Here's what was slightly odd about the big showdown in the SNP's internal elections yesterday: it was the behaviour of Fiona Robertson on social media that convinced many people that there needed to be some kind of reckoning, and yet the most serious challenge was to Rhiannon Spear in the Women's Convenor election, rather than to Ms Robertson herself in the Equalities Convenor election. That made it very likely that, whatever else happened, Ms Robertson would gain a renewed mandate and would be able to carry on as if nothing had changed. I understand the argument that the most important thing was to ensure that the Women's position was held by someone committed to upholding women's rights, but nevertheless the fact that Ms Robertson chose to run for the Equalities brief suggests that she thought that was the one that would give her the platform she needed.
Nevertheless, I'm sure nobody would have been too worried about Ms Robertson's victory if a symbolic result had been achieved in the Women's vote - but instead Rhiannon Spear won by a narrow margin. This double victory by supporters of self-ID, and the gloating that has followed it, has led a few people to conclude that the SNP is now completely and hopelessly in the grip of entryists and that there is no longer any place in the party for gender-critical feminists or for people who are opposed to self-ID for any other reason. And that is a fundamental misreading of the situation. I thought our old friend James Mackenzie unwittingly put his finger on something in his comment on the vote -
"Pleased to see the pro-equality slates won the SNP's internal elections. The experience within the Greens is you need to win a couple of times in order to settle this issue - some bigots will leave the first time, but others will try to dig in. Eventually they leave, though."
Obviously this is a repugnant comment, because it seems phenomenally unlikely that there were ever any "bigots" in the Green party in the first place, but it's clear that there was certainly a chilling intolerance towards those who dissented from the doctrine of the majority (a doctrine that is not central to the Greens' reasons for existence, any more than it is to the SNP's).
But think about what he's actually saying. He's implying that the pro-self-ID lobby haven't really won, and won't do until and unless the other side actually walk away from the SNP. And he's right, because even with their new mandate Fiona Robertson and Rhiannon Spear aren't going to decide the SNP's priorities. The leadership will do that, and the main relevance of yesterday's vote was in guiding the leadership on whether the members will be solidly behind them if they push ahead with full-fat self-ID. And the answer is clearly "no". It would suit the pro-self-ID lobby down to the ground if their opponents left the stage, but it would not suit Nicola Sturgeon if a substantial minority of SNP members leave the party. That would not be any kind of victory for her, and she's unlikely to take action that would drive members to that point. But once those people leave, Ms Sturgeon would have nothing left to lose. So if they just hold their nerve for now, they can avoid turning what was actually a moral victory yesterday into a defeat later on.
And needless to say that siren voices outside the party offering a counsel of despair should be treated with enormous scepticism, because they have their own agenda.
The other obvious point is that a 32 vote defeat is close enough to suggest that it could be fully reversed in future years if people just bide their time and remain within the party. Jeremy Corbyn would not be leader of the Labour party now if he had given up the ghost when it was 'nuclear winter' for the Labour left under previous leaders. In democratic parties, there's always another chance somewhere around the corner.
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Some good news for the SNP from YouGov's latest Scottish subsample -
SNP 42%, Conservatives 23%, Labour 13%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Brexit Party 9%, Greens 2%
These figures are very much 'normal' by recent standards, and bolster the impression that the little run of bad results that the SNP had in YouGov subsamples a couple of weeks ago was probably caused by random sampling variation, rather than by real changes on the ground. It's particularly encouraging to see another underwhelming result for the Lib Dems.