With the UK general election only a few days away, I just wanted to thank the SNP.
You see, they make elections so easy for me. Since the referendum in 2014 I have adopted one abiding principle in council, Holyrood and general elections – which mainstream pro-British party is most likely to defeat them in the constituency and ward where I stay?
I won’t pretend it doesn’t involve some gritting of teeth and element of calculation as the council-provided pencil descends on the ballot paper. Gritting of teeth because it sometimes means I’m voting for a party whose political philosophy or proposed policies in government I don’t agree with. Element of calculation because I always need to work out which party is most likely to defeat the SNP and I don’t always get it right.
I expect that tactic is the sort of thing that led a nationalist to label me online once as an ‘ultra Britnat fanatic.’
In truth the label means no more than the fact that I’m committed to maintaining the union between Scotland and the other countries of the United Kingdom. I might as well call someone an ‘ultra Scotnat fanatic’ whose abiding principle in politics is independence/separation.
One of the few things I have in common with nationalists is that the constitutional question is, for both of us, existential. It over-rides most other issues, as it clearly did for this woman last autumn (The National, 18 September 2016):
I say most other issues in relation to myself because I’m sometimes assailed by nationalists with the ‘What if?’ argument, something I think the lawyers call reducto ad absurdum – ‘Ah, but what if the Tories were going to be in power for ever … what if you only had the BNP to vote for?’ and so on. I might as well argue against the SNP on the basis that they’ll be in power for ever or they might offer a cabinet post to one of the illustrious members of the Scottish Resistance. It ain’t gonna happen.
The fallacy of the ‘What if?’ argument also applies for me to the economic and social case made for independence – that things will inevitably get worse for Britain and better for Scotland if we were free of the union. I’ve seen little to convince me of that claim. It was one of the major reasons No voters didn’t believe in the SNP’s case in 2014. I await with interest but no great expectations the much-delayed report of the SNP’s ‘Growth Commission’ which is supposed to remedy the deficiencies of that case. Most people saw through the old one and I suspect most people, including those whose views might go either way, will see through whatever emerges from that exercise. I guess that’s all a way of saying that if you’re a floating voter don’t be taken in by SNP promises of jam tomorrow – unless you’re happy to have your ‘freedom’ with a large dose of poverty.
So for me at least, it’s get out there on Thursday and put my cross against … well, that’s between me, the ballot box, and my best guess at who might defeat the SNP where I stay.
My criteria for a successful general election in Scotland will be three-fold – the fall in the number of seats the SNP get (of course it will still be large but I’ll eat my hat if they don’t at least lose some); the percentage of votes they get; and the overall turnout (if it falls, that’ll probably suggest all that post-indyref enthusiasm for politics by people who never engaged previously is on the wane). Here’s what happened with those measures in our last two elections:
* Holyrood 2016 (1) % Votes = percentage of first preference votes (2) N/A = Not applicable because system of allocating seats is not comparable
You’ll spot an SNP decline in percentage of votes won between 2015 and 2016. I’m expecting a further fall on Thursday and will post an updated table once we know the general election result.
Oh, and in case any passing nationalists are tempted to ask me ‘Is there nothing that would tempt you to vote SNP?’ Yes, there is. Drop the demand for independence and reconcile yourselves to becoming a party committed to the best government of Scotland within the UK. But if that happens, I’ll be eating a second hat. I think I’m safe.