Yes parties and campaigners need common set of principles

BBC BIAS PROTEST

MORAL UNITY: build on what we have in common. PHOTO: Simon Whittle

by John Finnie MSP In issue 445 of the Voice, I commended the idea of collaborative working between the parties and individuals of the Yes campaign for the UK General Election next May. Identities, both individual and party, were not lost in the common pursuit of independence. But much common ground was found: opposition to the renewal of Trident (indeed, to nuclear weapons full stop), opposition to austerity, commitment to maintaining the NHS in public ownership and strengthening welfare support for our most vulnerable all forged bonds.

Of course, a lot can happen in a short time in politics. The memberships of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party continue to grow. A series of polls have shown the SNP heading for over 50 per cent of the votes in the General Election, potentially holding the balance of power at Westminster. Alex Salmond has stood down as First Minister and been replaced by Scotland’s first ever female First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, perceived by many as being to the left of her predecessor.

So where stands the much vaunted ‘Yes Alliance’? Well, if a recent tweet I spotted from a seasoned individual at the heart of campaigning, stating “There’s no such thing as a ‘Yes’ campaign—we lost,” is anything to go by, then “There’s no such thing as a ‘Yes’ Alliance.”

Let me give you four quotes I have heard in very recent times: “With this level of support we don’t need anyone else’s help. We should go it alone”, “Given our surge in support the electorate deserve the right to be able to vote for our party in 2015”, “We are up for it and won’t be hard to deal with,” and, finally, “I think I should be allowed a crack at [noted Lib Dem]—would I need to join the SNP?” I’m sure you’ve worked out who’s who; the fourth can be found in Who’s Who.

At its recent conference, the SNP became the first party to publicly rule out such inter-party cooperation. Instead they will consider selecting non-SNP members to stand under an SNP banner—so there’s hope yet for that celebrity yet. Some key changes have had an important effect on ruling out the ‘single badge’ candidate approach, not least the delay associated with the change in leadership of the SNP.

Meanwhile, one of our unionist opponents is enjoying, or suffering, a Branch Office leadership contest. The choice seems between a pro-Israel advocate of illegal wars and the reintroduction of tuition fees and a champion of policies which, through commendable, are seen as outdated by his party, and which he has struggled to effectively advocate in media interviews.

So with the Tories being Tories, Labour being Tories and the Lib Dems being nauseating, isn’t there a need for some après-Yes unity to be reflected in campaigning? In October’s article I said I’d “favour some form of common agenda of essential principles, with the MPs given autonomy to deal with issues outwith that agenda as dictated by their own conscience and judgement.”

While it could and will be argued that such an approach already exists in the form of “we have some shared policies, that’s great,” we are still opponents. I have long believed that we tend to dwell longer on our differences rather than recognise, celebrate and build on what we have in common.

There may be rare opportunities for some individuals from outwith mainstream party politics ‘gifted’ nominations by the SNP, although the SNP will have no shortage of candidates of their own, with many new members and opinion polling which suggests the ease with which Westminster might be reached.

But the ‘Yes parties’ will inevitably find themselves not only taking on the Tories, in their various guises, but also each other. Despite that, I do still believe and hope the common principals I outlined earlier could be formally agreed. We know at least 45 per cent of the electorate endorse them, way more than a candidate ordinarily needs to win an MP election.

It would be a missed opportunity if Westminster’s anti-insurgent First Past The Post system combined with our political diversity to deny us MPs representative of our greater moral unity.

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