A few words about political parties

I’m sure most of you are as weary as I am of the inane drivel about Scotland being a “one party state” that is part of the constant refrain of grinding negativity being pumped out by the British media. Those of us who are not British nationalist fanatics recognise just how idiotic this is. We know that there may be a dozen or more parties contesting elections in Scotland and that at least four of those parties will have candidates in every constituency. We know that the talk of a “one party state” is a petty slur being peddled by those who refuse to accept the democratic verdict of the people if this verdict offends their sense of entitlement.

Only slightly lower on the scale of puerile commentary is the insistence that “domination” by one party is bad. Where “domination” means regularly obtaining a clear democratic mandate from the electorate. Ever since the SNP achieved that “landslide” victory in 2011, there have been voices raised questioning the desirability, the efficacy and even the legitimacy of majority government. Curiously, however, it is only an SNP majority that is represented as somehow democratically dubious – or denounced as democratically unsound. Confusingly – at least for those unfamiliar with the British nationalist mindset – there is a very considerable overlap between the people who cast aspersions on an SNP majority government and those who vehemently insist on the impeccable democratic credentials of a UK majority government with a popular mandate that is considerably less than that obtained by the SNP. And no mandate at all when considered in the context of Scotland’s politics.

You may be starting to see something of a double-standard here.

All of this is, of course, inextricably bound up with and wholly derived from the phenomenon that has come to be known by the simple hashtag, #SNPBAD. The SNP has been demonised as few political parties have in recent times. Certainly, it has been subject to a form and level of vilification that has rarely, if ever, been launched against a moderate, mainstream political party.

Even relatively dispassionate commentators, being woefully ill-informed and too intellectually indolent or under-resourced to fill the void in their knowledge, lazily resort to the grotesque caricature of the SNP concocted by odious spin-quacks in the pay of the British political parties. There is little need for me to elucidate this caricature. You will all be familiar by now with terms such as “cult” that litter the rhetoric of the SNP’s desperately struggling rivals.

This caricaturing – this frenzied demonising – of the SNP has, ironically, been aided by fact that the Westminster elite, by its deplorable conduct, has brought both politics and the concept of political parties into great disrepute. Our elected representatives are generally held in the same abysmally low regard as bankers and journalists. All political parties are tainted by this, however little the opprobrium may be deserved.

This is, to say the least, unfortunate. Because political parties are important. They serve a vital purpose. The fulfil a crucial role in our democracy. However much the British political system may be characterised by cronyism and corruption; however justly the generality of British politicians may be reviled for their venality and vacuousness, the fact is that we need political parties.

Political parties, in a way that is somewhat analogous to trade unions, enable the otherwise powerless to take collective action. By coming together under the banner of a common cause or shared interest, people are able to challenge established power in a way that they could not do as individuals. Whatever political parties have become within the British political system, that is not necessarily what political parties are. It is certainly not what they should be.

The SNP is markedly closer to the ideal of a political party than any of the British parties. Something which, in no small part, explains its popularity. Where the British parties have fallen prey to complacency, arrogance, a sense of entitlement and the tendency of all organisations not managed effectively to come to serve the organisation itself rather than the purpose for which it was first conceived.

The SNP is, in many ways, a younger party. It is relatively fresh to the realm of power politics. And it is managed more effectively than other parties. The SNP continues to be united by a common cause. It maintains a focus on its purpose. It is guided by principles.

The people of Scotland have nothing whatever to fear from an SNP majority government, or even an SNP “domination” of politics. They have nothing to fear because it is they who have created this political force. And it is they who direct it. The SNP is their tool. Their “big stick” to wield against an increasingly antagonistic Westminster elite and hostile British establishment.

I don’t know that it will always be so. It would be gratifying to think that the SNP might remain the political party that it is now. That it might avoid being drawn into the vortex of the British political system. Be that as it may, for the moment we have something quite exceptional and almost precious in the SNP. Not because it is “perfect”. Not because it is “infallible”. But because, however imperfect and fallible it may be, we can be absolutely assured that the SNP will put the interests of Scotland’s people first at all times. It is through the SNP that we are collectively empowered.

Not all political parties are the same. Not all political parties are bad. Let’s take advantage of the fact that we have at our disposal one that actually understands and embraces serves our needs, aspirations and priorities. #BothVotesSNP

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One thought on “A few words about political parties

  1. Iain MacLaren

    A welcome critique of grotesque caricature, which we can all agree is a terrible, counterproductive thing. The point is reinforced in the piece by its reliance upon grotesque caricature. Peter ‘Alanis Morissette’ Bell at the top of his game.

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