Today saw the SNP Tour in Glasgow which featured a mix of music, politics and inane banter from the presenters. It was possibly the singular most inspiring bit of political theatre I’ve seen in a while, yet it was astonishingly bizarre to see politicians like Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon mix with bands at the Hydro in Glasgow.
Of course I only watched it on Youtube and wasn’t there live so the atmosphere there would have been vastly different but I find the unquestioning support for the SNP to be both an inspiration for a socially democratic political party. and yet a lot of that support seems to be suspending its critical facilities in order to cheer on Salmond and Sturgeon like rock stars and that’s concerning, even though I admire both politicians for what they’ve done, and should do.
Also, there’s a large element of hubris on display and it’s not going to be hard for some in the media to draw comparisons with Labour’s infamous rally in Sheffield just before the 1992 general election. I imagine some of these articles will appear in the establishment press tomorrow and it strikes me that smart operators like Salmond and Sturgeon won’t have thought of this so will probably have their responses ready.
Also today was the Radical Independence meeting also in Glasgow so in total around 15,000 people were talking politics, or engaged in positive political meetings. It’s a far cry from UKIP’s negative or far right politics and of course the generally austerity politics of the main Westminster parties. Yet, there’s things to worry about. The lack of a critical appraisal of the SNP among many of it’s supporters is concerning as is the addition of the new ‘new’ when Sturgeon was talking of the SNP’s opposition of nuclear weapons when til now, it’s opposed nuclear weapons being in Scotland at all. I was glad to hear Sturgeon make it very clear what Labour need to do in order for the SNP to support them in any possible minority government or coalition, yet that itself is a danger as if the SNP drags the Labour Party to the left (which would be an impressive task) it could lose those voters who would come over from Labour.
Now it is interesting times and the SNP are in a fluid situation with membership exceeding 90,000 members and a lot of them either old Labour voters or new to politics completely. All of these want to push on to making Scotland independent and many will probably have to reset expectations as that won’t happen til 2017 when the opportunity arises with the proposed EU referendum.
It’s clear the political landscape in Scotland is dominated by the centre-left SNP and in England that domination is UKIP even though they don’t count themselves to have anything like the progressive policies of even the SNP, let alone anything further left. Yet UKIP drive the media’s political coverage across the UK and the SNP are still ranked as ‘separatists’ or ‘nationalists’. They stand to be the third largest party in Westminster next year yet most people outside of Scotland aren’t aware of their polices, but their opinion of them will be shaped by events like this as they get filtered down to them via a London based media. That’s why the announcement of The National, a new Scottish paper supporting independence, is important. Of course it can’t just support independence, it needs to show some journalistic integrity and not just be a mouthpiece of the SNP, but it’s a small move to equalising things in an unequal landscape.
So all in all this afternoon was a good, positive event but we should have reservations as we should do when politicians speak. We after all have to hold them to account and we can’t do that by treating them purely as rock stars. The other thing about this afternoon was the performance of the splendid Stanley Odd who really should be a bigger band than they are now.
Where things go from here is anyone’s guess. The next six months is all about the general election and holding the Westminster parties to ‘the Vow’ and after that it really is impossible to predict where the UK, Scotland or anything is going to be as we really are in an unpredictable and fast moving landscape. I only how the SNP live up to the promise of this afternoon and that the MP’s they send to Westminster next year manage to offset a Parliament which looks set to be firmly over to the right and set on austerity, regardless of what party is in power. They may be all that Scotland, and oddly enough, the rest of the UK have as a hope to change things for the better.