In just a few hours' time, the vote will open again for Membership Support Convener and all Alba members will be eligible to vote (or all who joined before a very recent cut-off date). Please note this is a complete re-run of the election, so if you voted for me or any other candidate a few weeks ago, that vote no longer counts and you'll need to vote again to make sure your voice is heard.
I haven't been entirely sure what I am and am not allowed to say about the decision to nullify and re-run the Alba internal elections, because presumably the explanation was made in closed session for a reason. However, the email that went out today contained more detail than has previously been publicly available, and it's also now possible for members and the wider public to read an account - and I make no comment on its accuracy - from an anonymous source quoted in The National. As one of the claims is that various NEC candidates were engaged in "vicious attacks" on each other on private group chats, I want to make abundantly clear that I was not involved in that in any way. I haven't been on any Alba-related Whatsapp groups since I left the NEC chat just over a year ago after I failed in my bid to be re-elected, and I certainly didn't have any proxies fighting my corner on any chats (chance would be a fine thing!). I can honestly say that every single point I made during the campaign, whether you agreed with my pitch or not, was made entirely openly and transparently via this blog, my Twitter account, and one short YouTube video.
I was particularly shocked and saddened to hear a few days ago that Jacqueline Bijster, the incumbent in the election I'm running in (Membership Support Convener) has decided to withdraw as a candidate in the interests of her mental health. I can only imagine how grim things must have been to trigger a decision like that, and it's a dilemma she should never have had to face. Whoever is now elected, whether it's me or one of the other two remaining candidates, will have an important part to play in ensuring members have somewhere to turn if they fall victim to bullying, regardless of whether it's low-level stuff or something much worse.
One specific example of alleged bitchiness cited by The National piece is the suggestion that one of the NEC candidates would "prop up the SNP". That reminded me of the reaction of an Alba member (I can't remember who it was) to my election to the NEC in 2021 - she said something like "I was gutted when I saw he'd been elected, I don't trust him at all". Normally personal attacks are water off a duck's back, but that one did sting a bit, because she clearly meant it - and yet I know I can be trusted. There are lots of things I probably wouldn't trust myself to do, but I know for certain I can be trusted to always act in the way that I think will maximise the chances of independence. If I occasionally get it wrong, it'll be through honest miscalculation rather than malice. The same is undoubtedly true of other candidates in the internal elections who may be the objects of suspicion and scorn for not being "ultra" enough.
Because Alba is the most radical party of significant size on the question of independence, it's perhaps inevitable that it's attracted a few trenchant folk who sincerely believe there is only one true path to independence, and who thus try to hold other party members to purity tests. Essentially what we're all supposed to believe is that the SNP must be totally destroyed and replaced. Well, that's a point of view, but there is an alternative view which can be held in good faith by those who are just as passionate and sincere about independence.
Basically the problem is that replacing the SNP would take a long time, and Scotland needs independence quicker than that. There are two very clear methods by which electoral success for Alba could lead directly to independence within a few years without the SNP having to be completely overhauled. Firstly, if Alba win a good few list seats at the 2026 Holyrood election (say between five and eight) and as a result hold the balance of power, the SNP could be forced into a formal or informal deal (probably the latter, for reasons we all understand) involving a more realistic and much more urgent strategy for independence. Think the SNP wouldn't deal with Alba in those circumstances, even informally? Think again. The fury of SNP members if their leadership went down the alternative route of an accommodation with Labour, kicking independence even deeper into the long grass, is not hard to predict.
Alternatively, if the SNP realise they are shedding votes to Alba, they might voluntarily radicalise on independence to get those votes back. And even if they succeed in doing so, that would be a win for us, because the objective is independence and it doesn't really matter how we get there. Nothing that actually works, and especially that works quickly, can or should be regarded as a sell-out, and I'd just ask people to bear that in mind. The reality is, though, that the method will take care of itself. We just campaign for as many Alba votes as we can possibly get and see where it takes us. If we replace the SNP as the leading party, great. If we don't replace the SNP but do secure enough leverage with them to put independence firmly back on the agenda, also great.
These are exciting times for Alba - we now have credibility as never before due to our new presence at Holyrood via Ash Regan, plus representation at all three tiers of government for the first time. So it seems strange to say we need a fresh start at a moment like this, and yet in some ways we plainly do. When internal elections are scrapped, apparently due to vicious factional infighting and plots and counter-plots, it's a statement of the obvious that not everything in the garden is rosy. I'd respectfully suggest that part of the remedy is to elect someone who has had nothing to do with the factionalism and who has no time for it whatsoever. Let's put our house in order speedily to take full advantage of this moment of maximum opportunity.
And I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that the best way to entice SNP members to follow Ash Regan's example is with the promise that the party they join will be one that they as members are in full control of. That means that every member of the NEC, and indeed every member of other national committees, should be directly elected by the whole Alba membership. At present only National Office Bearers are elected by one-member-one-vote, while ordinary NEC members are elected only by conference delegates, and members of other committees are elected only by National Council delegates. An additional reason for putting myself forward for Membership Support Convener is to give members an opportunity, if they wish, to express support for the view that we should move to one-member-one-vote across the board in future.
Incidentally, I was heartened earlier today to see someone challenging other NEC candidates to match what I'm saying on party democratisation, and getting a positive response from at least one candidate. It just goes to show that sometimes simply standing in an election is sufficient to move the conversation forwards. (But I do also want to win, guys!)