Alyn Smith: OK. So you defeated me. Now it’s time to deliver
By Alyn Smith Originally published in the National
WELL, I told you they wanted me out and they succeeded. Here, evidently, is where loyalty to the leadership of my party, to party policy and to the cause of independence gets me.
Congratulations to the SNP’s new policy development convener Chris Hanlon. I pledge my support to him going forward on anything positive and constructive to furthering independence.
To the observers and pundits of Scottish politics, I would suggest that it is premature to read too much into these results. We’re in Covid times – party conference this year was a unique event where you only had to pay a delegate fee and could vote in the internal elections from your sofa. There’s a discontent and scratchiness to life generally and there was a mood to kick back against the establishment which I was somehow perceived to be part of.
We had 2440 delegates but the voting in the policy motions was regularly around 1400. That tells me 1000 delegates were only there for the rankings. Social media (and indeed this newspaper) have played a disproportionate role in the party’s what-should-be-internal discourse over the last year, given that we couldn’t have meetings.
Because of Covid, I didn’t have the track record of organising National Assemblies over the year to look back on, and the role was also misrepresented, as if the policy development convener is somehow solely responsible for handing down tablets of stone when the reality is the whole policy development committee is there to encourage the wider party to formulate policy, and we encouraged 130-plus motions from branches.
So many excuses, all valid but all beside the point. I did not have the support and must reflect on what happened. These results do matter and should not be dismissed, not least because there has been a big turnover in the make-up of our National Executive Committee. There has been a clear desire to change course. I will do all I can to ensure that it is not to veer into oncoming traffic.
The rules of the SNP have just changed. I’ve long said I don’t like factions, and I still don’t even if I seem to be in a minority.
The SNP have always been diverse, but we never did permanent alliances. Now, perhaps, we do. Or at least until the alliances cobbled together for this vote fall out.
I don’t like talk of a left wing or a right wing of the SNP. Traditionally, we would agree one policy from all our perspectives and then unite to defend it, and that unity was our strength. Until recently, at least.
The fact that members of our party have been allowed to openly undermine and dissent from our agreed policy and collective discipline will have grave long-term consequences – we’ve only just started to see them. This is a wake-up call – progressive policies, fraternal loyalty and self-discipline cannot be taken for granted.
The fact that Joanna Cherry, on the eve of our party conference, was able to give an interview to The Times attacking our leader in the most disloyal way possible is bad enough. That there is no apparent consequence to such disloyalty is quite incredible to me. That she was elected on to the NEC of our party is remarkable altogether.
To oppose is easy, to govern is hard, and in every victory lie the seeds of the next defeat.
As the new NEC will discover, there are a lot of difficult issues facing us that will not be resolved by a neat hashtag or a blogpost blaming “HQ” or “the leadership” or espousing a “Plan B” that barely exists and won’t last three seconds in the real world.
You’ve won. Congratulations. Now it’s on you to deliver.
How this gathering of opposing filter bubbles and WhatsApp groups will work as a cohesive or coherent NEC remains to be seen.
And it will be seen, by all of Scotland at a time when people want to see serious people working hard, not falling out over the narcissism of small differences or personalities and ego.
But, I don’t see a lot of coherence there – the idea that sincere women’s rights defenders will find much long-term common cause with Alex Salmond apologists hardly strikes me as likely.
That a number of people elected on to the policy development committee thought it helpful and productive to organise a simultaneous alternative conference the day of the actual SNP conference in order to talk about Plan B and magic-bean currency options does not fill me with confidence there will be a lot of discipline there.
So new rules, new tactics. I’m out as policy development convener but I’m not going away and I’m not going to be bullied into silence. I’m starting a faction! I’m in the SNP Wing of the SNP.
We were out-organised this time, it is our responsibility to dig in and organise better for the next. An old, possibly apocryphal, story is that William Wallace asked his friend Andrew de Moray to find him a phrase to get him through good times and bad, and he did – “this too will pass”.
So it will, what comes next is all to play for. Independence will be won on the centre ground, on an inclusive, radical, progressive internationalist platform. That is still in sight and I’ve not devoted the last 20 years of my life to it to give that up now.
I selected this as my Worst Article of the Week, it could have been the Month or Year, it was that bad. A category that had to be created especially for this article that highlights the writers inability to respond with any grace or dignity to his electoral defeat. People are often angry after losing an election but this article was way beyond that, it sought to publicly malign the electorate, the ordinary membership of the Party. It was hugely misjudged. It smacked of entitlement that somehow it was their failure he had not won.
He blames social media and the National, COVID 19, lazy uncommitted delegates sitting at home all too ready to “get him”. He plays the victim, ignorant to his own self important arrogance, claims the credit for attracting over 130 resolutions but not the blame for them all being consigned to the bin in advance of Conference. Avoids his “Big Daddy” role in a band of juvenile bullies who used intimidation and threats as their most obvious tool to oppose any that stood against them, particularly against Joanna Cherry and Joan McAlpine.
His attitude stinks, look at his language “Alex Salmond apologists”. That was the language of a snake. Nobody needs to apologise for Alex Salmond, every charge against him was thrown out, although quite a number of senior SNP figures do owe him a long overdue apology.
He is right, his side were out organised, out thought, outfought by many, many ordinary SNP members determined to seize their Party back and put it back on track delivering Independence. He is enraged by the exposure of his NEC allies on social media and blames this for his and their demise. I do so hope he is right about that.
He can try and put together a fringe moaners and whingers group but I forecast he will find it hard going. Careerists and trendies are not attracted to failure and defeat, it involves a lot of hard work , effort and a completely new agenda to come back from such a setback. More likely many will join the Greens as some were already tweeting yesterday. Lookout Patrick they are coming your way!
He was “Big Daddy” when he seemed all powerful, now he looks and is behaving like a bitter old has been. It really is an outstanding example of how not to handle a defeat.
In conclusion, it was a lady called Dot Jessiman who is the heroine of these elections and no Alyn you are certainly no William Wallace, or Andrew De Moray for that matter.
Finally I had to laugh about how you would try to stop the new NEC veering “into oncoming traffic”. Face it Alyn your hands are now nowhere near the steering wheel and you can’t drive anywhere from the boot.
I am, as always
YOURS FOR SCOTLAND.
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