Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No, I don't think the Greens are "evil", or that they shouldn't exist

Thanks to Morag (Rolfe) for pointing me in the direction of a fan letter from someone calling themselves Green Pedant -

"James Kelly is totally deluded. He is the most tribal SNP supporter I have met. He is totally opposed to the Greens/RISE even existing. What he says about voting for the Greens being dangerous is just bollocks. He says that tactical voting doesn’t work, but then screams at any Green voter that they have to vote tactically for the SNP. He is just a hypocrite.

Wings has taken the sensible position, that the D’Hondt system doesn’t work tactically but that doesn’t mean that voting for the Greens is wrong, it just means it isn’t a magic, vote rigging silver bullet. Wings first article showed that increased Green vote never reduced the total number of Pro-Yes MSPs.

James Kelly thinks that all Greens/RISE members are evil vote splitters and shouldn’t exist. Which isn’t impartial it is just tribal. What happened to Yes movement solidarity?"

Do I hate the Greens?  Do I think they shouldn't exist?  If so, I behaved somewhat out of character in the run-up to the 2012 local elections when I tried to persuade people to use their lower preferences for the Greens and other pro-independence parties, and was in a state of despair at the realisation that many people simply didn't understand how the voting system worked and had convinced themselves that a lower preference for the Greens would somehow "dilute" their first preference vote for the SNP.  But that's the thing - the STV system used for local elections lends itself to "solidarity".  The AMS system used for the Scottish Parliament doesn't.  A vote for the Greens on the Holyrood regional list isn't a second preference vote, it's a first preference vote.  It's a vote against the SNP as much as it is a vote against the unionist parties.

I've no idea whether Green Pedant actually has "met" me in a literal sense - it seems unlikely, because I don't really move in political circles (unless it was at the Common Space launch party, or the Political Innovation conference about a billion years ago).  But if I am the most tribal SNP supporter he's ever met, he needs to get out more.  I've only been a party member for eleven months.

If I have any minor problem with the Greens at all, it's that one of their candidates for next year's Scottish Parliament election once subjected to me to mindless online abuse.  It ranged from the pathetic ("Wings-loving tube", "Cybernat") to the deeply offensive ("misogynist", "you obviously don't care for women very much").  If a parliamentary candidate is trying to appeal to "Yes solidarity" and to win hearts and minds for his party, it might be best to refrain from throwing around nasty personal insults of that sort, especially without a shred of justification.  And I'm scarcely the only victim of that particular individual.  But my working assumption has always been that James Mackenzie is just a single bad apple (although admittedly he did work at a very senior level in the party).  If I really thought it was rational to vote "tactically" for the Greens on the list, that incident wouldn't be enough to put me off - unless I was voting in the region where Mackenzie is standing, but from memory that's the Lothians, and I'm in Central Scotland.

And of course it's simply untrue to say that I've ever called the Greens "vote-splitters", or said (let alone "screamed") that Greens should vote tactically for the SNP.  On the contrary, I've positively encouraged people to vote Green, as long as the Greens are their favourite party.  It's simply tactical voting on the list (for the Greens or for any other party) that I've pointed out doesn't work.

The other inaccuracy is the suggestion that an increased Green vote can never lead to a net decrease in the number of pro-independence MSPs.  The north-east result in 2011 gives the lie to that notion - SNP supporters voting "tactically" for the Greens or the SSP were perilously close to handing the SNP list seat to the Tories.

As for RISE, I haven't said anything at all about them yet.  I was planning to ask whether they're related to the defunct Channel 4 breakfast show of the same name, and if so, whether they'll be reviving the tradition of viewer exit polls on Big Brother evictions.  (If I'd known Cameron Stout was destined to become the figurehead for Better Together Orkney, I'd definitely have voted to keep Nush in.  Ah well, live and learn.)


  1. Ah Nush.
    Attractive posh totty if I remember correctly.
    Mmm ....

  2. I like Patrick and Alison their MSPs but Patrick is not a strong leader in that he is unable to see that some of the Green members see a political opportunity for themselves personally first rather than the wider green movement. Patrick needs to sort these folks out because they are tarnishing the brand that I am sure many have sympathy with.

