My Democratic Dilemma

I don’t recall ever having been so conflicted about a vote than I am about the upcoming general election. This week’s interviews of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn did little to help with that.

As a brief review of the interviews themselves. I think Corbyn came across as quietly and surprisingly firm and upright. He had successfully anticipated the questions from both the audience and from Paxman and gave solid, if obviously rehearsed and briefed, answers. The perception of him in the press is that his policies are popular but his own personal factor is rather less so. Paxman attacked that weakness and went for the personal and tried to drag, sometimes fairly; sometimes unfairly, his already well aired skeletons out of their closets. Comparatively few questions from him were on policy. Corbyn probably came out as well as he could in the face of that.

May, on the other hand, showed why she’s been trying hard to run a Presidential campaign without actually appearing in front of people. Evasive and vague answers to questions and defenses of abysmal policies being literally laughed down. One question which particularly struck me was from the older gentleman who was very upset at the prospect of losing his house to pay for social care. Equally striking that when he was asked about it after the debate he admitted that while he was unhappy with the answer, he’d probably still vote for May. This is the calculation she’s made through this whole election campaign. She knows younger folk won’t vote for her (and – hopefully, from her POV, won’t vote at all) but she’s gambling that older voters won’t NOT vote for her (and will certainly turn out). If either or both of these assumptions turn out to be incorrect, she’ll be in for an abrupt surprise on June 9th. It seems incredible to say but my estimates of the impending Tory majority have dropped from 100+…to 6 points in some recent polls.

The whole debate was neatly summed up in a couple of tweets.

Media preview

So why my conflict?

I don’t have a Green candidate to vote for in my constituency. Between cost, the inherent unfairness of FPTP with regard to smaller parties and a few other factors, we don’t have a candidate for the area and so my vote is up for grabs.

If I lived in England and couldn’t vote for the GPEW, it’d be a fair no-brainer. I’m actually excited by much of the Labour manifesto. Items like the program of nationalisation, the National Investment Bank, and their previous support for a scheme to look at a Universal Basic Income (though it hasn’t made it into the actual manifesto) are all policies that the Greens and Common Weal support and advocate for.

This isn’t to say that the manifesto is perfect. There have been compromises there to keep the ever recalcitrant PLP in line. Corbyn has all but admitted that he doesn’t like not being able to change the party stance on Trident and I certainly do not appreciate the manifesto’s stated opposition to Scottish independence. While reports more recently have somewhat softened that, i’d think it likely that he’d go into that negotiation from a stance of either offered Federalisation or finding some other way to try and “buy off” the nationalists rather than support a referendum.

But this isn’t the largest blocker towards my placing my vote in the Labour box. Quite frankly, I don’t trust Scottish Labour and Kezia Dugdale to support anything that Corbyn offers. Certainly not if opposing Corbyn helps them with their sole and over-riding goal of opposing the SNP at every possible avenue. I could believe that Corbyn would seek a coalition with the SNP to oust the Tories. I could equally believe that Dugdale would sabotage it to frustrate Sturgeon.

So my vote should go SNP then? Well…I can’t say I’m entirely impressed with their manifesto. There’s some good stuff in there – commitment to energy grid reform and the general pushback against Austerity is decent – but there’s a lot missing too. The SNP have been clearly outflanked on the National Investment Bank issue. They could have placed a commitment in there on that with the sweetener that they’d push for it in Scotland even if they couldn’t win power in Westminster. As a negative, I don’t like the continued push towards Carbon Capture – especially now that Scotland is free of coal power. As a technology, it’s looking more and more like another distraction from decarbonisation at best and an excuse to develop technology for ever more oil extraction at worst.  The lack of push on corporation tax beyond “opposition to further cuts” is also disappointing.

This last concern brings me to another point. I’m struggling to see the balance between the overall promises to end Austerity and the commitment to “balancing the budget” within the next five years. When asked directly at their manifesto launch about whether these promises were costed, Nicola Sturgeon didn’t give a particularly straight answer. I think the party is still caught in the trap of believing that government deficit spending is a “bad thing” and that we can just grow our way to economic “success”. There are some very good reasons to believe that this economic model is badly flawed.

Overall, this is clearly a manifesto built for a party which knows it can’t win any more seats than it already has and is trying to avoid losing too many. It’s also clearly a manifesto written without much intent of being implemented. The party rhetoric has consistently been one of assuming a Tory majority in which Scotland’s MPs would be ignored.

