Problem solved?

With the announcement that Joanna Cherry MP has quit the SNP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) coming hard on the heels of Douglas Chapman MP resigning as National Treasurer Nicola Sturgeon may consider that any “problems” caused by last November’s elections to the party’s (nominal) ruling body have now been well and truly solved. In fact, we have to wonder if the election of a raft of candidates favouring sweeping internal reforms that would have curbed the power of the leadership was ever really a problem. Six months on and counting the reforms that have actually been implemented presents no challenge to even the most numerically challenged among us. Nicola Sturgeon has shown no sign of being even mildly perturbed by what should have been a significant development. Her grip on power within the SNP is as absolute as it has been almost since she took over from Alex Salmond.

Speaking of whom, it may be worth noting that Sturgeon seemed more upset by the return to frontline politics of her one-time mentor and former friend. She was uncharacteristically visibly annoyed by the Alba Party. Compared to her outward reaction to the challenge represented by the membership’s mini-revolution in the NEC election, Sturgeon was incandescent with rage when Alba was launched. That contrast poses a bit of a conundrum. When considering how she had dealt with the NEC ‘problem’ I had come to the conclusion that her main weapon against the revolution was disregard. We are told that ignoring a ‘problem’ won’t make it go away. Sturgeon ignored the revolution. It went away. So why didn’t she just ignore Salmond and Alba.

It’s a bit of an apples and bricks question really. The two situations are alike only in the most general terms. Both were challenges to Sturgeon’s status. This makes both significant. The difference between them, however, lies in the matter of control. The NEC ‘problem’ being internal it could be managed. The people involved were all known factors. And the leadership along with senior management had developed very effective contraptions for dealing with dissident voices. Mainly by blanking those voices completely. The internal complaints procedures had been repurposed as part of the apparatus of control. Mostly, complaints and requests for information were simply ignored until the complainer just gave up. Unless the complaint was against someone seen as a nuisance. Then the disciplinary procedures operated with ruthless efficiency to remove the problem. A similar strategy was deployed against the reformers elected to the NEC.

There is a common thread running through all the departures from the NEC of those elected on a reformist platform – whether that be by resignation or defection. In pretty much every case there has been at least some reference to lack of cooperation, persistent obstruction and denial of information. The reformers were effectively cut off from whatever power they might have had by an impermeable wall erected between them and the machinery of management. The reformers were unable to do anything because they were denied access to the levers of power – despite their election being a de facto instruction from the membership that such access be facilitated. Often, it seems, the reformers found themselves unable even to discover where the levers were, far less get their hands on them.

The internal problem was never a problem because the leadership-management cabal had the means to prevent it becoming a problem. They had control. They had no such control over Alba. That potential problem had to be dealt with differently. As it turned out, the Alba Party was so inept that it was relatively easily dealt with. But where the internal problem was smothered under a blanket of snub and dismissal, dealing with Alba required a more openly aggressive effort. The strategy there was to steer the narrative towards the tribalism to which Alba was naturally inclined and portray the upstarts as a threat to Scotland’s cause. The strategy was remarkably successful. For which the SNP leadership really should be grateful to Alba’s managers who so obligingly cooperated. Problem solved!

Likewise the ‘problem’ of dissidents infiltrating the NEC. In barely half a year and in blithe defiance of the expressed will of conference, the leadership-management cabal has undone almost all the personnel changes brought about by the NEC elections. (Chris Hanlon should check for severed horse-heads before getting into bed.) People who were decisively voted in are gone. People who were emphatically voted out have returned. The big fish have feasted upon the little fish; and nary a ripple on the surface of the pond.

At which many will protest that Joanna Cherry can hardly be described as a little fish. With all due respect to Douglas Chapman, his resignation is significant mainly to party insiders and political anoraks. He is not someone who looms large in the public conscious. Certainly not in the way that Ms Cherry does. All of which is, I suspect, just fine by Mr Chapman. He does things his way. And if this means his departure from the NEC made only a moderate splash, Joanna Cherry’s resignation should permit us the gratification of using the tsunami metaphor appropriately for once. But will it? If history is our guide then far from being swept away by a huge wave of protest at the leadership-management cabal’s Machiavellian machinations, Nicola Sturgeon won’t even get her designer shoes wet.

