Wednesday, 17 September 2014

"The SNP are just tartan Tories" smear campaign


As the Scottish independence referendum grew ever closer, I began to notice the ever increasing desperation of the anti-independence comments appearing on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page. As it became clear that despite the overwhelming bias of the mainstream media the No Campaign were losing the argument, and that the Yes Campaign were surging in popularity, ever more Unionists showed up to rant about how Alex Salmond and the SNP are just "Tartan Tories".

Before I get to debunking the 
"Tartan Tories" smears, it's worth pointing out that smears like this are hopelessly poor debating tactics for another reason too. Scottish independence is not just about the success or failure of the SNP, it's about the entire future of Scotland. If Alex Salmond suddenly sprouts a Thatcher head and starts ruthlessly dividing Scottish society and selling off all the national silver that remains, the people of Scotland can vote him out in 2016. I've had to explain this point to so many ranting Unionists that I've reduced it to a simple formula:

Scottish Independence ≠ Alex Salmond.

Now onto the "Tartan Tory" accusations.

These accusations tend to come from supporters of the Scottish Labour party who have taken the absurd stance that the Scottish National Party were entirely responsible for Margaret Thatcher's first General Election success in 1979. It's like these people are stuck in the early 1980s, they refuse to see that Labour were to blame for the fact they lost power (Callaghan's gamble) and they refuse to see that politics has moved on an awful lot since Thatcher's rise to power, most notably the fact that Labour has turned into New Labour, which pursues a political agenda of "Thatcherism lite".

The absurdity of people who support a Labour party that is now completely riddled with Thatcherites whinging on that another political party are 
"Tartan Tory" is just laughable.

If we judge the political parties by their actual voting records in parliament (as I like to do) we find that since 2010 the Labour party has supported the Tories in parliament far more often than the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party (who are the real opposition to Thatcherism). 

There are many examples of the Labour party, or members of the Labour party colluding with the Tories, when the Scottish National Party voted against them. Here are some of the most notable examples:
Retroactive Law: In 2013 the Labour party colluded with the Tories to help them pass a retroactive piece of legislation designed to cover up Iain Duncan Smith's unlawful mistreatment of the unemployed. Ed Miliband allowed the Tories to rush the legislation through parliament in a single day (with barely any scrutiny at all) and ordered his MPs to abstain from the vote. All six SNP MPs sided with a small bunch of "Old Labour" rebels in opposing the bill. 
Secret Courts: Another example of Ed Miliband ordering his MPs to abstain in order to let horrible Tory legislation glide through parliament was the "Justice and Security" Bill which undermined the whole concept of justice by creating secret courts. When the Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled two last minute amendments to try to ensure that judges should at least consider "public interest in the fair and open administration of justice" before any secret court proceeding could be launched, the SNP MPs backed her amendments, a load of Labour MPs abstained, and some Labour MPs even sided with the Tories to vote against the amendments. 
DRIP: One of the most appalling examples of Labour siding with the Tories in parliament was the "emergency" DRIP legislation designed to allow the security services to continue trawling the communications data of millions of innocent people with complete impunity. The majority of Labour MPs voted in favour of it, all six SNPs were amongst the 51 who voted against it.

A look at the SNP record in the Scottish parliament also illustrates that they occupy political territory far to the left of the modern Labour party, and therefore, further away from the Tories. Thanks to the SNP, the Scottish NHS has been protected from the waves of ideological privatisations that were launched by New Labour and massively increased by the Tory led coalition in England, and Scottish students have been protected from the commodification and financialisation of higher education which was again introduced by New Labour and massively increased by the Tories.

The thing is that you don't have to trawl through parliamentary voting records (as if you're some kind of politics nerd like me) to understand that these days Labour are far closer to the Tories than the SNP are, you just need to look at the Labour politicians willingly sharing a political platform with the Tories during the Scottish independence debate.

The Labour party abandonment of socialism in order to pursue an agenda of "Thatcherism lite" hidden behind a thin veneer of pseudo-socialist window dressing has left the territory of the traditional left wide open for the SNP to take over. It doesn't matter whether you believe that the SNP are sincere or not in their social democratic stance, their voting record clearly shows that they are now way to the left of the Labour party.

The Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan summed up this transformation very nicely when he said "The SNP won the 2007 election, a democratic election, they then won the 2011 election. Do you know why they won? Because they picked up the clothes that the Labour party has thrown away. They picked up the clothes of social democracy". It doesn't matter what your personal opinion of Tommy Sheridan is, he's hit the nail on the head with this explanation.

Of course I understand that the SNP are nowhere near as left-wing as I am. I abhor Alex Salmond's dalliance with people like Donald Trump, Brian Souter and Rupert Murdoch. But that doesn't prevent me from feeling revulsion at New Labour supporters using desperate, absurdly outdated smears against the SNP, when the evidence is absolutely clear that the New Labour party are much closer to the Tories than the SNP, so much so that they're now essentially just Tories with red ties.

In my view if anyone wants to go on a hunt for 
"Tartan Tories" the first place they should look is the Liberal Democrats, and Scottish politicians like Danny Alexander, a man who has gleefully helped George Osborne with his ideological mission to impose austerity on the masses, whilst allowing the super-rich to get richer at a faster rate than ever. Then, you need to look at Scottish Labour MPs like Gordon Brown and Jim Murphy, who are more than happy to share a political platform with the Tories in order to oppose self-determination for the Scottish people.

Finally, it's worth noting that it's no wonder that the Unionist campaign has floundered so badly as the Yes vote has surged in popularity, if with just days to go before the referendum, the best arguments they can come up with are ridiculous smears from the past, that reek so strongly of hypocrisy in the present. Imagine the incredible lack of self-awareness it would take to try to smear your political opponents as Tories, when you're actually sharing a political platform with the Tories, and supporting a "Better Together" campaign that is being bankrolled by wealthy English Tory party donors like Ian Taylor.

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