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Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 4:45 pm
by Gordon Neill
I had an interesting election night. Well, I say 'interesting', but I'd rather been back home and asleep. Instead, with my son standing as a candidate, I got roped into being one of his election count agents. Which basically involved standing around for 5 hours in a sports centre while ballot boxes were delivered and the votes totted up. My job was to wear my serious face, panning the action and making sure that those little flecks of UKIP votes didn't get missed in the flood of SNP and Labour support.

It did all feel very strange. It was partly the surreal experience of seeing my son playing the part of parliamentary candidate. I half expected the woman at reception to laugh and check that he was allowed to stay up late. But she was also wearing her serious face and simply handed over our passes. For a while, we sat in the candidates lounge and loaded up with coffee and cake. With a bit of gentle cross-party banter, we all watched the BBC's ridiculous predictions that the SNP might win every seat in Scotland. Although I couldn't help noticing that the Labour people studiously avoided the slices of rocky road.

It also felt strange being part of the small band of UKIP supporters. As a non-believer, there was no way I was going to wear a UKIP rosette or, indeed, any rosette. But I couldn't help get caught up in their adventure, watching the count and trying to estimate how many votes my son might get. Maybe it was a temporary form of Stockholm syndrome? At one point, we added up how many friends and family he had, hoping that he would at least reach 100 votes. It was obvious, just from the piles of ballot papers building up, that the SNP were going to take Gordon Brown's old seat, the safest seat in Scotland. But, a bit like the Premier league, we were much more interested in the relegation battle, with the UKIP and the LibDem piles looking to be roughly equal.

As it turned out, my son did pretty well. He got 1,237 votes, up from around 700 votes for UKIP at the last election. He also won the coveted fourth position, beating the LibDems by 87 votes. He was pleased. For a 'paper candidate', with absolutely no chance of winning, he felt he'd put in a respectable showing. To be honest, I was surprised that there were so many UKIP votes, particularly where a close result had been expected and there must have been some tactical voting to try and stop the SNP.

But the strangest part of the night was watching the candidates stand up on stage for the announcement, like some weird identity parade. There were three seats being contested at our count, and on each occasion it was the SNP candidate that was fingered. Roger Mullin won our seat. He looks a bit shifty but, to be fair, he is a politician and it's part of the job. He spoke well and, thankfully, not for too long.

On the other hand, the first seat declared was won by Peter Grant and he came across as distinctly creepy, stepping up to microphone and wrapping himself in a Saltire flag. I don't think he was feeling cold, although it gave me a chill. I've long worried about politicians wrapping themselves in flags, but up till now it's just been a metaphor. Somehow the Saltire flag has become the SNP flag. And, up here, we seem to be heading for a one-party state. The SNP won 50% of the Scottish vote, but there is virtually no-one to represent the other 50% as they took 56 of the 59 seats. And, despite losing the 'once-in-a-lifetime' referendum for independence six months ago, I fear we are sliding towards another one. Maybe they meant the lifetime of a hamster? I suspect we'll keep getting these referenda until we say 'yes'. And then, of course, we'll never get asked again.

And my son is glad it's now over and he can get back to a normal life. Exams, girlfriend, and a summer job. And maybe, just maybe, ironing his own shirts and trousers. I have hopes that he will turn out to be a fully rounded, normal, individual. He has inherited my strong republicanism and skepticism of politicians in general. Hopefully, he'll soon start to believe in apathy.....

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2015 9:38 am
by NormanD
Garth Cartwright wrote:Well, the riots came early with a crustie one in Westminster yesterday afternoon - 5 cops hospitalised! Though I'm pretty certain that those who protest so rough are more there for the chaos and chance to bash police than any desire to build a better society. I write this from experience - I used to go on every protest going and quite often there would be a certain group with black hoodies and bricks waiting for their chance
Garth, don't be so hasty to condemn and criticise, and attribute motives. You look as though you're joining in the tabloid chorus line already.

I wouldn't use the word 'crustie', for a start. Judging from the pics, it looked mainly younger people whose dress and hair are a little bit different from our generation. It's all too easy to condemn and sneer based on looks alone. Second, it might be worth waiting for a while to look at some of the documented witness accounts that are starting to emerge on social media links as to the source of the upsets - including the spray painting of the WW2 monument. There are suggestions of agent provocateurs, people in balaklavas seen talking to the police.... Looking at some of the film, the number of cops not wearing ID numbers is something to think about.

Saturday's demo was just a small start - it got bashed, condemned, and it likely just consisted of a very small number of anti-cuts (including disability groups) activists.

Why is the govt so keen to start taking immediate action against European Human Rights legislation (which has nothing to do with the EU, and hardly figured in the election discussions)? Perhaps something to do with the right to engage in public protest? We'll see.

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 10:04 am
by Garth Cartwright
Gordon, excellent post. When I hear Farrage was stepping down I thought your son could run for the leadership but it turns out the resignation was just more political theatre. Anyway, your son did well to win 1000 votes - I voted for TUSC and they got less than 300 votes in Peckham. Always pick a winner, me. Why do you think the SNP have gained such huge, rapid acceptance in Scotland? What has fuelled the nationalism to the point that 20 year old students can beat Labour veterans? What do you think the future holds? I imagine lots of opportunists have joined a rising tide so lots of political chicanery to be witnessed.