To the party loyalists, Douglas Chapman and Joanna Cherry and Caroline McAllister and Lynne Anderson and Frank Ross and Allison Graham and Cynthia Guthrie are the problem. There is no other problem. The loyalists have absolutely no interest in the reasons for the resignation or defection. These people are betraying the party and Nicola Sturgeon. Nothing else matters. Who the hell are they to presume to criticise the leadership? Setting aside the fact that they were elected by conference for that very purpose, how very dare they try to cause problems for ‘Oor Nicola’?

While the loyalists reserve all their outrage for the ‘trouble-makers’, those who are offended by the casual dismantling of the party’s internal democracy are rendered ineffectual by petty factionalism. Neither reformist members nor those in the wider Yes movement hoping to restore the SNP to its role as the party of independence are capable of the kind of unity required. Even a calloused old cynic like myself may hope that Joanna Cherry’s resignation might be a tipping point. But that is a hope born more of desperation than rationality.

As far as Nicola Sturgeon is concerned, Joanna Cherry’s resignation is just another problem solved.

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15 thoughts on “Problem solved?

  1. Whilst the internal problem for Nicola Sturgeon may be ‘solved’ her overall difficulties might only ever be fixed (from her point of view) if we have been consigned to live in a totalitarian jurisdiction.

    That said, the Stalinist tendencies of the current SNP leadership have become ever more apparent:

    • Deification of The Leader – BothBusesNicola giant photographs
    • Purges of, bans from, and investigations into, party members
    • Demonisation of opponents/undesirables – demotion of Joanna Cherry & Neale Hanvey,
    suspension of Margaret Ferrier, Michell Thompson etc
    • Show trials – Alex Salmond, Craig Murray, Mark Hirst
    • Vacuous sloganeering – “Stronger for Scotland”
    • Diversion tactics – “Bad Boris”, “Wicked Westminster”
    • Revision of history – erasure of Alex Salmond from party annals

    … and so on.

    However, there are some external events yet to be ‘solved’.

    We currently are awaiting the outcome of the i) upcoming trial of the Permanent Secretary’s role in the government’s handling of complaints made against Alex Salmond (final quarter 2017), ii) on-going criminal investigation into the the leak to the Daily Record (August 2018) of Alex Salmond as being the subject of said government inquiry, and iii) current ‘examination’ into a complaint about the apparently unaccounted for ‘ring-fenced’ funds monies by the SNP by its referendum campaign fund (1st half 2017).

    We can only hope that the independent police and judiciary will be able to shed some light on any machinations.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. A lot of people thought that Salmond was as cuddlesome as Jimmy Saville, or a cutlery drawer, a long time ago. I think the biggest news might be the £28,000,000 reparation (and counting) for the malicious prosecution of Rangers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was no malicious prosecution of Rangers. The prosecutions related to Rangers were of people involved in the administration and sale of Rangers and were in a way attempts by Rangers supporters in positions of authority to get revenge on people they blamed for Rangers downfall. Your comparison of Salmon found not guilty to Saville is pretty disgusting by the way.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Interesting that you associate Jimmy Saville with the word “cuddlesome”. I’m sure your analyst would make something of that. I am not a medical professional. Which is good because if I was a medical professional I probably wouldn’t be permitted by the code of conduct to observe that your comparison of Alex Salmond with Saville is the mark of a nasty wee cunt.

