Monday, February 28, 2011

Green on the constitution?

I had a slightly irritable exchange with James MacKenzie at Better Nation yesterday, both on the queries that have been raised about the new YouGov poll commissioned by his party, and on the possibility that they (the Greens) might enter a coalition with Labour should the latter emerge as the largest party in May. It has to be said that James simply didn't have a defence of the poll's methodology on its own merits, although to be fair other commenters did have a go later on. On the coalition front, the impression I got was that James was trying to present his party as roughly equidistant between Labour and the SNP - while he concedes they are closer to the Nationalists on justice policy, nuclear power and the constitution, he claims they are somewhat closer to Labour on public transport and carbon emission targets. He pointed out (and I accept) that they entered into coalition negotiations with the SNP in good faith four years ago, but that they had subsequently gone on to oppose the government vigorously on the basis that it had turned out to be "a business-as-usual administration on poverty, the economy and the environment".

I'd naturally refute the latter point, but it does raise an interesting issue in relation to any future deal with Labour. James has previously proved very touchy whenever it's been suggested to him that the Greens' support for an independence referendum and/or enhanced powers for Holyrood has been quietly dropped, or isn't much of a priority for them. He even memorably worked himself into a state of apoplexy over the synthetic controversy of the 'lapsed tax powers', asking where the equivalent anger from Nationalist bloggers was - the implication seemed to be that the Greens are now the "true believers" in Scottish self-government. Well, let's see the evidence for that. If coalition with Labour becomes a possibility, will the Greens prioritise constitutional progress in the negotiations? I'd suggest the fairly obvious answer is - no, they will not.

The dogs on the street know what an Iain "the Snarl" Gray-led government will look like on the constitution - it will be, to coin a phrase, a "business-as-usual administration". So whatever (probably minor) concessions the Greens might secure on environmental policy, that's the sort of government they would be supporting. They are, of course, perfectly entitled to put constitutional progress for Scotland on the back-burner for five long years if they so wish, and in some ways it might be considered perfectly natural that a Green party would regard such matters as a relatively low priority. But if that is the case, let's have a bit of honesty about it, and at a minimum let's hear no more nonsense about how they are the true 'guardians of the flame'.


James said...

To clarify, on the economy, the environment and on poverty we're equidistant not in the sense of being in the middle, merely that Labour and the SNP occupy basically the same position.

Also, coalition with anyone is just one option, and probably not the most likely even if those numbers come up. A Labour minority administration that just needed any one other party to pass anything would be pretty stable, given that Bruce Crawford has to work hard to get two on board.

Sorry you don't like YouGov's methodology. I'm still not sure why the SNP commission them in that case, though, or laud their results when they suit you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you don't like YouGov's methodology. I'm still not sure why the SNP commission them in that case, though, or laud their results when they suit you.

Going out on a limb, I'd hazard that it's because the SNP don't consult James Kelly when selecting a pollster.

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James Kelly said...

"Sorry you don't like YouGov's methodology. I'm still not sure why the SNP commission them in that case, though, or laud their results when they suit you."

As Anon points out, I'm not the SNP leadership, and the more you repeat that jibe as a mantra, the more obvious it becomes that you simply don't have an answer to the legitimate query that has been raised about the weightings. You don't need to have an answer, of course, but without one it's going to be a bit difficult to continue rubbishing the people who have raised concerns.

I'm grateful for your broader clarification, although on the issue of the stability of a Labour administration I think there would be one important difference from the current situation for the SNP - the Tories would have much more of a motivation to wreak havoc, and with Labour's tribal hatred of the SNP that would severely narrow the range of options for ad hoc deals. (Although perhaps the realities of the situation would make them finally grow up about dialogues with the Nationalists.)