Thoughts on the SNP Conference 117


I am campaigning for the SNP in this general election. As I am still locked away finishing my book for 95% of my waking moments, that campaigning has been desultory so far, but will shortly be more lively. I am vain enough to think that my talents stretch beyond canvassing and delivering leaflets, but as the SNP show no desire to ask me to do anything else, that is what I shall be doing.

I did however emerge from my cocoon at the weekend to attend the SNP conference. Here are some very brief thoughts.

Firstly, it was great to be at the conference speech of the leader of a mainstream party, in which she pledged to no replacement for Trident, no more benefit cuts and the abolition of the House of Lords. The last got the biggest cheer of the whole Conference. I was wondering just how many people in England would like the chance to vote for the SNP.

I had a counterbalancing doubt at the back of my mind about this enthusiasm for – as Nicola Sturgeon put it – “Improving” the UK. I don’t want to improve the Union, I want to end it. Power has a fatal attraction to politicians, and I think I detected that exercising power in the United Kingdom is today gleaming brighter in the dreams of some professional SNP politicians than is independence for Scotland.

The other thing I did not like was the machine politics and management of it all. The entire first day there was not a motion that was passed other than by acclaim, and there was not a single speech against anything, though there were a couple of attempts at referral back. The only item permitted on to the conference agenda, in closed session on day 2, that was in the least likely to cause controversy was the adoption of all women shortlists – and the only reason that was on the agenda was that the leader made it abundantly plain she wanted it. I incline to the view that as a short term measure it is justified, but I abstained because I did not like what I saw of the way it was managed.

It was the only debate the leader sat through, and it was very plain she was watching carefully how people were voting. There was a definite claque of paid party apparatchiks and organised feminists occupying front centre of the hall. There was a strong suspicion, voiced by Christine Graham, that deliberately weak and left field speakers had been chosen against women shortlists. And for the vote, party functionaries including Angus Robertson and Ian McCann stood at the side of the hall very ostensibly noting who voted which way and making sure that the payroll vote performed. I was right next to where Angus Robertson stood as he did this. He moved into position just before the vote, made it very obvious indeed what he was doing, and left immediately after. I found myself regarding the prospect of a whole raft of new MPs, their research assistants and secretaries providing 200 more payroll votes, as depressing.

Coming back to the plus side, I was delighted by the content of many of the resolutions passed, including on the right to return of the Chagos islanders and the inequity of financial tests used by the Home Office to keep immigrant families apart. I left pretty convinced that if we can get the abolition of the monarchy, leaving NATO, and an independent Scotland abandoning the pound sterling onto the agenda, we will pass them. But how to get past the agenda gatekeepers? The party is completely sewn up.

I had intended to speak against the new standing orders for Westminster MPs, which contain eleven draconian clauses on whipping and discipline, as against three more liberal ones in the old standing orders. I confess I did not get to speak because the item was called at 9.05 on Sunday morning, on the morning the clocks went forward, and I was commuting from Edinburgh. The spirit was willing but the flesh is pretty knackered.


117 thoughts on “Thoughts on the SNP Conference

1 2 3 4
  • fred

    “but is not affiliated or connected in any way to the SNP”

    In the same way the IRA wasn’t connected to Sinn Fein.

  • Komodo

    I don’t recall a party saying before the election they would prop up the party which came second and keep out the party which got most votes.

    Neither do I. What I do remember is this:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/03/exclusive-alex-salmond-says-snp-would-vote-down-tories-queen-s-speech

    Spin it how you like, that’s not the same thing.

    AFAIK in Britain it’s the party with most votes who forms the government and for a minority party to say they would override that is hardly democratic.

    No, it’s the party with a majority of seats, which may have to include other parties if it can’t make an overall majority. Hence the last coalition shambles. If Clegg had thrown in his lot with Labour, there would have been a different shambles. The Tories needed a coalition to keep them clear of Lib+ Lab + all the others. For a minority party to say it will or will not play with the big boys is entirely up to the minority party.

    Yet they con Labour supporters into voting SNP to keep the Conservatives out of power.

