Friday, 5 June 2015

#RedToriesOut and SNP homogeneity

One of the (many) social media slogans of the armies of online Scottish National Party activists – or 'cybernats' – is 'Red Tories Out'.  'Red Tories' is a derogatory reference to the Labour party, implying that they are just the same as – for which, read 'just as bad as' – the Conservatives.  It's a nasty, small-minded slur, not least because the claim that Labour and the Conservatives are 'the same' is demonstrably nonsense, as is borne out by the differing attitudes of the SNP leadership towards each – and also because it further legitimises the use of the word 'Tory' as a generic political insult, which is rather disrespectful to people who hold the perfectly legitimate (even if you don't agree with them) political views of the Conservative party.

But what's really intriguing is the '…Out'.  Red Tories Out.  Out of where?  When David Cameron won his second term as Prime Minister last month, protestors gathered in London to shout 'Tories Out Now!'  But Labour (the 'Red Tories') are not 'in'.  They are in opposition at Westminster – and they are in opposition also in the devolved Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.  The only place where Labour hold any power is in the Welsh Assembly; is that what all those SNP supporters on Twitter are getting so hot-under-the-collar about?

I asked one of the SNP-supporting Tweeters you sometimes see – y'know the sort, 'We Are The 45', 'We Are The 56', yellow and black avatar, the referendum isn't over, type of chap – what it all meant.  He was perfectly pleasant, actually.  But he told me that 'Red Tories Out' meant 'out of Scotland'.  I'm sure this isn't true of all SNP activists, or members – but it would seem that there is a school of thought within the Nationalist movement which wants to drive the Labour party and its supporters into the sea.

In other words, they want to establish a one-party state.

'Traitors to Scotland'.  Their crime?  To have a
different point-of-view.

With the Liberal Democrats' decimation at the election, and Conservative support in Scotland still very low, Labour are the only effective alternative to the SNP.  And some SNP supporters want this dissension quashed.  Wiped out.  Is that healthy?

In the world of sport, the greatest performances are borne of the greatest rivalries.  Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are considered two of the 'greats' of tennis – but neither would've been 'great' without the other to push him.  The same is true of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in Formula 1.  Having a strong rival forces you to raise your game.  In politics, just as in sport, competition is healthy and produces better results.

The SNP likes to think of itself as 'progressive' – but a society in which there is only one mainstream political view is a society which stagnates.  The ruling party can do as it wills, with no opposition to hold it to account.

When any difference of opinion is crushed as insubordination – or when a culture develops in which disagreement is tantamount to treason – nobody benefits; support for the ruling party is as much an article of faith, with no rational basis for it, as it is rooted in an objective appreciation of their arguments.  This is especially true when you consider that party rules prohibit SNP MPs from speaking out against the party line at all; the whole basis of the organisation seems to be to smother and stifle disagreement, instead of confronting and defeating it – and this has resulted, as I wrote in my immediate reactions to the General Election, in SNP politicians and activists believing that they exist to represent the totality of Scottish though, rather than certain specific policies and viewpoints.

In the end, this creates a mentality where, if you are not a 'true believer', you are an outcast.  But this is no way to conduct politics.  It is only through challenging prevalent ideas, and questioning the status quo, that progress is made, that new ideas can develop, and that a society can grow.  That, after all, is how the SNP rose to prominence in the first place – by being an alternative; a different point-of-view; outsiders.  Now, however, they are very much the establishment – and their supporters are throwing their weight around more and more.

In contrast, pluralism allows for the open, noisy clash of ideas – as opposed to the suppression of 'bad' ideas – which politics should be all about.  He may be the cybernats' favourite hate figure, but I agree with Jim Murphy (the outgoing leader of Scottish Labour) when he says that 'Scotland needs a strong Labour Party'; even when you disagree with what they say, the need for strong opposition parties should be clear to everyone.

1 comment:

Rory said...

Couldn't agree more. We need strong opposition in all centres of government - or who's to say what those in charge might get up to. Whether or not you voted for the party in power, the saying 'power corrupts' is demonstrably true - look at all the recent examples, including cash for honours, duck-pond expense claims, the FIFA debacle... all because nobody challenged the status quo. Labour, whether or not you agree with their policies, need to be a counterweight to the Conservative government in Westminster and to the SNP in Holyrood. And it's a great pity that there are no other opposition parties with any real sway.

I enjoyed this article very much.

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