First up, I should admit that I've stolen (and adapted) the post title from Backing Blair. Specifically, it came from this post which explained how Blair uses fear of the Tories to bolster support for New Labour. This post was written before the 2005 general election .
[W]e'd like to point out that there are a number of parallels between the Tories and terrorists, in that Blair has been using our fear of both to stay in power and get away with all kinds of things the public would never tolerate without the presence of a serious boogey-man. Or two.Indeed. Here are some campaign posters as a reminder of the sort of thing we're talking about.
I'm pretty sure I saw all four of these in my constituency (I'm absolutely sure about two). It's a Labour/Lib Dem marginal which the Tories were never going to win. They also constantly argued that if disillusioned Labour voters decided to vote Liberal Democrat, this would let the Tories in by the "back door". It was a fatuous claim but it undoubtedly influenced some people.
And in my own constituency, a Professor Matt Qvortrup appeared in the local media to warn Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems might allow the Tories to win the seat. This was clearly a nonsense as the Tories had been a distant third in the 2001 election. In Aberdeen South, the Lib Dems were quite correct to claim that only they or Labour could win the seat. (The actual election result proved the point.) One google later, I discovered that the professor had worked as policy advisor to both Jack Straw and David Blunkett. This wasn't mentioned in either of the articles in which he made his logic defying claim. When I emailed him to ask why he had made this bizarre assertion, he claimed that he had been misquoted. Twice. In two separate interviews with two separate newspapers. In exactly the same way.
I suppose that it is theoretically possible...
That's all in the past now but it is relevant to the forthcoming 2007 Scottish election campaign because we can expect more of the same. In this election, of course, it would be beyond the realms of credibility to use the Tories as the boogey-man so they're going to use the SNP instead. It is already happening; many of the speeches at the Scottish Labour Party conference specifically attacked the SNP. In fact, the conference seemed to be almost exclusively concerned with the apparent failings of the Nationalists. The SNP are doing well in the polls but there is no doubt that Labour have decided to deliberately emphasise the possibility that they could win in order to put the fear into disillusioned voters. "WARNING" posters similar to the one above but with the SNP as their target are probably already on their way to the printers.
And John "We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot" Reid, never one to do things by halves, has even made an explicit link between the SNP and terrorism. He claimed that Scotland would be more vulnerable to a terrorist attack if it became independent. This from a supporter of Blair's policies! He really has got no scruples whatsoever. He must never be allowed to become Prime Minister.
The situation this time is slightly different to the general election, however. As I said, the SNP are doing well in the polls. Unlike the Tories at the general election, the SNP could conceivably win the largest number of seats in this election. This is a slight complication and could also make Labour's campaign more effective.
It was clear that the Tories weren't going to win in 2005; the opinion polls and the swing they actually needed to win a majority made it obviously impossible from a very early stage. Backing Blair, among others, were able to point this out and it did, to an extent, reduce the impact of Blair's nasty campaign. That approach isn't possible this time because the SNP might well win.
I'm not an SNP supporter myself, (to borrow from Shuggy, I'm not really interested in a polity based on ethnicity) so that does pose something of a problem. They have, however, been quite clever in their decision to offer a referendum on independence. That means that a vote for them cannot be taken as a mandate for independence, only a mandate for a referendum. The possibility exists to vote SNP and then vote against independence. For their point of view, it is a clever piece of decoupling and it's founded in a democratic approach too so that's all well and good.
What this means, at least for me, is that the possibly of campaigning against Labour and attempting to expose their dirty tricks during the election campaign is still very much on the table.
The question then is, why would I want Labour to be given another bloody nose given that Blair is intending to stand down around that time anyway. There are a number of reasons but one really stands out. The idea that Scottish Labour is separate from Blair doesn't cut it with me; ultimately, they are part of the Labour Party and Blair is their leader. And the Labour Party, north and south of the border, have decided to let Blair depart "with dignity" at the time of his own choosing. That is enough. Allowing Blair to maintain even a tiny sheen of dignity is not acceptable. The less dignified Blair's exit is, the better.
And I'm not just saying that out of spite. It is the interest of all of us to make sure that a man who has behaved in the way Blair has is not allowed to leave with dignity. What sort of message would that send to future leaders of this country? The message would be "he got away with it, I can too". And the first person who'll get that message is going to be either Gordon Brown or (if ever I wanted to call on the power of an omnipotent deity, it's now) John Reid. Neither of these men needs any encouragement to take liberties with our democracy. What they need is a hefty slap on the wrists before they've even started. A serious whipping at the Scottish elections, especially now that the New Labour machine has decided to become so involved in the campaign, is just what's required.
So, unless something extraordinarily unpredictable happens, I intend to campaign to make Blair's departure as miserable as possible. And that means campaigning against Labour in 2007.
I'd be interested to know whether other bloggers feel the same. Perhaps some sort of collaborative online campaign to counter the spin machine might be worth considering. Speak up in the comments or send me an email if you're interested (my email address is in the right sidebar). Not sure I'd be the best person to coordinate it mind; my organisational skills are legendary. And by that, I obviously mean that they don't actually exist.
By the way, there is is certain irony here and I'm not unaware of it. On the one hand, I'm complaining about negative campaigning but on the other, I'm saying I want to campaign against Blair. There are differences though. Firstly, Blair and his cronies are actually in power. We don't need to guess what they'd be like. We know. Campaigning to end that seems entirely sensible to me.
Perhaps more importantly, what really irks me about Blair and his spinners is that they are knowingly dishonest. For example, they knew full well that the Tories wouldn't win the 2005 election. That election was always about the size of their majority. They also knew that Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems couldn't actually let the Tories in "by the back door". But that didn't stop them from making those claims. Democracy should be about honesty if it is about anything but Blair doesn't understand that. Again, it seems entirely sensible to protest against this state of affairs.
And finally, the sort of campaign I have in mind would not be based on untruths, dirty tricks and deliberately misleading statements. I think that makes a world of difference.
Tags: News, Politics, Scottish Elections, Tony Blair