    I think we all know why former Scottish Labour supporters are voting SNP, Fred. And it’s not that. It’s the entirely correct perception that UK plc under the Unionist parties is run by, on behalf of, and to the sole benefit of the kleptocracy in the Southeast of England.

    However, in the light of what you suggest, kindly note the Labour story – “voting for the SNP will let the Tories in”, the Conservative story: “voting for the SNP will let Labour in”, and the Liberal story: “vote tactically to keep the SNP out.”

    Boo bloody hoo. I’m gutted, gutted, I tell you, at the low moral tone of politicians. But it’s what they do….all of them.

  • Komodo

    “but is not affiliated or connected in any way to the SNP”

    In the same way the IRA wasn’t connected to Sinn Fein.

    Prove it. Just for once, back up your allegation.

  • Macky

    Clark; “Node, yep, Fred is for Westminster what Macky and John Goss are for the Kremlin:”

    I would say grow up Clark, but I don’t think you will ever be capable of acting like a grown-up.

  • fred

    ” If Clegg had thrown in his lot with Labour, there would have been a different shambles.”

    If Clegg had thrown his lot in with Labour the Conservatives would have formed a government then called another election after a motion of no confidence. Labour wouldn’t have been able to form a government with the LibDems.

  • Villager

    “The spirit was willing but the flesh is pretty knackered.”

    Listen to the flesh, it’s telling you something.

    The so-called ‘spirit’ is a fusion of things and so can be very con-fusing. It contains essentially 3 elements:
    human consciousness (which in itself is very murky), ‘thought’ and its constructs, and insight.

    When the flesh is knackered, so must be the material-physical brain, denying access to insight. Thought says ‘carry on’, resulting in conflict. So you become part of the conflict (in the world), not something intelligent, apart from it.

    This is the anatomy of ‘conflict’ seen under a microscope. But then Craig, you are a fighter. Though I don’t know if you are making a difference from inside the arena. Strategic inflection point?

  • fred

    “Prove it. Just for once, back up your allegation.”

    Prove that 17,000 people didn’t all get up one morning and each independently suddenly decide to join the SNP?

  • craig Post author

    Villager,

    No, not making any difference at present, despite best efforts. Comprehensively shut out. It will take some time to work out how to do that.

  • Villager

    Thanks and understand Craig.

    I would guess you are the kind of person that would give 100% to something if your heart is in it. If these people are not ready for it, it’s their loss?

    I think you’re too intelligent and clever, but not by the proverbial half, to be a part of all this manipulation. I bet you could be the life and soul of a party, but not a political party. If I may say so, let go, totally, and you’ll be surprised what comes your way. Be your own man, Sir! And good luck!

  • John Goss

    Clark yesterday.

    “People HERE need to start asking; “What can we agree upon?”

    Then work outwards from there.”

    Clark today.

    “Node, yep, Fred is for Westminster what Macky and John Goss are for the Kremlin:”

  • Komodo

    Labour wouldn’t have been able to form a government with the LibDems.

    Which is why Brown was wooing the LibDems so assiduously, no doubt. There were some SNP MP’s as well. With them there would have been a defensible majority on anything looking like a common policy. BTW, why haven’t we heard a whimper out of you during the five years you were ‘run by’ a minority party, the Libs? Be honest, if that is even an applicable word to your case. Stick to your virulent loathing of independence. You can’t squeak with moral indignation at the SNP proposing to support Labour, while ignoring the ConLib stitchup. Really. You can’t.

    Prove that 17,000 people didn’t all get up one morning and each independently suddenly decide to join the SNP?

    No, Fred. Prove that the Rev. Campbell is connected to the SNP and that he is lying when he says he isn’t. Which is what you suggested. The timing and nature of the mass conversion is not what was under discussion.

