Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Greens' intervention in many Scottish marginal seats is not illegitimate - but it may do harm to the independence cause

Like many of you, I was at the pro-independence rally in George Square yesterday (you can find a few photos at the bottom of this post), and I thought one of the best speeches was by Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie - it was passionate and inspiring, and I don't think there was much in it that any SNP supporter could take issue with.  Harvie's contribution to the Yes campaign in 2014 shouldn't be underestimated either.  But I think it's fair comment to say that the planned Green intervention in the forthcoming general election - the sheer number of constituencies they're standing in and also some of the particular constituencies they've selected - will not be helpful to the independence cause, and could well be extremely harmful.

Way back in 2004, I voted for Ralph Nader rather than John Kerry in the hotly-contested US presidential election that was ultimately won by George W Bush.  I did it because I couldn't bring myself to vote for a supporter of the death penalty.  But some people told me in no uncertain terms that I had taken leave of my senses by voting for a man who had acted as a spoiler four years earlier and handed Bush the presidency on a plate.  That criticism led me to reflect at quite a bit of length about the wisdom of no-hoper parties participating in first-past-the-post elections, where the risk is that they'll take votes away from larger parties on the same side of the political spectrum who stand a much better chance of winning.  And the conclusion I came to was that Nader's critics didn't have a leg to stand on, because hardly any of them actually supported reform of the electoral system.  It would have been entirely reasonable for them to say "hold your nose and help us win this time, so that we can change the voting system and make sure you never again have to choose the lesser of two evils".  But instead the message was effectively "vote for us because you've got no other choice, and to help us ensure that you never have any other choice in future elections".  It was an argument for permanent self-exclusion from the electoral process of certain political views - something which no democrat should ever be asked to accept.  The sole way the likes of Nader could ever hope to break out of that vicious circle was to stand for election and cause a 'problem' big enough to ensure that a larger party would feel the need to solve it by reforming the system.

But that is not the situation the Scottish Greens find themselves in here.  Three of the four tiers of political representatives in Scotland are already elected by proportional representation, so one option open to the Greens would be to concentrate their efforts on local, Holyrood and European elections, and just sit out first-past-the-post Westminster elections where they might cause harm.  They could do that safe in the knowledge that the party they'd effectively be standing aside to help is supportive of a change in the Westminster voting system anyway.  But if they really feel that they have to stand in a significant minority of Westminster constituencies to draw attention to the climate emergency, you'd think the logical thing to do would be to carefully select constituencies where they'd be least likely to cause damage to the pro-independence movement - in other words, seats that the SNP are either nailed on to win or nailed on to lose.  (The latter basically means any of the four Liberal Democrat seats.)  Instead, they seem to have deliberately chosen a number of marginal seats where votes taken away from the SNP by the Greens could easily swing the balance and help to elect a unionist MP.

Denise Findlay pointed out on Twitter yesterday that if the Greens are standing in Perth and North Perthshire specifically because of problems they have with Pete Wishart's track record, that means they must be targeting Wishart and trying to get him out.  But if they succeed in doing that, they'll be replacing him with a Tory, because only the SNP and the Tories are seriously in contention in that constituency.  How is that going to help tackle climate change, let alone help the pro-independence cause or the anti-Brexit cause?  It really does seem like a totally self-defeating act.

However, I'm not going to say what they're doing is illegitimate, because unlike the "2nd vote Green" shenanigans in Holyrood elections, there's no deception involved.  Everyone knows the score with first-past-the-post elections and the potential downsides of voting for fringe parties.  It'll be painfully obvious from the numbers on the day after the election whether the Greens have cost us pro-independence seats - and if they have, there'll be no hiding-place for them.

Meanwhile, Stuart Campbell is lambasting the Greens for much the same reasons I've outlined above, but as ever he has his own agenda in mind.  He contrasts the harm the Greens could do at this election with the supposed good his own Wings party will be doing at the 2021 Holyrood election, and asks his readers which of the two parties is functioning as 'friend' and which is functioning as 'enemy'.  Of course the correct answer is that they're both functioning as 'enemy' (if it really must be reduced to such juvenile terms) because they're both doing precisely the same thing - taking an action that will at best have a neutral effect, and at worst a harmful effect.

