Just over a year ago I wrote an article entitled ‘RISE – Deluded, doomed and divisive’.
The article followed a three day push from Scotland’s main stream media for a party created from the embers of the 2014 independence referendum campaign by some members of the so-called ‘radical left’.
The article contained the following paragraphs.
If opinion polls are replicated on polling day, there won’t be any RISE MSPs at Holyrood. But the fallout from their idiotic and divisive election campaign will hang in the air like a bad smell. So too will their bitterness.
They’ve tasted influence and they like it. Pro-Union newspapers like the Record and Herald have indicated a willingness to headline any anti-SNP gripe and stand ready to accommodate more. BBC Scotland will jump at the chance to have a predictably anti-SNP pundit review newspapers or appear on a panel.
If you want a glimpse at what RISE and its backers are on their way to becoming, you need look no further than their most high profile supporter – Jim Sillars. The Unionist media love Jim because his bitterness towards the SNP is stronger than his ability to exercise restraint and discipline.
I was reminded of the article last week when, turning on Sunday Politics Scotland, I was confronted with the co-founder of the aforementioned party proclaiming how proud she was that she had voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in June’s general election.
Accompanying Cat Boyd on the programme was Jim Sillars. Not surprisingly, both were less than complimentary about the SNP.
Boyd’s revelation was met with a mixture of ridicule, criticism and abuse on social media from Yes supporters angry at her pro-Labour stance. Her more eloquent critics pointed out that Corbyn’s party supports the renewal of Trident, wants a hard Brexit and backs Tory welfare cuts. Hardly radical left policies. More significantly, Labour is also against Scottish independence and another independence referendum.
Boyd’s supporters argued that we are all entitled to vote as we wish and that the criticism/abuse being heaped upon the RISE co-founder was unwarranted. Some asked how the Yes movement hoped to persuade No voters to switch if it treats one of its own in this fashion. The thrust was that her critics should leave Cat be.
To date I haven’t commented on the episode save for a few tweets that have poked fun at the former RISE candidate [I found the ‘Proud to be Yes … Proud to vote Labour’ stance worthy of ridicule]. I assumed as the week progressed the issue would fade. Boyd had clearly chosen the BBC to make her announcement in order to generate controversy. She succeeded. I had no intention of adding to it.
But on Saturday I tuned into the weekend Good Morning Scotland to find none other than Cat Boyd on the programme. She was pushing the ‘vote Labour’ line again.
Boyd’s contribution, as you can hear from the clip above, was meandering and difficult to comprehend at times. But the essence of her argument was that radical socialists should vote Labour in any forthcoming general election.
So, here we had a leading light in the independence campaign invited onto BBC Scotland two weekends in a row to punt the same ‘vote Labour’ line.
The day after Boyd’s encore performance the Sunday Herald published an article by Angela Haggerty entitled ‘Crying “traitor” at Yessers who vote Labour won’t help the independence movement’. The article was a response to those who had criticised and/or abused Cat Boyd.
Angela Haggerty probably didn’t actually write the headline, although few would argue with it. The article contained the following:
“The apparent impossible contradiction between being a passionate Yes campaigner and voting for a unionist party is not all that impossible. It reflects a dominant feature of the indy campaign: it wasn’t about nationalism for nationalism’s sake, it had to offer more than that.
And that’s where Boyd and others like her have the upper hand on the common ground.
“Her motivations are clear and consistent when put under the spotlight, and that gives her pro-indy analysis far more credibility with potential Yes voters than those who exude a more nationalist mindset, simply becomes it becomes hard to believe she would sacrifice the bigger picture for the sake of winning one vote.”
Although there were Labour members and voters who campaigned for Yes during the last referendum, [think Labour for Independence] I don’t think it was a ‘dominant theme’. Besides, a significant number of former Labour people moved over to pro-Indy parties immediately after the indyref, not the other way.