Away from the national campaign and down to the local I’ve been having a look at who is standing in my own constituency. It’s currently an SNP seat with the Tories in a very distant second. Even if the Tories pick up every single non-SNP voter, they’d still be shy some 7,000 votes. This probably explains why, a week and a half out from the elections, I haven’t seen a single piece of campaign literature from anyone and why my choice of candidates have been…let’s say “less than stellar”. We have the incumbent MP (whom I do like and respect). The Lib Dems and UKIP are both running one of their recently failed council election candidates and, rather more seriously, the Tories and Labour are both running one of their recently ELECTED councilors. I can’t help but think that they’re not taking this election particularly seriously.

So that’s my dilemma. In terms of manifestos, I’m probably most attracted to Labour’s but their opposition to independence and my lack of faith in Scottish Labour’s commitment to their own party is a serious concern. Whilst I’m not quite so enthused by the SNP promises and they look more like a list of nice things than a complete vision of a country, I can more easily believe that they’d work towards them given the chance and that, at heart, they will be thinking of Scotland when making inevitable compromises.

I need to throw things out for advice. To the SNP – I’m yours to lose. Convince me that your numbers add up and you’re trying to build something more than just a list of nice soundbite policies. To Labour – I’m yours to win. Convince me that your party still has a place in politics north of the border.


12 thoughts on “My Democratic Dilemma

  1. It’s actually very simple. Even if the SNP isn’t offering the agenda that you want, it is the only party that offers the maintenance of a political culture in which that agenda may be realised. There is not the remotest possibility of a Green agenda flourishing in a political environment dominated by the British parties. Basically, if you want Greens to have a significant role in Scotland’s government in the future, you better vote SNP now. Because the SNP is the only viable bastion against that British domination.

    To those of the Green/Left I say, your time is not now. There is a route that must be followed. And that route absolutely requires the SNP. It’s called realpolitik.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The SNP is the vehicle that drives us towards independence. Vote SNP even if you have to hold your nose. You know that every vote for a unionist party will be interpreted as a vote for the union. So don’t feed the beast. Your politics can flourish in iScotland but we have to get there first.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Completely agree with the other two comments. It is only by achieving independence that green policies will flourish. They certainly won’t within the UK state.

    I’m also slightly surprised at your positive view of a Labour manifesto which seems to deny the right of Scots to choose their own future, pledges to maintain weapons of mass destruction and does not support fair voting. For these reasons I did not support Labour and have voted for the Greens in England.

    If you want green policies to be implemented in Scotland you must vote for the SNP on this occasion.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Craig,
    I have to say I was disappointed by the SNP manifesto. In terms of their macroeconomic approach they seem to have taken a step back from where they were in 2015. Back then the emphasis seemed to be on balancing the economy and now we have gone back to ‘balancing the books’ and thus have put themselves in a bit of a corner.

    The fact is that by investing in the economy, the deficit will take care of itself. There have been positive voices amongst the SNP MPs over the past couple of years in this regard so for me yesterday was a disappointment.

    If UK labour had been lead by a blairite then you could class the SNP approach as a safe move but given the fact that people in the UK are attracted by labour’s spending proposals then it paints a more neoliberal picture of the SNP.

    I believe yesterday was sadly tactics over principles by the SNP, but jeremy corbyn’s own comments on Scotland reek of neoliberal groupthink given his own supposed progressive views. I think he knows fine that ‘turbo charged’ austerity doesn’t reduce deficits. Even the IMF don’t buy into the austerity agenda now.
    So with that in mind I feel he simply demonstrated a very dismissive approach towards Scotland which isn’t a good sign. He also wants to run the UK mostly on renewables and he simply can’t achieve that without Scotland’s resources.

    I believe a strong SNP would be strongly supportive of many of corbyn and macdonnels progressive policies but would also hold them to account on our behalf. Even though yesterday was disappointing I’ll still be voting SNP as will my wife who is a member of the Scottish greens.


  5. May I shift the argument towards Brexit? The UK’s departure from the EU will dominate the efforts of the next government no matter who wins the election. In my view every other policy pledge is insignificant compared to what happens with the EU in the next five years. The decisions made with the EU and with its third parties and with UK domestic law (The Great Repeal Bill) will shape life in the UK for the next generation. The ability to travel, trade, protect data are all going to be decided by the next government. Even the very principles of the NHS could be fundamentally altered by leaving the UK. It will touch almost every area of our lives.

