You won't send the Tories much of a message if you use election leaflets to tell your own voters not to rank other candidates ahead of the Tories. The main message you're sending is: let's have more Tory councillors.https://t.co/I3MtGOekvD— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 7, 2022
Thursday, April 7, 2022
Urgent message for SNP members and supporters: Please contact party HQ and your local representatives to ask them to sort this out. It's genuinely vital for the cause of independence.
Now, let me deal at the very outset of this blogpost with the objection a cynic may raise, ie. "Kelly's only saying this because he's on the Alba NEC these days". You can categorically be assured that I would be saying exactly the same thing if I was still a member of the SNP. And here's the proof: during the campaign for the 2017 local elections, when I was still very much inside the SNP, The National asked me to write a lengthy guide to how the voting system works and how independence supporters would be best advised to use their votes. I was absolutely crystal-clear in my piece that Yessers should rank ALL pro-indy candidates in their ward, regardless of party. For the majority of people that would have meant using the top rankings for SNP candidates, and then using the next highest ranking for the Greens if there was a Green candidate in their ward.
I gave that advice in the full knowledge that it contradicted the advice that SNP HQ was quietly giving to doorstep campaigners, which we heard anecdotally was that voters should be urged just to rank SNP candidates and nobody else. I had no qualms at all about advocating the opposite of what my own party wanted, because it was an absolutely open-and-shut case - it was beyond all dispute that what the SNP were saying was stupid, counter-productive, destructive and electorally illiterate. Their message could only have been devised by people who didn't understand how the STV voting system worked - or perhaps more accurately didn't want to understand how it worked. I never had any problem with the SNP being a bit tribal when the logic of a given electoral system supported that - for example, "both votes SNP" was a perfectly defensible message for the Holyrood voting system, because under AMS, voting for different parties on the two ballots can have perverse results. But the STV system used for the local elections is totally different from that: there is literally NO DOWNSIDE to ranking as many of the candidates and parties as you feel able to. By using your lower preferences on other parties, you literally CANNOT HARM your first choice party in any way, because those lower preferences will NOT EVEN BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT unless your first choice candidate is either elected or eliminated. And if SNP strategists really don't understand that, they need to be politely but firmly told to sit down and shut up by the people who do understand it.
At least in 2017 the SNP were only peddling their naive strategic advice on the quiet - anecdotally, it appeared that they were only doing it if a voter specifically raised the issue of giving lower preferences to other parties. But we've learned today that the SNP have been sending out actual LEAFLETS to voters instructing them to "ask friends and family to ONLY vote SNP 1, SNP 2 and for no other party". Whether this is a localised or national message isn't as yet clear, but either way it is breathtakingly idiotic. What they are effectively saying to people is "please urge your friends and family to ABSTAIN on whether they want pro-independence councillors or unionist councillors".
As explained above, the lower preferences of SNP voters will not be taken into account unless all SNP candidates have been either elected or eliminated. So if that's what happens, if for example the final seat on the ward comes down to a straight fight between Labour and the Greens, by telling people only to rank the SNP, it means anyone who follows that advice will be sitting out the final choice between anti-indy Labour and pro-indy Green. By contrast, if the SNP told their supporters to rank all pro-indy candidates, there would be lots more votes for the Greens on the all-important final count, and Labour would be more likely to be defeated. It's not rocket science - but incredibly the SNP are instructing their supporters to go out and to actively harm the cause of independence.
What is most disgraceful about this is that the leaflets contain an implicit lie. Because most people don't know how the STV counting system works, they would probably infer from advice to only vote for SNP candidates that using lower preferences on other parties can somehow 'dilute' the impact of higher preferences for the SNP. That is the polar opposite of the truth, and the SNP should be ashamed of misleading people in that way.
This stuff really matters. Around one-third of wards in Scotland will have an Alba candidate in May. I don't know how many candidates the Greens are putting up but it will undoubtedly be a substantial number. I know some SNP supporters believe Alba are an irrelevance and that it doesn't matter if they rank Alba or not - I firmly believe they're wrong about that, but one thing they cannot seriously dispute is that the Greens have a chance of getting a substantial haul of councillors elected if they receive enough transfers from SNP voters. How can the SNP justify telling people to abstain on the question of whether their own pro-independence coalition partners should be preferred to unionist parties like the Tories? It makes no sense whatever.
It's no secret that I've been urging Alba supporters who don't want to give second or third preferences to the SNP to change their minds. Rest assured that I'll continue to do that, but please: we need some sanity on the other side of the fence too. All pro-indy parties should be encouraging their voters to rank all pro-indy candidates, and at the very least they should not be instructing their voters to do the complete opposite of that. If you're an SNP member, please get in touch with your party and urge them to reverse this catastrophic strategic blunder before we all needlessly wake up to newly-elected anti-independence Tory and Labour councillors in May.
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UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for getting in touch and clarifying that there are 239 Green candidates - meaning the Greens are standing in the majority of wards. I don't think they're going to be very happy with their coalition partners, because they stand to suffer the most from what the SNP are doing. Only the unionist parties will benefit.
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Posted by James Kelly at 1:54 PM