End inequality – Canvass now!

SNP conference 2013Paul Bassett argues against SNP complacency and the allure of social media. 

To him that hath, more shall be given.

If there was one idea that united the thousands campaigning for independence, it was surely the desire for an alternative to the unfair system of government under which we live.

To all those uncomprehending voices – Labour leadership included – we cried out: ‘It’s the inequality, stupid!’

Yet we lost.  Or rather, we haven’t won yet.  The struggle to establish a society which puts all of us first goes on.

Since the referendum, with every week that passes, the Westminster system increases its rewards to the rich and cuts further into the lives of the poor.  And, with every new scandal that emerges, it shows itself to be irredeemably rotten, incapable of its own improvement.

Whatever dies was not mixed equally.

Maybe so, John Donne, but some unequal things take a heck of a long time to gasp their last.  And when it’s a whole system riddled with inequality, then changing it for the better needs a push from an alternative, fairer force.

The only thing that can affect them, the only thing they are justifiably scared of, is the ballot box.  We know this: last September we witnessed the blind panic of the Westminster party leaders as they ditched Prime Minister’s Question Time and dashed north to “save the union”.

Most people north of the border, Yes or No, want home rule – it is the unsettled will of the Scottish people.  But the UK government will never concede power without intense, concentrated pressure from outside and right now the Scottish people are best placed to bring that pressure to bear.

If we want to win any power for Scotland we’ll have to wrest it from where it lies now.  This election gives us a chance to take a step towards self-determination, but only if we seize it with both hands.  In reality this means actively supporting SNP candidates between now and 7 May.

It’s not enough to take comfort from the opinion polls – they won’t win a single seat, not even a single vote.  Nor – with the greatest of respect to Bella, and all the others, social media etc – will online activity be enough.

It’s not Murphy or Miliband we need to focus on.  It’s the voters.  This especially means the voters who – against all the odds, against even their own interests – cling on to an ingrained allegiance to Labour, as if they still hope the lies can come true.

Of course this is changing now.  We can see on the doorsteps how this belief is crumbling.  But we cannot afford to take anyone or anything for granted.

This first past the post is so unfair that, just as it can suddenly swing to our advantage and win a disproportionately high number of seats, so it can also swing back.  The difference between a seismic victory and a modest advance is too narrow to leave to any kind of chance or complacency.

And we saw how ruthlessly the establishment behaved when things got close during the referendum.  Then they were fighting for the union.  Now they’re fighting for their jobs.  Just think how dirty they will play it.

Of course we are helped by the SNP’s formidable machine at times like these, plus the great number of people, party members and other campaigners available.  But we’ll need every one of them to help turn the promise of change into reality.

After the election, imagine how virulent the opposition will become, how they will resist if we have actually gone ahead and done it; if we’ve started to challenge power where it can make a real difference to who and what controls our lives.  You can just hear it: “Well, you only won some of the seats/more people didn’t vote SNP than did/most people still support the union” and so on and on, ad nauseam. 

So we cannot afford just to scrape victory – we need to win every seat convincingly.  Huge SNP majorities that cannot be pushed aside and belittled – this is what we’ll need to negotiate clear demands on issues like Trident, austerity and home rule with authority.

Fundamentally we can succeed because our message is one of change, hope and above all fairness.  Connecting, sharing that message, talking and listening to people – these can turn ideas into power.

You don’t have to be a party member to help with the campaigning.  Please get out and lend your support – give your time, your efforts, your sweat and as much energy as you can muster to make sure SNP candidates win unbeatable majorities.

The best way to secure the massive push we’ll need to shift the tenacious grip of the powers-that-be is to get out on the streets and doorsteps and canvass, canvass, canvass.


Comments (30)

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  1. tamdeanburn says:

    Well said Paul. Seeing you hard at it in indyref was a huge inspiration to me personally and you are dead right on the need to fight for every vote. It’s crucial folk see the unique nature of this General Election and help the SNP get maximum presence with thumping majorities at Westminster not matter where else their allegiance lies. As a near neebor I know you’ll know when I’m out on the stump so I better get cracking. I’m certainly not giving up my push on Twitter too though!

  2. IAB says:

    Well said – the main goal is independence and we start with the GE

  3. Peter A Bell says:

    I keep hearing people railing against a “complacency” that is nowhere to be found. I saw no complacency in evidence at the SNP Conference. Confidence? Yes! determination? Yes! Focus on the task at hand? Yes? But complacency? Not a bit of it.

    What some may mistake for complacency is the cheerful positivity that is to be found everywhere within the party. The sense that in Nicola Sturgeon, we have the right leader. In Stewart Hosie, Angus Robertson, John Swinney et al we have the right team. In the people standing in every constituency we have the right candidates. And, above all, we have the right message. A message which resonates with people across Scotland and the rest of the UK. A message so impressively enunciated by Nicola Sturgeon in her address to Conference.

