On the 4th anniversary of Indy Ref on 18th September 2018 I cannot help but comment on a ‘then and now’ comparison when viewing reporting in the press about the state of voting behaviour in Scotland and England.
I well remember John Harris from the Guardian visiting Coatbridge during the election following Indyref in May 2015. He continues to pen a series of ‘Vox pop’ based articles aptly titled ‘Anywhere but Westminster’ and back in 2015 he wrote one called “The Strange Death of Labour in Scotland’ about the changes in voting immediately after the Scottish Independence referendum. He is quite an engaging reporter and someone who listens and reports on what real people say- an unusual trait in the main stream media.
Some of his coverage really nailed the switch people had made in a town where I remember people saying ‘We don’t count Labour votes here son, we weigh them’. Such was the sea-change in people switching to the SNP after decades of Scottish Labour taking the local population and their votes for granted.
This film entitled “Brexit Breakdown part 1: Why are the Tories winning Walsall?”sees him in Walsall more recently asking why the Tories are still winning seats and Labour is still not having the predicted breakthrough after Corbyn framed the May 2018 council elections as a test about opposing austerity.
The conclusion it seems to make is that it’s down to a deep seated resignation of powerlessness resulting in voter apathy. Fewer and fewer people are voting every year and people are seeing the town deteriorate around about them.He interviews people he spoke to a year ago and some candid conversations take place like in Coatbridge.
It’s quite powerful to see. The local people cannot it seems tell the difference between political parties anymore.They all seem to be the same and the cuts just keep coming.Coupled with the barrage of media around Brexit and its uncertainty it all adds up to one big ‘turn off’ from active politics for most ordinary people. We even see one older man in the video speak of being lied to by the press and politicians-
Things didn’t turn out like they said did they?
The difference in Scotland is that in 2014 we saw an injection of hope and belief in politics among those who had never voted before because for once it meant something very real.Four years may have passed but at least the SNP Government have managed to distance themselves by taking practical actions and affirmative steps to mitigate against austerity. People do not see them as ‘all the same’. This is despite a constant barrage of media counter propaganda against Scottish Government policies. It is hard not to conclude that there is a concerted effort to promote voter apathy in this country.
In Scotland we know we just have to go back to the tail end of Cameron’s years of office to see Labour in Westminster either vote to impose austerity budgets or abstain when they had the chance to stand up to defeat them.
Now in 2018 they continue to try and fool people in Scotland that the budgets hardships are being imposed by an uncaring SNP government when we know they are passed on by the Westminster system they endorsed through their own weakness.In fact support for Independence continues to grow as party membership figures show, yet Sky news reported yesterday how they might cover future election broadcasting.
Sky News suggesting that Only Parties who can produce a Prime Minister should be allowed to take part in Leadership Debates…and then regional debates for the likes of Scotland and Wales…
Feel the love eh?
2nd Biggest Party by paid up membership #SNP
3rd Biggest Party by Westminster Seats #SNP
Source: Yes Caithness
During and since 2014 there has been a constant level of negative reporting around the governance of Scotland. It has been relentless in its ferocity yet at times pathetically full of errors and obviously poor unprofessional journalism. It would take journalists of the quality of the New York Times’ Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, to ‘follow the dark money’ involved in the Tories foray into election spending , the leave campaign and shady deals with Ulster’s DUP.
We know what that all this media spin is for. It’s designed to turn Scottish towns and villages into the communities in this film.Less active, less ‘switched on’ and less democratic. It is designed to weaken us and switch us off. In Scotland Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard aren’t the cavalry coming over the hill to rescue us they are part of the problem. We can govern ourselves and have doing much better as a devolved government than many critics suspected.
As we reach 18th of September 2018 we are nearing another opportunity to ‘switch on’ more people. In Scotland we will soon have to be campaigning around voter registrations again as many people will have come off the register. At least in Scotland there has been a momentum built up to sustain grassroots organisations which promote ‘citizen journalism’. In the face of all the main stream media negativity that leads to apathy we need to raise the standard of our engagement above the level of the gutter press with its ‘vows’ and media stunts.
We can start by realising how far we have come from 2014 and acknowledge our achievements and not pass through them too quickly. Which is a cultural weakness we have. And most of all we need to be positive about deciding our own future. Above all we need to be positive when talking to people about the future of our country.
We have come far but still have along way to go.