Scoville Units Unite

27 May

Thinking the Unthinkable

For the first time in my life I am considering giving a vote to the Labour Party.

If you don’t understand the reason this is unthinkable then you have probably never discussed politics with me. Ever.

Why exclude Labour before?

Growing up, my local council was Labour run, then later run by them and the Liberal Democrats, then later still propped up by the Tories too. During that period Labour closed my school whilst I was at it.

They say merged. When you transfer the pupils and staff from one building to another one and rename it, you have closed one school and renamed another. The school they tried to move us to? Kirkton – now Baldragon. Kirkton was closer to my house than Rockwell. If I wanted to go to Kirkton I would have went there in the first place.

I chose instead to go to College. We now had a Labour government at Westminster. Labour removed the grant and brought in student loans. Then they introduced tuition fees.

So leaving aside the rest of their awful policies during this period and after, every step of my education the Labour Party shat on me. This was when their election tagline was Education, Education, Education.

I had been indifferent to them before but grew to loathe the snivelling right-wing Tory shitebags who had taken over the Labour Party.

That they had purged left elements from their party and ditched Social Democracy just compounded this.

From the excellent Political Compass you can see the ideological shift of the UK parties over recent times. Even from this overview you can see previously you had a liberal left, liberal right, authoritarian right party making up the three main parties. The shift towards neoliberalism resulted in 3 authoritarian right wing parties. This is not healthy for a democracy.

Labour were notorious for corruption and nepotism throughout councils but the election victory of Thatcher’s ideological heir Tony Blair in 1997 in a landslide caused another shift. Previously the chameleonic shysters who would join the Tories to get involved in politics for a job started to shift to Labour too. Their MPs started to be a group of people who had previously been employed as lawyers or MP researchers rather than a more representative milieu. A new job path opened up -> university to study politics, MP research assistant, MP. You get a bunch of party hacks elected with no experience of the real world living in a tiny party bubble.

Why consider Labour now?

Previously I had written off Labour as the left forces within it had been expelled or marginalised. The implosion left space for other socialist groups to grow. And they did for a time. Unfortunately the moving of the centre from the centre to the far right has made it much more difficult for progressives.

I had written them off as right-wing neo-liberal warmongers, absolute enemies of the working class, with a minority of left voices within it. As I came to accept that this has changed, that some aspects of their leadership and certainly huge numbers of their membership had returned to the left, I had to re-evaluate my view of them. I am not, and have never been tribalist, or politically sectarian. I always attempt to take a nuanced position based on considering and understanding as much as I can about something. When the Labour right tried repeatedly to stab Corbyn in the back, including during his acceptance speech as leader, I dismissed the necessity of this re-evaluation. This was based on the assumption that he would not stay long and would be ousted soon, allowing Labour to stay where they were and not shift politically.

So what actually changed?

Previously you would see polls showing massive support for renationalising the railways and opposing privatising Royal Mail and it would be written off. The Momentum group gaining support behind Corbyn has helped push these ideas back into the mainstream. When these stats are discussed at least it’s in the context of and why isn’t in transitioning to support for Corbyn in the actual press.

The abandonment of the left ground by Labour left a vaccuum which was for a time occupied by other socialist groups, in Scotland by posturing of the SNP and in other areas with immiseration and reaction. In former Labour heartlands in the North of England support started to drift towards fascists like BNP and later to UKIP. The shambles of Brexit has led to UKIPs support collapse, and unsurprisingly moved towards to Tories instead.

Scottish Labour are utterly terrible. Kezia Dugdale is the worst leader they have had in a while. And in the past few years that has included Johann Lamont, Jim Murphy and Iain Gray. Their politics have consisted of constantly talking about independence and condemning everyone else for being obsessed with the issue. I can’t find the exact numbers, but one vote which sums them up was on apprenticeships. The SNP wanted to create X new apprentices. Labour wanted to create X + Y apprentices. Labour MPSs then voted against the creation of X new apprentices as it wasn’t enough. How utterly pathetic. They can’t even be reformists properly.

The Blair years have left them decimated as their membership plummeted. The last figures I saw showed they had less members in total than the Trade Unionist group of the SNP.

In this election, they appear to be standing a Corbyn supporter in my ward. I don’t know much about his politics, but given the previous candidates in this ward were Jim McGovern and Ernie Ross, anything is frankly an improvement.

In short, as much as I dislike various positions taken by Labour in general and Scottish Labour in particular, Corbyn staying on as leader after this election with increased support and/or seats would strengthen all left forces in these islands, not just the left of the Labour party. Magical Christmas land would obviously be the right wing elements (sorry centre-left I keep forgetting their own definition, contrary to their real position) finally fucking the fuck off to either obscurity, their corporate paymasters or the type of right wing Hayekian parties their politics belong in.

What about the alternatives

In the last election for this constituency I spoiled my ballot and had been preparing to do the same again this time. Given the arguments I outlined above I had to re-evaluate.