    I read the Labour and Tory manifestos (and blogged about the horrors they contained) but only looked at their Brexit policy. Labour are all over the place. They simply have no clue what Brexit involves. I don’t think they even understand that it is all that important. They don’t even understand that their effective position is exactly the same as the Tories: no deal is better than a bad deal. It is filled with vague sentences like “access” to this and that without ever specifying what it means. The Tories do approximately understand some of the mechanisms of leaving the EU. Sadly, they just don’t understand any of the consequences. They have no credible plan for what happens when the UK actually leaves the EU. Unlike Labour, though, they can probably just about manage to push the UK out of the EU. That isn’t a positive.

    If it comes down to Labour and SNP and I was just limiting myself to Brexit I see a clear choice for the SNP. I must admit that I haven’t read their manifesto yet but I did read the Scottish Government’s White Paper on keeping Scotland in the EU. That displayed a thorough understanding of the choices available and the trade-offs of each one. It was also able to assess the difficulty level of the different choices and made sure that speculation about potential political agreement was kept separate from fact. It probably devoted way too much time to unlikely scenarios but at least it made it clear that they would be difficult to reach. Compared to the UK Government’s White Paper on Brexit it was a work of minor genius. Faint praise, indeed.

    I can’t definitely say that the SNP have a better policy on Brexit because I haven’t had time to digest it. It’s clear, though, that Nicola Sturgeon has better advisors than Corbyn and Starmer. She also made significant efforts to meet other European leaders and EU figures. As a whole, SNP leadership is briefed far better than Labour on this particular crisis. I’m fairly certain that they understand the CAP and the four freedoms and the role of the ECJ and how EU technical agencies work. It is faint praise to say that they understand it better than Labour because even idiots like me with nothing more than a little spare time understand it better than Labour. They also have a broadly pro-EU outlook and aren’t ashamed of that. For me, that is huge. I have absolutely no idea what Labour actually think about the EU. They seem to think Brexit is now a good thing but they’re not able to articulate any advantages that might come from it. They also have Kate Hoey and other Leavers as prominent members.

    Us postal voters can’t hang around waiting for manifestos so I’ve already cast my vote for SNP. I’m a first time SNP voter and that choice was entirely formed by Brexit.

    (FYI I’m not a member of any political party and never have been.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is certainly true. Corbyn won’t be allowed to govern. The Tories might be out of office, but they won’t be out of power.The British state is a Tory state, regardless of who occupies the government benches in the House of Commons.


  6. If the SNP had included any of the things you want they would have been screamed at for telling the English how to run their country.

    What they have looked at are the key factors which impact Scotland and the Scottish budget.

    Since no-one knows how Brexit will end up, it is probably best to not give the Tories ideas about what powers to take away.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A couple of things I want to take up here:

    The Labour manifesto is a resounding victory for Jeremy Corbyn, because it brings up the type of progressive policies he supports (and that are popular) without being radical enough to deflect from the good points. His view on Scottish independence is that it’s up to Scotland, something he told me on a Virgin train when he got on at Berwick, and the policy to ditch Trident would have seen almost every interview dominated by that stance. It’d have blacked out the things he wants to talk about.

    But Labour’s existential crisis in Scotland is born out of several things that are largely attributable to their role. In a General Election, their role is to support the UK manifesto because they’re not independent from the UK party; in a Holyrood election, their role is to devise and promote policies on devolved issues such as education; in a local election, their role is to sell people on how they’re going to run their local authorities.

    Unfortunately, all of this has been hopelessly mixed up and we’re stuck with essentially Blairite candidates, like the lamentable Ian Murray, who have no intention of supporting either the UK manifesto, or the UK leader. So as a lifetime Labour man, who’s voted for the SNP in the last two elections due to the Scottish Labour view on independence, this particular election is a real problem because I can’t vote for the party that’s bringing back socialist policies.

    Now, as for the Greens:

    I’m uncomfortable with the presentation of the Green party as something that’s for “after independence”. It’s not. The Greens aren’t popular under any electoral system, and I don’t understand the arguments to the contrary. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect Green members, but it’s important to note that they’re exclusively a list party (nowhere near a Scottish constituency win at Westminster or Holyrood), and really only in relatively affluent or bohemian areas. In fact, one could argue that their vanity candidates cost the SNP where independence was the major issue; but that’s perhaps a debate for another day.

    All in, I want to vote for UK Labour but won’t put a Scottish Labour member into parliament. That leaves me with the SNP who, as Craig correctly suggests, look a lot more neoliberal following the Labour manifesto launch than they probably intended. And I’ll be in this position permanently, until Scottish Labour drop the rabid opposition to independence and sort out some of their errant representatives.

    Something we’re unlikely to see. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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