    This is not complacency. It is recognition of potential. It is acknowledgement that we stand at an historic juncture pregnant with the possibility of meaningful change. Nobody doubts that effort is yet required if that potential is to be realised.

    1. What you said.

      The only thing we can be complacent about is the rightness of our cause.

      1. Agree with you both, gents! My branch just cut down my leaflet area, because more volunteers have come forward!

    2. Drew Campbell says:

      He was clearly referring to rank and file members, Peter.

      1. Peter A Bell says:

        There were more than 3,000 rank and file members at the SNP Conference. And no sign of complacency.

      2. Drew Campbell says:

        I was referring to your original remark, Peter, where you chose to dismiss the very notion of complacency amongst the leadership which was not the topic of the article at all and defending the leadership against an imagained slight where there was none.

        And as regards your follow-up remark, it is crystal clear to anyone who read the article the author is addressing not committed activists but giving a little nudge to the far larger number in the 100,000+ membership. Complacency is a human trait in all walks of life, Peter; I think Paul Bassett was simply trying to be constructive with a gentle chivvying against falling into that trap.

        1. Peter A Bell says:

          I don’t doubt that if you dig deeply enough you’ll find a degree of complacency somewhere. But if you have to dig that deeply to find so little, is it worth writing a whole article about, far less issuing incessant warnings?

  4. “It’s crucial folk see the unique nature of this General Election …”
    An excellent point, tamdeanburn.

  5. emilytom67 says:

    We have to have/show that we have visions/dreams of a better society for ALL Scots,we have to break from the “auld tottie” of political agenda,we have to encourage and include our youngsters as they are the future,We need radical ideas as to how we can change society for the better simply because the current one is rotten/corrupt to the core and dis-cludes the majority of the people,we have to get the majority to “buy into” the new ideals showing that we can achieve and “dream the impossible dream”.

    1. Barraload says:

      That would be ALL Scots other than Labour supporters and Tories who are the ones that nationalist on this site keep saying that they hate. Hate of others is the dark side of nationalism and you really need to convince those who remain loyal to these political parties that there is a welcome in the nationalist Scotland. Those parties buy into other ideals – like supporting poor people in England – that the nationalist creed cannot accept.

  6. Anton says:

    “Most people north of the border, Yes or No, want home rule – it is the unsettled will of the Scottish people.” This is flatly untrue. We just had a referendum – remember?

    This is not to say that Scotland cannot or will not gain independence. But to pretend that there many Scots didn’t vote against independence is, quite frankly, bonkers.

    1. Peter A Bell says:

      It’s always a good idea to read comments before responding to them. Or are you genuinely unable to make the distinction between home rule and independence?

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        Indeed, Peter.

    2. Dean Richardson says:

      It’s generally acknowledged that before the referendum the option for devo max (or home rule, if you prefer) was more popular than either independence or ‘no change’. That’s why Wasteminster made sure the referendum was a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They knew that if the third option had been on the ballot and had prevailed, they would have been held to it.

  7. Dan Huil says:

    Sadly there still exists the danger that many undecideds in Scotland will base their eventual choice on what they see and hear on television and radio. BBC Scotland should be renamed BBC Murphy. If these undecideds can’t be bothered to search out websites like this, or can’t be bothered to buy The National or Sunday Herald we must, as Paul Bassett says, get out there and canvass.
    It’s a pity these pro-indy newspapers can’t be given out free, in High Streets and rail stations etc during the last couple of weeks before polling day. As it is, when I know I’m going to be using public transport I always buy two or three extra copies of The National and casually leave them around on seats for passengers to read.

  8. Absolutely spot on, Paul. Just one drawback you forgot to mention, the Scottish weather. Managed to get out this morning, but the afternoon session was washed out. Hopefully the weather will Improve over the next few weeks.

  9. Will McEwan says:

    I didn’t see complacency at the conference but perhaps a little overconfidence.
    There is however a strange atmosphere about at the moment.
    It is mainly emotional rather than reasoned and many folk are not listening to the arguments any more. Many have decided that Labour is talking nonsense, others believe we are getting arguments tailored to English audiences, many have realised we have routinely been lied to for years, others are annoyed that Scotland in their opinions has been insulted and the Scots treated as idiots, most see that London doesn’t understand Scotland any more and in great numbers they have decided to stick one up them. That’s a technical term but it says it very well . That’ll teach them
    Time to get the flags up.
    Dave McEwan Hill

    1. Peter A Bell says:

      Listening to the likes of Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran, how is it possible to conclude anything other than that British labour in Scotland is talking nonsense?

  10. Connor Mcewen says:

    Still get nagging doubts about postal voting numbers and 70 y’r. plus voters who have no interest in “gadgets” being misled

    1. Barraload says:

      Being misled meaning the same as voting in a free democracy for what they believe in even if it is not in favour of nationalism. Can nationalist stop telling those who disagree with them that they are being misled or are stupid etc etc. Can you?

