Wednesday, May 04, 2011

AV and SNP

So it's election time, which calls for a bit more than the 140-character limit that Twitter offers. Tomorrow is polling day, with 2 important decisions to be made: who will form the next Scottish government, and do we want to change the voting system?

I'll take the second, easier, one first. If I hadn't made my mind up very early on, the "no" campaign would certainly have swung me towards voting "yes". The campaign mounted has, I am sad to say, seen the high-profile debut of American "dog whistle" politics founded upon lies and misguided personal attacks. The torrent of bullshit is too much to discuss, but the volume at which they are saying it (and the number of leaflets delivered) have clearly won over a general public open to the type of fear-mongering that they have pedalled. Christ, imagine what a referendum on the EU/Euro would be like? That they are telling lies does not matter; that they are scary seems to have been enough to virtually ensure a "no" vote. This is a huge shame, as the current referendum will surely be the only time in our lifetime that a true change to our voting system is on the table: yes, it's only a step towards the "right" way (full PR), but since when do starving people turn down snacks because they are not full meals? The centre-right faction of Labour (shame on you, Blunkett and Prescott) and the centre-to-extreme right of the Conservatives, BNP et al have mounted a pitiful, swaggering campaign funded by people who don't have our best interests at heart. It saddens me that this is how the movement for electoral change ends for our generation.

It also saddens me that my natural political party, the Liberal Democrats, has enabled the current coalition government, which is having its path steered by a Tory party (and leader) that is MUCH more right-wing and idealogical than the press and public are prepared to admit. I did not vote for this; centrist politics maybe, coalition sure, but not this one. A minority coalition with Labour (that would not have been right nor washed with the general public) or a centre-left opposition against a minority Conservative government are both vastly preferable to this. The Lib Dems have let me down, big-time, and I will be withholding my vote for the foreseeable future. For the first time in my life, I am changing my allegiance, to either Labour or the SNP. On a UK-scale, I feel closer to Labour; this is, however, a Scottish election, which makes things easier. Labour have been poor in Scotland of late, and I have also come to like Alex Salmond (and, believe it or not, Nicola Sturgeon) over recent years. Their style of, and actions in, government have impressed me. The legislation has been crowd-pleasing in all the right areas, centre-left, and the idealogical battles have been well-chosen (i.e. basically right) and have made their victorious opponents look petty and smug when the government has been defeated. I'm willing to trust them now, and will cast my vote for the SNP in the hope that they secure (and increase) a majority to continue their progressive moves.

And then what? Scotland will be left-of-centre, with PR, a world centre of alternative and fossil energy, and good at making alcohol. This appeals to me a lot more than the way that our current UK government is taking us. Keep it up, SNP, and I will be prepared to hear your independence arguments.