I’ve been a bit busy recently; a lot of walking, a lot of chatting, carrying heavy loads and worrying – especially the worrying. These things happen, you get caught up in some bizarre plan to win a majority at Holyrood, you know, the thing that’s impossible because the system was set up in a way that made it impossible in the same way that devolution will kill nationalism stone dead.
The SNP ran a fantastic campaign with excellent candidates and tremendous energy – in stark contrast to our opponents – and our campaign was well- managed and never looked like jumping the rails, it was always heading in the right direction. We faced a barrage of Labour mailshots, telephone calls and ‘high profile’ visits and we held them off. It felt, sometimes, like Thermopylae – except our cause was never defence of what we had but the advancement of the nation.
We did well, really well, and I find myself left with but one regret: While we were watching seat after seat across the country fall to Scotland’s Party and eight of the nine seats in the Lothians come home to the SNP Shirley-Anne Somerville was losing out because we’d done so fantastically well and yet not quite well enough. She narrowly missed unseating Malcolm Chisholm in Edinburgh Northern and Leith and we were just a little too far out on the additional member vote to have her elected from the list. Shirley-Anne was a fantastic MSP, she’s intelligent, talented, witty, hard-working and able and she’ll be a loss to Parliament. I was impressed by the grace with which Malcolm Chisholm praised her during his victory speech, saying that he hoped she would get returned as an additional member although he didn’t hold out much hope as a result of our excellent constituency performance and he was proven correct. Shirley-Anne is, quite clearly, an excellent politician and I hope she comes back in the future. I wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her return to the political fray when she’s ready.
Meanwhile, the recriminations in other parties have started, including the resignations of the leaders of the three opposition groups. Labour’s Iain Gray has promised to conduct a review of his party’s organisation and election campaign while his MSPs have variously described the campaign as inept, complacent, misdirected and sloppy, and we’ve now learned that the review is actually the creation of Milliband and that he’s determined that Labour’s MPs will be running their campaigns in the future but they’ve all missed the point. It wasn’t the dash into a sandwich shop that lost Labour this election, nor was it the quality of the election material distributed (they need new designers – some who known something about design would be handy), it wasn’t that there wasn’t a message nor that they just couldn’t engage with the electorate. Labour’s problem is that they have nothing to say anymore because they don’t believe in anything any more. Labour sold its soul some time ago and it spent so long in the pursuit of power that its members have forgotten why they sought it in the first place. There is no sense from Labour that it seeks power to do good, to bring justice or prosperity or equality to the country, the sense is that it seeks power to be in office. There was no rhyme nor reason to their campaign because there was no principle underpinning it. There was no purpose to their campaign because they themselves have no purpose, no belief. It wasn’t that their ‘carry a knife, go to jail’ campaign was guff and based on poor founds (it was), it was that it had no substance it looked exactly like what it was – a naked bid for a knee-jerk vote. Labour’s attacks on the SNP and on independence failed to hit any target because there is no backbone to the Labour party as much as because the attacks were bizarre and ill-targeted.
Their campaign fell flat on its nose because there is no purpose to their party. The same applied to the Lib Dem campaign. Strange warnings of doom echoed around Tavish Towers during the campaign – “cutting the number of police forces would cut the number of police officers” was particularly daft – and, like Labour’s campaign, not believed because there was no substance left to their party. The Conservatives likewise failed to rumble because they had nothing to offer. A few soundbites and good gags aren’t enough. The Greens, well, Patrick took them off away from their core beliefs and into the swamp more commonly associated with the SSP and the like – a decision that I’m sure cost them votes across the country.
The lesson for all politicians is that you have to stand by your core values – and first you have to know what they are. I truly have no idea why anybody would wade into politics without having a belief that drove them in there, this can’t be a pleasant game to be in if you’re just here for the scenery, but it appears that many people have made that conscious decision. My pompous homily comes to an end here with the observation that the election campaign of a political party without a core purpose is like a bell without a clapper – though the crown be sound and the waist be firm it can swing endlessly and will not chime.
Mind how you go!