In a democratic system, politics is all about winning.
Since September 18th the Nats have talked a good game.
We’ve heard of all sorts of wonderful things they apparently achieved on 18th September.
· If only people born in Scotland had been allowed to vote they would actually have won, apparently.
· If only people over 65 had had the good grace to die off sooner, then again they’d have won, apparently.
· Four Local Authority Areas actually voted Yes! This is nearly a majority out of 32 Local Authority Areas, apparently
· Some people have vowed never to vote Labour again, apparently
· Lots of people joining the SNP is almost as good as independence itself, apparently
· They’re still going to have websites and rallies and flags, apparently
· And Tommy Sheridan is going nowhere, apparently.
The list of positives is almost endless, apparently.
The problem is that there is one big negative that doesn’t involve any apparentlies. There was a vote and they lost. Not even narrowly but by more than ten percentage points. In an event they themselves promised would happen only once in a generation.
Ironically, the one person on the nationalist side who got that was Alex Salmond. He’s chucked it. There’s no apparently about that either.
And, slowly the rest of them are getting it as well. Tellingly, while there is lots of “we are not defeated” verbiage in the manifestos of the three SNP Deputy Leadership candidates published in today’s Scotland and Sunday, none of them seeks the cheap internal votes that would come there way by pledging an early re-run of the contest just past. For good reason.
Instead the Nats do have a short term strategy disclosed in today’s Observer by Kevin McKenna. If they can win lots of Westminster seats from Labour then this will assist the return of a Tory Government. This might not be particularly good news for ordinary working people in Scotland, or indeed elsewhere in the UK, but it would be good news for the SNP. Apparently.
I don’t really see how this works with the electorate myself: “Vote SNP to increase the chances of a Tory Government” seems to me an improbable vote winner in west central Scotland but, since “Vote SNP and we’ll support a Labour Government”, seems to be politically off the internal Nat agenda that is what their line is to be, apparently. The problem is that going from a September argument that you should “Vote Yes to permanently stop Tory Governments” to a following May argument that “It doesn’t really matter whether it is a Tory or a Labour Government if it is not a Scottish Government ” might prove sufficient for the flag eaters, it is difficult to see it gaining much traction with those who thought getting rid of the Tories was the reason they found themselves voting Yes.
And even if the same “anti politics” sentiment which seems the mood of the moment across Europe does bring this strategy some success, and I don’t rule that out, is that a success the Nationalists would really want? This isn’t a one off referendum vote where the end might justify the means. This is a decision which will, within the continuing Union, have day to day consequences for years. While I concede that “We’ve got a Tory Government because England voted for the Tories” might drive votes towards the SNP in 2016, by that same logic “We’ve got a Tory Government because Scotland voted SNP” seems likely to have precisely the opposite effect. Don’t ask me, ask anybody who was in the SNP during the 1980s.
In the end, 2016 has to be the election the SNP are really interested in. For, more venal considerations of personal office holding aside, it is by the Nationalists own concession that the only route to Independence now runs through Holyrood not Westminster.
So what’s the point of them contesting Westminster elections at all?
“To keep up our momentum” would be their reply. But that brings me back to where I started. Momentum towards what? There was a vote and they lost. And in a democratic system it is all about winning. All or nothing I’m afraid. No apparently about it.