No other left candidates

At previous elections I have had the option to vote for Scottish Socialist Party and TUSC (2010 and election excitement). Before I could vote there were also Scottish Socialist Alliance and Communist candidates.

Looking at the history of the seat, before the SNP won it, it was always held by Labour. Before it’s creation there was a 2seat constituency of Dundee. Which is weird to look at. It was held by Labour and before that in the 30s it was held by a Liberal and a Unionist (racist anti-catholic bigots who later formed the Tory party in Scotland). What is very weird is an election in 1868. Dundee elected 2 Liberals. They had a choice of 4 Liberals. Makes you wonder when you see some parties talk about Scotland being a 1 party state because they lost to the SNP…

Conservative

You’re having a laugh aren’t you? I think the only possibility of me ever voting for them is if there are 2 candidates standing and the other is a fascist. Even then I would probably have to consider whether a vote is better than spoiling the ballot.

Similar to the LibDems, they also change their candidates more frequently than May changes her position on issues, or indeed, their candidates when they find out who said a particular quote.

This time round their candidate is from that well known area of Dundee: East Craigs Edinburgh. So a carpet bagger then. You’d think they’d stand one of their new councillors from Dundee and then have a council by-election should they succeed. Or at least have picked one of their candidates who stood at the council election.

They also seem to have a fundamental problem with honesty. I have queried but have had no response on the origin and design of this graph-shaped-object. I say that as it is clearly not a graph. The axes have no relation to the figures being used. This is generally a strategy by the Lib Dems to try and claim they can win when they then end up in 4th/5th place.

I also queried where the figures originated to break down in this bizarre graphic. The figures are Scotland wide, not broken down to this constituency. I’m pretty sceptical of a growth from 14.9% to 33% for the Tories in Scotland at the general election. This would be their highest vote share at a general election in Scotland since 1970 (or 1974 depending on rounding of that poll) which certainly seems fanciful. The poll data I could find only broke down what % of the people intending to vote for a party had voted for them at 2 previous elections and the last 2 referenda. Without breaking down and weighting this stuff properly you can’t tell how representative a sample this actually is.

1997 was the last time they reached 10% in Dundee West, so although they are likely to gain more than 2015s 8.6% they have zero chance of winning here. I think the likelihood of them reaching 33% is pretty close to zero too.

Although to be fair, you’d think I would want to vote for them. My mum was awarded Severe Disability Living Allowance for life in the early 90s. She spent years being seriously ill and was disabled. Thanks to David pig fucker Camerons government however she is miraculously no longer disabled. Cunts. Utter cunts.

Independents?

There is an independent standing: Sean Dobson. I am generally pretty wary of independent candidates. This one appears to be a Brexiter. Standing to make sure Brexit happens. So essentially someone who supports Brexit but can’t find a place in UKIP, which sets up all sorts of flags.

Liberal Democrats

Aside from them essentially being opportunistic Tories willing to sell out their principles for a slim glimpse of power, they’re generally pretty terrible. It’s also strange how their most well known, and arguably most popular member is never put forward for the seat. It’s not helped by them changing their candidate every time there is an election.

I generally also refer to them as the Liberal Democrats as there are plenty of examples of them being neither. Given they are currently led by someone who doesn’t think he should have to answer about his position on homosexuality and abortion you can see the are struggling with the first of those. I mean even if he opposes them both surely both the Liberal and liberal position is to say you oppose it but don’t care if others do it and won’t vote for restrictions in those areas.

SNP

I’m not a fan of the SNP and although they clearly have some social democratic policies and are socially liberal on a number of issues, they are on economic policies trying not to rock the boat at all. Wary of in any way getting criticised from the right.

In recent years I was happy to see them replace Labour in a number of places as, like the argument for being happy about Corbyn, it pushed the political discourse to the left.

I do think they have sabotaged their flagship policy of independence somewhat. The Yes campaign gained so much ground and worked as well as it did because it was a broad based campaign comprising of numerous organisations and groups. After the defeat the SNP hoovered up huge numbers of activists from that movement. This may be great for the SNP in the short term but is extremely damaging for any future independence campaign. It will be completely dominated by the SNP and SNP members. The Yes campaign was able to argue that it wasn’t about supporting or opposing the SNP, but now that won’t be the case. Not that you can really blame the SNP for this, what are they gonna do – refuse membership to large numbers of applicants? But they don’t seem to be addressing this issue at all.

In the last parliamentary term the SNP have of course provided the best opposition to the Tory government. This is generally due to their discipline combined with the Parliamentary Labour Party spending most of their time stabbing Corbyn in the back. But it is their discipline which is one of the main factors driving me away from them. Corbyn was rightly criticised for the three line whip over Brexit, which I think was definitely a mistake. The SNP though essentially have a 3 line whip on every issue. As much as I dislike the Blairites in the Labour Party, at least members of that party are capable of having a debate about issues. The SNP 2015 conference passed a motion stating no MPs shall

publicly criticise a group decision, policy or another member of the group

Which is pretty anti-democratic. Alongside that, the biggest criticism of the political system by those alienated from it is that they are all the same meaning that some suited Barrister could be a member of the Tories, Lib Dems or Labour spouting the same position and you may not be able to tell which party they are a member of. That criticism won’t be abated by having a bunch of MPs in one party who are all the same. If my SNP MP was swapped with any other would it make a difference? They will still vote exactly the same on every issue and never make any criticism, however mild of their parties position on anything no matter how important or not.

