I remember writing a piece last year on here about the European elections and explaining why I’d vote SNP then but wouldn’t call myself an SNP supporter. I couldn’t see myself tying down to their political vision at the time, even though I was becoming more and more enamoured with the idea of independence. And in terms of being a a supporter of the party nothing has changed. What I would never have imagined though was the turn of events between then and now that would mean I’d be saying exactly the same thing at this General Election.
Now I’m hardly the only one that has said this in the last few weeks but as far as I can remember being interested in politics, and that’s been a while, I’ve always been pro-Labour. The idea of a party that puts the working people first and gives everyone a chance to succeed is exactly what chimes with my upbringing and my own personal views. I believe in a Government that is there to help those that need it; and that’s what Labour have always tried to do while in power. Being 16 at the 2010 General Election and 17 at the 2011 Holyrood election I didn’t have a chance to vote for what I considered my party, and considering how badly things went for them in both elections I felt almost guilty that I didn’t play my part. Here’s a tweet from me at the time:
#imvotinglabour – when i can vote that is – in the meantime, would you please do it for me?
— Steven Kellow (@StevenKellow) May 3, 2010
But in the intervening period the party I once aspired to help has completely abandoned the principles that drew me to them.
Scottish Labour has utterly failed to tap into the political climate that’s brewed over the last few years. Scotland craves progressive politics in a way that it never has before, and surely to goodness the Labour party should be the ones that would take full ownership of that and thrive? No. Labour have ditched the social equality core of their message that would see them coast home yet again in favour of a campaign based on attacking the SNP and stoking up fear of another independence referendum (which many Scots actually want). Instead of championing Scotland’s new-found enthusiasm for ending austerity, getting rid of Trident and bolstering Scotland’s own power within the UK it’s focussed on attacking the only party that seems to be offering such policies. They won’t wax lyrical about their plans for the economy because they know they are but a vaguely more palatable version of what the Tories and the Lib Dems have served up cold over the last five years. Many Labour supporters will support the party through thick and thin, even now, but many more have decided that they should stay true to the ideals that they believed underpinned the Labour movement – and they will be voting SNP with me. The only thing Labour seem to have grasped is the third rail that will send them to their demise tomorrow night.
Jim Murphy has had a catastrophic time at the helm of Scottish Labour. Despite his fabled vote-winning skills that saw him catapulted to the top of the bill last December he has ran a weak, uninspired campaign that has been running the same negative lines since day one. His appeals to reason of “a vote for the SNP is a vote for a Conservative Government” have been dismissed time and again by commentators, journalists and the Scottish people. Murphy has no connection with the public in the way his opponent Nicola Sturgeon does.
Murphy talks to crowds of tens of activists while Sturgeon had hundreds if not thousands on Buchanan Street two weeks ago. What was needed from Joanne Lamont’s successor was a conciliatory politician that would win back Yes-voting Labour supporters and shore up support in Scotland enough to tip Labour over the line along with gains made in England. Jim Murphy has been a Blairite bulldog that has gone at the throats of the SNP and missed entirely. His party are going to suffer an electoral wipe-out and he may even lose his own seat in the process. My only hope is that the massive clear-out will leave room for new leadership and a new direction for the party that will make them a viable choice for the people of Scotland once more, because as things stand right now they’re far from it.
The Conservatives are an option still too distant from me to consider voting for. While I must concede that they have done well to boost the economy and start the painful process of cutting the enormous national debt, the way in which they have done it is by hitting the people who were just getting back on their feet. That’s no way of building a fair society and it’s no way of winning votes as it happens either. If the Scottish party did not have the baggage of the mothership down in London the party could well have stormed to second place in this election as it happens, as at least in Scottish leader Ruth Davidson they have a personality worthy of votes, if not the policies.
