I am cautiously pessimistic about the outcome of the SNP’s leadership contest. If at first all possible outcomes seem to result in some terrible consequences, when you look closer things are far worse. Forget for a moment the bitter internecine feuding, the lack of any serious policy debate, the amateur-hour style of presentation or the complete failure to see the contest as anything other than a narrow opportunistic moment for career advancement.
Each of the candidates has its own flaws. Brutally, but rather accurately David Jamieson writes: “Forbes hails from rural and small business parts where her combination of market banalities and social Kirkishness wash, and she imagines this will arrive as a pleasant surprise in the central belt. Whatever the thinking, her self-presentation means a Forbes FM would likely mutilate the SNP’s existing voting bloc. Forbes represents the economic liberalism of her party – but snarling, with none of the necessary apologies.”
Firm but fair. For those over-generous souls who claim that Forbes stance on abortion rights, gay marriage, sex ‘outside wedlock’ ( whats it this 1953?) or conversion therapy will have no electoral impact whatsoever, please ask a) anyone under 60 b) women c) gay people d) your conscience. Even if you make the dubious calculation that Kate is the person most likely to attract new yes voters by reaching ‘beyond’ (whisper, to the right) the current demographic, you would also have to conclude that she would shed younger voters in droves. That is, of course, forgetting what kind of momentum for exactly what kind of nation you would be projecting with such a figure as your leader.
For Ash Regan the performance cannot all be put down to the deep state conspiracies sketched by her backers. The plans to erect Readiness Thermometers in city squares with a ‘dial on it that moves’ – and the language about “voter empowerment mechanisms” were as far-fetched as the strategies for winning independence by just ‘having an election’ and then starting negotiations.
Regan’s background team rarely pause from explaining how long they’ve been ‘political strategists’ but there if there candidate is having a ‘mare perhaps they should have a think why? There is for one a complete disconnect about her idea that her opponents views on how to achieve a referendum are ‘wishy-washy’ and yet she will ‘begin negotiations’ on the back of a 50% + 1 vote at a General Election.
“It is the same as a referendum if you think about it”.
Just willing the world to be different from how it is isn’t a political strategy. However much we might like the British government to think and act differently – it doesn’t cut it to just shut your eyes and go blue in the face. Building a mass movement for independence and mass support across the party, combined with effective ways to put real pressure on the British need to be addressed.
Last Humza Yousaf but not least the ‘Continuity Candidate’ who is trying desperately not to be that very thing. He is under attack from all sides as the ‘establishment candidate’ which he surely is in terms of the SNP leadership. But there’s some complexity to this. First up Forbes is the ‘establishment candidate’ with most of the right-wing and unionist press acting as cheerleaders for her campaign (some of them have been gushing for months). Second, I really don’t think Yousaf would have been the leaderships candidate of choice. Their real champion didn’t stand. Yousaf’s problem is not just his track record in office, nor the barely-disguised racism of much of his critics, it is that every time he tries to re-brand his candidacy it just points out his flaws. For example he recently pledged to look at whether more money can be spent on drug treatment services if he becomes the next First Minister. First the language is so weak as to be completely ineffectual. He would ‘look at it’ would he? How bold of him. Second it just points to the SNP’s dire track record on drugs deaths.
So none of the possible three outcomes are particularly good.
A Forbes victory, possibly as a result of second preference votes being gifted from Ash Regan’s camp might swell the ranks of the Yes vote and the SNP with swithering small and capital C conservatives, but to what end? At the same time such a victory would put off millions of progressive and younger voters.
A Regan victory would result … look that’s not going to happen, it’s just ridiculous, sorry. I and many others share her frustrations and at least some of her critique, but her performance has been dismal, her proxy backers are transparent, and her strategies don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.
A Yousaf victory would result in carnage of a different sort altogether. His track record in office would be under intense scrutiny and unless there was swift (and miraculous) changes of direction and competence it’s difficult how to see that would not be an immense political pressure. It’s also likely that given he’s the only candidate to stand by the GRR policies there would have to be a split in the party if he was to win. That might not be a bad thing – if individuals have such deep-seated differences it is difficult to see how they would work together. But this would leave several high-profile SNP figures politically homeless, and despite rhetoric unlikely to join Alba. Perhaps a fourth (fifth?) pro-indy party might emerge splitting the vote several times.
Am I being too pessimistic? I don’t think so.
I’d love to be wrong about all of this. Maybe the candidates will start talking with imagination, passion and coherence, maybe a unity pack will emerge, maybe the party will emerge strengthened and renewed by this cathartic process? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong?
This isn’t all their fault as individuals. These candidates have inherited a shitshow, a political movement denuded of radicalism and devoid of imagination. Now what?