Saturday, August 5, 2017

SNP by-election fundraiser

Just thought I'd give a quick plug to a particularly important SNP campaign fundraiser.  There's a local government by-election taking place in early September in the Cardonald ward - and it's one of those STV paradoxes where Labour are defending the seat even though the SNP won the popular vote in the ward in May.  In theory it's a golden opportunity for the SNP to increase its representation on Glasgow City Council from 39 seats to 40, inching slightly closer to the magic number of 43 required for an absolute majority.  Unfortunately, however, the SNP only won the ward by a roughly 43% to 38% margin in May, and there's almost certainly been a swing to Labour since then (even if there's ongoing uncertainty over exactly how big that swing has been).  Labour probably ought to be regarded as the slight favourites for this contest, so the SNP's campaign on the ground will be all-important.

A relatively modest £1000 is being sought for the campaign - if you'd like to contribute, the fundraiser page can be found HERE.

There's also a by-election coming up in North Lanarkshire, which if anything is even more important, because it will decide whether the SNP remain the single largest party on the council.  If anyone spots a crowdfunder for that one, let me know and I'll post the details.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Lament for the Colonel as Scottish Tories remain in third place in YouGov subsample

There's been such a drought of polling recently that I was beginning to think we weren't going to get anything more until the end of the English school holidays.  However, a Britain-wide YouGov poll suddenly appeared today, suggesting that Labour's very narrow lead over the Tories has stabilised after falling from a peak of 8 points in early July.  The Scottish subsample continues to show the now familiar tight three-way battle: Labour 33%, SNP 29%, Conservatives 28%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Greens 2%, UKIP 2%.

The most significant thing about those figures is that the Tories are in third place, which has consistently been the case in all four post-election YouGov subsamples.  The lead has been switching back and forth between the SNP and Labour, so it's anyone's guess which of those two parties would be in first place if YouGov conducted a full-scale Scottish poll of Westminster voting intentions right now.  An average of the four subsamples produces an exact dead heat: SNP 32.3%, Labour 32.3%, Conservatives 26.3%, Liberal Democrats 6.0%.

On a more positive note, the SNP have had the lead in the majority of subsamples conducted across all firms.  There have been fourteen subsamples since the election, with the SNP ahead in eight, Labour in five, and the Tories in only one.  The SNP have been in either first or second place in all fourteen subsamples, whereas both Labour and the Tories have been in third place in some - underscoring the general impression that the SNP are the party most likely to have a small overall lead.

Fly on the Wings of love, fly baby fly

I was a bit wary when I started reading Robin McAlpine's reflections on the controversy of recent days, because I thought he might simplistically portray CommonSpace as the victim of the piece - an interpretation which I think is quite difficult to sustain, especially after the ugly descent into witch-hunt territory when the website's editor 'named and shamed' Mhairi Black MP for simply hitting the 'like' button on tweets that were supportive of Scotland's leading pro-independence blogger Stuart Campbell.  However, I'm relieved to say there's much more to Robin's article than that, and indeed it's an all-too-rare example of a column published on CommonSpace coming to Stuart's defence and pointing out the lack of perspective of those who constantly demonise him ("vendetta masquerading as virtue").

Basically Robin calls for "kindness not cruelty" towards both Wings and CommonSpace, which is a refreshingly ecumenical attitude.  But I think the deficiency of the article is that it doesn't really acknowledge that CommonSpace itself has failed that test in recent days, and therefore not all of the brickbats that have been thrown at the site are totally unreasonable.  Robin says that he can find nothing malicious in Angela Haggerty's Sunday Herald column about Stuart, and in terms of what she said directly that's true enough - but there was some fairly unsubtle innuendo in there.  She suggested that Stuart was making a mistake that was somehow equivalent to the one made by a well-known politician who was found guilty of perjury.  It's not terribly surprising that some of Stuart's supporters were angry enough to start thinking in the heat of the moment about whether CommonSpace was the sort of site they wanted to continue supporting financially.  Robin suggests there was a "campaign to de-fund" the site - based on what I saw that isn't really true.  Some people spontaneously announced they would be cancelling their subscriptions and there appeared to be a copycat effect.  The only hint I could see of a true 'campaign' was the Butterfly Rebellion explicitly urging people to unfollow the CommonSpace Twitter account en masse, which I thought was way over-the-top (and also very surprising, given that Butterfly Rebellion is an intelligent and quality website).

As far as Jordan Daly's infamous hatchet job on Wings is concerned, Robin's defence is that the column was not commissioned, but was submitted in the normal way and met the criteria for publication, and therefore there was no reason not to publish it.  That's fine as far as it goes, but I think it's a bit naive to imagine that an all-out attack on an important part of the independence movement can just be treated in the same way as any other article without there being negative consequences.  I think CommonSpace could have avoided much of what happened if they had taken the following steps -

1) The title of the column should have been softened.  Over the years I've written dozens of articles for other websites, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times my own suggested title has been used without any alteration.  An editor (or editorial team) can reasonably be expected to take some responsibility for the title of a column, which in this case was needlessly provocative by calling on readers to send the most popular pro-independence site packing.

