I fully appreciate what Mhairi Black is saying here. I totally understand her reasons for urging us not to use our votes in the council elections as a plebiscite on a new independence referendum. There’s only one problem with this. We don’t have a choice.
The British parties have already hijacked the local elections as part of their anti-independence campaign. They have turned these elections into, not only a vote on #ScotRef, but a vote of confidence in the First Minister. And there is nothing we can do to stop them.
The harsh reality is that the local elections were always going to be exploited by the British nationalists. In terms of political strategy, it’s the obvious thing to do. It would be extraordinary if they passed up such an opportunity. The only slightly surprising thing is that they are being so explicit about it. The reasonable expectation was that they would campaign on the constitutional issue as subtly as they could and wait until the results were in before having their friends in the media ‘interpret’ even the smallest blip in support for the SNP as a ‘devastating blow’ to Nicola Sturgeon and a ‘major setback’ for the independence cause. But they have opted to be totally upfront about it. Why?
My guess would be that they realised they weren’t going to be able to conceal or even disguise what they were doing. They would be obliged to push the anti-SNP line so hard that it would be ridiculous to deny it. So they chose to brazen it out, knowing that the power of the media would make it impossible to counter their effort to commandeer the council election for their own purposes.
But we should note two things. Firstly, this is a risky strategy for the British parties. They are relying absolutely on being able to reduce the overall vote for the SNP and other pro-independence parties. Should they fail in this having effectively declared it a vote of confidence in Nicola Sturgeon the whole thing backfires majestically.
The other thing to note is that we can actually exploit this situation ourselves. We can confidently assure people that giving their first preference votes to the SNP serves the dual purpose of turning the British parties’ ploy against them whilst also electing to their local council the candidates who will serve them best.
So long as they can call on the power of the mainstream media, it is unrealistic to suppose we can stop the British nationalists hijacking the local elections. But by doggedly campaigning on local issues while also encouraging people to give the Tories et al a bloody nose, we might very well turn the situation to our advantage.
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