evanEvan Williams responds to Scottish Labour’s disappointments in recent polling, looks at what policies the SNP really stands for, and sets a challenge for Labour.

 

The Nationalists are doing incredibly well in the polls, and I don’t doubt it makes them very happy. Their strategists are to be congratulated, but beyond a visceral hatred of Scottish Labour its difficult to know what it is they believe in.

We know they believe in independence but we know the Scottish people do not – we were, if you recall, asked about that.

Are they in favour of more nurses for the NHS? Apparently not, otherwise they would have already done something about it rather than cutting NHS budgets.

Are they in favour of redistribution? No evidence of that. In fact the white paper only proposed one significant redistribution, and it was in favour of rich corporations, offering to cut their tax bills by 15%.

Are they in favour of creating opportunities for people left behind in the global economy? If they are culling college places that would be a strange way of going about it.

Here’s an easy one – surely they are against nuclear weapons? Nope, what they are against is having them in Scotland because superior morality only extends as far as Carlisle.

The nationalist “surge”, for want of a better expression, isn’t based on a policy offer – its based on something else entirely. We traditionally fight elections on a policy platform offering a manifesto that we think appeals to people, sometimes to their self interest and sometimes on their sense of fairness and aspiration, but a broad package of what we are for and what we will seek to achieve in government.

It may well be that the way we campaign for votes at election has never been particularly powerful; its just that since every party was campaigning on the same premise we never learned how to do it differently.

In the United States the Republicans have long realised that there is powerful electoral opportunity in abandoning “rational” policy argument in favour of emotional appeals to patriotism – they fly the flag, talk up the American dream and proclaim their love of country and of freedom. They swift-boat their opponents and call them anti American. Sound familiar?

The Ashcroft polling out today suggests that people think they can vote SNP and still have a Labour Government all be it in coalition with the SNP. No matter what we think about that as a desirable or even plausible outcome, in essence what it tells us is that people in Scotland still want the broad policy platform of Labour.

Like the Democrats in the United States, Scottish Labour needs to find away to compete for hearts as well as minds.

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10 thoughts on “What is Nationalism for?

  1. Nobody doubts that the SNP has broad support in Scotland. However, if you knock on a few doors (I have) you will find that it lacks any depth. The hardcore call Labour “Red Tories”, but none can outline an issue where SNP is more redistributive than Labour. Furthermore, they oppose Labour’s alternative to Tory Austerity without having any clue about it or what the SNP propose.

    This situation is rather deprspessing. Nonetheless, there is hope. When Labour policies are outlined, voters are tempted by what is on offer, particularly when they see that no party is more redistributive.

    My feeling, therefore, is that we can turn around the polls by focussing on policy and the SNP’s record on social justice. The former will temp voters and the latter will challenge the trust they have in the SNP.

    1. Which Labour Tory policies oppose those proposed by the Conservative Tories?
      Both have pledged to out austerity the other. Both support Privatisation of all public services both are desperate to go to war. Both want to keep WMDs both want to cut Welfare and benefits. Both are guilty of selling honours for cash questions for cash false expense claims and filling the House of Lords with cronies and made men and women.
      I would dearly love to know where exactly there is any significant difference between them?

    2. “Nobody doubts that the SNP has broad support in Scotland. However, if you knock on a few doors (I have) you will find that it lacks any depth.”

      The polls (all of them) indicate the SNP has great strength and depth.

      “The hardcore call Labour “Red Tories”, but none can outline an issue where SNP is more redistributive than Labour.”

      Let me make it simple, bairns before bombs.

      “Furthermore, they oppose Labour’s alternative to Tory Austerity without having any clue about it or what the SNP propose.”

      Alternative….? You just voted with the Tories for more austerity.

  2. Wow just wow.
    I see nothing but self induced delusion and denial when I read the utterances of the Labour faithful. Reality appears to be a Voldemort with Labour a name which must never be spoken aloud.

    “Are they in favour of more nurses for the NHS? Apparently not, otherwise they would have already done something about it rather than cutting NHS budgets.”

    Labour had control over both Parliaments from 1999 to 2007 and today they tell us they need to deliver 1000 more nurses than any number of nurses the SNP will want to deliver. So why weren’t they delivered between 1999 and 2007?

    “Are they in favour of redistribution?”

    Labour clearly is! They want to continue to redistribute wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest by a promise to deliver greater austerity than the Tories will.

    “Are they in favour of creating opportunities for people left behind in the global economy? If they are culling college places that would be a strange way of going about it.”

    Labours answer to creating opportunities via education is to impose a £9000 per term fee payment on top of the taxes used to already pay for education in Scotland. Is that not a stranger way to do it Evan?

    “surely they are against nuclear weapons? Nope, what they are against is having them in Scotland because superior morality only extends as far as Carlisle.”

