That really shouldn’t be the question.
Pol Clementsmith on why taking a stand against any form of hegemony is good for Scottish Politics.
Politics is a funny old game. I can only imagine what it must look like to the recently converted. Especially those who became involved during the Scottish referendum. The pro-yes parties, which included the Scottish Greens (SGP), the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), have all seen a surge in the number of new members signing up. Mostly as a result of the disappointment felt by many yes voters last September but also because of a desire to engage in the political process.
Some people are surprised to learn that the Scottish Green Party had (and still has) a substantial number of paid up members who voted no last September.
Just take a moment to let that sink in.
That’s the kind of party we are. A simple majority of our members wanted independence and so it was decided that this was the direction we would follow. That’s how we roll in the SGP. That’s how we politic. We’re very democratic that way. I’d go so far as to say we’re a lot more democratic than some of the other parties who conduct their business under a centralised whip. Every single member has a vote in the Green Party and everyone has a voice. Every local party is autonomous and is free to make its own decisions. It’s called bottom up politics or, to use a much maligned and misappropriated phrase, people power*.
That’s why I joined the Scottish Greens.
The upcoming General Election on 7th May is not another referendum. After the upset of losing such a polarised debate there were many discussions about the possibility of a Yes Alliance. A cross party deal designed to break the stranglehold of the mainstream parties at Westminster. With the Greens, SNP, SSP and independent candidates all standing on a joint ticket. Or not standing at all in order to let the party with the potentially largest majority have the best chance of success. The problem with these discussions was that most of them took place in local hostelries. I was always a tad wary of going to any meetings to discuss this mythical alliance, not because I didn’t want to be part of what would have been an amazing force of cooperation, but because deep down I couldn’t shake the slightly nauseous feeling that party politics just doesn’t work like that.
A recent misconception, which is gaining ground amongst some political newbies (as well as some not so newbies), seems to suggest that the ‘non-SNP’ parties should call a halt to their political aspirations to give the SNP a clear run at challenging the most seats in May. Some of the Yes groups have even expressed their dismay that the SGP are even considering running candidates in certain constituencies. How dare the SGP continue to let their voters keep on voting for them? Some of these voices are quite vociferous in their belief that everyone else should take a back seat so that one single party can rule the political roost. I don’t agree with that position. Why should we work together to unseat a political hegemony in Westminster just to replace it with another one in Scotland? Even Lesley Riddoch agrees with my view that this might not be a good thing.
Whilst the referendum was an opportunity to join together and take a stand (over what was essentially a constitutional question about self governance) a general election is a very different beastie indeed. It was the SNP who drew a line under any kind of cross party alliance and decided to contest the election on its own. But when you think about it this makes perfect sense. We live in a democracy. We should all be allowed to vote for the party we most believe in. It might not be the same party that you believe in but hey, that’s politics.
The SNP and the Scottish Green Party are very different political animals (although you might not notice from the amount of Green policies that the SNP, and others, have decided to adopt). But as Mr Wilde once said, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness’, which only reinforces how popular Green policies are with the voting public. This can be seen on the Vote For Policies website which has placed the Greens as the most popular party after more than half a million people responded to their survey (try the questionnaire yourself). Although many people ideologically agree with the Greens, they don’t always vote that way – either because they are unaware of the fact that they are covert Greenys, or they feel that under the current First Past The Post system, a vote for the Greens might not count for much.
Compare this natural public affinity towards Green policies and devolved people power with the SNP’s style of government. They maintain a very strict party whip that controls every SNP MP and MSP’s move. They only want to wield power at an executive level and, according to a recent Cosla report, they are the most centralised government in Europe. They are also a party of big business as usual. Hence, the SNP are the antithesis of the SGP. We want more devolution so that local councils and communities can raise their own taxes and make their own decisions on how that money is best spent. We have been inviting our members to make policy since we were called the People’s Party and we let our members vote on every aspect of party business. We’re campaigning for a universal citizens income, a minimum wage of £10 an hour (by 2020), and a Land Value Tax to replace the out-dated, and unfair, Council Tax. We don’t accept donations from big business and corporations (so that once we form a government we won’t be at the behest of these companies) and we rely solely on member contributions and fees and fundraising events, which is why we can’t stand candidates in every constituency. But hey, that’s our kind of politics. It’s called Radical Democracy and it’s coming to a polling station near you, in May. No more bland sound bite politicking, regurgitated and rebadged for mass consumption whenever an election rolls around. It’s time for real, tangible engagement (aka people power), exercised in our communities, by you.
Not voting Green because you think it will hinder another party’s progress is like agreeing to build more and more nuclear weapons until someone else decides to ban them.
It’s mutually assured hegemony.
We’ve all got one vote in May. Make sure yours is unilateral.
Pol Clementsmith is Campaigns Co-ordinator for the Dundee & Angus Green Party
* Democracy is a composite Greek term, stemming from the words Demos (people) and Kratos (power), literally; people power.