It’s not like me at all to be undecided. Most of the time when a political decision comes up I take some time to weigh up the facts and reach a conclusion and support whoever agrees with that. There’s many facets of this election that probably leave good excuses for not having the time to weigh up the facts – but the truth is I can’t balance the pros and cons between my two preferred options: the SNP and Labour.
In the last General Election, I supported the SNP, as did half the country. They were the only Scottish party at the time that seemed to grasp the idea of promoting Scotland’s interests at Westminster and providing a progressive voice in opposition to Tory cuts. Scottish Labour had deserted its supporters, and in the wake of the great political re-engagement of the independence referendum they deserted the party en masse. I lamented back then that in the first General Election I could vote in; I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the party I’d always believed I’d grow up to support.
Two years has made a sizeable difference to the country we live in, and the political circumstances we find ourselves, but there’s plenty that still speaks to me in the same way it did then. Standing up for Scotland is just as important now as it was in 2015, as we face being dragged out of the EU against our will. I’m still a supporter of independence as the best possible solution for our country going forward. Of course, the party that stands a chance of giving Scotland this voice is the SNP.
On the other hand though, independence is still a ways away – only coming after Brexit negotiations at least and even then, it will require a slipping support of the SNP to hold firm so that they can pass Parliamentary motions to set the ball rolling on another referendum. I intend to keep supporting independence in Scottish elections, but the realpolitik of Westminster politics means that’s not going to happen right now. In the meantime, we are being driven to the brink of disaster by this Conservative Government – and the only alternative, even though it’s almost impossible that it’ll happen tomorrow, is a Labour-led Government.
Labour’s manifesto this year is perhaps the closest I’ve ever seen to one that I’d imagine myself. It promotes better public services and does so not by squeezing benefits or cutting spending elsewhere, but asking those that can afford to pay a little extra to do just that. It’s got a plan to make our national resources of energy work for us, and although I don’t agree Brexit is in our country’s best interest: Labour support leaving the EU but on the best possible terms, with single market access and free movement maintained. It’s proposals on tax and spending are perhaps the most radical we’ve seen in decades, and to see a major party promise what it has is truly inspiring to someone with left-wing sympathies.
The SNP’s manifesto is good too, but it won’t be a plan for Government in the UK. They will stand up for Scotland in Brexit talks and they will fight against Tory austerity at every step of the way. Theirs is a party that uniquely understands how UK-wide decisions affect communities in Scotland, and also wants to make sure that more powers are delivered to Holyrood where they can be better used to target the issues faced here. They also have perhaps the best attitude to welfare of the parties standing, aiming to roll-back welfare cuts and improve welfare, rather than just rehabilitating it. It’s a great platform, but it doesn’t go out of its way to show it. And as we’re still in the UK (for the time being), it’s important to fight for what works UK-wide in this election.
So in my dilemma, Labour can lead the next Government while the SNP can’t, but in my constituency the SNP candidate has the best chance of being elected while the Labour candidate most likely can’t.
In the local SNP Ian Blackford we have someone that’s played a reasonably prominent role in Westminster, but hasn’t achieved a lot of real progress for the local community. He did a fantastic job of helping the local Brain family in their fight against deportation, and he’s done a lot of campaigning for WASPI to ensure their right to a fair pension – but in a paradox to their party’s understanding of Westminster effects on communities, very little of this has actually impacted and made a difference to the lives of people living here.
Labour opponent Peter O’ Donnghaile is more of an unknown, but someone whose policies and positions I’ve read and mostly agree with. He’s a Gaelic-speaker, and has been active on Facebook in sharing his policy opinions, which is important in the modern age. It is also dominated by local issues, such as crofting, which is important for an MP to go into Westminster and discuss.
Another spanner in the works of this election, though, is the leadership of both parties. The SNP has been a slick, electioneering machine for 10 years now – and Nicola Sturgeon inspires confidence and exudes professionalism. They are the party of Government because the people of Scotland see them as the most competent party to do so, and they’ve delivered a lot of good things for the country. They’ve been far from perfect, as their records on education, health and some draconian legislation has shown in recent years, but they’ve got the job done.
