Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Should the SNP endorse a Labour for Independence candidate in the Dunfermline by-election?

You might remember that back in March, when it briefly seemed possible that there might be a Falkirk by-election, TheUnionDivvie raised the idea that the SNP could stand aside in favour of Dennis Canavan running on a Labour for Independence ticket. Well, we now know for sure that a Dunfermline by-election is in the offing, and on the previous thread Tris mentioned that a commenter on his blog had once again suggested the idea of a Labour for Independence candidate. There are of course a couple of key differences this time round -

1) In Falkirk there would have been an overwhelming logic to a Canavan candidacy, given that he had represented the town as both an MP and MSP.

2) The SNP rather than Labour are the defending party in Dunfermline, and a failure to even put up an official SNP candidate might be interpreted as defeatism.

I don't think the latter point is a killer argument by any means. In the early-to-mid 80s, the Liberals repeatedly stood aside in favour of the SDP in by-elections they might otherwise have won, and yet that was a sign of strength rather than weakness. Ultimately, you're only seen as weak if the tactic doesn't work.

And that's where we come to the crunch. It would only be worth doing if the Labour for Independence candidate was a big-hitter, and realistically that means Dennis Canavan or nobody. He may not have previously represented the area, but he's a local man all the same (born in Cowdenbeath), and in any case he's a well-known and well-respected figure throughout Scotland. With the SNP's endorsement, he might well start as the favourite to win. But on the other hand, if he isn't prepared to stand, a Labour for Independence candidacy would probably be a waste of time, and might even be counter-productive.

My guess is that the SNP aren't even considering possibilities like this, because it isn't the done thing. But this is scarcely the moment for politics as usual - if you want to make things happen, you have to think outside the box now and again. There would be difficulties to be ironed out - current Labour members would risk expulsion if they campaigned against the official Labour candidate, so it might not be possible for Canavan to officially stand on the Labour for Independence platform. But even so, the symbolic power of a successful pro-independence Labour candidate would be beyond value.


  1. Big problem here is low information voters going into the polling booth, seeing 'Labour' twice and being confused.

    It also gives Brit Labour an opportunity to run a campaign (false as it may be but I suspect it would resonate) along the lines 'LFI are an SNP front - they are too ashamed to stand under their real colours - if you want real labour, vote for us'.

  2. It's an excellent idea in terms of thinking outside the box but you have just presented a powerful argument against.

    On the other hand an LFI candidate plus the SNP candidate could have value and should be considered.

    The greatest value would be in letting the whole of Scotland know that Labour for Independence exists.

    The downside would be if they anded up with a only couple of hundred votes. A bit of rapid canvassing in different parts of the constituency to see if people would support an LFI Candidate could be the deciding factor but the idea should be looked at and NOT dismissed out of hand.

  3. When I first suggested this on Tris's blog I merely said that it would be interesting. I'm not sure about the suggestion regarding confusion in the polling booth as voters would see the "for independence" and realise that it was not the main Labour party.

    As Brian says there would have to be an acknowledgement that there is an actual "Labour for independence" and if the polls are correct a substantial number of Labour voters would vote for independence in the first place. If someone of Dennis Canavan's status either stood or backed the candidate then it really might be interesting.