Last night I was at an SNP Branch meeting.
Probably like the rest of the SNP outside of a very narrow circle of exceptionally close friends Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to resign came as a complete shock. As with many shocks in life there were a range of emotions; loss; grief, irrational but understandable anger, a sense of a void, a sense of instability. As strongly held as any of those were and perhaps still are, with time they will subside and we will adapt to a new reality.
I listened to every word of her speech and was struck by the human aspect of what she said, but doesn’t she always speak like that ? She has this capacity to bring politics and real life into the same space. Jacinda Ardern, had the same quality, the capacity to connect regardless of your politics, the ability to bring the inaccessible into your own life.
I was privileged to meet the First Minister several times, she taught me how to do selfies on my phone ! Even that says much about her.
I am not going to speculate about who precisely will replace her, I’m an office holder with the SNP and it would be wrong for me to do that, apart from which my political choices are sometimes off the mark! You are reading the words of man who asked Tony Blair to leave his office some time before he became leader of Labour. I didn’t rate him much, I still don’t but for entirely different reasons ! Unlike Nicola Sturgeon after he looked into the mirror he usually looked into the political implications of his next phrase. The truth has different meanings for some politicians, the First Minister has never had that issue .
Right now there are so many questions.
Will this impact upon public demand for Independence? It probably will in the short term.
Will this affect support for the SNP? It probably will in the short term.
Possibly neither those are bad things in the greater scheme of moving towards being an Independent Country. It demonstrates that politics can change. It shows to independence minded; Labour, Liberals and Tory supporters (and yes they exist) that the future of a healthy democracy is not about the complete domination by one Party.
Anyone who says they have the definitive view of what it will do in the long term probably also believes in Alchemy and that Elvis is alive and well and stays in Tillicoultry.
You can’t estimate the impact of someone of such huge political presence leaving the scene. Even that sentence is wrong. She isn’t leaving the scene, she is moving to a different scene, and in the same way as we have seen Michael Russell freed from political position, open up his comments on independence, she may well do the same. That could be formidable. Sometimes when you try to push an immovable object it makes sense to try a different angle, and it seems likely that is what she will do.
Labour right now are frothing at the bit sure in their own minds that they will now recapture many SNP seats at the next general election. Perhaps they will win some but I doubt that they will win as many as they think possible. It shows the poverty of their offer that they felt so dependent upon the demise of one person rather than the persuasion of their politics.
The Conservatives need to give their head a good shake if they see this as an opportunity for them in Scotland. They are peddling the wrong kind of politic . Libertarianism does not go down well in a primarily Social Democratic country and their capacity for sleaze only at eats them like some form of self consuming malady. The Liberal Democrats?
So where does that leave us. It is the SNP’s to lose, it has been for the last 10 years and it still is. This is not a shifting of political tectonic plates, it is a personal decision by a single individual. I rarely quote myself because I am rarely worth quoting but yesterday in a moment of uncharacteristic clarity I said in a blog:-
“ for our Party the challenge will be to keep our heads together. If we can do that and come out whole then the SNP Brand will be stronger .”
I believe that. For all that she shone like political beacon in a very gloomy place, she is but one person. There will be an expectation from our opponents that now the Party will struggle to Govern and will be a soft target. There is absolutely no logic in that. In fact the opposite could well be true. By showing the capacity to ride this out and to emerge as the Party of exceptional governance and government, the capacity is there to strengthen the SNP movement and its offer for Government may well be strengthened too in the public eye.
Nicola Sturgeon was right. The hideous approach of the mainstream media had become formulaic, “first see how it can undermine the First Minister then look at a rational response.” Removing that line of attack at everything SNP takes away the political capital that was there for lazy politicians and union-of-the-nations focused journalists, to use. They trip over into a void of their own making.
For the next month or so it will be “ SNP in chaos!!!” I saw no chaos last night, I saw sadness, I saw a democratic party expressing pride in the achievements of a stellar performer and human being, loss at her going and a calm commitment to the next stage of evolution for the Party and the country.
Of course there will be speculation about who next. I think it is really important to remember that what we might expect we might not get.
We may not get, for instance a Party Leader who is First Minister and vice versa. There are two positions here at stake, just as Keith Brown is Deputy Party Leader and John Swinney is Deputy First Minister. We could have someone from Westminster or from Holyrood or from neither as Party Leader. First Minister is a different.
We have serious talent in the Party that now has the opportunity to shine.
I have my favourite. The closest I’ll get to offering more is to say that there is some logic in going for a safe pair of hands before we appoint a super star for the next generation. If independence is for the long haul then strategizing for the long haul, makes sense.
So “thank you Nicola and don’t be stranger”, but as we turn the page another Chapter is ready for us to enjoy.