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Black and Blue
Mhairi Black's journey from anti-Tory firebrand to shrugging her shoulders at the thought of a Conservative victory tells the story of the SNP's crisis of purpose.
It wasn’t a random person on social media venting because his wife turned the weans against him. It wasn’t a backbencher straying off the agreed message script before they got a hairdryering from a whip for having said something stupid. Nor was it a frontbencher trapped into saying something she didn’t mean by a cunning journalist.
No. This was a very deliberate statement made by the Deputy Leader of the SNP in Westminster. She sat down and typed out these words:
“It does not matter whether we have a Labour or a Tory government”
Mhairi Black’s journey from supposed left-wing firebrand to full-on existential nationalist tells the story of the SNP’s crisis of purpose.
They built their entire electoral offer post-2014 on the idea that Labour made us squander the chance to get rid of the Tories and transform Scotland into a socialist paradise. Those of us who had the temerity to ask how closing down factories, cutting billions from public services and losing hundreds of thousands of jobs to a hard border were shouted down as red-Tories. Black personified that whole narrative as she unseated Douglas Alexander in Paisley.
Fast forward eight years and half of the SNP membership voted for the right-wing candidate, polls show Labour heading toward a large majority across the UK, and the leadership of the SNP has given up on independence as something that can be delivered in the near term. Like the recipe for Cremola Foam, the secret blend that delivered the SNP’s success has been lost.
Unable to offer change themselves, the SNP now find themselves engaging in the only strategy open to them: nihilism.
A party that used to claim to want to make Scots powerful now exists to make them feel powerless. A party that was anti-Tory now has a message that it doesn’t matter if the Tories win. A party that offered hope and change, however artificial, now bases its electoral hopes on convincing people that there is no hope of change.
With the villainous English turned against the Tories, no prospect of a referendum, and no plan for how they would fight one the SNP are devoid of purpose.
But all of this is throat-clearing. Sometimes your political opponents give you such an open goal that it is difficult to believe it really is so easy to score. This is one such occasion - where the response is so simple that it might be missed. Labour should grab this moment and repeat again and again:
The SNP have said they don’t care if the Tories win. The only way to change things is to vote Labour.