Norman, yes I am grouchy about such "protests". I used to be involved in the squat party rave scene and so rubbed shoulders with the Brew Crew and their spiky kin. Not pleasant people. Always on the lookout for something to smash. Lumpen anarchos with more passion for chaos than change. I suspect it is them or the younger generation of them who were involved in Saturday's carnage. I seriously doubt the agents provocateur role in this one - first, it happened too spontaneously for the cops to have much warning; second, the Tories are basking in crushing the rival parties, who needs to rent a riot when the nation has called u back with a bigger majority? There will be lots of protests over the next 5 years. I will dutifully go on some of them. So will the spikys. And the agent provs when it's felt necessary to tar protesters. But right now I imagine most undercover cops are more concerned with infiltrating Islamist cells than bolshy students.

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 4:09 pm
by NormanD
What has fuelled the nationalism to the point that 20 year old students can beat Labour veterans?

- No to Trident
- No to Austerity
- No to Labour imposing its party line from London.

In the face of Labour's lack of radicalism, a faux-socialist challenge - and the pretence of an 'Old Labour' alternative - looks like an option. And when Labour and Tories join hand in hand to oppose independence and continue with austerity, radical nationalism doesn't have to work hard to get the support out.

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 6:22 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Norman, you really believe the SNP crushed the opposition because the electorate suddenly woke up and embraced socialism? Please show me the magic wand used to achieve this and how to make it work elsewhere!

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 10:21 pm
by NormanD
No, of course I don't think that. But faced with a choice between one candidate (Labour) who favours further austerity and another (SNP) who's campaigning against cuts, which one is more likely to link into the popular feeling?

Of course, the SNP's anti-cuts rhetoric isn't worth a light, and it's as pro-business as Tory and Labour combined. But it's able to take a seemingly radical stance on issues where it has control of its own finances. It's opportunist, and populist, and its nationalism seems to be working.

Scottish Labour did little to help itself, with a right-wing leader - Jim Murphy - who effectively foisted himself on the party. He led a campaign that was five years out of date, as though Labour still ruled the roost, and didn't recognise how the political mood had changed drastically in the last six months. Murphy was disliked within his own party, let along amongst the electorate as a whole. That the Labour Party in Scotland should have come to this - in a country that has generations of fighting socialist tradition - is truly pitiable.

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2015 10:06 pm
by Pete Fowler
Norman, I don’t think it’s like that. I spent a week last summer in Oban; I’ve always loved that west coast, but I wanted to be there in the week before the referendum. Just to see if it meant anything. I was gob smacked: there were kids in bars, high heels and hoodies, all talking about it; there was a young couple at the next table in a restaurant checking databases on their iPads – have we made sure this family’s going to vote? There was a buzz I’d never witnessed before.

It was real outburst of community identity. Their land had been under alien governments since 1979: Tories they never voted for bringing in things they hated; and Labour simply taking them for granted. No sign of Blair chucking out Thatcherism: he gained his power in England by being her heir, just as Cameron said he was the ‘heir to Blair’.

For me, it was a tricky one. I’ve always distrusted nationalism, it’s been part of my DNA since I studied the 1930s. And when that was combined with an equal understanding of imperialism, I found the very concept of English Nationalism an almost bitter pill to swallow. Imperialism, Fascism, Mussolini, Stalin, Palmerston, Churchill, Gandhi, the Irish Struggle, South Africa....all of these had conspired to make the very concept of nationalism in my contexts risible. I had been brought up in the very cornerstone of all that I loathed.

Times, though, they move on. In a globalised world, run by remote corporates, we are all internationalists now. The world is international. No, we certainly don’t have the international socialism that I at one time dreamed of, dreams badly disturbed when I tried to rub out the tale of the Kronstadt sailors; but we certainly have a world order. Where Apple and not Trotsky is in charge.

But, within this hugeness, all of us look for identity. To whom do we belong? With whom do we communicate, empathise? Where are our roots? What is this place that I call home?

Which is, crudely, what the Scots have done. And they are glorying in it, massively re-asserting themselves. They look back and remember the steam engine, the telephone, the television, radar, pencillin, Burns, Stevenson, Scott, the medics in Edinburgh, the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders....my God, their contribution to the ‘British success’ was greater than that of the South East of England. And they say, loudly and with ever-increasing power, ‘we can make it on our own – no problem’

I envy them. Of course I know it’s not uniform – Shetland would rather be with Norway and the Lowlands are all a-quiver, still genuflecting to the Lairds that still live there.
And nor are they ‘socialist’: some of them are, some of them are not. They lean to the Scandinavian models, as so many of us do. But it’s their identity that they are asserting.

But I envy them most of all because I think that their community is just the right size to make sense in the era of globalisation: whereas my England is torn to pieces; and I, in the north, feel far more empathy with Dublin and Glasgow than I do with Basingstoke, Haywards Heath and Richmond.

Re: How To Vote?

PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2015 11:07 pm
by NormanD
Pete, I'm not sure which part of my last post you disagree with. I don't deny any of your comments about an enhanced political mood in Scotland, and a feeling for 'independence' (I put it like that because expectations and hopes certainly outstrip the constitutional reality). I stand by my view of what the SNP is to me, politically at least. And also my comments on the S Labour Party, or what might be now left of it.