Saturday, March 18, 2023

There is nothing remotely unusual about someone standing as a candidate in an election process they have concerns about - in general, participating in flawed elections is the only way to bring about change

Those of you who are on Twitter may have seen that I had a brief exchange with Pat Kane last night.  Earlier in the day, Pat had said that he couldn't understand why Ash Regan would want to cast doubt on the integrity of an electoral process she was involved in.  I thought that was an extremely peculiar remark, because it's actually very commonplace, the whole world over, for people to stand as candidates in electoral processes that they believe or suspect to be flawed in some way.  That's generally the only way to bring reform about (short of a revolution), and you'd think that any progressive would understand that perfectly well.  

A banal example is that if you think first-past-the-post is a rotten electoral system, you still have to stand in first-past-the-post elections, because it's only by winning power under the current system that you can introduce proportional representation.  The suggestion that nobody can in good conscience stand in an election unless they have complete faith in the system ultimately betrays a deeply conservative worldview, because it seeks to exclude (or at least delegitimise) most of the real world options for seeking change.  Eventually I responded to Pat, and the way I put it was that nobody would ever criticise the Belarussian opposition leader for standing in an election she believed to be flawed, and that having faith in how the SNP run internal elections is not a prerequisite for Ash Regan or for anyone else to think that they would make a good leader of the SNP, and thus to put themselves forward for that position.

Pat responded by implying that the mention of Belarus was further proof of the "derangement" of those who have queried the conduct of the leadership election.  Then Gerry Hassan suddenly popped up out of nowhere, and made a series of what I can only describe as defamatory claims, including the utterly baseless suggestion that I had "made light" of the Belarussian people's suffering under a cruel regime.  I hadn't even mentioned the Belarussian people.  I must say it's instructive to see just how quickly - in fact instantaneously - a leading radical left intellectual will quite happily try to distract from the weakness of his own case with cynical and disreputable debating tactics that would shame even the rawest of student politicians.

In reality, a comparison with the flaws of the Belarussian electoral process is not a comparison with the wider activities of the regime.  It's a comparison that does exactly what it says on the tin, no more and no less - and once you acknowledge that irrefutable fact, it becomes a much harder comparison to simply swat away.  The subtext of the suggestions that Ash Regan and her followers are some kind of lunatic fringe is that we live in a free country, very unlike Belarus, and that it's therefore absurd or somehow "Trumpian" to imagine there's any chance that the conduct of the SNP leadership election is not spotless and beyond reproach.  But that's a logical fallacy, because the UK's status as a free democracy rests on the conduct of elections to public office.  Internal party elections do not fall into that category and are therefore not subject to the same standards, laws and rules.  

Parties run internal elections themselves as they see fit.  If there was outright vote-rigging, there would probably be legal redress available - as long as you could find proof, of course.  But meeting the threshold for a free and fair election requires far more than simply the absence of vote-rigging.  In the context of public elections, there are several criteria applied, such as independent oversight, fair access to the media for all candidates, and transparency in the way the votes are counted.  What all of these points boil down to is one central question - is there any reasonable prospect of a transfer of power from the incumbents to their opponents if that is what a fair process might have resulted in?  

A much-studied political phenomenon is the "one party dominant state", where multi-party elections occur, but where the same party always wins.   Mexico was a prime example of that for many decades, and Russia is perhaps the best example now. The process is managed by systems of patronage, and by starving opposition candidates of fair access to the media.  Vote-rigging does not generally occur, but there always remains the open question of what the government might resort to if the more informal safeguards on its power start to fail.

In the context of the SNP leadership election, Humza Yousaf represents the incumbent faction.  That does not mean, of course, that Yousaf has to lose for the outcome to be democratic - it's perfectly possible that he could win because he is the best candidate or because his ideas resonate most.  But because the playing field is self-evidently not level, there will remain a question mark on whether the ruling faction would ever be prepared to relinquish power in line with democratic principles, and that question will stay unresolved until such time in the future that a transfer of power occurs.

I'd invite you to look carefully at a list on Wikipedia setting out ten broad categories of things that must be present for an election to qualify as "free and fair".  Pretty much all of them are present in elections to public office in the UK, which is why we consider ourselves to live in a reasonably free country. And, in fairness, most of them are present in the SNP leadership election too - but there are, unfortunately, a number of gaps.  For example...

"whether election-related laws were not changed immediately before an election"

There have been suggestions that the SNP modified or bent their own rules with the short timescale for this election - which disproportionately harms lesser-known candidates like Ash Regan, who would have had more opportunity to build her profile with a longer campaign.

"electoral management (whether gerrymandering occurred and whether election management bodies, if they existed, were independent, impartial, and accountable)"

Gerrymandering does not apply here, but the equivalent of election management bodies can hardly be said to be independent and impartial.  Ultimately, this election is being run by people such as Peter Murrell who want Humza Yousaf to win, and who have a vested interest in him winning.

