"Not if he’s going to lie about me, no. I’m not an 'ISP-supporting blogger'. I’ve admired them for actually getting off their arses and doing something, but to the best of my recollection that’s as far as I’ve gone."
There's just one snag about that accusation of lying - the 'ISP-supporting blogger' I was referring to was in fact Barrhead Boy, not Wings. (And now Barrhead Boy will doubtless have an even bigger meltdown because I've just identified him directly, but hey-ho. Such fragile egos we deal with.)
Stuart's comment was beneath the latest of countless furious blogposts and social media posts he's written over the last year attacking me and my views on "gaming the system". In it, he moans that I've written "literally dozens" of "hysterical articles" on the subject. I do feel it's just possible there might be a certain irony about that complaint, but I'll bring you confirmation as soon I have it.
He also lumps me in with an array of commentators, pundits and politicians who have attacked the idea of 'tactical voting on the list', but who generally wouldn't agree with each other on other topics - such as my Labour MSP namesake, Bella Caledonia's editor Mike Small, and the controversial journalist David Leask. The implication is that this means we must all be arguing disingenuously. I'm quite sure Stuart is right about that. For example, he himself has criticised JK Rowling over many years as a "litigious bully", and it would therefore be utterly unthinkable for him to now find himself on the same side as the Harry Potter author on, let's say, the trans issue. He'd know that would totally deprive him of all credibility, and he'd make very, very sure it never happened. He's refreshingly consistent and non-hypocritical in that way.
He has particularly strong words for Mike Small, who he points out has appeared to do a complete U-turn on the desirability of tactical voting since the last Holyrood election. And, indeed, I can testify to the truth of that better than most people. One night, in early 2016, I was one of several Twitter users who pointed out to Mike that Bella had turned into a propaganda site urging people not to "waste" their list vote on the SNP and to tactically vote for RISE instead. Mike was insistent that wasn't the case, and that Bella was open to publishing all views. I asked him whether he'd therefore run a piece by me putting forward an alternative view, and he encouraged me to go ahead and write something. So I did it straight away, in fact I stayed up half the night doing it, and to put it mildly I was not best pleased when he wrote back immediately and indicated that he had no intention of publishing it unless I completely rewrote it to change the central message. I didn't keep quiet about what had happened, and eventually Mike published our entire correspondence to supposedly set the record straight - but instead all he succeeded in doing was removing all doubt that he had declined the article simply because it argued against the feasibility of tactical voting on the list. A number of his regular readers were quite shocked.
So, yes, it's true that Bella doesn't have a leg to stand on when they now attack parties like the ISP for trying to game the system. Their position seems to boil down to "gaming the system is workable and constructive when the beneficiaries are radical left parties, but impossible and destructive when the beneficiaries are non-woke parties". And of course Stuart is the ideal person to draw attention to this hypocrisy, because he has in no way done a complete U-turn himself since correctly stating in 2016 that attempts to vote tactically on the list were "a mug's game" that could cost us pro-indy seats at Holyrood.
Speaking as one of the few people who is actually saying exactly the same thing now that I said in 2016, and who isn't arguing that the laws of arithmetic somehow change depending on how woke or non-woke a political party is, I must say I can only look on in total bemusement at the way Bella and Wings have swapped sides on the subject but seamlessly continued to argue with each other. What makes it even more comical is that very few of their followers seem to have clocked what has happened.
That said, Stuart does take a moment to deny that he even wants to game the system - he innocently claims that his support for the concept of a list-only party is simply about making sure that the views of a particular segment of the electorate are represented in a way that isn't currently the case. And naturally he's in a good position to make that claim with a straight face, because at no point has he published lengthy blogposts explaining that one of the main purposes of a list-only party is to win far more pro-indy seats on the list than the share of the vote would otherwise warrant. Nor has he at any stage published a pseudo-scientific analysis by Gavin Barrie setting out how this would supposedly work in practice. Nope, none of that happened. If you think it did, you imagined it. Stop imagining things.
Oh and by the way (as Bernie Sanders would say), it's categorically untrue that I've been "frantically punting the both votes SNP line". I lost count of the number of times in 2016 that I had to point out that "both votes SNP" was not my message, even though people kept erroneously ascribing those words to me. All I've ever done is point out that the list vote is the more important of the two votes, because it determines the overall composition of parliament. It doesn't lend itself to tactical voting, and people should therefore vote for their first-choice party on the list, regardless of which party that happens to be.
It's particularly odd that Stuart should mischaracterise my argument as "both votes SNP" just one day after I wrote a blogpost saying I would have a big decision to make if Alex Salmond sets up a new party.