Also, I’m not so sure Cat Boyd’s motivations are all that clear and consistent. In the run-up to June’s general election she wrote an article in The National where she appeared to rule out voting for Corbyn. See below.
But technically I’m not electing a Prime Minister, in the way one would elect a president. And, likely, I would end up using my constituency vote for a narrow-minded careerist who will use every opportunity to plot against Corbyn regardless of the country’s or the Labour Party’s democratic wishes. Likely, I’d be electing another Ian Murray, and, if you’ll forgive the expression, with MPs like these, who needs enemies?
Before going any further it’s necessary to have a closer look at what prompted this whole sorry episode.
Cat Boyd voted Labour in the general election, a party opposed to independence and a second independence referendum. In doing so she exercised her democratic right. However she then used an appearance on the BBC in order to tell of her pride in having voted Labour. Not content with that, she publicly criticised the SNP as not radical enough, and added: “I would also like to see a plurality for independence where the SNP are not the sole voice for independence.”
We can see immediately there is far more to this episode than someone merely deciding to vote Labour. Most Labour voters aren’t high-profile Yes activists. Most Labour voters don’t get to appear on the BBC to tell of their pride in having voted for the party.
Cat Boyd is of course no average voter. She enjoys a near celebrity profile amongst the Yes movement. Boyd, like scores of other people, contributed to the success of the Yes campaign. However unlike most, she has benefited enormously from its aftermath. A column in The National and numerous TV and radio appearances have allowed her to push her radical agenda further than she otherwise would have been able.
Less than a week after the 2014 referendum, Cat Boyd wrote an article for Bella Caledonia in which she spoke of plans for a new party – A Scottish Podemos. In the article, Boyd railed against the Labour party, writing: “We won the traditional Labour Heartlands, and we’re not going to give them back to Labour without a fight. The battle for ‘Red Clydeside’ has only just begun.”
Not long afterwards the radical independence party RISE was born.
The birth of RISE is the key to where we are now and fuels much of the anger currently directed at Boyd.
Cat Boyd co-founded RISE which wasn’t just a radical left party, it was portrayed as a party of independence. References to and imagery of the indyref Yes movement peppered its campaign videos.
The party promised to table a motion calling for Holyrood to be able to call a second independence referendum at a time of its choosing. RISE relied on its Yes credentials in order to attract funding. It launched a £100,000 appeal which specifically targeted Yes supporters.
A key campaign message was that Labour had to be replaced as the main opposition to the SNP, that more pro-indy voices would increase calls for a second independence referendum. It specifically promised not more socialist MSPs, but more pro-independence MSPs.
To now find the lead voice in this campaign claiming she is proud to have voted Labour is a slap in the face for many who were swept along by the RISE rhetoric. They have a right to be angry.
The indifference shown by those who promoted RISE and its leading lights is sadly not surprising.
The episode leaves some questions unanswered. For example, is Cat Boyd still a member of the party she co-founded? If so, did she discuss her decision to vote for a Unionist party with anyone from RISE?
If she is still a member, does RISE allow its senior members to vote for and endorse Unionist parties?
Crucially, with Jeremy Corbyn about to embark on a tour of SNP held constituencies, will RISE activists and officials now join its co-founder and argue that Yes supporters who are socialists should vote for Labour in the next general election?
These are all highly relevant questions, yet nobody seems interested in asking them. In writing this article I happened across a promotional video created by RISE activists that may give other Yessers cause for concern.
The aftermath of the general election witnessed an attack on the SNP and its mandate to hold a second independence referendum. Running in parallel with this attack is a false narrative that seeks to present Jeremy Corbyn as making inroads in Scotland at the expense of the SNP. There is a danger that this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if young Yes supporters are influenced by the actions of radical, and sadly self-indulgent, Yes activists like Ms Boyd.
If we are to achieve independence, then to paraphrase Peter A. Bell, the Yes movement has to marry discipline and solidarity with the diversity that exists within its ranks. That means not voting Labour … ever … Well not until we are independent.Views: 5797