2) There should have been a very strong disclaimer on the webpage itself that the column reflected the views of the writer, and not the editorial stance of CommonSpace.  There seems to be a feeling that this sort of thing should just be taken as read, but again, I think that's naive.  CommonSpace is well-known to have a past history of publishing brutal attacks on Wings, and not much of a past history of publishing defences of Wings.  Not long before Jordan Daly's column appeared, the editor had tweeted views on the Wings controversy that seemed very much in line with Mr Daly's own perspective - and of course her Sunday Herald column was published not long afterwards.  If there appears to be no obvious distinction between a columnist's views and the editorial line, people are naturally going to conflate the two unless you very clearly and prominently explain what the difference actually is.

3) The column should have been accompanied with another column putting the opposite view.  I have a feeling the justification for that not happening would be that "no column putting the opposite view was submitted", but if you want to be seen as being responsible and not causing unnecessary ruptures in the independence movement, I think you need to be more proactive than that.  A pro-Wings response should simply have been commissioned - ideally from Stuart himself, but if he wasn't interested I'm sure there would have been any number of other people willing to do it instead.

*  *  *

On the subject of the abuse Stuart Campbell has to put up with on a daily basis, here's another invaluable contribution to the cause of civility and solidarity from "Richard Palmer" - the troll ringleader who briefly turned his fire on me last week.  He's now calling himself "Elite Baklava".  Is it just me, or is "we need to do something about w***s like Campbell" a bit of a sinister thing to say?  What on earth would that "something" be?

As you can see, the tweet in which Richard calls me a "f***ing fool" received two 'likes' - and one of them was from "David Al", aka David Allison, who was the Green Party's official candidate in the Barrhead ward at the council elections just three months ago.  Call me biased, but if it's now in fashion to have witch-hunts based on politicians' Twitter 'likes', that's where I'd be starting.

I've no idea whether the Richard gang have any direct involvement in the notorious A Thousand Flowers website, but the overlap in terms of politically correct zealotry and mindless personal abuse is pretty striking.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning...

I'm indebted to a certain controversial rapper, because if I hadn't randomly followed a link in one of his tweets, I would be unaware of the fact that Allan Moore has charged me with (almost) singlehandedly destroying the Yes movement.  I fear Allan may be overestimating my importance just a tad, but it would definitely be worth it if it was true.  Just think of my place in the history books - they'd say the survival of the glorious United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was all down to that Scot Goes Pop blogger bloke.  I'd be the modern-day Churchill.

"We had seen this argument before, with the blogger James Kelly aggressively promoting the 'both votes SNP' argument during last year’s Holyrood elections."

Well, I don't know if that's news to you, but it's sure as hell news to me.  In reality, I must have been one of the few people on either side of the debate who went out of my way to avoid using the 'both votes SNP' line, and continually said how unhelpful and inappropriate it was.  My main preoccupation was with getting the message out that so-called 'tactical voting on the list' was not feasible, and that people should vote for their first-choice party on the list vote - the more important of the two ballots.  In practice, that meant trying to persuade SNP supporters that they should stick with the SNP on the list - because it was SNP supporters who were being targeted by the tactical voting lobby.  The SNP weren't going around telling Green supporters that they should 'tactically' abandon their own party on the list.

"As for the both votes strategy it was a success... except it wasn’t. As the SNP gathered their biggest votes ever for FPTP and beat Labour’s record for list votes their success in the FPTP seats worked against them in the list seats while the thing which lost them the cherished majority was, well SNP losses in North East Fife, Edinburgh Western and Edinburgh Central which did for them."

Simply not true.  Holding on to those constituencies would have been a 'get out of jail free' card for the SNP, but their failure to do so is not the primary reason they lost their majority.  They actually enjoyed a significant net gain in terms of constituency seats, in line with their increased constituency vote share.  But their list vote dropped from 44% to 41.7%, and because the overall composition of parliament is essentially determined by the list vote, their overall number of seats naturally fell.  If you lose support on the more important of the two ballots, more often than not you're going to lose seats.  This isn't rocket science.

"[Cat] Boyd’s appearance provoked obviously a reaction from the one eyed Yessers and also an astonishing response from the aforementioned Mister Kelly of the Scotland Goes Pop blog. Astonishing, because the post to all intents and purposes lays out a manifesto for an ideologically pure pro-Independence drive for votes taking Independence and independence only as the basis for your vote. There is no concession to whether you agree with the SNP on, say, local authority funding, education, taxation or relations with the EU, you vote SNP for independence... or you are the enemy for voting for a ‘Yoon’ party."

First of all, I did not call Cat Boyd "the enemy", and I'm not in the habit of calling either individuals or political parties "Yoons".  (Nor, incidentally, is this blog called "Scotland Goes Pop", so I'm beginning to wonder about Allan's attention to detail.)  However, it's quite true that I believe (and I think this is a statement of the bleedin' obvious) that a vote for an anti-independence party like Labour is a vote against independence, and that a vote for an anti-indyref party like Labour is a vote against holding an indyref.  By the same token, a vote for an anti-European party like UKIP is a vote against remaining in the EU, the single market and the customs union, and people would rightly laugh at you if you tried to pretend it was anything else.