  3. Mundell got elected because pro indi people voted Green instead of SNP. That is a bloody crime.

    1. The general election saw mass tactical voting by Green supporters for the SNP, not the other way around. The Greens were on 1.35% in Scotland - miles below what they're polling in the more proportional system we have for Holyrood and a fair distance behind what they got in England. SNP supporters up in arms about tactical voting is pretty rich under the circumstances.

    2. Quite a few Greens have made the claim of a massive tactical vote by Green supporters for the SNP at the general election, but I've yet to see any credible evidence of that. The Greens have often polled better in England than in Scotland - in their high point of 1989, for example.

    3. "Mundell got elected because pro indi people voted Green instead of SNP. That is a bloody crime."

      "Crime"? What a load of crap. Green supporters don't have any more responsibility to vote for the SNP in a general election than SNP supporters do for the Greens on the Holyrood list. They're perfectly entitled to vote for whichever party they align politically with.

    4. Evidence:

      The Greens can't win in Westminster constituencies in Scotland, the SNP can. It would be odd if tactical voting didn't occur given the saliency of the referendum and anecdotally there's stacks of evidence to suggest it did (you're talking to a Green supporter that voted SNP). It would violate the rational voter theory that's been backed up in numerous studies: namely that if two parties occupy the same space in single member constituencies and only one of them can win the larger will benefit from tactical voting.

      There's also a clear disparity between voting intentions for the Greens in Westminster elections and voting intentions in Holyrood elections. Even in the first vote for Holyrood several polls had the Greens on 3%+ with Westminster voting intentions at 1% in the same poll. In the regional vote, which is far more likely to be a purer expression of party support given it's more proportional (if you doubt that read the research on how the proportionality of a voting system affects tactical voting - e.g. Karp et al. 2002) the Greens have been far higher. That's a clear indication that Green support was suppressed in the general election and it's pretty dubious to think it went anywhere else other than the SNP.

      If you want smoking gun evidence of tactical voting it doesn't and will never exist unless someone specifically commissions a detailed survey on it. However every piece of evidence we have (conceptually, empirically, anecdotally) suggests that it did happen and even the Greens' worst enemy would surely struggle to argue a party that saw a spike in membership after the referendum has a true support level of 1% of the electorate.

    5. "The Greens can't win in Westminster constituencies in Scotland, the SNP can."

      I didn't say there wasn't any rationale for Greens to vote tactically, there clearly was. I just don't see any reason to believe it happened on a "massive" scale, as has been repeatedly claimed.

      "There's also a clear disparity between voting intentions for the Greens in Westminster elections and voting intentions in Holyrood elections."

      There also used to be a clear disparity between SNP support for Holyrood and Westminster - but that had nothing to do with tactical voting. It was a "horses for courses" effect.

      "However every piece of evidence we have (conceptually, empirically, anecdotally)"

      Which is another way of saying there is almost no evidence at all.

      "even the Greens' worst enemy would surely struggle to argue a party that saw a spike in membership after the referendum has a true support level of 1% of the electorate"

      I'm far from being the Greens' worst enemy, but I'm still prepared to point out that a party membership of a few thousand is not necessarily indicative of electoral support of more than 1%.

    6. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 27, 2015 at 12:45 AM

      The Greens are clearly narrowbacks and opportunists that collect their salaries. But they are fun.

    7. How dare they vote for the party of their choosing! Bloody democracy, eh?

    8. "There also used to be a clear disparity between SNP support for Holyrood and Westminster - but that had nothing to do with tactical voting. It was a "horses for courses" effect."

      I'm not sure why you would say that isn't an example of tactical voting. We used to think you should vote Labour because only they can get into government in the UK. The referendum and the backlash against Labour changed that. There was a clear rationale for tactical voting.

      "Which is another way of saying there is almost no evidence at all."

      It's pointing out that you're setting the bar on "evidence" so high that nobody can possibly meet it. We're forced to conclude it didn't happen (despite clear indications to the contrary) simply because nobody has conducted a detailed survey on it. If you adopted that standard in every election it would be tough to discuss tactical voting at all. In fact the disparity between Holyrood and Westminster polling is clear evidence it's happening - what's the alternative explanation?

