A friend who is writing a blog on what we do next after the referendum asked us this questions: How can ‘non politicals’ engage in simple, non-scary ways with social justice/progressive democracy and in small but significant ways, progressively work against the Tories?
I wrote a fairly calm response – parts of which will be published on her site next week. I then went on twitter and realised that there was a massive protest in London. It made me pause for a moment and question why I wasn’t getting so agitated about the result in England. I was more depressed than angry.
Contrast that feeling with the protesters in London and the previous 2011 London riots. ‘We in Scotland’, (to paraphrase a line that Thatcher once so ignorantly employed to zero effect) have a different approach. Post-election responses in England and Scotland can best be explained using James Robertson’s excellent satire of the news and weather reports.
‘Weather that is more extreme where you are than where we are is not news’.
Sadly, ‘We in Scotland’ do not riot at the election of a right-wing anti-equality and human rights government in England because the experience is not unusual, nor, extreme. We stay calm because it is not news that Scottish seats hardly ever matter during votes at Westminster (there almost always being a Tory or Labour English seats majority).
In most parliaments, if all Scottish MPs had voted against the legislation up for vote – the legislation would still have gone through. Up to this election Scotland had voted Tory for 6 years out of 68 and had had Tory governments for 38 of those years.
As websites like Wings Over Scotland and Arc Of Prosperity point out, the reduction to 59 seats makes it even more likely that Scots seats won’t matter. Indeed, had not Tony Blaire’s government reduced the number of Scots MPs from 72 down to 59, the Tories would not necessarily now have a majority. (After removing the speaker they would have required 332 to have more seats than the remainder of the house 330)
In only one election (and a government that lasted two years) have Scots seats actually mattered to the outcome of votes in the Westminster parliament. ‘We in Scotland’ don’t riot on receiving the 2015 result because it is not news to us that there is a democratic deficit at Westminster. It’s a depressingly everyday state of affairs.
‘We in Scotland’ don’t necessarily need to riot because we have drawn solace from the fact that our voice spoke loudly at the election. Some on the twittersphere have also tried to assure themselves that the impact of this most right-wing of Tory governments will be less on our own lives because of the Holyrood parliament.
This position is problematic on two counts. First, it would be naïve to ignore the fact that it will be an almost impossible task for Nicola and her colleagues to stave off the effects of the next set of cuts. Secondly, we all should care about people in England who will be attacked by the Tory cuts. So, where does this leave us – drawing up the draw bridge or acting as a beacon of hope?
The result in England and our lack of riots does not mean that we are becalmed – simply that we have let off our loudest weapon and our powder is now being kept dry. David Cameron needs to understand that selective deafness will not be acceptable this time. If he fails to comprehend the change that has occurred, Scots will soon be joining in with disaffected Londoners. .
By voting in a completely different way to England and ejecting all but 3 unionist party candidates – we sent a message loud and clear. Yet, we should not look at the vote in a Triumphalist way. We have most to gain for equality if we follow our social justice values and reach out to those in Scotland who might now join with us to oppose the Tories.
‘We in Scotland’ made a greater united statement about the need for equality than anywhere else in the UK. We have a lot to gain if we move beyond the SNP/Green v Labour divide. 1493541 voted SNP and Green, 707,147 voted Labour. That is 75% of the Scottish vote. 75% that voted against the previous Lib/Tory government.
Another thought came to mind on counting up the 75 (yes how about uniting SNP, Green and Labour in an anti-Tory alliance and sticking that on your twitter ribbons as an aspiration to the number we need to achieve for independence?).
John Smith always said that Scotland was ten years in front of England in political judgement. It is never more clear than at this election. But we can continue to be ten years ahead by uniting with Scottish Labour voters.
Scottish Labour’s only hope of recovery is now to adopt a more pro-independence position. It will take time for this to sink in. If it doesn’t, they will be toast at the next Holyrood election.
It will also take a while for the establishment to wake up to what has happened – the Scottish Parliament has been a sticking plaster for a much deeper malaise. As eminent Scottish Historians are pointing out, the fabric that supported the union no longer exists. As we watch, the threads that held the union together are unravelling. However, it is no accident of fate that this is happening. It is happening because we as a people are making it happen.
If ‘We in Scotland’ can get over the Labour v SNP divide we can speak as the 75. Many years ago I felt like the people who have been protesting in London. An Italian friend who was a politics lecturer told me to stop moaning about it and do something productive – I joined the Labour party just before Blaire changed it for ever (no luck there then!) and argued, like many others, for a devolved Parliament.
I have always believed Scotland should be an independent country but I joined the Labour party because its core values seemed closer to my own and I had great respect for people like Donald Dewar, John Smith and Robin Cook (note the names that are missing!).
I met Ian Murray during the referendum and told him I used to be a Labour member. He sarcastically replied ‘What does that mean’. I could have nipped back, ‘It means I was campaigning for equality and social justice when you were still in yer nappies yah numpty’.
However, that would have been to copy his sarcastic approach. I have kept thinking about Ian Murray’s one-liner since the meeting. Other people have argued in a more considered way that the Labour party left them and not the other way round. My feeling is that, rather than conflict, we need to work through our differences with Labour people.
When I failed to renew my membership of the Labour party I mentioned it at a party for a colleague at work. There were a couple of people from the old guard of the Labour hierarchy at the party and their response to me was that the Labour party is not just for Christmas. The comment hurt – just like Ian Murray’s comment.
It means something to me that I was once a member of the Labour party – when it could practice social justice and equality and brought in some of the most radical human rights legislation there is.
The ‘nippy’ comments I have received over the years have not come from everyday Labour party members – they have come from people like Ian Murray who have positions of authority. When they make ‘nippy’ comments they demonstrate an inability to practice social justice and they invite us to fight amongst ourselves rather than turn our guns on the true enemy which is David Cameron and his self-serving elite.
The Scottish Referendum Study argued that the, ‘No campaign didn’t change what Scots want; just scared them out of going for it’. We came together on May the 7th as a cohesive group and acted decisively. But, to achieve real and sustained change we need more than the SNP and Green voters – we also need the 24.3% who voted Labour.
We need to unite with those voters and build a 75 that can change everything. One of the researchers from the Scottish Referendum Study appears to have argued that another couple of weeks might have enabled voters fears to be alleviated and Yes would have won.
Alex Massie in the Spector praised the maturity of political response to the stats on the No vote:
‘The research suggests 52 percent of voters born in Scotland voted Yes compared to just 27 percent of those born elsewhere in the United Kingdom and 49 percent spawned overseas. It is to the SNP’s credit – and a sign of the party’s maturity – that they have not made anything of this, nor used it to whip up nativist sentiment. Other nationalist parties in other countries would not, I think, be so restrained. A reminder, too, that despite everything the referendum was, by the standards of these things, a civilised affair.’
We need just as mature a response now. The Labour Party and their supporters will be hurting – let’s not kick them when they are down – let us remember we believe in Social Justice. My friends who voted No were mainly Labour voters. They showed me great sympathy after the vote. They did not gloat. They patted me on the shoulder and said it will happen one day. We need to show that type of generosity of spirit now and come together to form an impregnable alliance.
My friends who voted No also said that if the Tories got in again they may be prepared to vote Yes – lets find out from them under what conditions they would be prepared to vote for independence.
One final point. Those sexist idiots on twitter who are using the Scottish results to attack people like JK Rowling have no place in the 75. Anyone who knows them should make it clear that their behaviour is not what ‘We in Scotland’ will accept of our fellow 75ers.
Categories: Labour Party