Any party is likely to have policies you disagree with, and so you're inevitably going to end up 'voting for' things you don't actually believe in.  For example, I'm not mad keen on the fact that my vote for the SNP was an endorsement of NATO membership.  But that didn't stop me, because leaving NATO isn't a high priority for me.  And that's the bottom line - voting "proudly" for an anti-independence party doesn't mean that you're no longer in favour of independence, but it does mean you're not that bothered about it in comparison to other things.  That's a pretty incredible position for the co-founder of a party that portrayed itself in last year's Holyrood election as passionately pro-independence, and sought pro-independence "tactical" votes on that basis.  (Indeed, the 'I' in the acronym "RISE" actually stands for independence.)

"Kelly’s plot was well and truly lost right at the start when he said that RISE were now vulnerable...the point missed by Kelly is that RISE were canvassing for votes from the Radical Independence wing of the Independence constituency, votes that would only go to the SNP tactically anyway."

As RISE received only 0.5% of the national list vote, it's quite difficult (and perhaps not particularly important) to work out who those people were.  Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that RISE very much wanted SNP supporters to lend them their list votes on a "tactical" basis.  A press release was put out to that effect.  If the same pitch is made next time around, it'll be undermined by the lack of commitment to independence demonstrated by a leading figure like Cat Boyd.  That's the point I was making.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The easily distracted

Angela Haggerty is well within her rights to use her Sunday Herald column to further exacerbate the feud between CommonSpace and Wings Over Scotland if that's what she wants, but in doing so she's made a number of dubious points - and one of them is downright reprehensible.  At the start of the piece, she recalls the immense political and personal damage done to Tommy Sheridan as a result of his legal action against the News of the World.  Later, she notes that Sheridan "took his ego with him" to court, and that Stuart Campbell of Wings is "displaying those same signs of hubris" in preparing a defamation action against Kezia Dugdale.  This appears to be a weasel word-ish (ie. conveniently deniable) way of implying that Stuart is the sort of person who would either commit perjury, or commit a wrongdoing of equivalent gravity, to win his case.  Angela has got no conceivable justification for that kind of nasty innuendo.  Doubtless if Stuart suffers the embarrassment of losing his case, she'll claim that was the risk she was referring to, but there's a world of difference between losing a court case after pursuing it in good faith, and ending up in prison after being ruled to have misled the court.

Angela also draws a rather heroic comparison between the action against Ms Dugdale, and the one against Green MSP Andy Wightman, who she notes would be forced into bankruptcy if he loses, which would automatically cost him his seat in parliament.  Again, this seems to be a way of implying that because one defamation case against a politician has troubling implications for democracy, the same must automatically be true of another defamation case against a politician.  In reality, the differences between the two cases are not hard to spot.  It seems unlikely that Kezia Dugdale would face ruin if she loses, given the more modest damages sought, and especially given that powerful and wealthy people presumably have her back.  It's also not the case that Ms Dugdale is being hounded by a person or organisation that has unlimited access to the law due to their fabulous wealth.  Indeed, one of the main criticisms of Stuart is that he isn't able to cover the costs himself and has had to run a fundraiser - something which anyone could theoretically do with the help of social media if they were persuasive enough.  So which is it?  Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the 'little guy' has the same access to the law as Andy Wightman's pursuers?  The reason Stuart's fundraiser has succeeded is that the backers perceive Ms Dugdale as the establishment figure who thinks she can act with impunity - very much the reverse of the Wightman scenario.

Angela warns Stuart that his posting history will be dragged up in court - for example his controversial views on the Hillsborough tragedy, and his alleged "transphobia" in comments about Chelsea Manning.  Well, that's as may be, but none of that will be directly relevant to the much narrower point being adjudicated upon.  Stuart is specifically claiming that Ms Dugdale defamed him by calling him homophobic.  Transphobia and homophobia are self-evidently not the same thing, and it's even harder to see how an opinion about the cause of a disaster in a football stadium twenty-eight years ago will constitute proof of prejudice against gay people.  It's perfectly possible to think Stuart is offensive while still accepting he is not homophobic.

The conclusion of the article contains the standard warning that this whole thing is just oh so terribly damaging to the independence movement.  Well, it's only a week ago that Angela said it was damaging to the independence movement that Cat Boyd was being criticised for pursuing her political objectives in her own chosen way (ie. by voting for an anti-indy party at the general election), so it seems pretty illogical that Angela now thinks savaging Stuart for doing his own thing is somehow helpful.  She thinks the court case will be a "distraction" for the movement, and yet in the notorious attack piece she ran on CommonSpace the other day, Wings (an astonishingly popular website read by hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland) was sneeringly dismissed as "nothing more than a man with a blog...[with] a bit of a strange cult following".

How much of a "distraction" could anything done by such a 'fringe' figure ever be?  Unless, of course, some people are determined to be "distracted" at great length in pursuance of their own agendas?