The Lib Dems are becoming an irrelevance, and while their traditional centre-ground approach may still hold some value, the lack of vision and lack of appeal that their time in office has shown will take decades to recover from. Scottish leader Willie Rennie has held the SNP to account on issues of civil liberties but otherwise he inspires no excitement and no interest in where his party are going. Nick Clegg sold out on one of the central tenets of his party when he re-introduced tuition fees with the Conservatives and failed to secure the real change that the Lib Dems promised they would deliver as a party of Government. The fact that he himself may even lose his seat is proof enough that they aren’t a party that is going anywhere and not worthy of a vote.
The Scottish Greens did a great job during the referendum of setting themselves out as an alternative voice in the Yes movement and a party that can offer a real change to the way the country is governed. The problem for them though is that they have been completely overshadowed by the SNP and while what they offer for the country in the way of environmental progress and social democracy is more radical than what the SNP are proposing they simply aren’t well-placed enough to be able to carry it out. Their manifesto is a wish list of environmentally-friendly left policies, and while it speaks sense in that regard it isn’t a sensible or viable programme for governing the 5th largest economy in the world. The Greens will likely do well in the 2016 Holyrood elections, and as a voice in a potential coalition there they would bring a breath of fresh air, but they simply aren’t strong enough in a rounded vision to be voted into Westminster (and they aren’t standing in my constituency so there’s that too!)
So, in Scotland, with Labour being in utter disarray, the Conservatives being themselves, the Liberal Democrats being rudderless and the Greens being too narrowly-focussed – there is only really one option for me on the ballot tomorrow = the SNP.
The SNP are far from perfect. Here is a laundry list of some of their authoritarian policies that are even more old-fashioned and un-progressive than those of the parties the oppose: Their policy of arming patrol police officers across Scotland for routine day-to-day police work is and was an absolute shambles that threatened the safety of the public as well as their civil liberties. The new policy of appointing a ‘named person’ for every child in Scotland with authority to report any suspicions to police threatens to undermine parents’ role in raising their children. Their on-hold attempt to remove corroboration from the criminal justice process (which currently means that any allegation of crime needs to be backed up by two sources) is dangerous and could lead to innocent people going to jail. The SNP are also still trying to bring about minimum pricing for alcohol which will financially hurt some the most vulnerable people in the nation rather than tackle the problems that have made them so. I’m not a staunch libertarian by any means, but these are a worrying set of policies that take state intervention into modern life way too far. This isn’t the state being there to help, this is the state barging in and doing what it thinks helps whether that does or not. And I certainly worry about the fact that the SNP being absolutely unchallenged could lead to them doing more in the way of doing as they please in Government.
But what the SNP have always done, and why I and many other Scots are opting for them in this election, is that they stand up for what they believe to be Scotland’s best interests. Scotland voted No to independence last September and as disappointing as that was it gave us a chance to seek real change within the UK that could benefit us more than Westminster politics ever could before. The Smith Commission proposals for more powers for Scotland were tame and diluted, and from the prospect of having complete and consequential control over our own destiny in September we went to being offered control of only 30% of our tax and 15% of our welfare spending more than we had already. Any optimism about Westminster coming good for us to save their own hides had gone at that point, and it was time again for Scots to look for an opportunity to bring home the best for ourselves – and that’s when the SNP surge really began.
Having a strong voice for Scotland in the next parliament is essential to make sure that the promises of the referendum are kept and that the thousands of people suffering from the austerity measures of the last Government are looked after properly. Welfare and inequality were two of the driving forces behind people voting Yes in the referendum, and while the constitutional question has gone for now it’s time to solve these problems as best we can within the UK –and the SNP is the only party, for me, that is offering a solution.
I’m really excited to be able to take part in my first General Election. I’ve sat up for some the results before, even though they were on a school night and I never could make it past 2 or 3 in the morning, but this time I’ll be able to do it knowing I’ve been one of the millions to have put my opinions across. But while it used to be Labour I looked out for on the vidiprinter it’s now going to be “SNP Gain” I’ll be most interested in. I’ll hardly be the only one doing that either.