Speaking of democracy, they produced a White Paper for the independence referendum which stated a load of things they could do after independence. Some of the things included hold a constitutional convention. Abandoning this idea is a mistake on 2 levels. Firstly it would allow the discussion to develop and throw up arguments all the time to take on counter ideas of Federalism and Home Rule. Secondly it would move the discussion on constitutional issues outside of the tedious realm of parliament and into the hands of the people. Both allowing people to take part in this discussion and also neutering the Unionists ability to criticise the SNP for bogging down Holyrood in discussion on the constitution.

Arguments for voting a different way

What if it lets the Tories in?

I am not convinced that the Tories can win Dundee West. The only thing even close to suggesting that is that they claim to have 33% Scotland wide, a claim I consider fanciful.

What about independence? The Labour manifesto opposes it

This is generally from a line of reasoning that then concludes so vote SNP. In 2016 the SNP stood on a manifesto with criteria laid out to justify pursuing a future independence referendum. The Tories also said that pro-Independence MSPs making a majority of the seats in Holyrood would be a mandate. The SNP won that election and alongside the Greens make up a majority of the seats. Brexit happened so the criteria has been met and the mandate is therefore there already for an independence referendum. You have to ignore that fact to even consider the need to win a new mandate as justification.

If we do that, in 2017 council elections took place. The councils have no relevance to independence at all. The Conservatives, at this time in Goverment, and before U-Turning to call this General Election declared that in Scotland it was an election about having a referendum in Scotland. Their election leaflets only mentioned independence, and nothing else to do with any area any council has any influence at all in. The SNP won that election. So even on that shaky ground declared by the Conservatives, the SNP then won a mandate a second time.

So what is the criteria this time? In 2015 the SNP won 56 seats, after securing 50% of the votes – 1,454,436 in total.

So for them to have a mandate this time (the third) do they need to win exactly that amount or greater in all three?

What if they dropped from 56 to 55 – no mandate?
From 50% to 49.9% of the vote – no mandate?
From 1,454,436 to 1,454,435 votes – no mandate?
What if they go from 56 seats to 55 but get an extra 100,000 votes – no mandate?

I’m not prepared to hold my nose and vote SNP at every election in perpetuity on such shaky shit arguments. If you are gonna claim that there are a set of additional milestones for the SNP to reach for there to be a mandate on a future referendum, then lay them out. That goes for those for and against independence who claim there is no mandate.

What about Trident?

The fight against the obscene, illegal to use, and completely immoral Trident system is best won at Holyrood. Corbyn himself opposes Trident renewal but the Tory shitbags in the PLP support it. Voting against more anti-Trident MPs in Labour will result in more pro-Trident Tories getting in. The influence of the SNP on the matter is sadly completely irrelevant at Westminster currently. The best outcomes I can see are a Labour majority or a Labour minority supported by the SNP. In that case, the issue can be part of their negotiations. If you are in a constituency held right now by the SNP and where the Labour candidate is on the right wing of the party and supports the renewal of Trident then that is a different situation from the one I am facing.

Conclusion

Given the balance of arguments for and against the variety of options I think the best option in Dundee West is to vote Labour at this election. A sentence I never thought I would write, and wasn’t prepared to write even 2 years ago. That doesn’t mean that you should come to the same conclusion in whatever constituency you are in in Scotland. If you are in East Renfrewshire and had Blair McDougall as your candidate, or Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) I would not advocate you vote for Labour. But then, I’m not advocating a vote for any other party in general in any other seat either.

But more importantly I think people should take the same approach I did – sit down to consider your personal beliefs and values, look at the candidates that are standing in your seat. Then work out who is the best person to advocate progressive values. In some seats you will have the opportunity to vote for a Socialist candidate. In others the best may be a Social Democrat, or a Green. In others there may be a sitting Conservative, or the threat of a surge by a UKIP or far right candidate, there a vote for someone like a Liberal etc may be the best way to fend them off.

A discussion on the merits of voting can be for another day, I just think that going to the voting booth is a hard-fought for right which we should all use, even if it’s to spoil the ballot. I certainly don’t think that’s the extent of what peoples political activity or engagement with candidates or elected representatives should be. Go out, try to remove this evil and corrupt government, and try to get as many left, socialist, socialist democratic and progressive voices in parliament in the process.

I am also open to being convinced of a different position for this constituency at this election. The election is in 12 days. No doubt this will prompt some discussion with my friends.

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