Thursday, 21 March 2013

How to punish pro-criminalisation MSPs and change a government

Following an armed police attack on a non-aggressive protest on Saturday, Kenny MacAskill, the Secretary for "Justice", said he was pleased at the conduct of his thuggish force, and dismissed widespread calls for an inquiry into the largest-scale State attacks on protesters since the Poll Tax protests. 

It is clear, therefore, that MacAskill, who once described the large-scale singing of a racist song demanding that Irish Catholics be purged from Scotland as "contributing to a memorable occasion", fully supports the conduct of his police force. 

One wonders what is in store when the same people who protested against the same law on Saturday gather once more in George Square, Glasgow, on April 6th at noon to protest against a discriminatory, subjective law whose motives are increasingly under scrutiny amidst growing fears of increased discrimination in Scotland. It was, of course, Christine Grahame, the SNP convenor of Parliament's Justice Committee, and an MSP who stands accused of anti-Catholic hatred, who notoriously let slip that the purpose of the new law was to ensure that more Catholics were to be arrested to "even things up". 

Perhaps MacAskill's police, having failed to intimidate or defeat those who protest against discriminatory legislation by physically attacking them with metal poles, will crack out the rubber bullets against those they consider vermin for the occasion. Perhaps we might get off lightly, and MacAskill's thugs will be content with water cannon only. 

What is abundantly clear is that MacAskill has - whatever his motives may have been - promulgated a law which is blatantly discriminatory; and is being used by the police to violently attack people who hold political views with which they disagree. 

What was even more despicable was MacAskill's attempts to conflate a legal, anti-fascist group protesting against an unfair law and its implementation with the Scottish Defence League, a racist and fascist organisation whose stated aim is to sow discord amongst Glasgow's communities.

It is now clear that an extremely large, and growing, constituency in Glasgow and the West of Scotland feels that Kenny MacAskill is actively working to suppress their community, and that a growing proportion of people in Scotland feel that it is inappropriate that he remains as Justice Secretary.

MacAskill sits in the seat of Edinburgh Eastern in Parliament, where he enjoys a majority of 2233. This requires a swing of just over 1000 for him to lose his seat (although, due to the archaic and undemocratic regional system in Parliament, losing one's seat does not necessarily mean elimination from Parliament). Given that the Government by the time of the next election will have been in power for eight years, we can expect a certain swing against it at any rate. The standing of an anti-criminalisation candidate in this seat against MacAskill could have the effect of taking such votes away from MacAskill and making him more vulnerable to defeat. 

MacAskill is finished and needs to be removed from Parliament. But other MSPs need to be persuaded too.

There are many such constituencies in Glasgow and the West where this is the case. 

In Cathcart, the SNP majority is 1592 - fewer than 800 people (again, notwithstanding a natural wastage of votes for a two-term Government). Would the presence of an anti-criminalisation candidate threatening to take votes from, and campaigning only against the SNP candidate push the SNP incumbent into pledging to repeal the Act? I think it would.

In Kelvin, the majority is less than 900. 

There's a Labour majority of less than 1300 in Maryhill - that's overturnable. Not if there's an anti-criminalisation campaign against the SNP candidate! Same as in Rutherglen, where James Kelly's majority is 1700 or so for Labour.

John Mason's majority in Shettleston is less than 600. He'd be a loss to his constituency and to Parliament - but if he refuses to commit to repeal the Bill, he could be toast. Same for Anniesland, with an SNP majority of only seven votes.

The point is that a single issue campaign in an election can be intensely damaging to a candidate. 

Let's take Anniesland again, for example. Last time round, the SNP majority was 7 (ie, if four people had voted the other way, it wouldn't be an SNP seat). Could an anti-criminalisation campaign persuade four out of 24,000 people not to vote for a pro-criminalisation candidate?

In that seat, a Communist candidate stood last time, attracting 256 votes, coming last and losing his deposit. You'd think he'd be disappointed, but he would go home happy because he had no intention of winning. He punished the Labour Party alright though, for betraying its left-wing principles. The SNP eventually won the Government with a majority of four.

Imagine this had all happened in 2011, and in response, an anti-criminalisation campaign had stood in the following four seats, with the specific intention of targeting the SNP candidate:

Anniesland (majority 7)
Kirkcaldy (majority 182)
Paisley (majority 248)
Edinburgh Central (majority 237)

That is 674 votes to give the Government its four seat majority. If the anti-criminalisation campaign persuaded three hundred and thirty seven people to switch, the Government would have lost its majority. 

Scotland is a small country. Our Governments tend to have small majorities. The largest Parliamentary majority in the history of the Scottish democracy is 8, the average Parliamentary majority is -1.

Our constituencies tend to have small majorities. 

A concerted, single-issue campaign targeted well can eliminate not just MSPs who support criminalisation on the base of discriminatory legislation, but can actually change the Government. 

That is a helluva power to hold. 

I think it might be time for the SNP to talk. Quickly.

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