Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In many parts of Scotland it's 'vote Labour, get Cameron'

At (the oddly scheduled) First Minister's Questions earlier this afternoon, Alex Salmond did a great job of driving home the truth revealed by David McLetchie's gaffe earlier this week - namely that votes for the Lib Dems and Labour in Scotland are essentially 'enabling' votes for Tory rule. It really drives a coach and horses through Jim Murphy's desperate (and depressingly familiar) attempts to hoodwink people into thinking that 'the only way' to prevent a Tory government is to vote Labour. In truth, it's not just that Labour aren't 'the way' to thwart a Cameron victory, they're not even 'a way' to do so. Thanks to the majoritarian voting system so beloved of both main London parties, if you live in Scotland and want to stop the Tories...basically, forget it. In most parts of the country, you simply don't have a part to play. While Jim Murphy mouths endless touching platitudes about how important it is for people to go out and use their vote (perhaps he should release a charity single?) he's quite content for your vote not to count for anything, and for the election to be decided over your heads in the 150 or so marginal constituencies - the overwhelming majority of which are in a few specific regions of England. In most cases, the only conceivable way out of this bind is to cast a vote for a party that refuses to legitimise such a rotten system.

However, for a lucky minority in Scotland, their constituency will genuinely be in contention tomorrow, and that's where anti-Tory tactical voting does come into play. Unfortunately for Murphy's argument, it's only in a small number of these seats that Labour are the party best placed to stop the Tories (ironically Murphy's own seat is one of those few exceptions). So I was particularly bemused to note that in the Daily Mirror's cut-out-and-keep guide of how to vote tactically to block the Tories, the SNP's vital role in many constituencies is mysteriously airbrushed out of the equation. I left this comment on Kevin Maguire's blog -

"I see in your tactical voting guide that you couldn't quite bring yourself to admit that there are at least four seats where only the SNP can stop the Tories - that's more than the number of Scottish seats where Labour are the 'Tory blockers'. In many parts of Scotland it's 'Vote Labour, get Cameron'."

To return to my earlier observation about Jim Murphy, I think the moment in the Scottish debates that made my blood boil like no other was when a member of the STV audience zoned in on the point about voters in safe Labour seats being effectively disenfranchised, and Murphy responded by saying - "I understand the point you're making, sir, but with respect I don't agree", before going on for the 1,147th time to recite his "We Are The World, We Are The Children" line about the only wasted vote being one that is not cast. Of course he did understand the point that was being put to him perfectly well, but you'd never have guessed it from the answer he actually gave. If he had been remotely sincere about treating that voter "with respect", he'd have addressed the substance of the question, and explained why in his position of power he's been quite content to uphold the injustices of the current voting system, rather than essentially patting the guy on the head and telling him not to think too deeply about the whole thing.

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