‘Just pronounce the bloody name properly……’ was my first reaction to the chaotic launch of Alex Salmond’s Alba Party. I could just about forgive the multiple technical difficulties, the questions we couldn’t hear and the awkward empty silences, but getting the Gaelic name of our nation wrong, particularly when you had just appropriated it? Come on….
But the moment when I knew this enterprise was doomed from the very start was when the words ‘we now go over to the blogger community’ was uttered, and up appeared the ominous silent presence of Wings Over Scotland’s, Stuart Campbell. From that point on I knew that no credibility could be bestowed on this mission and nothing could be done to make this a popular exercise that would in any way chime with the general public. In the course of the past couple of weeks Alba has not so much risen like the phoenix but fizzled out like a haphazard Catherine wheel at a firework show that no one wanted to go to.
Here was Alex, back and unrepentant talking about a ‘super majority’ just like the good old days. You could almost just about believe it. The references to romantic nationalism were designed to stir the loins and imagined claymores were being picked up to do gory battle on every regional list in Scotland.
The thing with a new independence party is that only Alex could give this enterprise any sense of credibility, whilst at the same time, only Alex could ensure that it was doomed from the very start.
His decades of leadership, his singular efforts at the last referendum, his chutzpah and political skills made him the only possible candidate for the job. But negative ratings worse than Boris Johnson’s and a failure to acknowledge his many failings brought up in his trial meant only he could ensure it would go absolutely nowhere.
And this ‘super majority’ is a typically brilliant Alex concept. I mean who wouldn’t want a majority that was ‘super’? Ending ‘wasted’ list votes and the promise of claiming unionist scalps? What’s not to like about that? Only, of course, it is absolute bollocks. Unable to define what a ‘super majority’ actually means it has come across as a ‘vote for Alex’ vendetta. This doesn’t have the look of a great political breakthrough but has all the hallmarks of a tired and much diminished political figure wanting his ego fed with a dish of revenge, served cold.
‘Super’ majorities are of course important. We know that because we’ve already had one. In 2011 the SNP secured an overall majority and that led to an independence referendum in 2014. It is that SNP majority that is the most secure route to a referendum again. How do we know that? Well, we know because of that precedent and because every column inch of every piece of Tory campaign literature is dedicated to ensuring another SNP majority doesn’t happen again. The Tories know that if we secure another SNP majority it’s game over. Anything that gets in the way of that is a risk to our independence ambitions.
It is inconceivable with Alex’s negative ratings that any more than the smallest subset of a small subset would be likely to vote for a party he leads. But then, just enough people might vote for him to deny an SNP list candidate or two a place in Parliament. Given the tightness of the polls those MSPs might just be the difference between another SNP majority, or not. Voting Alba actually presents as much of a risk to an SNP majority as the Tories they claim they will replace.
But there are other things wrong with Alba that is deeply troubling and that brings us back to our friends the ‘bloggers’. These people have been brought in to spread the message and to provide the intellectual and ideological heft to Alba’s appeal. Alex is used to being interviewed at election time by Paxman, Neil and Marr, now he is being interviewed by ‘Jeggit’ and ‘Barrhead Boy’. It is the damage that is done to the credibility of the whole movement by exposing the worst excesses of ‘Yes’ Twitter on to the general population. It is their innate ability to put people off the whole idea of independence that is being unleashed beyond the realms of where it can be safely contained.
The bloggers and their followers are also full on ‘raging against the woke’ social conservatives and their obsessions have to be satisfied. So it’s straight to ‘women’s rights’ and a full assault on the ‘hated’ GRA, progressive equality policies and anything designed to make the lives of trans people just that little bit more tolerable.
Inevitably we were left with the appalling and absurd contention that the Scottish Government supports the idea of lowering the age of consent to 10 years old with the associated smears that the LGBT+ community is aligned to underage sex and paedophilia. The creation and propagation of the ‘predator’ is a trope as old as the hills but here was Alba heading down that rabbit hole within a political minute of it being formed. We now eagerly await the policy announcements on defence, foreign policy and the economy, with baited breath
I have always believed that another party would come along to accommodate those in the SNP unhappy at progress towards independence and determined to pursue an agenda around their own social conservative values. It has now arrived and we will soon see just how much of a public appetite there is for plebiscites, UDIs combined with a ‘war on woke’. Currently Alba is on about 2 to 3% in the opinion polls and heading not so much for a ‘super majority’ but for zero MSPs. In forming they might even have done the SNP a favour in helping to clear out those who have done nothing other than criticise and depress the party with endless cynicism and negativity from within. They can now knock themselves out with dreams about ‘negotiating independence within a week’ whilst we get on with securing that referendum, winning it and seeing our nation emerge as an independent country.
Alba is soon going to find that the real world is significantly different to the weird alternative reality found on the Twitter accounts of their house bloggers. What they will find is that the general public like and approve of the SNP, and trust us to lead our nation to independence.