Mr Campbell yet again misleads his readers by claiming that the worst-case scenario for a Wings party "in any reasonable fact-based model" is the net loss of one pro-indy seat in the Scottish Parliament.  In truth, that model was not based on "reason" but on fantastical and wildly-optimistic assumptions.  But even on such a flawed model, the only realistic scenarios would see Wings either cost the pro-indy side one seat, or have no effect at all.  Which means Mr Campbell is currently minded to do exactly what he's demonising the Greens for.

*  *  *

As you may have seen, a commenter on the previous thread found an email address to which complaints about ITV's decision to exclude the SNP from its leaders' debate can be addressed:  viewerservices@itv.com

*  *  *

I'm quoted in this new article by Alasdair Soussi on the Al Jazeera website about the relevance of the coming election to the independence campaign.  The other person quoted is Professor James Mitchell of Edinburgh University, and it reminded me of a slightly stormy exchange I had with him immediately after the exit poll was released on election night in 2017.  I had just pointed out that by winning a majority of Scottish seats, the SNP had completed the "triple lock" mandate for holding an independence referendum in exactly the terms specified in their manifesto.  Professor Mitchell's retort was something like "this is completely nuts, there isn't going to be an independence referendum for a very long time", and implied that talking too much about a referendum that wasn't going to happen had caused the SNP's supposedly poor result in the first place.  Which I thought was deeply odd on three counts: a) the SNP had just won a landslide victory roughly on a par with Mrs Thatcher's Britain-wide result in 1987, b) any problems the SNP had faced were not caused by talking about the referendum too much, but by talking about it too little and thus failing to motivate their own supporters to turn out, and c) why would anyone be surprised or annoyed that an independence supporter wasn't willing to be an accomplice to a self-fulfilling prophecy that would see the SNP betray a mandate that they had only just sought and won?

Professor Mitchell is still very much in the self-fulfilling prophecy business - arguing that the SNP's forefronting of independence in this campaign is unlikely to bring about an independence referendum, and may reduce the SNP's share of the vote.  From which I presume the logical conclusion we're meant to draw is that the way to achieve independence is never to campaign for it - or more probably that we should just replace independence with a more 'realistic' objective instead.  Those of us who believe in tailoring the strategy to the goal, rather than changing the goal to suit the strategy, are unlikely to be seduced by that counsel of despair.








64 comments:

  1. If you don't vote in what you believe in, you will never achieve the change you want. Voting out of the fear for something worse has never achieved anything lasting.

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    Replies
    1. I get this point, however it's not clear to me what can actually be achieved by voting Green for Westminster, other than a setback to achieving Green goals.

      Unless you believe in the UK union that is. Then it makes a lot of sense.

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    2. Obviously I mean here that if you support the union, then a long term plan to slowly (over the next couple of decades let's realistically suggest) build up Green Westminster MP numbers makes a lot of sense.

      If you want Green policies ASAP, then not standing Westminster Green candidates and focusing on Holyrood/Scottish indy is the obvious way forward.

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  2. Standing Green candidates in seats where damage could be done to the SNP is irresponsible.
    But we shouldn't be that surprised.
    Remember the betrayal of the repeal of the OBFA.
    Voting with the better together parties against the interests of decent fans was an eye opener for me.
    I'm still however well disposed to the Greens, but this will certainly change if their actions harm the SNP and help the Tories.

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    Replies
    1. You think the Greens voted against the OBFA in bad faith? Why would they do that?

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  3. Correct on all points. I do hope that the Greens read your post and take heed of it. By playing a long game they stand to be a major force in the parliament of an independent Scotland. By playing a short game, as they appear tempted to do, they simply shoot themselves in the foot.

