Friday, April 15, 2011

The numerical proof that this election is a real choice

One of the memes of this Holyrood campaign so far is the observation that, constitutional quibbles aside, the SNP and Labour programmes for government are near-enough identical, leaving the contest entirely about personalities and competence. In the circumstances that would be extremely handy, right enough, but I've never believed for one moment it was true. If you have any doubt on that point yourself, you might want to try out the Scottish Vote Compass quiz devised by Professor James Mitchell. My own political views turned out to be a +57 match for the SNP, and a -5 match (or non-match) for Labour. I'm not quite sure how a 62-point gap would be possible for two parties supposedly parked on precisely the same turf! And in case you think I was consciously giving 'SNP answers' to every question, I actually came out as a slightly stronger match (+60) for another party - not the Tories, I hasten to add...

Of course it's true there has been some policy convergence between the main parties, almost entirely due to Labour standing on their heads and accepting wholesale a series of SNP policies they have opposed for years. But there is still a very significant gap between the two sides - indeed, probably a widening one - on the libertarian/authoritarian axis. Labour also abandoned its idealistic opposition to nuclear weapons in the late 1980s, whereas the SNP stood absolutely firm and continue to do so. There's an equivalent difference of view on nuclear power, and of course the SNP can be trusted to adhere to international law in a way that recent history demonstrates Labour can't. But above all else there's a profound cultural difference between the two parties. In a nutshell, it's that Scottish Labour have a deeply unappealing born-to-rule arrogance, which the SNP for obvious reasons do not share. Indeed, many Labour figures seem to regard the SNP's very existence as an offence against nature. A certain Labour blogger recently recounted the discussion he once had with an SNP activist outside a polling station, in which he discovered they were on the same page on many policy areas. Why, then, aren't we in the same party, he asked her, working together to deliver the things we both believe in?

Now, call me cynical, but I somehow suspect that he wasn't talking about a merged centre-left party with a rational compromise position on Scotland's constitutional future that shows due respect for both sides of the argument (ie. simply letting the people decide in a referendum). Knowing what we know about this blogger, I also think it's highly unlikely he was suggesting that he might consider joining the SNP. What he actually meant, of course, was that the SNP activist should be a sensible wee girl, forget all about this national self-determination malarkey and join Labour. But why does it have to be that way round? Because Labour were here first, presumably.

Forgive me if I say I need a slightly more persuasive reason than that for thinking I support the wrong party. And the old faithful "but yer faether was a Labour man" has never really cut it with me either. Call me radical, but I'm quite attached to this new-fangled idea of making up my own mind...


  1. That was interesting...

    I'm a Greenie - which isn't really much of a surprise I suppose...

    Green +47%
    SNP +40%
    Lib Dem +19%
    Labour -1 %
    Tories -29%

    Does it take into account the fact that I've previously thought I might be close to the Lib Dems for what they've said they'd do - but now having seen them in action I'm more likely to base my opinion on their complete capitulation to the Tories... Who i'm surprised to find I have so much antipathy for...

  2. My results were as follows:
    SNP +57%
    Greens +57%
    Lib Dems +11%
    Labour -6%
    Tories -46%

    So, a 63% gap between the SNP and Labour for me. So we have the SNP and the Greens on the left, the Lib Dems in the centre, and the Tories on the right. And who's that beside the Tories? Ah yes, it's Labour - the former party of the left. Says it all, really.

  3. For me:

    SNP +57%
    Greens +51% (big surprise to me as I'm not in the least Green)
    Liberal Dems + 4%
    Labour -4%
    Tory -32%

    61% gap between SNP and Labour, and I suspect the quiz may have been developed before the duplicity of Nick Clegg became clear as it contained no question as about two faced, power hungry, granny selling turncoats. Like Jim, I was surprised that I showed so much antipathy for Tory policies. I certainly rate Annabel the second best leader in the chamber...although that is probably based more on HER common sense approach than the Conservatives in general.

    On a UK basis, I'd say that in the incompetence stakes Cameron surpasses even Brown. The man is a walking liability and needs to be removed. Now.

  4. Tris, I think a lot of nationalist-inclined people are getting high Green scores because there are a few questions on self-government/independence, and the Greens' stance on the topic is being treated as essentially identical to the SNP's. That may be true on paper, but whether that position has any really 'depth' to it is another matter. There's also a motherhood and apple pie question about favouring quality of life over economic growth, and if you answer 'strongly agree' to that your Green score is boosted to the max and your SNP score is lessened to the max, which I'm a bit dubious about.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm in no doubt that the Greens would be my second preference if we had a preferential voting system for the Scottish Parliament, which we don't. One of the most objectionable things about the Greens at present is that they're running around pretending that we do have a preferential voting system (ie. '2nd Vote Green') while all the time criticising the SNP for 'confusing' voters with their 'sloganising'!