Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SNP ingenuity risks repeat of Daily Record sanctimony shambles

You know that the SNP must be on to an effective strategy when the upstanding moral guardians at the Daily Record start taking a public-spirited interest in the niceties of electoral law. Apparently, despite the belief that the London parties had rigged the rules for this May's election to ensure that the SNP couldn't repeat their rather effective "Alex Salmond for First Minister" party description on the list ballot paper (while of course still allowing the London parties to depart from their own legal names), the Electoral Commission has ruled that it will be permitted after all, so long as it is preceded by the words "Scottish National Party". Even though the SNP have yet to make a final decision, the Record had little difficulty persuading Patrick Harvie to join in with their prolonged hissy-fit on the matter -

"The SNP are ready to risk the integrity of the vote again and put their self-interest ahead of the democratic will of the Scottish people.

"They must now give a clear pledge to do the right thing, or we risk seeing another screwed-up election."

Translation - this may have cost us seats last time round and we're worried it will do so again. In truth, although the Record are able to pray in aid quotes from the Gould Report claiming that the SNP's "sloganising" had caused "confusion" last time round, the Gould Report was wrong on that point. Simple as that. The confusion on how the list vote worked was there beforehand, and ironically the 'AS 4 FM' wheeze went a small way towards clearing it up for many people, by emphasising that the list vote was in many ways more important than the constituency vote in determining who forms the government. It's not hard to see why Harvie was so unhappy about that development, given that his party had previously benefitted in 1999 and 2003 from a grossly misleading "2nd Vote Green" campaign, which strongly (but of course entirely deniably) implied that the list vote was some kind of second preference.

I saw a commenter on Better Nation the other day who said that he/she was an SNP supporter in Glasgow and was planning to vote for the party on the constituency ballot, but was toying with the idea of switching to the Greens on the list. Given that the SNP's strength in Glasgow is overwhelmingly on the list and a Green vote in the city could potentially make a Labour government more likely, that's a fairly strong indication that confusion about the function of the list vote is still widespread. Leaving the self-serving sanctimony from others to one side, a second outing for 'AS 4 FM' could well have some value.


  1. The problem in 2007 was the wording on the single page ballot paper guidance that stated ' You have 2 votes........' So some people put 2 crossed on the ballot paper on one part ignoring the list part or vice-versa instead of one vote on each part.

    I have never believed that the 'AS for FM' caused any confusion at all, it did as you have written brought to the attention of the electorate that the List vote is not an alternative vote to the Constituency vote. A storm in a teaspoon.

  2. Yeah, it was the "two votes" thing that caused the confusion, as well as putting both polls on the same paper. Both these things are presumably going to be sorted out this time around. Personally, I don't see why it's not just the party names on the paper, but then as we all know, there is no such entity as the "Scottish Labour Party".

    But hey, nobody's saying Labour can't put "Iain Gray for First Minister" on the papers...

  3. It's reasonable to surmise that having "AS 4 FM" instead of the actual name of the party contributed to the confusion. But it's a different matter to argue that including this slogan at all, even preceded by "SNP", endangers "the integrity of the vote".

  4. Colin, the 'AS 4 FM' description was accompanied by the party logo, which prominently included the letters 'SNP' - I don't think they would have taken the risk if that hadn't been the case.

    One thing that always struck me as fundamentally flawed about the Gould Report is that he seemed incapable (and this may have been because he was looking at the problem through the lens of a different political culture) of making the obvious distinction between the absolute responsibility of politicians to ensure the rules were scrupulously fair and voter-centred, and the entirely different matter of parties simply working within the rules that had been decided upon to maximise their own vote.

  5. Ha ha ha... Iain Gray for first minister... Now there's a vote winner if ever I saw one.