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  4. I saw a tweet claiming the poster has spoken to Maggie Chapman of the Greens, yesterday and she said she was against standing in those seats but it wasn't her decision. So whose decision was it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Each local branch of the Greens took the decision, I think.

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    2. I too saw that reported - that it was local branches 'wot dun it'

      Delete
  5. Opinium UK Scots subsample. Fairly run of the mill for of late from them.

    44% SNP
    30% Con
    12% Lib
    9% Lab
    5% Brx
    1% Grn

    ReplyDelete
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    1. And Comres UK:

      46% SNP
      19% Lab
      16% Con
      9% Lib
      5% Brx
      3% Grn

      Whoa for the SNP from them. That's unusually high, just like Survation.

      Standard caveats apply though. Dinnae stairt gettin aw excited.

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    2. Yougov UK Scots sample:

      50% SNP
      22% Con
      15% Lab
      10% Lib
      2% Grn
      1% Brx

      Anither straw in the wind?

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    3. My UK subsample average PoP:
      46% SNP
      20% Con
      15% Lab
      11% Lib
      4% Brx
      3% Grn

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    4. ORB poll

      SNP 52
      CON 16
      LAB 15
      LD 8
      GRN 4
      BXT 3
      OTH 1

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    5. that was another subsample.

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  6. Who's de ride in de picture?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Random totty, unrelated to the photographer.

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    2. Sir, it is I.

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    3. Do not distract about such things. National Popster Org will provide if you follow the Shining Path.
      Focus on the resolute lip-bite of President Jamez. We should all copy.

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    4. Sendero Luminoso Goes Pop!? Naaah. Nul points.

      Delete
  7. A major problem as usual is the double standards of the unionist parties and the media.

    Who use votes and seats won by unionist parties collectively as evidence of support for the union but votes and seats lost by the SNP individually as evidence against independence.

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  8. Is that Alistair Darling behind you in the first yin James?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alistair Darling (Baron Splendid) only goes to places where he gets money.

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  9. Surely it is a no brainer, if you want indy vote SNP
    If you want green without indy, vote green.

    No one need be confused into voting accidentally harming indy.

    That is the crucial point versus the Wings party arguement

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  10. The Greens have achieved what they set out to do, give themselves and their primary cause publicity. This is very much the 'green' policy now. The guy from Extinction Rebellion who delayed a plane from taking off a few weeks back was probably not very popular with the other passengers on the plane who had their travel plans delayed, but it served their purpose in that it drive media attention to them.

    The same with what the Greens are doing now, by standing in marginal SNP seats they are driving media/ blog coverage which they would not otherwise have, they are not that bothered if it upsets some people in the process, the bigger picture is getting media coverage to get their message out.

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    Replies
    1. If the message they want to send to the people of Scotland is that voting Green means you end up with english conservative racists, homophobes, climate change deniers and no referendum then fair play to them for their honesty.
      PS. P Harvey voted for the tram which has bankrupted our Capital City, and resulted in every patch or green belt being sold off to pay the interest. Well done him.

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    2. I saw a foreign looking woman at the bus stop Moffat not wearing a poppy. I reported her to the police.

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    3. Except polling is showing that the SNP will make up the votes it lost in 2017 plus some more meaning that it will end up the largest party in Scotland.

      So people can vote green if they wish knowing that it will not have any real effect the overall makeup of the parties in Scotland.

      Pete Wishart has a majority of 21 because he lost 10k or so votes in 2017. With the general national swing away from Conservatives he should easily be able to gain some of those votes back, giving him a larger majority this time around.

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    4. If he doesn't it will be your fault Adam for encouraging them. I will hold you responsible.

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    5. Sure Adam, however it does appear that the Greens are much more unionist the SNP.

      If your goal as a small Scottish party is to start building up Westminster MPs numbers from scratch, and you are putting significant resources into that, you must be thinking about long term british unionism.

      Likewise, if you want Green policies enacted, it's clearly better to put your resources into giving Holyrood - the parliament where you are in effect part of a coalition government - the full powers to do this via indy.

      It's not really about the SNP and taking votes from them, but the Greens apparently seeing the union as something they want to be actively involved in long term.

