54% MEANS NOTHING TO RIGHT OR WRONG.
The Weekend papers had various people celebrating the fact that support for Independence is at 54% and rising. I joined in, it is very encouraging and we must all do what we can to keep that success going.
That said the NEC is a mess, it’s construction is unwieldy with far too many seats on it allocated to factional groups. The introduction of secret ballots, for the first time in the Party’s history, removes the direct link between the NEC members and the broad membership of the Party. This is important, it is the absence of secret ballots that ensures this Party remains your Party, if suddenly NEC members can pick and choose when they are accountable for what they do, it becomes their Party, not yours!
Being a NEC representative should be and is a great honour. It gives you considerable power and influence over a wide range of policies, events and decisions. You are one of a very select number of representatives of the broad membership entrusted with being THEIR representative on the committee. They put their trust in you. You are expected to be completely open and honest and your actions, how you vote on every single measure, until now, has been fully recorded and the information and record made available to the entire Party membership. No Longer.
The NEC is now operating separate from the Party. How representatives vote are now being kept secret. Secret from the entire party, secret from the person sitting in the room alongside you on the Executive (or on the neighbouring screen during Covid). You may ask how did that happen?
That is a huge departure from established practice and is unconstitutional. NEC members themselves only found out about it at the meeting. This must not be allowed to stand. A new vote offering the options of voting yes or no or indeed abstaining on every option and decision, with each vote being recorded, is urgently required. An independent observer looking at this would consider it very likely that those behind the measures being debated were aware, let’s be kind, that it was a bit dodgy, so they required a secret ballot, for the first time in NEC history, to hide their personal duplicity from the Party.
The problem does not end there, somehow or other the NEC has managed to get away from being a directly elected body by delegates at Conference to this much larger body where a sizeable chunk of the members are NOT elected, but appointed by a myriad of special interest groups. While it was acceptable in my days for the youth and students bodies to have one seat each, every other member of the NEC was directly elected by Conference and directly accountable. Now places are handed out to people no conference delegate has ever voted for and who is accountable to the factional group who gave them the seat rather than the Party. This must end as it is clearly causing big problems. These groups have their own agendas and they push them relentlessly on the NEC.
A NEC member assured me Independence Strategy or campaigning has not been discussed even once on the NEC this year. A year that has been dominated with GRA and the Hate Crime Bill.
The full make up of the NEC is available on Wikipedia under the SNP. It lists the many different factions, some clearly overlapping. No Conference delegate elected even one of them at Conference.
When you look at this route to the NEC you quickly work out the best way to get a seat is to create further factions and then demand a seat on the NEC to represent your particular faction. It further divides the Party then rewards them for doing so! Madness!
A lot of these factions deal with equality issues. Here is an idea, what about equality of elections to the NEC rather than factional appointments?
The most revealing thing about this whole issue is this. The complete silence from so many senior politicians to these issues. This speaks volumes to an old hand like myself. It tells me, that they recognise blanket silence is not a good look, that something is badly wrong and having weighed it all up, they want to get as far away from it as possible. There is dust in them there hills!
The few that have said anything have condemned the NEC while trying to absolve themselves of any blame. Even the leader while trying to head off dissent had only the 54% support, don’t rock the boat, stay loyal argument. She made no attempt to defend what had happened or address any of the issues outlined above. These issues have been handled hopelessly and are still very wrong even if we are 90% in the polls.
There is no reason for us to fall out over this. I think any reasonable person, looking at the problems of the NEC in isolation would agree this has been handled very badly, unconstitutionally and needs urgent action. So can I suggest we just get on with doing that.
I would caution people to look very carefully at suggested solutions, which at first may appear to be desirable but in reality would make things worse. Alyn Smith’s solution removing all the factional groups (good) but also removing the regional representatives (bad) would make things worse as there are more regional representatives than factional bodies (just) leaving those left with even more central control.
The solution lies in increased democracy where virtually every position is elected by delegates at Conference or even better one member, one vote. All voting on the NEC to be recorded and openly available to the membership. No more secret ballots. People wanting to contest the election can set out their stall, including any special interest in minority or equality issues and delegates or members can determine those they wish to support. Trust the membership to arrive at a sensible balance of priorities.
We may be at 54% in the polls but members still need to get their Campaigning for Independence Party back.