"electoral rights (whether citizens were generally able to vote on the basis of equal suffrage and access)"

There are anecdotal reports of some SNP members not having received a ballot.

"voter registers (whether they were accurate, current, and open to voters for easy and effective voter registration)"

There is no transparency over whether the list of eligible voters is accurate.

"campaign process (whether elections were carried out without violence, intimidation, bribery (vote buying), use of government resources to advantage the incumbent, or a "massive financial advantages" for the incumbent"

There's no suggestion of violence, intimidation or vote-buying.  However, the continuity candidate does seem to be benefiting from the resources of the party in a way that the other two candidates are not.

"media access (whether freedom of speech was protected and whether the ruling party was disproportionately benefited by government-owned media"

I don't think anyone would dispute that freedom of speech has been fully on show during the campaign.  But the equivalent of "government media" in an internal election are things like official party mailing lists, and we all know about the notorious example of Emma Harper using one of those lists to email members in support of Humza Yousaf.

"voting process (whether elections were conducted by secret ballot on a one person, one vote basis, with adequate security to protect voters and protection against ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, destruction of valid ballots, and other forms of manipulation"

There is no evidence at all for any vote-rigging in this election.  But is there "adequate security" to protect against any theoretical possibility of vote-rigging?  We don't really know.  Members are expected to just take it on trust.

"role of officials (whether the election was administered with adequately trained personnel, free from campaigning or intimidation at polling places, and with the ability of international election observers and party representatives to observe polling places; and counting of votes (whether votes were tabulated transparently and free of fraud or tampering"

In an internal election, the equivalent of "international observers" and "transparent tabulation" would be the type of independent oversight that two of the candidates have requested.  As I understand it, that request has been denied.

*  *  *

Over the last few days I've published results from TWO new Scot Goes Pop opinion polls - an opportunity to commission a second poll suddenly arose, so I made a snap decision to go ahead.  However, as you'll appreciate, polls are very expensive, so if anyone feels able to make a contribution, here are the options...

The simplest donation method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations HERE.


  1. Just more Stugeonistas getting desperate. Maybe Pat will write a wee song about it after having brunch with his old unionist university chums.

  2. With Peter "Voldemort" Murrell gone and a host of other Sturgeon bootlickers, I can't help but feel a little hope that the SNP may get back on track.

  3. Sky news now reporting Murrell has resigned. Good riddance. He hopes his new place of residence will be in Portugal. I hope it will be in Barlinnie.

  4. The WGD numpties are beyond saving.

    Yesindyref2 says this:- "An honourable man put party and independence before self."
    Skier says:- " Good to see Peter M do the honourable thing here."

    He was forced out ya numpties.

    Funny how these numpties never think about doing the honourable thing and retire from commenting as they have got everything wrong. Oh well numpties will be numpties.

    1. The WGD numpties patting Murrell on the back for they're-not-quite-sure-what, and the Wingsnuts queuing up to "thank" and "congratulate" Campbell for they're-not-quite-sure-what, are two sides of the same fatuous coin. Please God let Kate Forbes win so we can all move on from this pantomime once and for all.

    2. They'll be congratulating Campbell for the Kinghorn try next.

    3. Oh no! The deteriorating situation has forced Skier to use one of his weapons of last resort:
      "scottish_skier says:
      March 18, 2023 at 3:51 pm

      Welcome. My daughter is joining this evening. Recent events have encouraged her to.

      She’ll be 16 later this year."

      As he also reckons that 60% of the population want to see the GRR Bill back on the road we might have a guess at her priorities.

    4. Hello independence for Scotland you make good points , it is noticeable that on WGD the people you mention here are part of a very small group of about a dozen who take up all the space on WGD intimidating anyone that makes a point opposing their own very skewed and narrow view it’s as if they are unable to change an opinion they set in their mind years ago even though changed circumstances show their views are clearly incorrect.They are laughable really , if only they could accept opposing points of view as acceptable and necessary we don’t have to all agree with things but we have to be prepared to listen and agree to disagree .

    5. "... intimidating anyone that makes a point opposing their own."
      You mean like Independence for Scotland on here?

    6. A sneaky anonymous numpty goes around posting nasty one liners so it must be Alec Lomax.

  5. WGD numpty tatu3 says:- "That's more or less what I've just said to my husband. They probably discussed it and decided what with Nicola standing down and 'retired', then it would seem silly for him to keep working."
    I mean really, just how are people so stupid and naive. He was forced out.

    Tatu3 also says now that Sturgeon has no party ties she can start showcasing Scotland worldwide. She is still an SNP MSP - how did that bypass your brain!

