The definition of an optimist is someone who believes that this is the best of all possible worlds. The definition of a pessimist is someone who fears the optimist is correct.
Perspective then is a powerful tool. It was sadly lacking last Friday morning as exhausted by weeping and trembling, I found myself wandering the streets of Edinburgh once again, without an ideological roof over my head.
Like many others, I wondered what next and it seemed the answer appeared no sooner than I had begged the question. 45 groups emerged almost simultaneously from the fog of hard fought defeat. Then the 45plus. The WeAreTheFortyFive…
I have to admit to being astonished by the seemingly boundless resolve of those who had already picked up the saltire from the fallen and with all the fire of youth, threw themselves on once more. But there is a danger in cobbling something together as a reaction to events as the Vow pledged days before polling illustrated.
There ought to be time for reflection. Opportunity to digest the ramifications of the vote. Time to learn. So often politics is reactionary. Particularly for leaders who are consigned to reacting as events unfold. For those of us on the Yes side, who remain the opposition – defeated but unbowed – we have the leisure of being able to set our own agenda and bring that to those in power. It is one of the great benefits of opposition.
The 45’s extempore bandwagon was then, simply a different kind of grief. An expression of disappointment. A wild, swinging arm toward the 55 who had deprived us of that which we desired most.
We are more canny than that, surely?
Natural though it may be given what was lost, there remains a miasma of elitism about reminding people of how ‘right we were’. Whether initially intentional or not, it is certainly implied if not trumpeted by the 45 and serves no immediate purpose that I can see other than to express anger toward those who voted No and to divide us where no division ought to be.
The truth is that there are many among the 55 who already regret their decision – I know one No voter wept as she placed her X – or who voted to the retain the union because they held that the Vow meant at least as much as the purchase price of the paper it was written on. That owes as much to a failure in message, as an absence of conscience.
I accept that there were those who opted for self-interest over self-determination but they are the minority, like the knuckle dragging fuckwits who desecrated George Square with their presence last Friday night. For the most part, people voted because they were persuaded by an argument. The SNP lost the argument.
There were of course, mitigating circumstances. It is difficult to sell a vision to the blind and so the campaign appeared at times to be less of a conversation, more of a Metropolitan monologue. But when the SNP did speak, there was a distinct lack of cohesion and a reluctance to play the opposition that was in front of them. As this blog has stated time and again, opinion was always going to be swayed by negativity bias and availability heuristics. If Better Together didn’t understand this, Cameron and his advisors – who have displayed remarkable sleight-of-hand to not only reclaim the initiative but destroy Labour north and south of the border in one swoop – certainly did.
But we must not resort to pointing out our differences when our similarities are far greater. What distinguished us in the polling booth is far less than what unites us in our hearts.
So, is there a valid alternative to 45?
The 34,000 new sign ups to the SNP would indicate that many believe there is. Even Citizen Tommy – better known for shouting loudly at people and denigrating women than for his political acumen or lack of ego – has encouraged all supporters to rally behind the SNP next May and for this, brother Sheridan must be applauded before politely being asked to crawl back under a rock. There was a reason firebrands such as Sheridan and Sillars were permitted precious airtime on the BBC during the campaign and it had little to do with ensuring balance. His antagonistic ‘with me or against me’ oratory will do little to aid our cause going forward and so we can expect to see a great deal more of him in the future.
I would now urge all those amang the 45 who have not already done so, to join the SNP and deliver the mandate required to seek a neverendum.
The SNP will have to adapt to accommodate her new tenants, of course. And to be fair, it has already began to do so. Big Eck’s decision to step down was the right one regardless of the loss we might feel personally and in Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP has a resolute and determined leader-in-waiting who can continue the drain in the Red Tory’s Glasgow heartlands where the Yes vote took all eight Holyrood constituencies.
There will need to be more concessions.
Ultimately, the party must consider a rebrand. Many Yessers still bristle at the word nationalist and the media and opposition simply delight in beating us with the nationalist stick. If this seems reductive, consider the following. In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security was forced to reveal their list of keywords that were used to flag activity on social media. The word Nationalist appeared under the heading, Terrorism.
In a previous blog, I posited the idea of an independent equality commission, Ceartas, to oversee all public policy in Scotland and advise how policy would affect each sector of society. Perhaps the SNP ought to adopt Ceartas – the gaidhlig word for ‘justness’ as their new name.
When Alex Salmond took over the party in 1990, he stated he wished to replace Labour as the dominant force in Scottish politics and to ‘open up the divide between the Labour Party’s supporters and its leadership’. Job done. The Red Tories share of the vote has been in decline for the last ten years but their latest incarnation as ‘fluffers’ providing hand relief to hedge fund managers in London will see them decimated north of the border next May.
Johann Lamont’s assertion that Scots are ‘not genetically programmed to make political decisions’ was a particular lowlight of the campaign but come what May, she may well find we’re well enough programmed to renounce abject incompetency in our MSPs and particularly in those who claim to represent us while decrying our disposition.
Under Alex Salmond’s stewardship, the SNP has moved from the narrow minded parochialism of the early eighties to become a credible party of progressive, left of centre pragmatism. It must continue to evolve, not only in order to survive and continue the exponential growth witnessed since the result but more importantly, because the summit has never been nearer.
The potential in this great country of ours was witnessed throughout the last two years of the campaign and like an arrow in a drawn bow, we should be mindful that it is necessary to be pulled back first before potential is released.
Join the SNP here.
Andrew S. Loveland’s, ‘The Sound of Abundance of Rain’ can be purchased on Kindle, here.