  11. Anton says:

    @ Peter A Bell: You ask (in rather patronising terms, alas) whether I can tell the difference between home rule and independence. Well, yes I can, and having now researched the term “home rule” I see that the consensus meaning given by all reliable authorities is “partial autonomy”. If that is what you mean, well and good, but by that definition Scotland already has home rule, which makes a nonsense of the original post and it’s for that reason that I conflated the two terms.

    So I’m struggling to understand your point. Perhaps you could explain.

    1. Peter A Bell says:

      I note the rather desperate effort to rationalise your conflation of the terms “home rule” and “independence”. Attempting this by emphasising the difference between the two terms was, perhaps, not the smartest way to go about it.

      Your “selected” definition of “home rule” is sadly deficient. Whether by design or through ignorance, I cannot tell. In fact, the term “home rule” is generally understood to imply devolution of everything other than defence and foreign affairs. Since independence brooks no such limitation, the two are in no meaningful way similar. To conflate them is the utter folly born of a failure to grasp the fact that devolution is not some kind of diluted form of independence. Devolution is the antithesis of independence. Devolution is a device by which independence is obstructed.

      Devolution is a denial of the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and an assertion of the primacy of the British state.

      Devolution is entirely about withholding powers from the Scottish Parliament to the advantage of the ruling elites of the British state, and nothing whatever to do with developing the form of governance that best serves the people of Scotland.

      Democracy is pooled sovereignty. Independence is the power to decide the terms on which sovereignty is pooled.

      Independence is the default status of nations. The condition to which the politically aware people of all nations will always aspire.

      Independence is normal. It’s the contrivance of inequitable devolution within an asymmetric union which is anomalous.

      Independence is not conditional and may not be constrained or qualified other than with the consent of the people.

      Independence is not isolation but the capacity to freely negotiate the terms on which a nation engages with the world.

      To conflate any form of devolution with independence is ludicrously inappropriate. They are mutually exclusive terms.

      You only compound your folly with the claim that Scotland already has home rule. Self-evidently, we don’t.

      In the referendum, a majority voted against independence. NOBODY voted against home rule, because that option was not on the ballot. However, even without resort to such things as the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, it can quite legitimately be asserted that EVERYBODY who voted in the referendum voted for home rule. Because that was always something that Yes voters would be prepared to settle for, pro tem and in extremis. And it is precisely what No voters were told they were voting for.

      So, to dismiss the statement, “Most people north of the border, Yes or No, want home rule – it is the unsettled will of the Scottish people.”, in the way that you did is just as wrong as conflating home rule and independence.

      1. Phil Robertson says:

        “To conflate any form of devolution with independence is ludicrously inappropriate. They are mutually exclusive terms.”

        That, I’m afraid, is only true in Stalinist-type government. Things like unicameral government, centralised police force, MPs subject to disciplinary procedures for not toeing the party line, coerced local authorites …

        Sounds too close for comfort!

  12. Will McEwan says:

    You would be well advised not to treat contributors to this site as idiots. What Scotland has at the moment in no way resembles what any informed person would consider “home rule”.
    “Home rule” means all income raised in Scotland retained in Scotland for disbursement by a Scottish government
    Gordon Brown obviously understands the huge difference as he was offering “the nearest thing to home rule” as an improvement to our present underpowered settlement.
    Dave McEwan Hill

  13. Mealer says:

    aye.We need to chap on doors to find out where our supporters live,then go round their doors on Election Day to make sure they’ve voted.Thats how we can win.

  14. Phil Robertson says:

    “the Westminster system increases its rewards to the rich and cuts further into the lives of the poor.”

    Have a look at the detail of the porters’ strike at Ninewells. An issue entirely within the remit of the SNP Holyrood government. It affects some of the lowest paid staff in the NHS. The Labour MP has been active in his support while the local MSP, Shona Robison, has maintained an arms-length, “nothing to do with me” attitude. She is, of course, the government minister responsible for health matters.

    So if you are looking for the system to change” for the better” it doesn’t look like the SNP who will deliver.

  15. arthur thomson says:

    @ Barraload

    Who, tell me, is actually trying to help poor people in England? The best thing that could possibly happen for poor people in England is the SNP getting a mandate to force the English Labour Party to adopt policies that help the poor all across the UK. There is absolutely nothing that I or any other Scottish Nationalist wants that would be to the detriment of the English poor. I thoroughly resent your implication that Scottish self-government is an act of selfishness.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      Sorry if I appear pedantic, but there’s no such thing as the English Labour Party, only the British one. The fact that they’re based in England, and most of them sound English, is neither here nor there. They despise England, and I suspect they’d rather admit to being child molesters than say they’re English.

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