      "I'm far from being the Greens' worst enemy, but I'm still prepared to point out that a party membership of a few thousand is not necessarily indicative of electoral support of more than 1%"

      I'm pretty confident you're in for a shock in May then. Seriously, though, I think this is one reason Green supporters might take objection with your views and those of other SNP campaigners. The classic assumption seems to be that the Greens are a tiny party who can be tolerated so long as they don't rock the boat.

      The support Greens have given the SNP tactically is overlooked. The fact that Harvie has stopped short of mobilising Greens/the left against the SNP over their pretty dubious approach to the environment isn't acknowledged (how are tax cuts for the oil industry and airlines remotely "Green" or "left-wing"?) At the first sign of the party disagreeing on anything substantive, as we saw with the rejection of full fiscal autonomy, they get dog's abuse.

      All of which is to say that the Greens have received very little from this quasi-alliance and I can't see Green politicians biting their tongues much longer in tacit support of a government that isn't particularly Green or progressive in the first place.

    9. Sorry, but "SNP supporters must vote Green or else we'll get nasty" isn't a winning line.

    10. James, I have no statistics either, but my experience is of local Green supporters probably voting tactically for the SNP.

      I know three women in the village who are Greens. One spent the short campaign period ostentationsly walking around with a big yellow "Vote Emma" badge on her pullover, and helping her husband (an SNP member) deliver his leaflet run. Another put Green Party and "Vote Emma" posters up side-by-side in her front window. I don't know how the third voted.

      It's the naivety of the Greens putting up a candidate at all that sends the message.

  4. "But my working assumption has always been that James Mackenzie is just a single bad apple" he isn't. Ross Greer, green #1 candidate on the West of Scotland list has a similar social media history of alienating and othering rather than educating and convincing. Its the curse of what my generation called trendy lefties. Trots and greens have always had an overgenerous measure of assholes.

  5. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 27, 2015 at 12:22 AM

    Nat sis by nature are tribal. They want to redraw the world map of pre World War 1 and expand on it by making little Faz Nation States. Why not reinstate the Toll between Rutherglen and Dalmarnock. Fuckin idiots but do carry on Willyum Wallace. FREE Dumb!

  6. Hi James,

    The Green you dislike is at number 9 on the Lothian list for the Greens (with Alison Johnstone and Andy Wightman first and second) so I think you can relax on that score!

    See this page for the full Green List, including such excellent pro-indy candidates as Maggie Chapman, Peter McColl, Sarah Beattie-Smith, John Finnie, Zara Kitson, Patrick Harvie etc, all at the top or near the top of the lists:

    A very nice response by Steve Arnott to one of the few argument you make here (and Stu makes on Wings) that I disagree with. I know you'll completely disagree with it, but for those wanting a different perspective here it is (linked to on ScotGoesPop's welcomely uncensored pro-Yes site):

    p.s. I misread GWC as writing about him/herself when s/he wrote:
    "Why not reinstate the TRoll between Rutherglen and Dalmarnock"

  7. I'm not sure if there are any parties called "Rise" or words to that effect in other countries, but one of which I know is the dissident Irish Republican party éirígí. If that name provided the inspiration behind the Scottish Rise, it could get very embarrassing for them.

    1. RISE is an acronym.
      The R stands for Respect.
      Unfortunately, whenever I see the word Respect in a political context, the only thing that comes to mind is George Galloway.

  8. Maybe we can introduce separate railway carriages for tactical and non-tactical advocates?

    1. (~; as long as we're all heading in the same direction!

  9. I don't hate the Greens either. I just don't like Caroline Lucas and Patrick Harvey has been shockingly bad since the Referendum. Just two of the reasons why I wont vote for them tactically or non tactically.

  10. More yadayada from an intemperate green.

    I'll repeat for emphasis;

    The Green Party is by and large a grouping of brilliant activists.
    The Scottish National Party are a grouping of (latterly) brilliant strategists.

    Politicians are strategists, not activists, and play the long game. The long game of wile, bluff, collective responsibility (in parliamentary mode) never was, is not and never will be, in the nature of the Green Party.

