Give me an effective tyrant?

For anyone who still doesn’t understand – or pretends not to understand – why the Alba Party needs to exist, I can recommend Robin McAlpine’s article from around a week ago that summarises the campaign of dirty tricks that the SNP leadership indulged in to essentially overturn the results of the democratic internal elections in November 2020 that saw candidates from the Common Weal slate and the Women’s Pledge slate do exceptionally well.  As Robin notes, the end result of that campaign was that the victorious candidates were largely replaced by the very people they had been elected to replace, and without any further vote.  There can be no greater perversion of the democratic process than that.  Of course the leadership loyalist version of what happened is that some of the winners randomly took a huff and decided to leave the party, and that the runners-up valiantly stepped up to keep the show on the road.  The reality is more like the equivalent of constructive dismissal – if it’s made impossible for you to fulfil the obligations of your elected role or of your mandate, departure is not really a voluntary choice.  Remember that not all of the people who resigned from the positions they had been elected to ended up joining Alba – some simply resigned and remained within the SNP.  If you genuinely have power and influence within a party of government, you’re highly unlikely to relinquish that power to languish on the fringes of the party, and you’re equally unlikely to give up that power to join a much smaller party.  The fact that so many people did resign is entirely consistent with Robin’s account of a leadership that refused to accept the results of the vote.  The victorious candidates had been left, to coin a phrase, “in office but not in power”, and they had nowhere left to go but the exit gate.

But this raises another question. However maddening and unacceptable these events were, are we missing a bigger picture? Some would phrase it this way: is taking a stand against the arrogance and entitlement of the likes of Alyn Smith and Fiona Robertson really more important than securing independence for this country?  If that was truly the choice, I would say no.  There has been many a tyrant down the ages who has nevertheless been an effective leader capable of guiding his followers to the promised land. (To take perhaps the most extreme example, it was the mass-murdering despot Stalin who was more responsible than any other leader for rescuing Europe from the Nazis.)  If I felt that the SNP leadership were serious about delivering an independence referendum and had a viable strategy to achieve that, I would say “let’s ignore every provocation and maintain iron discipline behind that leadership”. As much as almost everyone who has joined Alba feels far happier in their new political home and are now free to just be themselves, it would be much better being miserable within the SNP for a couple more years and actually getting our independence.  That’s realpolitik.  Sadly, however, what we seem to be dealing with in this particular case is an ineffective tyranny, or a tyranny that doesn’t even want to be effective.  The determination to achieve independence in the real world, not just as a nice theory, appears to be entirely absent – as does any credible thinking about how that might actually be done.  In the scenario we’re actually living in, then, the natural human response to the leadership’s outrageous “counter-revolution” a year ago does not in any way conflict with strategic good sense about how to achieve independence.  If the SNP’s strategic vacuum can’t be changed from within, external pressure from another party will have to bring about that change.

There is one big caveat, though.  If an independence referendum does actually take place in the next two or three years, either because pressure from Alba has paid off or because the SNP leadership’s resolve suddenly stiffens for some other reason, it will at that point become counterproductive for Alba to keep harrying Nicola Sturgeon – the only opponents we’ll need to be fighting are unionists.  A lot of self-discipline will be required, because the SNP are unlikely to reciprocate with magnanimity towards Alba. Given one or two depressing precedents in recent weeks, I can well imagine that an umbrella Yes campaign will be set up that includes the SNP and the Greens but excludes “the Alba bigots”.  If so, that will be an act of monumental stupidity and self-harm, reminiscent of Labour’s catastrophic decision to exclude “the filthy SNP separatists” from the main Yes campaign in the 1979 devolution referendum.  But nevertheless, we in Alba will just have to turn the other cheek and get on with our own positive Yes campaign – because independence comes before everything.