Labour, however, have been somewhat of a shambles in the last two years – particularly here in Scotland. Sadly, the political climate of the Scottish opposition has not moved on from the referendum and the only clear policies I’ve heard from Scottish Labour have been about not having another independence vote (although Kezia Dugdale might privately hold other opinions or so we were told last night). As someone who voted for independence, that happens to belief in Labour’s policy platform, and believes Labour’s interests would be best served in an independent Scotland, that’s a massive disappointment. If they were to say, as democrats, let’s look at the issue again and decide on our own merits, on new evidence, what’s best and what’s not – then that I could respect. But the way Kezia Dugdale has positioned her party along the same line as Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives as anti-referendum above all else really defies respect. This lack of real leadership and nuance over what is the defining constitutional question in Scotland really shows me that Scottish Labour have not learned the lessons they learned so harshly in May 2015.
On a different level entirely, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been rocky and best and only in the last few weeks has it come together as any sort of credible alternative. The party have been at each other’s throats since Corbyn was elected, and while initial optimism over what his grassroots reach and radical policies could achieve – it became clear quick that this unpolished gem would never be the sparkling beacon of hope that he could be. His performances at PMQs, policy launches and overall demeanour did not strike as a leader in waiting – and with the profound ineptitude of the current Government it was demoralising that the opposition couldn’t lay a glove on them.
However, this campaign has shown Corbyn for what he is – a campaigner. The manifesto he’s put together has been supported by the party and the public, and he’s shown himself to be genuine, knowledgeable and likeable on the campaign trail. He’s now known to the public as a politician that’s starting to look the part, even if they don’t quite see him as Prime Minister yet. It’s a big difference, but his great performance since the start of the election campaign doesn’t paper over the cracks in the façade of a Labour Party still in dire need of renovation. It’s not ready for Government yet in the public’s eyes, but I believe what they’re offering is what the country needs right now.
Putting this all together is tough, and with a hectic schedule in other ways it’s been difficult to sit down and rationalise every fine detail of the election. Voting’s a big deal, and if there’s truly multiple options to choose from then getting it right is important. That’s why the luxury of knowing five years out that an election will take place is one that I think many of us have taken for granted until the last eight weeks.
Looking at the options though, although I don’t think Labour can win their place in Government, or even my constituency, it’s still them I want to vote for tomorrow.
What the party is standing for is exactly the sort of platform that I want my Government to take forward: looking after the many, not the few; improving our public services; making the most of the resources we have; and being an open and tolerant towards our citizens and the rest of the world too.
While the SNP have much the same goals in this regard, I think Labour’s vision is more powerful. The simple truth is, as well, that the 9-year-old that stayed up late to watch Labour’s 2005 General Election win would probably be dismayed that I’d missed this opportunity to do vote for the only UK-wide party that’s been able to make a positive, progressive difference in the last fifty years or more.
In an ideal world, the first past the post system wouldn’t exist and I could preferentially rank my candidates. This would mean I could give support to a number of parties and avoid having a candidate I don’t like taking advantage of that split.
If that were my option I’d vote for Labour first, the SNP second and then Something New third (check my constituency review for more on them).
And it’s that way of thinking that finally made my decision to vote Labour tomorrow that bit easier.
If all things were equal and any candidate and party I could vote for had a chance of winning my constituency and control of Downing Street, it’d be Labour I voted for. Labour’s policies are good, and even if I disagree with its leadership’s methods on both the UK and Scottish levels – they are the party that would make the most positive impact on my life and those of millions across the country if they were elected.
No matter who you vote for tomorrow, agree with me or not, please make sure you vote though. Lots of important decisions will be made in the next five years (if we don’t have another snap election before then), so make sure that your voice is heard at the ballot box tomorrow.
You can check out my constituency guide for more info on the candidates standing here in Ross, Skye and Lochaber featuring brief bios and links to their leaflets and manifestos too to help make your decision.