    Do I think the world is best served by a Green Party manifesto? Duh! Yes!
    Do I believe the Green Party can deliver this in the current political framework. No.

    If the greens had wile, and bluff, and collective responsibility (in a parliamentary context), they would have campaigned for a lent vote to get the last Tory out of Scotland. The symbolism of which could have been immeasurable.

    It was the day I stopped donating to the Green Party.

    So great activism, beyond compare, but poor politics, and at the end of the day, I want gamechangers.

  11. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 27, 2015 at 10:17 PM

    Food banks running out of food and the Nat sis with no social policies. Nat sis are ba krupt of ideas. SO KEEP BLAMING THE Tories and the Greens.

  12. Any Green who knew how tight Dumfries was. Should have switched to SNP to stop them having the only Tory in Scotland.

    To utterly waste a vote and the allow Mundell in is outrageous if you believe in independence. We are not asking Greens to vote Snp. We are asking them to help Scotland. This is bigger than the SNP.

    1. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 28, 2015 at 9:45 AM

      Strange how you Nat sis think you can get away with your anti Tory clap trap.
      You are anti nationalisation lkie the Tories The rich are getting richer in Scotland. You freeze the council tax. Tartan Tories you are. So no more anti Tory shite please.

    2. When is Scottish water getting privatised?

      What about higher education privatisation (tuition fees = privatisation)?

      How about privatisation of NHS prescriptions (by charging for them, you transfer the costs of this from the public to the private sector)?

      Why were the SNP opposed to Royal Mail privatisation?

      How come the NHS in England private sector spend is 763% of Scotland's?

      And as I understand it, you support Tory governments for Scotland. Anyone who voted No, did so knowing that it was a vote for Tory governments.

    3. If the Greens begin stepping down purely to help the SNP, they not only betray their own politics - they open the door to a pro UK electoral pact like the one seen in Northern Ireland. One side can't complain about such tactics if they are using them themselves.


    4. But, who knew how tight DC&T actually was? Working in a very Tory area of the constituency, we never had many illusions, but even for us the Ashcroft poll that came out less than a week before election day had us feeling distinctly up-beat. He put Emma a full 11% ahead of Mundell. It's perfectly possible a chunk of Green Party supporters saw that and decided they could afford to vote for their own party after all.

      Another point is that not all Green party supporters are in favour of independence. For the ones that aren't, why would they give the SNP a tactical vote? It would make no sense to them.

      There's no certainty at all that these 800+ votes the Green candidate got would have come to the SNP if the Greens hadn't stood. For me, it's about the principle of the Greens standing in the constituency in the first place. The reason was to get some experience for the Holyrood election. In other words, that was more important to the party than keeping Mundell out. Bear in mind that at the time the decision to stand was made, the SNP was trailing the Conservatives quite significantly.

      So, arithmetic aside, the idea that the Greens have been unfailingly supportive of the SNP and are entitled to demand some sort of electoral quid pro quo from its supporters (even if that damages the SNP and the independence cause), is ludicrous.

  13. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 30, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    The Greens collect their salaries and are puppets for narrow minded Scottish Nat sis.

    1. The Scottish Greens were once a proud, independent, distinctive party - independent even from the Green Party of England and Wales, with whom they have a loose affiliation.

      However, now they are in serious danger of becoming - along with RISE and other such parties - a mere vassal of the SNP. I already think of them as being the "wee SNP" to Nicola Sturgeon's big SNP. I'm sure this isn't what the founders had in mind.

      They should have stuck to environmentalism and sustainable living as their main focus. Now they will forever be associated with the successes - and failures - of nationalism, with a void in Scottish politics where a Green Party should be.


    2. I already think of them as being the "wee SNP"

      I'm sure they lie awake at night worrying about what pro-nuclear Tories think of them, Aldo.

    3. No, they lie awake at night thinking of how they can ride the SNP's coat tails to glory.

      What happens if you are Scottish, pro UK, and Green? It seems the actual Scottish Greens, in that case, are no longer the party best placed to represent you. Around half of those who voted Green in the last Holyrood election will, I expect, vote Liberal Democrat in next year's election. It shouldn't hurt them though - they'll get a fair sized chunk of the pro indy vote.