Inverclyde, you wee darling, what a journey, what a campaign,
I’ll be honest, I never seen that size of victory coming. If I’m being brutally honest, I never once dared let myself think that we could win the seat of Inverclyde in the first place. All throughout the campaign every single indicator that we were going to win I took with a huge pinch of salt. I got carried away during the referendum. I wasn’t going to allow complacency to be a factor in this campaign.
Rather than give you the tedious details of my time stood outside polling stations all day, I’ll jump straight to the count. As I headed into the Waterfront to start the counting procedure my phone was going mental with people contacting me about the ‘BBC exit poll’. 58 SEATS that’s what about 40 texts sent to me were saying.
F*ck what if Inverclyde is the one seat to stay Labour was my first thought – sorry Ronnie I did have faith, honest! That initial worry was soon put to rest when we started to empty the ballot boxes. As we tallied the votes from the top of Port Glasgow; the Belva; Inverkip; Larkfield; Braeside, it was clear we had won. I was bursting with excitement and it was only 11:15. Person after person was telling me to ‘keep the heid’ as my smile threatened to swallow my face. WE HAD DONE IT. I didn’t have a clue how many votes we would eventually win by, but every SNP counter I went to showed me their tally marks, and we were romping home to victory. What a contrast this counting experience was to the one 8 months prior.
From around 1 in the morning the rest of the night had taken on a carnival atmosphere as Labour politicians started to fall one by one, consumed by the SNP tsunami. As we were under strict orders to be magnanimous in victory, there was no gloating or winding up of our Labour friends.
Around 3 o’clock we took our seats as Ronnie Cowan was announced SNP MP for Inverclyde by an unbelievable majority of 11,063. Ronnie and the SNP had secured 25, 585 votes compared to Labour’s 13,522.
As I sit writing this post 6 days after the event, I should still be high as a kite with excitement. Yet for all the jubilation and expectations I have for the SNP group as a whole, and Ronnie Cowan as my local MP, one sobering reality cannot be escaped. The Conservative Party has a majority of seats at Westminster and we are consigned to 5 more years of Tory rule.
Since Friday morning I’ve heard numerous excuses from the Labour party as to why they lost this election. From the saying it was the SNP surge that scared English voters in closely contested seats down south to vote Tory, to blaming everyone from Natalie Bennett to Leanne Wood for offering alternatives to Labour’s ‘Tory-lite” policies. All analysis so far has been outward rather than inward. Worst of all, and the reason I am writing this blog – which considering the scale of Ronnie’s victory should be a happy blog – is the complete and utter tosh that somehow us who voted SNP are delighted with a Tory victory.
As my mother will probably read this I’ll not tell you how I really feel about the Conservative party, it’s enough for me to just say I really dislike them, not just as politicians but people as well. I think the only way to describe what the Tories have in store for the next 5 years is evil. So let me state, unequivocally, that I am not one bit in the slightest happy about a Tory victory, I am sick to my stomach thinking of the hardships that those disciples of Thatcher are going to impose on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. This idea that somehow we are happy with a Tory victory shows the complete ignorance Labour have towards people who vote SNP or campaign on behalf of the SNP.
The blame for this Tory majority lies squarely at the feet of Ed Miliband and the Labour party. At the 2010, General election Scotland returned 47 anti-Tory MPs, (that’s MPs who would vote against a Tory Queens Speech) last Thursday we returned 57- an increase of 12. The Scottish electorate has spoken and we have unanimously rejected the Tories. Yet here we stand with a Tory majority government for the next 5 years. There can be no blame attached to the voters in Scotland, we done our part we kicked out the Tories, it is Labour who have failed us, yet again.
Ed Miliband had numerous opportunities over this last 5 years to prove that the Labour Party should be the next government of the UK. And let’s be frank, the last 5 years have been a disaster for people who should be voting Labour in their droves. Wages are still lower than they were in 2008; there’s record numbers of people using foodbanks; more and more people are finding themselves in the increasingly normal situation of ‘in-work poverty’. The Tories may paint a picture of economic success over the last 5 years but the faces of the working class paint a very different picture. Yet they still managed to trounce Labour. Labour had no clear purpose, no clear identity and no clear vision that people could believe in. The voters who once voted Labour in England were now turning to UKIP, the Green party or worst of all not getting out to vote at all. That is the reason we have a Tory Government not 56 SNP MPs in Scotland.
Yet rather than apply some cold sober analysis to what the electorate have chosen, The Labour Party are arguing, quite unbelievably, that their defeat was down to English voters scared at the prospect of the SNP holding the balance of power. The SNP message of anti-austerity, anti-trident, anti-HouseOfLords, we are being told, terrified the electorate of England so much, that it voted Tory. Labour should really take a step back and consider the wider ramifications of that accusation. If that is true, then the United Kingdom is over once and for all. If the Labour Party is really telling us that our wish to reject austerity, nuclear weapons, the House of Lords and support something better than what they are offering, will then confine us to perpetual Tory rule, then the UK is truly on life support. Of course this election wasn’t about independence, Nicola Sturgeon made that point clear. This election was about the welfare of our citizens. Yet if Labour continue down this road of blame and continue to present the UK as a binary choice between them and the Tories, then independence will come. As last Thursday has shown, the Scottish electorate has overwhelmingly rejected both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.
For what its worth I don’t believe for one second that the English electorate feared the SNP or chose the Tories because of Nicola Sturgeon. The fact of the matter is Ed Miliband and Labour weren’t good enough. Hamstrung by the failures of New Labour, Ed Miliband wasn’t radical enough to encourage the missing millions to vote, or strong enough to win over floating Lib-Dem and Green voters. Labour would do themselves a favour and the people of the UK a good deed, if they look inward, if they truly understand that the UK is crying out for a credible alternative to the Tories and Ed Miliband appealing to soft Tories stating “ill be your champion” or telling Scots that ‘We are not going to do a deal with the Scottish National Party. If it meant we would not be in government, then so be it,’ It becomes abundantly clear you’re not that alternative. So let me tell you Ed, the reason you were rejected was because you lacked the courage of your convictions not because ‘The Sun’ put Nicola Sturgeon on a wrecking ball to terrify English voters.
Back to Inverclyde, something that is seemingly lost in this meltdown, is that we have a new MP. Forget party politics, forget numbers required to form majorities, a MPs job at its basic level, is to represent their constituents. I know Ronnie; I think I know him well. Ronnie is going to be an absolutely fantastic MP. You know, since I got interested in politics (when I discovered I was absolutely rubbish at football) one thing that has always annoyed me is people calling politicians liars, selfish, untrustworthy, etc., etc. Now of course I know some are, but I know Ronnie, and I know he isn’t. I’m genuinely not sure what Ronnie will be able to achieve over the next 5 years. What I do know though, is that he will work extremely hard, he wont abuse his position, and to the best of his ability he will try empower Inverclyde whilst standing up for what we believe in down in Westminster.
And as for the 56 SNP MPs as whole, well they hold an ACE card. They hold an advantage that Labour has never had. They believe in independence. They believe that we can do things better in Scotland, without the constraints of Westminster. Whilst the electoral math has deprived us of holding the balance of power, the 56 are still more powerful than the media are currently giving them credit for. The Tory party for all their faults still want Scotland to remain in the UK, and in that want lies the power of the 56 SNP MPs
And one last thing, if last Thursday I offered you 56 MPs to go down south and resist and oppose a Tory majority government. Who do you feel would stand up for Scotland more effectively, 56 Labour MPs, or 56 SNP MPs…