This blog was to be all about this weekend’s SNP Conference at the AECC. I had several key points (I thought) all lined up, ready to be expounded:
- SNP Conferences have become bland as other major parties: little controversial is debated and many resolutions are symbolic grandstanding, passed by acclaim
- Lively debates on major issues—such as the one on NATO membership three years ago that cost them three MSPs—are no longer allowed to sneak in (c.f. Labour & Trident)
- As with other parties, the podium has become a choreographed showcase of prominent familiar figures, leavened with bright-eyed new recruits to encourage more.
- The awkward squad (in which I would once have included myself) who act as collective conscience are reduced to the ever-vigilant but now ageing, Gerry Fisher.
The blog was to have highlighted the absence from the podium of many long-standing back-room/engine-room/backbone figures, most of whom carried the party through the wilderness of the 1980’s and 1990’s to build the grass-roots teams who delivered progress in the noughties. It would have bemoaned the absence of party support for the 425 SNP councillors (along with the related inertia at the head of ANC); the absence of a competent, arms-length national think tank; and the need for a social structure to retain the 85,000 new members who were hoping for more than leafleting in the rain and dire monthly meetings at which minutes are approved.
And then I read Andrew Wilson’s column in today’s Hootsmon. All of you reading this, whether fan, sworn enemy or observer of the SNP, should read it for its lucid clarity in laying bare this phenomenon that affects everyone living in Scotland today.
For Andrew sees this for what it truly is—a national phenomenon now hugely relevant outside the political village in an even larger way than FC Barcelona is Mas Que Un Club in the context of Catalan national identity. And he—rightly—lambasts the media for seeing what is going on in conventional political terms. In the simplistic world of the media (TV and tabloids especially), real-world news is fed through a dimension filter so that it all comes out as right/wrong or left/right or progress/relapse.
Add to that the fact that there has not been a radically new grass roots party since Labour came to prominence between the wars, and our fifth estate is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to encompassing, let alone analysing, what is going on. If more than one in ten of new SNP recruits watches Marr or Daily Politics I’d be surprised. The political village that MPs, journalists and their respective staffs inhabit in both Westminster and Holyrood (not to mention Brussels) has been so self-referential for so long that they can’t see their egregious limitations. As Andrew puts it:
“Commentators would love to find or invent splits or fights but there are none of material note. The new members are more representative of mainstream Scotland than the core of us who have been banging this drum for decades. They have joined an organisation that has a clear and consistent culture of behaviour that is grounded in positivism, self-belief and teamwork, hard work at that.”
And, what the overwhelmingly establishment-supporting media fail to realise is that, however more focused the current spurious and aimless complaints from Scottish Labour may become or however much the Scottish Tories break out of their current Milngavie-to-Morningside ghetto, they must broaden their debate to involve the real people who constitute 90% of the voters they claim to want.
Because the SNP has recruited a good chunk of them and are giving them the kind of bread-and-circuses that has usurped the stale TV-and-Daily-Mail fare. That has become ineffectual—and toxic for those mainstream parties still blindly peddling it.