Friday, 29 April 2016

SSP/RISE No More: Looking Ahead

I joined the Scottish Socialist Party after the referendum as I believed this could be a party that had the potential, the drive of membership increase and good hard working activists to allow it to develop into a major force in Scottish politics.
I had been a Labour member, voter, activist of some description since I was 8 years old. I left the party after the referendum due in part to watching unconscionable acts by the leadership,campaigning with the Tories, smiling at Asda when they announced food costs would go up in an independent Scotland (Why smile at buying groceries being made more difficult for people). I watched as members like myself and a great many others were castigated for daring to ask for the parties position on the question of independence to be decided democratically. I do not regret leaving the Labour Party in September 2014 it was the right thing for me to do.
I was approached by Colin Fox soon after and also a member of RIC now a leading figure in RISE who wanted to start a new party out with the SSP on the left. To me it seemed that with 3000 new members applying to join and the impressive attitude and drive its members showed in the referendum campaign that the SSP had huge potential. I met with Colin and discussed where I felt the party needed to go and how it could be improved. I felt the SSP could take on the mantle of Labour in Scotland over time by moving away from the fringes of the far left and convincing traditional, real Labour voters that real Labour was actually socialism and that despite new Labours best intentions these members and voters were and always had been socialists. The SSP could and should be the new home for them. I wont recount private conversations but for my part the SSP needed a fresh look, a clear narrative, to continue to build on their improved social media campaign, to develop their media strategy and build a team around the co-spokespersons.Most importantly policy needed to be fully costed, for too long the left have been accused of pipe dreaming we needed to professionalise and take ourselves seriously before we could ask anyone else to do so.
After several discussions with Colin mainly, I felt confident that we were all on the same page and strived for the same goal I agreed to join the party. The SSP gained the media press it sought from this and I was warmly welcomed at the annual conference in October. I conveyed the same message f change to the party and felt it was received well. Following this I spoke at two events sharing a platform with Colin. The second of these was described by an observer as ‘two people arguing that the other was talking shite but doing so in the politest way possible.’
I offered to and did produce a costed energy policy. Scotland’s Energy Future in Scotland’s Hands was submitted to the Executive Committee in April last year and despite 8 months of myself being on the Executive I wager it has still never been discussed, despite great chunks of it being in the 2015 general election manifesto.
I could go on to discuss the negotiations with RISE, how I told the conference that the next day despite the motion being that the EC would negotiate, that the Sunday Herald would run that we had voted to be part of the alliance. I could mention how repeatedly I warned the EC and specifically Colin Fox that the SSP would either be subsumed into RISE or they would have created a party that will be directly opposed to you standing on your same platform of policies. I could go on and on and on ...but it wont.
I’ve probably bored you all into submission by now, if not I’m sure the last few months have made you rethink whether you should read my articles. So what’s the point of this? Today i received a message from an SNP supporter who I met on the campaign. He mentioned how this experience had not left me to contribute positively, he is of course right. I have become a bit of a moany sod. I don’t want to be anymore and so I need to let go.
In truth I was never truly at home in the SSP. The Labour Party has always been my home but that now seems a stranger to me too. As does any other political party. Surprisingly I do not regret my time in the SSP it proved a place to learn and more importantly allowed me to meet and work with a great many members, activists and friends who I hope will continue to work with me and consider me a comrade regardless of the roads we travel on.
I believe that the SSP had it followed a positive course of action could have spent the past 18 months since the referendum building a party that would have gained enough votes for at least 1 or 2 MSPs allowing the party to build in communities for the council elections next year. Instead of moving to becoming a major force in Scottish politics they have now aligned themselves with a far left group that does more harm to progress than good. I believe that by July the SSP will be no more... or little less than a rump of its former self. I also believe there are bigger issues to complain about. I believe that there are too many people, children, families,pensioners starving, struggling o heat their homes, pay their bills...most of whom are in work. They are blighted by a corrupt and incompetent government in Westminster. I still believe in independence for Scotland not because it is a nations right but because it will allow us to create a better, fairer more equal society.
I look forward to watching the outcome of the Scottish Election, I do so with itchy fingers ready to type, itchy feet ready to walk the streets and a voice that has been held down for too long and an anger that has been misplaced. We have so much to do, I look forward to working with you all to make a real change in our society.