  • John Goss

    While the SNP is fighting elections under the yoke of Westminster because it lost a referendum vote, eastern Ukraine is suffering the outreaches of Kiev dictatorial policy by having anything favourable to Russia banned from its television screens. Since coming to power by other means than an election those in Kiev have commandeered all the media, tried to impose a ban on speaking Russian, waged war on its own people, and brought the country to its knees. What is its priority? Read for yourself.

    http://sputniknews.com/europe/20150331/1020250040.html

  • jake

    Craig @12.44 said
    “It will take some time to work out how to do that”.
    It’ll take more than just some time to work how, it’ll also take some time for your tactics to bear fruit.

    There are ways in which you can make sure your voice is heard and translated into action, just as there are ways in which you can be a voice in the wilderness.
    Just remember that it is one of , if not THE, most democratically run party out there. Paradoxically, it’s that which makes party management both necessary and at times ( particularly before an election) seemingly formidable, but it is a party and you have a voice and a vote ( as do others, remember …if you see where I’m going).

  • Republicofscotland

    I certainly don’t agree will every SNP policy,and there’s no such thing as a utopian government,but something has to change with regards to UK politics.

    The SNP may not get to form a loose coalition with Labour,but if the polls remain the same during the run up to the election,then a change will occur,in Scotland at the very least.

    In days gone by Labour could’ve put a chimpanzee,with a red rosette up for re-election in Glasgow’s east end and they would’ve won with plenty of votes to spare.

    Those days look to becoming to an end,with likes of Margaret Curran,(whom east end residents call Kodak,because she only appears when there’s a camera present)likely to lose her seat.

    Infact many former Labour voters have,abandoned Labour,and decided to vote SNP,not because they support nationalism,but because they see the SNP as a more socially just,and progressive party, than Labour.

    Who could blames those folk,Labour,has changed significantly,voting to cut welfare drastically,renew Trident,and in recent years,dragging the UK into illegal wars,not to mention agreeing fervently with the Tories,during the Scottish referendum.

    The SNP,do run a tight ship,and with over 102.000 members there’s bound to be more dissent,which I welcome,as long as its constructive.

  • Macky

    Independence for Scotland requires democracy and self-determination; yet

    “I have spent much of the weekend wheezing with helpless mirth at the efforts of members of my trade to disapprove of two things they’ve spent their lives applauding – democracy and self-determination. They have to do this because on this occasion they operate in favor of Russia, a country on which we must all (for some reason) look down with cold sneers on our faces.”

    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2014/03/why-dont-we-want-democracy-and-self-determination-for-crimea.html

  • Republicofscotland

    I see the messiah,Gordon Brown gave a speech,in a strictly die-hard Labour,closed shop,in Glasgow’s east end.

    Brown,who’s a powerless backbencher on the verge,of retirement is promising,Scots a further £800 million pounds through various taxes,that he can’t enforce.

    The minature soirée,was notable due to absence of another promise you the earth,figure,Jim Murphy,whose likability rating,in constantly in the red.

    Brown who’ll sail off into the sunset,and continue his filthy lucre rich charity work,is for the final time, being asked,”once more unto the breach” by Labour north of the border,in a desperate attempt,to stem the flood.

    They’ll fail miserably,a fate they truly deserve.

  • Republicofscotland

    With regards to change at Westminster,in my opinion, it all boils down to one question,which is.

    Are Labour prepared to form a government,in a hung parliament if they’re not the largest party?

    If not,then it could well be a rerun of what we have now,or even a Tory/LibDem/UKIP coalition,if the seats are required.

    Can Miliband swallow his pride,and take the bull by the horns,and form a government,to pass the 323 seat barrier,we’ll just have wait and see.

  • fred

    “No it’s not Fred.
    Not in the UK, not in this “democracy”.
    It’s not even necessarily the Party with the most seats…strange though that may seem.

    I meant of course the most votes in parliament.

    The last time the party without most seats formed a government was 1923., it lasted 10 months.

  • Komodo

    Labour has changed significantly…

    You’re not joking. Reminder of 1995 – (includes some pulverised pledges)

    http://www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=201

    I enjoyed:

    A Labour government will be part of the European Social Chapter. Part-time employees will no longer be treated as second class citizens. There will be an end to zero-hours contracts. Young people will be properly protected against under age working and joining a trade union will be a matter of free choice, but where that choice is exercised, there will be a right to representation and, where the majority want it, a right to union recognition.

    but it’s fun picking out the other bits that didn’t quite mean what you thought at the time, too.

