So, yeah, another election, and there’ll be another one, well technically it’ll be another referendum, shortly after this. We should be thankful for choice, as some countries don’t have votes or stable democracies. Even so, most of us seem to be approaching these upcoming votes with as much enthusiasm as vet sticking their finger up a cat’s arse. In Scotland, this is unquestionably due to fatigue. We’ve had too much democracy over a condensed period of time, the Independence referendum and last year’s General Election occurred in close succession, and not only that, a lot has changed, and some of those changes were unexpected. As I wrote here, the spectre of the EU referendum is the big turnoff. Looming like a repulsively humongous festering dog shite lying in the middle of the pavement, its bilious existence due to a perpetual junk diet of insidious petty party political politicking and an associated media campaign. If you thought the referendum on Scottish independence was nasty, bitter and petty, the EU referendum should take it up another notch. It’s going to be a symposium of lies and scaremongering, populated by the loudest, shrillest and nastiest xenophobes, and, quite frankly, racists around. It’s enough to make adopting the compulsive all-encompassing Father Jack brand of alcoholism sound like an idea worth entertaining, and this coming from someone who hasn’t had a drink in over a decade. Finally, and infuriatingly, many people still seem unable to grasp the mechanics of Proportional Representation used in Scotland (the Additional Member System to give it its proper title), and that this system is designed to neuter tactical voting, which, staggeringly, seems to be a legitimate topic of debate again. Anyway, on that last point…
…don’t overthink this. Vote for who you want.
There are three things preventing this; one – the voting system (AMS) is essentially a vote for two different things. You’re casting a vote for who you want to win your constituency (there are seventy three of them for Scotland) this is decided by the auld fashioned shitty first post the post method, basically, whoever gets the most votes wins the seat. But you’re also casting a vote for regional list MP’s. Here the intention is for you to vote for a party. The party with the most votes has its vote share divided by the number of constituency seats it’s won. Under the D’Hondt counting method this means the first seat on the regional list is likely to go to the party with the second most votes, who then see their vote total divided by two, and so on (for a more thorough breakdown of the process, check this out). This system actually gives smaller parties a shot of winning seats in Holyrood, and better reflects, through representation, each party’s percentage share of the vote than the first past the post system does.
The only downside? The parties select their list candidates, not party members and certainly not the public. This means the most contemptible liars and gobshites, such as Labour’s Anas Sarwar, whom the public firmly rejected last May, can be placed at the top of a party’s regional list and are highly likely to get elected. Just as shamelessly, there’s no rule to prevent individual candidates standing for a constituency seat and a list seat. Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale (the leaders of the biggest opposition parties) have done exactly this to ensure they’re elected, so has Patrick Harvie of The Greens. While they aren’t breaking the rules, the rule itself is rotten and completely craven, and it needs changing. Candidates should only be allowed to stand on one or the other.
Second, this brings us to tactical voting. There was an attempt made by Unionists to engage in some tactical voting at last year’s General Election, and it failed, laughably. This occurred under first past the post voting system where it was more likely (in theory) to succeed. Under AMS, you simply have no chance of affecting events, because it’s two votes, which, when combined, are designed to penalise the most popular and successful party (to an extent) to better represent each party’s regional vote share.
Third, and most problematic – many folks will see these Scottish elections as a potential mandate for another independence referendum, and will vote as such depending on whether they’d like another one quite soon, at some point further in the future or not at all. Thing is, whether you’re for or against it, last May fifty-six SNP MP’s were sent to Westminster, out of a possible fifty-nine constituencies. That was achieved on fifty percent of the vote in Scotland, under the dreadfully unfair first past the post voting system, but it was a much bigger statement of intent to retain the question of independence within political and public conscience than re-electing an SNP majority in Holyrood will. Doing the latter doesn’t bring another referendum on Independence any closer – it’s maintaining the status quo, not ‘a material change in circumstances’.
Plus, nobody has a clue if and when another referendum will happen or what will cause it, so acknowledging this fact when voting in this election seems sensible, to me anyway.
Don’t believe the polls, because they’ve been continuously wrong.
