Sunday 5 April 2015

Notes on Nicola Sturgeon

Alex who? I always thought the Tories 'Vote Labour, Get Salmond' schtick was as weak as it was pitiful. It's all very well photo shopping an Ed Milli-band in the former first minister's oversized coat pocket, but when far fewer people south of the border know him and he's no longer calling the shots. Well, after this week, there is no doubt in the electorate's mind who the SNP leader is. For Nicola Sturgeon, this was the moment she passed from the leading personality in Scottish politics to a household name virtually everywhere. This was initially thanks to the leaders' debate last Thursday, and what can only be described as a highly dubious attack in yesterday's Telegraph. Here, for your delectation, are some brief scrappy notes.

1. In last week's debate, Nicola had two seemingly irreconcilable tasks to perform. She had to give no ground to Labour at all and make sure the SNP remained the left of centre party of choice in Scotland. Then there was the trickier feat of assuring English voters that her party was not some toxic entity prepared to rinse Westminster and the taxpayer as a price for staying in the union. In both cases, she succeeded. This election is no stranger to weird phenomena, and this is no exception: she did so by deploying basic class-based social democratic arguments against austerity that ultimately cut against the logic of nationalism. In fact, it was the only gambit capable of appealing equally to Scottish and rUK voters. What also made this approach inevitable is her own politics, which have consistently been on the SNP's left. Going in with austerity, ably assisted by Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett, she was able to pitch her idea of a 'progressive alliance' that would lock the Tories out of power this time and perhaps forever. This attempts to nullify the 'vote SNP, get Tory' messages put about by Labour that will sway some new SNP voters who've previously been Labour-loyal while simultaneously implying an endorsement for a Labour vote pretty much everywhere else. It's risky from an anti-Tory point of view because reasons. Nevertheless, it's out there now. By taking on the mantle of anti-austerity the SNP now appears much more benign than the way the Conservatives would have it.

2. Here's what Westminster and its bubble cannot get its head around - here's a case in point - is that Scottish politics have changed. Masses of people have elbowed aside the tottering structure of Scottish Labour and taken up politics in huge numbers. Imagine how politics would be transformed in England if, virtually over night, there was an influx into Labour as proportional as the one experienced by the SNP - we'd be talking 800,000 extra members and a decisive shift in wider society. Politics in Scotland is no longer a spectator sport, and no amount of finger wagging, smears, and carping on about losing a referendum will change that. Labour can make a comeback, but it's a long, hard slog. It has to adapt to the new situation, not the other way round.

3. Shenanigans! I suppose a back office "intervention" against Nicola Sturgeon was inevitable. Is it plausible? Well, there is a certain logic for some in the SNP preferring a Tory government - as Mark Ferguson points out. However, the bulk of the SNP's new voters and recruits are not for independence at any price. But there are plenty of those, sadly including some in my own party, for whom no price is too high for the union's preservation. Ditto for the machinery of state, as H also notes. It's worth remembering the "leak" originated from the Scottish Office, which was until recently run by the LibDems. Far be it for me to suggest this and a well-known track record for dirty tricks might be more than coincidence. Yet as stings go, whether it's true or not and despite Nicola's consistent political record, the logic will ring true for some and provide Labour marginal succour - at the price of firing up the SNP's support even more.

4. The nightmare question for our betters is if Sturgeon's anti-austerity rhetoric is taken up by many millions of others. If you're worthy of leaks and smears, you and your political movement have arrived.

23:18 Update Oh look, the LibDems have 'fessed up. (H/T Eddie Truman)


Vinyl Miner said...

Yet local authorities are being hammerd by the SNP's prolonged council tax freeze, the Scottish NHS is on the verge of collapse due to the unfunded free prescriptions and care, not funded through taxation but from the general NHS budget. Social Work is on the verge of meltdown, Education is not far behind, they pass enabling laws but refuse to fund them.

Vinyl Miner said...

The SNP support cannot be fired up much more, they ahve reached the point of explosion or implosion.

Maureen Luby said...

Nonsense, Vinyl Miner. The council tax freeze is fully funded by the Scottish Government. The Scottish NHS is in a better place than it ever was under Liebour. To use free prescriptions as the cause of NHS distress shows the level of your ignorance. Free prescriptions for everyone works out to be cheaper than using means testing (due to the admin costs). The level of your ignorance is breathtaking. Best to do at least a modicum of research before spouting off on issues you clearly know nothing about. Better to stay quiet and be thought a fool rather than speak and remove all doubt.

asquith said...

The people I feel most sorry for are Ruth Davidson and Jim Murphy, it's hard to tell which one has been more thoroughly and comprehensively shat on by their Westminster parties.

It is an occasion of great sorrow.

As a unionist I am in favour of whoever can best defeat Sturgeon and friends, be they Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat. I am thus a staunch advocate of the Jo Swinsons and Christinee Jarrdines of this world for this reason.

The only Labourites I, in fact, will endorse are in Scotland and in Bradford, where basically the whole world needs to see the back of that disgrace Galloway, and David "the Jews" Ward.

As I have spent my weekend exercising and eating, both in excess, I cannot be arsed to elaborate on this. But it is the way my thoughts have turned in the past few weeks.

Vinyl Miner said...

The SNP council tax freeze is an obscene attack on the poorer members of society who are suffering most from its effect. It is a massive subsidy directed towards the middle classes and shows the difficulty of universal provision within a low tax society. The Josef Rowntree Foundation has spoken out against the Scottish Governments polices indicating that women and children are the worse affected. In my case the Scottish Government is removing all financial aid I am at present recierving as a kinship carer. Nationalists in Scotland are taking on the same attitude of the far left cults and just listen to their leaders. I research my views well before posting.