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Saturday, 30 June 2012

What brought me to the SNP in May 2007

Saturday, 30 June 2012

I thought I would repost my reasons for switching from being a lifetime Labour voter to the Scottish National party in the 2007 election. This piece appeared as a guest blog on the YouScotland site just before the May 3rd election, on May Day 2007.

Why I am voting SNP May Day 2007
In the Glasgow I grew up in, if you didn't support the Labour Party, you were either well-off or something more complex, aspirational. My widowed mother and I lived in a decaying tenement in Dennistoun; my father had died of tuberculosis, after the humiliation and degradation of unemployment in the 1930s. We typified the kind of people for whom the Labour Party had been brought into existence, and our support for Labour was instinctive and fundamental.

I have always been a Labour voter, but never a Party member. My support has been at the ballot box, with occasional canvassing and leafleting activity, and some modest financial support. Throughout the nightmare years of Thatcher, I railed against the infighting of the Party that kept it from effectively challenging the Tories, and I was ecstatic when Tony Blair strode into Downing Street on a great wave of popular acclaim, carrying with him the hopes of millions like me.

But then the progressive, insidious betrayals began - the gradual erosion of cabinet government, the cynical news management, the toadying to money and celebrity, the marginalisation of dissent, the attack on personal freedom under the law. It seemed only a matter of time until a great defining political issue would reveal the fault line in Blair's government, and it came - Iraq.

As we moved inexorably towards the war, I began to write to the newspapers, especially the Glasgow Herald, and in early March 0f 2003, closed a long letter by saying -

"Iraq has become the defining political issue of our time, and the questions that will be asked of politicians (and all of us) is - where were you when there was still time to stop it?"

In May of 2003, after the resignation of Claire Short, I again wrote to the Herald -

"There are two kinds of dictator - those who seize power by force and those who erode parliamentary and cabinet processes gradually while maintaining the appearance of democracy. To Labour MPs I have this to say - get him (Blair) out before it is too late for the party and the nation. Our own Scottish Parliament is now finely balanced enough to permit a debate and a vote on the threat to our egalitarian traditions posed by this man, who appears committed to the belief that the fundamental organising principle of the State is war."

Labour MPs and MSPs did neither. Gordon Brown, the man who boasts of his moral compass, fully complicit in bankrolling the war, did nothing, either from political cowardice or because he endorsed it.

I have carried in my head over all the decades the rationale for supporting the Labour Party, or indeed any political party, inculcated into me in my early youth in Glasgow.

Be loyal to a political party only to the degree that it shares your ideals. Policies reflect ideals - a party with ideals and no policies is a waking dream, but a party with policies and no ideals is an empty shell.

Scotland made the Labour Party, and Scotland can unmake it if it betrays its ideals.

Both of these maxims have now come to haunt me in the dog days of Blair's government. Blair, Brown, their supporters, and the toom tabard, Jack McConnell, have betrayed my ideals, and, I believe, the ideals of millions of Labour Party supporters and members. The majority of Labour MPs and MSPs are fully complicit in that betrayal. I reject them and all their works. The Labour Party I knew and loved is dead.

Only one politician of stature asks me to lift my head and look at a horizon that reveals a vibrant, nuclear-free Scotland, an equal partner in the European community of nations - only one politician and one party offers to restore my political idealism - Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party.

The SNP will have my vote on May the 3rd 2007. I have never been a nationalist by instinct, but I believe that it now represents our last, best hope.

May the Labour Party rest in peace among its honourable dead, while Blair, Brown and their cohorts contemplate the charnel house they have made of Iraq, and their destruction of a once great political party.

My faith in the Scottish National Party and Alex Salmond has been fully vindicated in the five years since then, and any vestiges of respect and sympathy for the Labour Party have been utterly extinguished by their behaviour in Westminster and in Holyrood. I trust the Scottish National Party to bear in mind my old Glasgow political maxim -

Be loyal to a political party only to the degree that it shares your ideals. Policies reflect ideals - a party with ideals and no policies is a waking dream, but a party with policies and no ideals is an empty shell. (The SNP needs to remember that too ...)

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