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- The Scottish National Party and the 'Night of the Long Knives' (18 Jun 2002)
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The Scottish National Party and the 'Night of the Long Knives' (18 Jun 2002)
SNP party activists have chosen the order in which their 'list' candidates (i.e. those who might be elected under a form of proportional representation) will appear in their lists of regional candidates. Some high-profile names in the Party have dropped down the lists, making it almost certain they will not be elected under the list system at the elections for the Scottish Parliament in May 2003.
One of those affected, Mrs Margo Macdonald MSP (regarded as something of a firebrand in her passion for Scottish independence, not a point of view I share, but never mind), appeared on BBC2 'Newsnight' this evening alleging that her 'fall from grace' has resulted from a campaign against her by certain within the Party, including a fellow SNP MSP.
I have written about similar dissension within the ranks of the Scottish Conservative Party in earlier weeks; they have now decided, after much resistance from the Party executive (the non-elected leadership of the Party organisation), that their list rankings will be decided by a postal ballot of all party members, rather than by activists only at hustings to be held around Scotland.
There are several things to say about this:
the clarity with which these incidences of squabbling within the two Parties which have benefited most from the proportional element of Scottish parliamentary elections has exposed the serious flaw of proportional voting in breaking the direct link between an electorate and its elected representative, and allowing 'Party machines' to decide, in effect, who will be elected and who will not is vivid (roughly 75% of current SNP MSPs and 95% of Conservative MSPs in the current Parliament are there only because of the proportional element). It gives me no pleasure at all to write this, because I predicted this would be a result of the electoral system adopted for the Scottish Parliament well before it came into force in 1999;
there seems amongst many MSPs, specially those elected under the proportional element, to be some feeling that they (those low down their regional lists, that is) are somehow being 'punished' by their Parties; they give the distinct impression of feeling that they have a RIGHT to be in the parliament;
if those who feel they have been singled out for punishment can win a Scottish parliamentary election under the first past the post element, then they will genuinely be able to claim democratic legitimacy, as rather too many current list MSPs were not able to demonstrate last time around, some having done abysmally poorly if they also stood as a candidate under the 'first past the post' element;
the pretence that list MSPs have genuine democratic legitimacy as individuals, even though they may have some legitimacy as their Parties' list representatives, needs to be exposed for the fraud it is and Mrs Macdonald, and any other current 'list' MSP (of whatever Party) who decides to come on television to complain about their poor treatment by their own Parties needs firstly to be asked to choose their political allegiances more carefully (if you sup with snakes, their venom will probably be directed at you eventually) and secondly and more importantly, speaking as an elector and a taxpayer who helps to pay for all this nonsense, to be told to go take a hike.
Copyright © 2002 William Cameron