    Staggering duplicity! Labour once opposed nuclear proliferation within the UK. Leading Labour stalwarts such as Alistair Darling joined anti nuclear protest groups in support of the removal to Trident now look at Labour today.
    The SNP cannot force WMDs out of the UK they can only gain the authority to force them out of Scotland. What an immoral statement to make.

    “The nationalist “surge”, for want of a better expression, isn’t based on a policy offer – its based on something else entirely. We traditionally fight elections on a policy platform offering a manifesto that we think appeals to people, sometimes to their self interest and sometimes on their sense of fairness and aspiration, but a broad package of what we are for and what we will seek to achieve in government.”

    I don’t ever recall reading within any Labour party manifesto their intent to take us to war illegally nor their intent to give out honours for cash nor their intent to commit expense fraud nor their intent to sell arms illegally to despots nor their intent to allow rendition flights to land and take off in Scotland nor their intent to crash the economy nor their intent to support the Conservative party and adopt their policies and ideology. Do you Evan?

    “In the United States the Republicans have long realised that there is powerful electoral opportunity in abandoning “rational” policy argument in favour of emotional appeals to patriotism – they fly the flag, talk up the American dream and proclaim their love of country and of freedom. They swift-boat their opponents and call them anti American. Sound familiar?”

    Indeed It does. Wasn’t it a particular theme within “Project Fear”? “Better Together” being a slogan coined in order to appeal to a joint nationalism. A single National force. Which is probably why the No campaign appealed to such “Nationalist extremists” as the Orange Lodge, The English Defence League, The Scottish Defence League, The British National Party and of course The United Kingdom Independence Party.
    Better Together indeed.

    “The Ashcroft polling out today suggests that people think they can vote SNP and still have a Labour Government all be it in coalition with the SNP. No matter what we think about that as a desirable or even plausible outcome, in essence what it tells us is that people in Scotland still want the broad policy platform of Labour.”

    Anybody still wanting Labour policy Labour political direction or Labour ideology will inevitably vote Labour they wont vote for anybody else. Nobody is going to vote SNP in order to get “A broad policy platform of Labour” They are going to vote SNP in order to prevent Labour once again ignoring the needs and aspirations of Scotland in order of currying favour with the South East of England.
    Scotland doesn’t want or need another Feeble 50.
    You see where the self delusion and self denial come in yet?

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment Mike – a triumph of invective over analysis which I think rather supports my case.

  4. Happy to take the time to correct misconceptions even those deliberately self imposed.
    Claiming its invective over analysis only goes to cement my claims to Labours need for self denial and deceit. Until you start dealing in and with reality you aint getting your voters back. Not as long as the internet keeps the media in check.

  5. Is that it Evan? Is that your response to Mike? He has taken your article apart and showed exactly why Scotland has had enough of Labour. And you respond with that piece of snide?

    The only ‘case that is supported’ is Labour’s staggering lack of humility, accompanied by hubris ratcheted up to mark 10. Time and time again over the years its multiple failings have been highlighted only to reply ‘SNP bad, Scotland wrong’.

    Go on, give Mike the courtesy of a proper response similar to that which he offered you.

  6. Truly incredible piece Evan ,it seems the denial is firmly in place .
    The only policy that labour seem to support now is anything the SNP in Scotland suggest we are against it.
    Anything the Tories suggestion Westminster We are for it.
    Lest we forget Labour could have had a Rainbow Coalition in Westminster but rather than accept SNP help we let this shower of Tories rule instead.
    Labour has lost my vote and until such times as someone ,anyone in the Party realises that the collapse is the fault of the Labour party ,not the voters ,not the big bad SNP but self I and hundreds of thousands like me will not be coming back anytime soon.

  7. “…beyond a visceral hatred of Scottish Labour its difficult to know what it is they believe in”

    Staggering. Scottish Labour’s current strategy is based entirely on “Don’t vote SNP” but doesn’t expand on why they should actually vote Labour. Have a look at the official Scottish Labour Twitter feed today, nothing but “don’t vote SNP” and no positive case for Labour. In fact Scottish Labour don’t even mention Labour at all.

    So, maybe you should get whoever looks after Labour’s spin machine to get some sort of pro-Labour message across. The “anything but SNP” rhetoric is a turn off.

  8. Some days I feel angry, some days I feel sad. Growing up I was taught that Labour was The Party of The People, the working people’s party, the party of the unions, the left wing party. But as I began to follow politics more closely this picture fell apart.

    Now, I can’t help but feel like Labour exists only for itself and for the status quo. Doggedly preserving a two party system that serves no-one but themselves and the Tories, changing as little as possible in power, stuffing their ranks with rich old eton alumni and a handful of young zealots. Labour has absorbed the attitude of Empire, and we are her conquested subjects, too stupid to appreciate the gift of rule they’ve given us, uppity and ungrateful in our desire for anything else. The message from Labour is clear. “Know Your Place.”

    I may not vote for SNP, but I will never vote for Labour until I’ve seen a shred of evidence that they care.

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