Tuesday 11 April 2023

Have SNP hopes been towed away too?


How do we take advantage of the series of scandals that are beginning to overwhelm the SNP? Sit back and watch. Don’t get too excited. There is no doubt more to come. Look forward for the first time in a decade to the next General Election but don’t make a fool of yourself by saying too much.

There are two factors that will determine the result of the General Election in Scotland. They are the overall level of support for Labour in the UK and how much the SNP has been damaged by the departure of Sturgeon, the appointment of Yousaf and the various scandals that are now taking place.

The task is not repeat not primarily about what Pro UK voters will do. We will do the same as we have been doing since 2015. The task is to encourage SNP voters who formerly voted Labour to do so again. In few if any cases will SNP voters choose to vote Tory or Lib Dem, though perhaps some Tartan Tories may do so in rural areas.

The best that Conservatives and Lib Dems can hope for is to retain the seats they have and if they are really lucky add one or two. If they did that it would be a major success.

Labour on the other hand is now just behind the SNP and it wouldn’t take much for it to win twenty seats.

If that were to happen, then the SNP’s dominance of Scottish politics since 2014 would be over. We would be back to Left-Right politics and the SNP would no longer have the numbers to push for a second independence referendum. At that point at least in the short to medium term it would be game over.

Once independence becomes a distant possibility at best then even independence supporters will vote on domestic issues along Left-Right lines rather than constitutional issues. If that happens in the next Holyrood election, then there will no longer be an independence supporting majority. There will be no route to independence. No way forward. No mobile home to take anyone anywhere.

What is the one thing that could stop all of this happening? It is what Douglas Ross suggested at the weekend. Tories should vote for Labour in the Central Belt. Labour should vote Tory or Lib Dem in rural Scotland.

From this SNP voters conclude that Labour and the Tories are interchangeable so they might as well continue voting SNP.

The Conservative Party in London is being thick to complain about Ross stating the obvious in Scotland. But there are also good reasons why political parties have to at least pretend to discourage voting for their opponent. How can the Conservatives ever improve their position in Scotland if Conservative voters are told to vote for someone else? How do you ever move from third, to second, to first, if tactical voting tells people to vote for the party that came second last time? The Conservative Party in the UK will be running an anti-Labour campaign, which is liable to be undermined by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives is telling people to vote Labour. If Ross thinks it’s a good idea to have Labour MPs in Glasgow, why not in Surrey?

Scotland is different. Our main aim is to stop the SNP. But Ross is also being thick for saying explicitly what does not need to be said. Pro UK people already know full well to vote for the candidate who has the best chance of defeating the SNP. A relatively small number of tactical voters can make a difference in some seats. But not everyone is willing to vote tactically.  Many Labour voters in particular won’t vote Tory in principle.

We probably have about as many Pro UK tactical voters as we are going to get. So, there is no need to bang on about it like Ross. Doing so is going to lose more SNP voters switching to Labour than it gains anti-SNP tactical voters.

I fear that selfishly this is what is behind Ross’s enthusiasm for Conservatives voting Labour. It could be a sort of double bluff to discourage SNP voters switching to Labour. If so, it is Ross that needs to think about putting country before party.

We must hope that independence supporters switch to other independence parties. Voting for small socialist parties, the Scottish Greens or Alba if it stands will split the independence vote just like it has been splitting the Pro UK vote for the past decade.

The best I think we can do is to not think too much about tactics. Some people will vote tactically others won’t. It makes sense for Labour not to campaign too hard where it can’t win, and it makes sense for the Conservatives and Lib Dems to do the same. But beyond that better by far for them to be seen to compete against each other.

The most important thing of all is that the next General Election should be about Labour versus the Conservatives, rather than Scottish independence. Our task is to dig out and publicise the scandals that will continue to embarrass the SNP and to use mockery to make it look ridiculous. The more jokes we have about mobile homes and digging for treasure in the back garden, the more likely that Humza Yousaf and his colleagues will be seen as clowns.

If the SNP are both foolish and irrelevant and if the steady trickle of scandal (drip, drip, crash bang wallop as a gold-plated Rolls Royce is discovered hiding in Grotty Ferry) continues then the SNP will not be able to recover as it has done previously. The more that is written about SNP scandals the better. It means everything else is ignored.

I personally will be voting for the candidate best able to defeat the SNP in my constituency. I advise everyone to do the same. But you knew that already. There is no need for any of us to go on about it.