  • lysias

    Rule by representatives chosen by lot (a la ancient Athens) would, by the laws of statistics, automatically represent every segment of the population, however classified, in proportion to its share of the population.

  • nevermind

    why would the SNP not publicise its need to act as ‘proportionally elected representatives here in England, it can only be of benefit?

    Good to hear the book is making progress, I hope you keep the 180.000 cut out words so you can use it sometime in future. This GE will be my least active ever and I’m looking forward to the mayhem on May 7th. the follow up speed dating engrossment everyone will call coalition building and a warm month of May to enjoy.

  • Winkletoe

    …in which she pledged to no replacement for Trident, no more benefit cuts and the abolition of the House of Lords. The last got the biggest cheer of the whole Conference…

    That abolition of the HoL should get a louder holler than abolition of Trident displays a sad perspective about the greater good.

    While an unelected upper chamber consisting of mostly bought fossils is less desirable than some sort of more demotic structure, it is nevertheless also true that on more than one occasion (lots, as a matter of fact) our collective bacon has been saved only by the resistance of some of those fossils’ to devious, rushed or simply appallingly oppressive bills approved by the (democratically elected) venals in the lower chamber. What good has Trident ever provided?

  • jake

    Fred @2.52 said:

    “The last time the party without most seats formed a government was 1923., it lasted 10 months”

    No it wasn’t…it was 1951.

    Not that it really matters…the point is can happen, has happened and might well happen again; it’s the way our parliamentary system works.
    You can have a view on whether it’s a good system or a bad system but you can’t just go about denying the reality of it.

  • Kempe

    ” While an unelected upper chamber consisting of mostly bought fossils is less desirable than some sort of more demotic structure, it is nevertheless also true that on more than one occasion (lots, as a matter of fact) our collective bacon has been saved only by the resistance of some of those fossils’ to devious, rushed or simply appallingly oppressive bills approved by the (democratically elected) venals in the lower chamber. ”

    On 18 occasions during the debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill alone.

    That would suggest we need a second chamber so what does Mary-Doll propose to replace it with? It’s interesting the way the SNP are now proposing to reform institutions they once wanted nothing to do with. I wonder if anybody has yet explained to them that they don’t have a mandate south of the border?

  • lysias

    After the 1951 election, it was the Tories that had the most seats in Parliament (321 versus 295 Labour). What Labour had won was the popular vote (48.8% versus 48.0% for the Tories).

  • lysias

    Note that, after the first election of 1974, the Tories got more popular votes than Labour, and Labour got a few more seats in Westminster, although neither party had a majority, either in Westminster or of the popular vote. Heath tried to piece together a coalition to stay in power, but he failed, so that Wilson returned to power, but in a very shaky position in that hung Parliament. The second election of 1974, which gave Labour a substantial plurality in the popular vote, and a very slim majority in the House of Commons, quickly followed.

  • Phil

    Craig

    Great post. A too rare insight. But again I see an inexplicable gulf between what you describe and what you conclude.

    I agree, as I commented last week, this talk of “improving the UK” reaks of more backtracking. And yes, identity politics are used in the process of managing dissent.

    You describe very well the machinations of corruption, the hijacking of democracy, yet still hope this time will be different. It won’t. There is no precendent for your success. The party is already managed and the policies are changing.

    Leafleting for the SNP is effort wasted propping up a broken system.

  • fred

    “That would suggest we need a second chamber so what does Mary-Doll propose to replace it with? It’s interesting the way the SNP are now proposing to reform institutions they once wanted nothing to do with. I wonder if anybody has yet explained to them that they don’t have a mandate south of the border?”

    And most worrying that a Nationalist government which advocates a national identity database, government appointed guardian for every child and arming of the police wants to remove the safeguards of a second chamber.

1 2 3 4

Comments are closed.