Sunday 9 April 2023

Talking sense. For once.


The Conservative Party has slapped down its Scottish leader, Douglas Ross, for suggesting that Scottish Tories should be encouraged to vote for the Labour Party, or even the Lib Dems, in seats where those parties have a better chance of unseating an SNP candidate than the Tories themselves do. It’s easy to see why his London masters would not be happy – telling their voters to vote for a party which they’re trying to demonise certainly counts as mixed messaging.

It is, though, one of the more sensible things that Douglas Ross has ever said, although one has to admit that the competition is weak. ‘Sensible things said by Douglas Ross’ is not exactly a long list. But on any objective examination, there is far less of a difference in policy terms between the Tories and the Labour Party under Keir Starmer than there is between either of those parties and the SNP. And whilst the independentista vote has (to date at least) largely been concentrated behind one party, splitting the unionist vote three ways in a first-past-the-post election helps the SNP to win more constituencies. Some of us think lots of SNP MPs is rather a good thing on the whole, but for those who don’t, a large-scale campaign of tactical voting makes a lot of sense. It does, though, miss the point and avoid tackling the real problem, which is the electoral system itself.

If they really wanted to stop the SNP winning a huge majority of seats on a small majority, or even a minority, of votes, they’d introduce STV and multi-member constituencies. Paradoxically, they could be reasonably certain that the SNP itself would support them in doing so, despite that party being the one (currently) most likely to lose out as a result. For some people, the concept of fairness trumps short-term party advantage. Labour and the Tories won’t do that, of course. Both of them like a system which gives them absolute power on the basis of a minority of votes: the Tories because it keeps them in power most of the time, and Labour because they occasionally get to take a turn. Neither of them likes it when the system works against both of them and in favour of another party, such as the SNP, but that’s only a problem in Scotland, and their real focus is on winning seats in England. They’re the only seats that count in reality.

It’s doubtful that Ross will worry too much about the reaction of his masters in London; he’s not exactly unaccustomed to falling out with them. And he’s probably achieved what he set out to do: plant the idea in the minds of Scottish Tories that voting Labour in Scotland is some sort of patriotic duty for any committed unionist. Whether he’s given much thought to what happens next if they do as he suggests is an open question. But I’m not expecting to add to that list of sensible things in the immediate future.

1 comment:

dafis said...

In its present condition the SNP is well capable of losing seats without politicians from other parties coming up with daft ideas. They have had the Union on the ropes but instead of punching it a few more times the SNP decided to inflict injuries on itself. Sets things back a decade or more.