      The SNP built up representation in Westminster in the past because they had no other indy option. They jumped on Holyrood and have put far more effort into that since. They, unlike the Greens, are not a party either, but a pro-indy movement. Post independence, the SNP will cease to exist (a rump may remain as the a smaller centre-left socially liberal yellow flag party). The Greens will continue on. So the SNP are fighting to end themselves, but the Greens are not.

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    6. "he should easily be able to gain some of those votes back, giving him a larger majority this time around."

      Oh, that would be fine if the election was today. But neither you nor I know (and nor do the Greens) whether that will still be the position in six weeks' time after an intense campaign in which the SNP will receive much less airtime than the London parties.

      Delete
    7. Except polling is showing that the SNP will make up the votes it lost in 2017 plus some more meaning that it will end up the largest party in Scotland.

      I take your general point, but I don't think that any polls (certainly not full-scale ones) have shown the SNP regaining more than they lost in 2017.

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    8. The Greens shouldn't be standing in these seats, no.

      Still, it might help cooperation between the SGP and SNP if supporters of the latter could tone down the venom they throw at the Greens -- specifically the Daily Mail-style accusations of (yawn) "wokeness" etc. Venom that has seldom been reciprocated btw.

      I've delivered campaign lit for the SNP since I was seven years old in Moray. But hand on heart I cannot say independence matters more than the coming climate horror movie, or the 75% dying off of winged insects and birds, etc.

      The failure of the indy movement to maintain the cooperative spirit of 2014, including failing to appeal to those who voted Yes but seldom vote in other elections, may still end up costing us dearly, with this Greens stunt just the latest repercussion.

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  11. I have always given the Greens my second vote bit no longer!They in my eyes are now the enemy just as much as SLAB or the Tories.

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  12. I'd generally agree that the Greens should avoid highly marginal seats. This FPTP system isn't going to gain them very much anyway.
    Having said that, they're not the handmaidens of the SNP and I'd defend their right to put up a candidate in Glasgow North where they now seem to have established some sort of bridgehead.
    Other suggestions would be:
    Edinburgh South - congenial to Greenery and a Labour win anyway
    Caithness, Sutherland & E Ross: could take votes equally from LDs and SNP
    Edinburgh West: as above
    I'd also assume they could have a presence in the Dundee seats and Aberdeen North without those constituencies falling to Lab or Con.

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  13. James Mitchell should simply say I don't want independence and leave it at that.

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  14. I see the English viscerally anti-Scottish racist would-be dictator Johnson is trying to give the SNP a boost.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50280817

    Can you imagine Juncker had said the same ahead of 2017!

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  15. Surely Johnson will demand Thomson step down? If not, he must condone such things.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50280977

    Labour MP Paul Sweeney 'grope' claim against Tory MP Ross Thomson

    A Scottish Labour MP has claimed he was sexually assaulted by a Tory MP in a Commons bar.

    Paul Sweeney reported Ross Thomson to Westminster's standards watchdog following the alleged incident in the Strangers' Bar last October.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The man (Thomson) is a menace, and he gives the rest of us gay guys a bad name - there's quite enough homophobia going around still to last us several lifetimes.

      Boris Johnson should get rid of him right now - assuming the story is correct - and not wait until this Parliament ends. He - the Tory party, effectively - must send a message that such conduct is not OK.

      I'm not holding my breath, though.

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    2. Certainly if Mr Thompson is found guilty of anything (he may also be subject to criminal proceedings also if he is). But until of course he should not be asked to resign just based on an aligation. He is, of course innocent, until proven otherwise by the investigation

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    3. It would be the honorable thing to step down until his name is cleared. By not doing so he will hurt his party.

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    4. He's gone.....

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50280977

      Delete
  16. Young James there is a nice Ann Summers advert at the bottom.

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    Replies
    1. Edith Snellgrove-WhitmanNovember 3, 2019 at 2:56 PM

      The ads are different to the user. These are tailored to what your internet activity is. I am not surprised.