Sure, there are people out there that follow this stuff, even blog about it, but these polls and pollsters have gained too much value or sway in influencing the debate around politics, and, more worryingly, influencing how people may vote. My message, much like being pre-occupied by independence when voting is foolish, so is being mindful of the polling samples. Don’t be swayed into voting another way by them, don’t assume your party’s doing well, or worse than you think, allowing you to change your list vote because ‘it won’t matter’, or if Survation’s final poll suggests that voting for a minority party would be a waste because they’re barely registering. According to most of them the Tories weren’t supposed to win a majority last May, according to many of them the Yes campaign had narrowed the gap on the eve of the referendum date to one or two percentage points (it hadn’t) and according to them the UK will vote to remain in the EU, yet the current government promised a referendum on the issue and won a majority…mmm. If you ask me, they’re complete and utter shite, unless they tell you what you want to hear.
The SNP are unlikely to gain many seats.
Another pointless prediction, but remember, when it comes to predictions I’m worse than the cabbaged brain owned by the one and only Paul ‘Village’ Merson, so I reckon I should give myself a few bankers now and again. This likelihood has nothing to do with the polls and all to do with the SNP reaching a saturation point of popularity when spliced with the mechanics of AMS. They’ll probably win most of the constituency seats again, and a clear majority. But increasing their share of the vote seems tricky. Lest we forget: there are still an awful lot of No voters out there who simply won’t vote for them.
Also not helping is that ‘Re-elect’ billboard with Nicola Sturgeon (above). In it she wears a dismal, almost condescending smile, the kind that one wears when they’re dreadfully unhappy about something but are too proud or ashamed or under too much external pressure to admit it. You’re consciously trying to hide that fact by smiling, but subconsciously you want people to notice it’s a disingenuous one. It’s like a cry for help, ‘I’m in a loveless marriage’, ‘I work in a call centre’, ‘I empty bedpans’ or ‘I put puppies to sleep for a living’. In this case I suspect her frustration is quite banal, she just hates having to sit around for an hour plastered in make-up while some dickhead photog tells her to offer a smile ‘with more pizazz’.
The popularity of the smaller parties is unclear.
There’s been talk of RISE and Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity gaining a list seat in Glasgow. Okay, I’m aware that their budgets are small, but I’ve seen virtually no campaigning presence, either online or in public, from any of them, other than Tommy being Tommy. I’m sceptical of the effect leafletting has, but to have any shot you, at the very least, have to make people aware that you exist. Case in point, last May I entered the polling booth only to discover a party I’d never heard of appear on the paper – Britain First. I gleaned from the name what they may stand for, but it wasn’t until I did some checking later on did I discover where they landed on the political spectrum. Comparatively they made Nick Griffin look as benign as Peppa fucking Pig. Maybe cultivating ignorance is the plan? Perhaps you can get enough votes from romantic socialist folk who’ll vote for a party based on the name alone? RISE, yeah, rise up, uprising, I like the sound of that. Solidarity? Sure, I’m down with the workers. At least the names are positive. Now, for something positively shite…
How badly will Labour do?
Somehow, someway, they’re still haemorrhaging support…and you don’t need to believe the current polls to deduce this, we have recent General Elections, both Scottish and UK, proving their support is still decreasing. They have fifteen constituency seats from 2011, they took one of fifty-nine last summer. They could finish behind the Tories in Scotland for the first time, in, well, I dunno, the thirties? Such an event could lead to a collective mental collapse akin to William Foster in Falling Down. In Scotland, the Labourites will blame the cult of independence for their decline. But then, when you’ve filled the Northern Branch with second raters and careerist dickheads with sense of entitlement (the kind that believes they should be popular because of who and what they are, not what they’ve become), you’ll do anything possible to avoid introspection. It’s easier to lie to yourself and others and hope (enough) people eventually forget.
Of course let’s not forget that this election is just the wee dram before the twelve year old malt – the EU referendum, the outcome of which is gravely in doubt, is taken out of the box. But whatever the outcome, much like the question of independence in Scotland, this upcoming EU referendum won’t settle the question of Britain’s long term inclusion within the Eurozone. My prediction – the support for Scottish independence will increase whatever the result; if it’s an Out vote, but Scotland votes In, as expected, that’s a material change in circumstances. If it’s a narrow In vote, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland keeping the UK In, with England voting narrowly to leave, fully expect the rhetoric of jingoism and xenophobia to arise from the Brexit lot towards anything deemed non-English, fuelled by the media, talking heads and elitists who have weirdly conflated preserving Britishness with isolationism. Perhaps, just perhaps, this frothing, spiteful anti-Scottish sentiment will be voracious enough to irritate, even anger, enough No voters into voting Yes, in a form of retaliatory spite, next time.