Scottish Socialist Party grows

Owen Jones owen_jones at SPAMcwcom.net
Wed Oct 25 15:33:02 MDT 2000


A matter of proportion: Edinburgh Evening News editorial 25th October 2000

THREE short years ago no-one, not even Tommy Sheridan himself, could have
predicted that the Scottish Socialist Party would be contesting every seat
in next year’s general election.

But Labour’s decision to agree to proportional representation for the
Scottish Parliament meant that not only would Labour probably never win an
outright majority, but that minor parties, like the Scottish Socialists and
the Green Party, could flourish in the new political landscape.

And the smaller parties have been quick to grasp the opportunity offered to
them by electoral reform. Tommy Sheridan’s economic policies may be the
politics of the sixth form - the Socialist’s election manifesto boasts that
the party will nationalise Scotland’s banks and financial institutions - but
the charismatic Glaswegian did manage to give the Scottish Executive a
bloody nose when he pushed his Bill to abolish warrant sales through the
parliament.

Robin Harper, the Green Party’s sole representative, has brought a unique
and highly personal perspective to the often dull parliamentary proceedings.
And that one-man band Dennis Canavan has proved an effective lone voice in
the Chamber, even if his motivation has often been that of revenge rather
than ideology.

Mr Sheridan’s success in the parliament is bound to boost his party’s
support in the general election. His "soak the rich" message will find some
resonance in Scotland’s poorer constituencies, where large sections of the
population feel they have been deserted by everyone, including New Labour.
There are bound to be hundreds of disaffected Labour voters who will give
their former party a quick two-fingered salute and vote Socialist. But it is
not only the People’s Party who could lose support. When before disaffected
Labour voters often defected to the SNP, they can now choose where to place
their protest vote and they may well prefer the charismatic Mr Sheridan to
John Swinney.

But however irritating Labour may find Mr Sheridan and his class war, they
have accepted that proportional representation has changed the face of
national Scottish politics forever. The next big challenge facing Labour and
its new leader Henry McLeish will be voting reform for local elections.

As a former council leader Mr McLeish knows only too well that his party’s
stranglehold on local government has often stymied progress, created
undemocratic fiefdoms and helped fuel the electorate’s contempt for local
elections.

Labour showed a maturity of purpose when they accepted PR for the Scottish
parliament. Only time will tell if Henry McLeish c






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