      Liked by 8 people

  3. Prior to the inception of Alba, disaffected SNP members could stay in the party and moan quietly, or leave and grouch from outside. Either way, they had little effect on the SNP as a whole. Members believed its rhetoric and ignored the electorate who did not agree with it. There was nowhere to go for those who had ‘seen the light’ or had seen what was wrong. That was the way it was and Nicola Sturgeon could happily sail on in blissful ignorance of any dissenters or non-believers. Then, along came Alba and suddenly there was a welcoming, safe haven for the disaffected who were able to air their views openly and could be seen and heard by members of the public. Despite the smears and lies and her friendship with the media, she is unable to control her opponent. She knows that life as she knew it will never be the same again. Her infamous control of all things political in Scotland is challenged. Alba will continue to grow and present a refreshingly simple mission of gaining Independence for Scotland and support of women’s rights, while the war inside the SNP continues apace. She may well get her way to having a party of nodding yes people and the wokerati but therein lies a problem as few people will vote for them, especially if the GRA is reformed and the HCB becomes an enemy of the people, free speech and women. Whatever you may think of Alba, it has spiked Nicola Sturgeon’s guns and pushed her to expose a side of her that many people had not seen before and did not like. With financial mismanagement questions hanging over the SNP, the prospect of the trial of Lesley Evans and any other woes that may well pop out, she has found herself with yet another fire to fight.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. I agree with this. Despite its straightforward starting point Alba will become a home for dissidents of many hues. I fear though that it will become pulled into the inane dialectic that was started when the SNP leadership refused to engage in any way with the Alba strategy. Sturgeon’s hijacking of a COVID press conference to attack Salmond was the last straw. It diminished not only her as a person but the office of first minister. I am not surprised that Scottish politics has descended again into the gutter, but I thought the election might express some hope for something more grown up. I guess Alba is the only place where such hope still exists … history will judge.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The Alba “strategy” was pure fantasy. The SNP was NEVER going to “engage” with a totally unknown entity. It would have been criminally reckless of them to do so. They simply had no reason to do so. I see the way Sturgeon has behaved. But I am not blind to the fact that Alba has contributed massively to the tribalism. Alba has become just another problem for the independence movement. As if we didn’t already have enough with the SNP.

        The difficulty is that factionalism and tribalism are invisible from within. Those engaged in tribal conduct don’t see the tribalism of which they are guilty. To them, it is not tribalism. If there is tribalism it’s not us, it’s them. Which is an expression of the tribalism which remains invisible to the culprits even as they engage in it with ever greater vigour.

        What all of this means is that there is little to no chance of recovery once the factionalism and tribalism has taken hold. It becomes a self-activating, self-reinforcing downward spiral into increasingly bitter conflict. The Yes movement is gone. It has been destroyed. It always had a relatively short shelf-life. The Yes movement ran counter to the dominant political dynamic. It was always in the process of being corroded from its inception. Which is why I said the referendum should be held no later than September 2018. Unity was still possible then. It isn’t now.

        We fucked it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You might as well consign any aspiration to excise Scotland from the British state to the same category of phantasy politics. The history of the moment does not suggest that Scotland is going to gain independence any time soon, and that even if it does, the result will only be a version of British power but with Scottish accents. The SNP is signally unable to grasp any sense of history and while the cartoon couple is in charge, nothing is going to change.

          I understand that achieving a “super majority” at Hollyrood was just a slogan to tempt the masses, and that if such a thing had happened, independence would not simply have been granted. There is a great deal wrong with Alba because it slots happily into the lovely dialectic of sectarianism Scots so enjoy. But that the Alba party has already become a repository of disaffected independence supporters is simply an historical fact. How it develops hereafter remains to be seen.

          It would be nice if all independence supporters were to sink their differences in a common cause. But that is probably just phantasy politics too.


    2. I’m interested in what is effective in taking forward the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. That’s NOT Alba. To date they have contributed nothing to Scotland’s cause but have entrenched the tribalism that oozes from your comment as it does from pretty much every Alba member/supporter I encounter. You will doubtless counter with some rant about SNP members/supporters being the real culprits while denying any tribalism. I shall emit a weary sigh and move on.


      1. You’ve given up. But you just can’t stop pontificating on the state of the independence movement. You are what I have suspected for some time – a large ego and a pseudo intellectual who is only sustained by praise from your followers.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I suspect it will be a bank which finally pulls the pin on the SNP.

    It’s the one thing they cannot control…

    Banks get a bit leery when your accounts aren’t available and the income stream is visibly drying up.


    1. Banks tend to make exceptions for the rich and the powerful. Being the party of government makes the SNP powerful. Even British Labour has no difficulty in getting massive overdraft facilities.


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