      Delete
    2. GWC's political arguments have always been a bit skimpy. But it was when he Googled "Fishnets For Leave" that the content changed.

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    3. Oh really Edith... please explain how a heterosexual, approaching 72 years old, married male ends up with this then...

      https://facebook.com/events/798059070627828/?ti=icl

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    4. GWC is a feisty lady who wears feisty Ann Summers garments.

      Delete
  17. Roddy Collarless-ShirtNovember 3, 2019 at 3:15 PM

    So. Farewell then, Ross Thomson.
    You were among Scottish Unionism's star pupils. Enlarged or otherwise.

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    Replies
    1. There was another "rising star" Tory mentioned in the press last week. I think she was standing down too.

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  18. Who is the nice blond bit to your right young James. I would vote for her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am a nice blond(e) bit to the right.

      Don't overthink things.

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    2. Please cease and desist airing your shortcomings...

      Delete
  19. Vote Green get Tory

    This is not Patrick Harvie's first rodeo he let Ruth Davidson in doing the same thing before
    The greens are a coat tail party just like the Liberal Democrats
    or chancers if you prefer
    Harvie deserved every Boo that was shouted at him and it'll cost him heavily when the Holyrood elections come round

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  20. Quite agree with you re Pete Wishart..... How'd you feel about Stephen Gethin's chances..?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the national trend it's hard to be optimistic about Stephen Gethins - if he does hold on, there'll probably be a personal element to the result.

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    2. There is a big reservoir of Tory support still left to drain in that constituency.
      But good luck to him.

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  21. Does anyone actually know what % of Green voters want independence? (Not even all SNP voters want it.)

    Is there not a chance that the Greens could hoover up some unionist green voters who would otherwise vote for a unionist party?

    In the absence of other evidence, is that not as least as likely as independence supporters voting Green knowing it could send a Tory to Westminster?

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    Replies
    1. Or it could be about (Liberal)Unionist perceptions of Greens. Our allies in the fight against frightful Faragism...

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  22. Greens not to be trusted after voting with anti Scottish Tories on the OBFA for one. I think half of the Greens are closet Tories and other shades of Yoonery anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. " I think half of the Greens are closet Tories and other shades of Yoonery anyway"

      - This actually fits with the argument above, namely, that the half of Green voters who are closet Tories might vote Green if they stand, but if they don't stand, they might vote actual Tory!

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    2. Strange comment for a Tartan Tory to make.

      Delete
  23. Thanks for the info "viewerservices@itv.com"

    In the election phase it is important to share factual and useful information that can lead to positive action. Too many sites are full of the same old people expressing entrenched positions ad nauseam.

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  24. James, you might want to have a look at how Facebook's automated systems are being used to block valid political postings e.g. Yours.

    I have this afternoon been blocked until 1st February, 2020 from sharing your, or any other, post(s) including on my own timeline. I believe this is a misuse of the FB automated systems whereby any post 'reported' as being "against Community Standards" is subjected to a 'ban' of indeterminate length. This has happened on a number of occasions to me but this is the most 'severe' ... so far. Please feel free to examine my postings on any of a number of groups... e.g. Yes Alliance (Public) Hub, SNP Tarbert, Argyll & Bute Members of the SNP, The Spider Principle.... and I defy anyone to show me post which can be objectively seen as being "Against Community Standards". My FB page is https://m.facebook.com/ian.sanderson.9216?mds=%2Fsharer-dialog.php%3Ffs%3D0%26fr%26m%3Dgroup%26sid%3D10157771324923799%26_ft_%3Dmf_story_key.10157771324918799%253Atop_level_post_id.10157771324918799%253Atl_objid.10157771324918799%253Acontent_owner_id_new.763378798%253Athrowback_story_fbid.10157771324918799%253Astory_location.4%253Astory_attachment_style.share%253Athid.763378798%253A306061129499414%253A2%253A0%253A1572591599%253A-3565719262264413424%26internal_preview_image_id&mdf=1

    ReplyDelete