoral arithmetic”), the SNP should be looking forward to a second term.  However, the Ripped-off Glasgow campaign has hurt the SNP’s chances, while Labour has resurrected their vanity project – the GARL –pledging to build the project as was designed (regardless of affordability) in the hope that this will be as popular as they seem to think it is.  The release of Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi has also hurt the SNP in the polls.

So how can the SNP win next May?  They have made a good start by re-affirming their policy of the Council Tax freeze.  Despite Scottish Labour claims of a 3% cap, the Municipalist wing of Scottish Labour will be looking to close the 20% gap between Council Tax rates in England & Scotland.  I also think that they should have been more flexible in their attempt to get LIT off the ground, I think that this should come back on to the table.

Whatever policies the SNP formulate & announce over the course of this weekend’s conference, they must also attack Scottish Labour’s spin.  The inability to combat Scottish Labour spin cost the SNP the Glasgow North by-election and also cost it momentum in the West.  Scottish Labour have gone on the attack by claiming to protect front-line services, in their arguments for the scrapping of the Council Tax freeze.  The SNP should not be coy about flagging up to the Scottish electorate, the general largesse which Municipalist Labour are accustomed to.  I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Ed Milliband needs to employ his version of Alastair Campbell.  The SNP would be best advised to do likewise as this will be a nasty, spiteful,vindictive election battle, with no prisoners taken.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Boredom Causes Boozing

This is a letter published in the Paisley Daily Express, dated 8 October.  It is in response to a letter published on October 1, which was written by Andy Doig, the SNP's Parlimentary candidate for Paisley at the Holyrood election.

Dear Editor
I write with regard to the letter's published in the Paisley Daily Express dated 1 October 2010 relating to underage drinking.
In Mr Doig's letter he states that local authorities are "at the front line of defence against the scourge of underage drinking rather than Holyrood", he goes on to praise the current administration for their hard line on this issue.  While I am sure that they are, the actions taken do not appear to be making a difference as there are still groups of young people out at weekends congregating around areas of disused ground drinking.  The evidence of a hard night's drinking can be seen with the broken bottles & discarded cans which litter the landscape of our schemes. 
Mr Doig also attacks Mr Henry for his stance on Minimum Pricing.  The Labour stance on this policy is that they disagree with it because it will put money into the pockets of the supermarkets, with estimates in the region of around £140 million.  While this is a mute point, Mr Henry should have objected because this is a measure that will not work.  When people want to drink, they will drink.  Minimum Pricing will not act as a deterrent to alcohol consumption.  Its effect instead will be to create a spiral of debt and despair, with people maybe resorting to crime to "fund" their habit.  Rather than "save another generation in Renfrewshire from the social devastation and family breakdown caused by cheep drink", it will re-enforce the social devastation and family breakdown caused by alcohol addiction.
So how do we solve this problem?  Alcohol dependency is a complex issue which cannot be resolved by simplistic measures like Minimum Pricing.  As regards to underage drinking, there is something our council can do to help.  They can provide a cheep alternative to hanging around derelict ground drinking cheep booze.  They can put themselves in the position of so many of these people and ask themselves the question "What is there to do on a Friday/Saturday night in Paisley?".  Maybe then they will understand that boredom is the main driver of underage drinking.
Yours faithfully

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Another Blairite Speech?

Having only seen selected highlights of Cameron’s “wonderful” speech yesterday, I was wondering if the following points were made but somehow failed to make it to the 10 o’clock news.

While saying that we are all in this together, and using military language to express this.  Did Cameron explain why his Chancellor and HMRC dropped their case against Vodaphone, over taxes not paid when Vodaphone bought Mannesmann in 1999?

Did Cameron explain why, even though they are against tax avoidance, they are soft on big business avoiding paying tax?  They wrote off £6 Billion by dropping the aforementioned Vodaphone case, while no action appears to have taken place against Tesco.

Did Cameron announce a full inquiry into everything surrounding the Lockerbie bombing?  After all, the unsafe verdict of three Scottish judges has done more harm to the standing of Scotland and Scottish justice than the sight of an ill old man leaving Greenock Prison ever could.

Did Cameron give a rebuke to irresponsible members of his own party who want to remove human rights for workers, and who seem to relish a fight with the unions like football casuals relish a “ruck”?

Did Cameron show that he has put that private education to good use, and show one again that he knows his history by showing off his undoubted knowledge of the two World Wars?

Nah, thought not. It was another Blair mark 2 speech wasn’t it?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Still Toxic After All These Years…

Phah, you leave a comment on Better Nation, and it’s disproved within 12 hours with the appearance on Radio Scotland of, shock horror!!!  a blogger (OK it was the Dalemeister, but still it is still a rarity for a member of the blogosphere to appear in the mainstream Scottish media).  Dale was appearing on GMS as they were discussing why the Cameron effect stopped in Dumfriesshire.


There are several reasons touted for the Tories electoral failures here in Scotland.  Little fresh talent breaking through, with the same old faces holding key positions at the top of the party.  These are exacerbated by the fact that, in the Central belt, and in particular in the West of Scotland, the Conservative party is still seen as the nasty party.  For many people, the years when Thatcher's Conservatives destroyed Scottish heavy industry and cut a swathe through the manufacturing sector were years that will stay in the memory.  Some people though that memories would recede with New Labour in power.  Far from it, the Thatcher years have become something of a folklore, like the dragon that resides in the wood’s.  Ready to awake at any time.  Many people did not forget, and were unwilling to forgive.


Not that there was a lack of people queuing up to remind the Scottish voters.  Labour’s campaign seemed to consist solely of reminding people about the Tories, how ghastly they were and what happened the last time they were in power.  Which i suppose was as potent as the Tories reminding businesses up and down the land about 1979 and all that.  Except the Tories probably don’t need candidates opening their mouths and putting their foot in it.  Gordon MacCaskill put his foot in it several times during the General Election (and will probably do so again, as he has been picked to fight the Paisley seat for the Holyrood elections).  Today has also seen another Holyrood hopeful open his mouth and let his belly rumble.  With friend’s like these…


The interesting thing which no one seems to have mentioned is that while the Tories seem to be failing in attracting votes, this does not, as some commentators suggest, mean that there is a vacuum on the right.  The Tories place as the natural party of the centre right has been usurped, in the Scottish political landscape at least, by Scottish Labour.  It is they who are pursuing the Howardesque line on crime with their policy on Knife possession, as well as their former rising star pursuing a policy of part privatisation of council services.  It is also they who have the current monopoly on “Back to basic’s” style sleaze thanks to said former rising star.


If the key to winning elections is to find that populous middle ground, the Tories have failed to do this with a Scottish electorate which has not forgotten and will not forget the 1980’s.  Jeez they even failed to take the hint when Tory became a stick to beat the SNP with for nigh on 20 years after the collapse of the Callaghan government.  What is it they say about addicts being the last to become aware they have a problem?  With Holyrood elections next year,and Annabel Goldie offering the olive branch in an attempt to carve out some influence after the elections, the Tories need to learn the lessons of the past 30 years.