    Meanwhile Dr Jim is on one of his usual rants that it is all that bad man Salmond's fault.

    Too many numpties underestimated Regan and Forbes. As Forbes said in the first hustings Regan's best quailties are that she is courageous and bold. So far she is demonstrating the truth of that comment by Forbes.

  6. Whenever anything arises that Dr Jim cannae handle he blames Salmond and traduces his character. Now is Dr Jim the perfect gentleman - no he most certainly is not - Jimbo has previously admitted that he has grabbed many a women roughly by the neck and manhandled them out of premises. Is he ashamed of his actions? Not in the least. He thinks there is nothing wrong with what he has done. Is this the progressive SNP we keep hearing about from Yousaf.

    So is Yousaf having an affair with his office assistant on SNP premises whilst married something that Jimbo has had a lot to talk about. Nope not a word. Has the fact that Yousaf then got his assistant a job as a councillor in Dundee something that Jimbo criticised. Nope. So do SNP people like Jimbo think it a disgrace that Yousaf is now standing for SNP leader. Someone who did a lot more than "sleepy cuddles" with his assistant. Nothing but utter contempt for Jimbo and the rest of the hypocrites. Progressive SNP man Yousaf - aye right.

  7. Every picture I see of Murrell his head is looking upwards. Is there something wrong with his neck? Like it's brass or something?

  8. I've got a strong sense that this whole leadership election is going to be canned in the coming week as the details of what has caused Murrell to be pushed out (and let's not pretend he left by his own choosing) rapidly come to light.
    I see an interim leader covering the leadership role for the next few months while a new contest is started following the proper SNP constitution. Yousaf won't be taking part for reasons soon to become clear and Regan obviously won't stand as she's achieved more than she realistically could have hoped in the last few weeks.
    Forbes may even stand uncontested while the far left in the party either defect to the Greens or suddenly forget their principles and wind their necks in for the monthly paycheck.
    Probably a full parliamentary election to follow as SNP try to rebrand themselves as a full bore indy party and distance themselves from the ongoing court cases.

  9. So the old Tory Mike Russell takes over as SNP Chief Exec. At least Murrell hadn't actually come out as endorsing Yousaf for leader but Russell has. I suppose the trouble is that nearly all, the top SNP people have endorsed Yousaf. Just another reason for a conflict of interests in an election totally compromised. Can there ever have been a more corrupt election?

    1. SNP headquarters both running Yousaf's campaign and running the election in any world is a conflict of interests but we also now have Russell who has openly declared for Yousaf.
      If you want a summary of the reasons, and they are many, why this election is compromised, read Robin McAlpine's blog. If Yousaf had a shred of integrity he would pull out of the election contest but the fact that he has entered knowing all the things that have happened to benefit him means he more than likely will stay in the race.

    2. The SNP must be the most corrupt political party in western Europe

    3. Hardly, guess you must be a unionist of some type ?

  10. More jaw dropping stupidity from WGD numpty Bob Agassi who says:-
    " The SNP has delivered what it was mandated to do and that is an indyref was set for October but that is being blocked by the dark undemocratic forces in London...."

    So this daftie thinks Sturgeon telling numpties like him that a referendum will take place on 19Oct 2023 is meeting the manifesto mandate. Bob seems to have forgotten all about the de facto referendum and special conference that was promised.

    All WGD numpties have shown is that independence supporters like Britnats have their share of idiots.

    1. I suspect you're a covert Britnat, Agent Independence for Scotland.

    2. I suspect you are a less than covert WGD numpty. Agent daftie.

  11. In fairness to the duggers as they call themselves views that disagree with them seem to moderated out. I tried to out three comments on the site recently (no foul language or anything) but they never made it. I'm surprised Craig Murray got his comments accepted but hats off to Robert Hughes who managed to beat the censors. The problem with Paul's approach to dissenters is that the commentators create a bubble in which they reinforce their own prejudices. They don't realise they have become a sect.

    1. WT, that’s true , Terry callachan Dundee

  12. Beginning to look just about possible that the SNP might be able to move back to something resembling the right track. More muck to come first though if that is to happen.

  13. Could I add something to the list of criteria for a fair election? That is, that the voting technology be simple enough for everyone, including the digitally challenged, to understand; or alternately, that a choice of technologies, including pen and paper, be on offer. Being unable to do technology (or in some cases, being without the necessary equipment) doesn't mean that you can't understand and form reasonable opinions on the issues.

    1. Very important. Some of the very elderly people I've worked with find the internet prohibitive, for them a simple form would be a real asset. If it's inclusion we're talking about let's not forget our elderly.

  14. Lets put the politicking aside and get back to the good auld days - Marches and nice picnics in Holyrood Park. That'll scare the yoons.