A guest blog by Kimberley Cadden.
It’s easy to despair sometimes. What we have seen since Friday evening, with the Telegraph’s attempted smear on our First Minister, is unworthy of any serious newspaper or indeed any serious politician. It lowers the tone of our national discussion.
Nonetheless, on Saturday morning Ed Miliband knowingly supported this obvious lie for perceived political gain, telling me all I need to know about him.
He is not to be trusted.
Yet I don’t do despair and neither do all the wonderful, hardworking activists I know.
This is one of our strengths – we are used to battling on all fronts; indeed we are used to confronting media bias and demonstrating our own arguments. This has actually made us better at what we do and with our backbone and integrity firmly intact no less.
Furthermore, since the media have proven their bias yet again, with no-one doing a better job than the BBC of giving unwarranted credence to the Telegraph non-story – stand up and take a bow! – despite the obvious damage they can do I take heart in the fact that informed people now get most of their information elsewhere and such attacks from the right wing press only reveal that that we are on the right side of the morality divide and that Labour are not.
SNP activist – backbone – check!
Guts – check!
Superb! Moving on …
So what about these smear allegations anyway?
Well as most will know it took about 50 minutes for them to be rubbished on Friday night, at least in the real world.
In the world of corporate media giants where five billionaires own 80% of the press it was largely a different (selective) story; although kudos to Severin Carrell who actually did some fact checking (unlike journalists at the Telegraph). Lo and behold, the French Consul confirmed what our First Minister had already stated: no such comment had been made.
We now know that the author of the memo, a civil servant in the Scotland Office, wasn’t present at the conversation between the First Minister and the French Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, and that the memo was drafted after a separate conversation the civil servant later had with the French Consul, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, who was relating his own notes he had taken during the meeting itself, at which he had also been present.
Coffinier confirmed to the Guardian “I have looked at my notes and absolutely no preference has been expressed by anyone regarding the outcome of the election”. Bermann confirmed the same.
The civil servant also wrote in the memo itself that it seemed unlikely that the First Minister would have said such a thing “so it might well be a case of something being lost in translation”.
I think we can safely assume that the Telegraph would have known, had they carried out the standard journalistic practice of fact checking, that this was a non-story. They didn’t bother, and instead they printed it without even the most basic research.
Labour, desperate to have people believe that the SNP don’t really have leftist values and just want independence at any cost – even if that means another Tory government – happily went along with the fabrication; a mistake they are already paying for.
We are used to these type of responses from Labour, especially for the true to form Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale. Imagine the embarrasment of Ed Balls, though, and of course the big palooka himself, ‘Red Ed’, who all jumped gleefully on the smear-we-know-is-a-lie-but-we-will-promote-it-anyway bandwagon. Oh Dear.
This isn’t a story that ends well for Labour. Many members and activists understand this, as well as politicians like Malcolm Chisholm and Paul Flynn (who are always pretty awesome), but why is it never the leadership? How could they be so willfully ignorant?
Aside from that obvious question are others; the British Civil Service as well as the Telegraph both have some to answer, starting with how was an internal Whitehall memo containing confidential (and inaccurate) information leaked to a newspaper in the first place?
Yet Labour have the most pressing question to answer, and it’s already being asked within their own circles; ‘who are we?’
They will have plenty time to get back to us on that one because their Scottish office is going to be a very quiet, empty, place come 8 May. Lots of time to think, with nothing better to do: Coming Soon.
The soul searching required to arrive at the right answer is probably beyond them though.
As for the SNP, we are obviously not a party of ‘independence at any cost’; indeed it’s very clear the whole reason we want independence, besides the civic nationalist democratic value that power should be retained by the people who live and work in any country, is so that we can further our social democratic left wing agenda for reforming government and society so that it works for everyone.
This is why the idea of another Conservative led government, with its disastrous economic policies, dismantling of the NHS, and a horrific record on welfare, is so anathema to those of us in the party.
It is the very last result we would ever want for anyone, anywhere, and it is certainly very bad for Scotland.
But this isn’t just about morals and values – it is also about the next step for Scotland, and this is where many fail to understand the SNP.
Our First Minister has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the SNP would do all it could to lock the Tories out of government. Labour are yet to make the same pledge.
We want to be part of a progressive bloc making the arguments for, amongst other things, more powers for the Scottish devolved parliament. We have a much better chance to secure these with a minority Labour government in office that relies on our support at times (and is thus open to our influence) than with a Conservative government we have nothing to do with (and one with many MP’s arguing that Westminster shouldn’t be devolving any more powers at all, including potential future leader Boris Johnson).
The SNP clearly understand that the path to independence has to be a gradualist one now. This is why we want a Westminster government where we have some option to work towards this within that system itself whilst we remain part of it; anything else just stagnates this important step.
And stagnation would be the least of our worries.
As we know, both the Tories and Labour have committed to continued austerity cuts, however Labour have been branded the austerity-light wing of the neoliberal consensus as a result of having some progressive tax policies.
The Tories are hell bent on cutting the deficit faster than anyone else, and without taxing the rich any further. There is even loathsome talk that they are considering cutting the top rate of income tax … as they prepare for savage welfare cuts.
Needless to say, the Tory approach will be the worst case scenario for the Scottish parliament’s budget and in turn has the potential to limit how effective the Scottish government could be in continuing its progressive programme in Scotland – and this could hurt the SNP in 2016 (especially if it the need for resultant unpopular cuts became clear beforehand).
This is clearly an intended consequence, of course.
Our ability to influence austerity-light Labour means we have much more of a chance to have a positive impact on UK economic policy, and indeed to secure the best budget possible for Scotland. This helps us demonstrate the validity of the left progressive approach by influencing (and in devolved matters continuing to implement) policies that actually make life better for the majority (and funnily enough people notice when their life gets better) whilst also a little less bloated for the greedy few. Result!
So with Labour we can move forward on all the fronts we want to but equally we can highlight where we haven’t been able to influence policy and effect progressive change and in doing so further our case on the need for full powers; a case which would be becoming all the stronger as we demonstrate that the more power and influence the SNP (and indeed Scotland) has, the better it is for our people.
It is thus clear that a minority Labour government is much more preferable for the SNP than any kind of Conservative administration, no matter what the newspapers and “informed” people might say. To think otherwise is simply delusional nonsense.
Furthermore most of us involved in the Yes campaign will be well aware that the threat of future Tory governments didn’t really give us much traction when it came to bringing people from No to Yes. Of course most people want rid of the Tories but we are used to them governing without a real Scottish mandate and most are desensitised to it now.
Conversely what most people did respond to was the positive vision shared across the movement of a fairer, more equal Scotland – a common weal society, and the possibility of that was legitimised by the SNP’s effective and popular governance.
These factors more than anything seem to be what brought people to the view that a successful independent Scotland is not only possible, but preferable; Tory governments don’t do that.
And it is for all of this that whilst I do not trust Labour at all, I do understand – like everyone else I have ever met, read or heard in the SNP – that it will be better to have a minority Labour government (influenced from the left) than a Tory one on every measure, and not just for us, but also for all the people of these islands.
This is why, as a Scottish progressive, come May I will be voting SNP and my vote will contribute to an anti-Tory bloc – locking the Tories out – and locking progress back in.
Kimberley Cadden is a proud activist for independence, and member of the SNP and the 45%. A version of this article also appears on the website Common Space; you can read it clicking on this link.
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