I don’t share David’s view of the Spanish election result. The most remarkable thing (apart from
the low turnout increased turnout, actually) is how poorly Podemos performed compared to expectations earlier in the year. The limited returns from Syriza’s pitch in Greece perhaps coloured expectations?
Scotland by contrast got its play for freedom in earlier, with a promise of radical change which set the country alight, and in the process all but burning down Labour’s Scottish mansion.
In the great column for the Sunday Mail Gerry Hassan talked about the emergent conservativism which is quietly displacing some of that radical talk, and looking unsettlingly like the fatalism of the old Scottish Labour establishment…
Scotland is in a strange place. The SNP have positioned themselves as the party of Scotland’s interests. Labour are lost, regrouping and confused. The Tories have a niche but little more. The Lib Dems self-destructed years ago. The Greens are the only party challenging any of this, with a distinctive, coherent message, but firmly on the margins.
Despite the inflated rhetoric, underneath it all Scotland’s mainstream parties are fiscal conservatives and intellectual and political ones too.
They know voters like the idea of Scotland being distinctive. They know they like the warm words “social justice” but won’t do anything to make it happen, like taking significantly more from wealthy and affluent voters. They are all in hock to middle class interests and professional groups but with the exception of the Tories, pretend otherwise.
This could be a description of the Labour Scotland of the 1980s but it is the climate of today’s post-referendum SNP-dominated politics. Life after “the Big Bang” that was Scotland’s democratic explosion looks rather like it did before – business as usual, complacency and smugness, while people in SNP and Labour portray themselves as having long-term radical intentions.
Scotland has become a land of fiscal, intellectual and political conservatism, which begs the question, how deep is Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dudgale’s social democratic commitment?
In the SNP’s case the new overwhelming mandate they can expect at the next Holyrood elections in May may give them the impetus to start innovating new policy approaches to some of Scotland’s inveterate social exclusion and public health issues.
But as Hassan notes:
This is a safety first social justice world, where all the main parties mouth compassion and solidarity, with even the Tories trying to distance themselves from their wicked cousins down south.
Sadly, no one wants to confront any of the big issues, such as slow economic growth, structural divisions and inter-generational and social mobility gridlock. These are just too difficult for anyone – with the SNP able to blame Westminster and everyone else.
This has become a bit of a pattern. This week the commission on local tax reform reported. After more than 40 detailed meetings and thousands of consultations, they avoided coming up with a single clear recommendation.
Instead, they undertook research, offered a direction of travel, and weighed up options post-council tax.
Scotland is not alone ]. As noted by Richard Wynne Jones earlier in the year, most politics in Wales revolves around the same class of emotional marketing which promises change but which then carefully purges legislation of the possibility of having an effect.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty