An election is coming and December 12th will be polling day. The last time there was a general election in December was so long ago that women did not even have the vote.
So why are we doing it? What imperative is so great that it over-rides the very real disadvantages of an election campaign in the cold, dark winter?
For me the argument was quite simple. It became apparent that an election was the only way left to stop Brexit. It seemed extremely unlikely that MPs – particularly those representing Leave voting constituencies – would have been able to resist the overwhelming pressure to agree to Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement without an election. They would have caved – and Brexit would have happened on Boris Johnson’s terms, with dire consequences for Scotland.
The SNP was accused by Scottish Labour of colluding with the Tories to bring about an election, right up to the point where Jeremy Corbyn decided that Labour would also support an election. Not the best of starts.
Especially since I’m not so sure a December election really was Boris Johnson’s preferred outcome. I think it is equally possible that he saw the threat of an election as the best way to force nervous and exhausted MPs, with one eye on the opinion polls, to sign up to his agreement. He would then have been able to go to the country having delivered brexit. I am very glad the combined forces of the opposition held their nerve and called his bluff.
At the time of writing, Westminster has not yet been officially dissolved but the election campaign is already in full swing. In my view this election could be the most unpredictable one most of us have ever seen.
It started in Scotland with an obscure rammy about the Greens standing candidates in 20 seats including Pete Wishart’s, where the Tories were just 21 votes behind the SNP at the last election.
Now, I have absolutely no objection to the Greens standing candidates in every seat in every election. But like many people, I was aghast that, when they were only standing in selected seats, the Greens were apparently targeting an incredibly tight SNP-Tory marginal. That could only benefit the Tories. Why on earth would they do that?
Subsequent conversations clarified that the Greens have no national targeting strategy as such. Decisions about where to stand candidates are made locally. That is entirely up to them and of course they have the right to stand in any seat. But if I were a Green I would be concerned at the impression this has created of a party out of touch with the priorities of most Scottish voters.
The polls show the SNP on course to have a good election but we are not taking anything for granted. Tactical voting by unionist voters to stop SNP candidates winning is a very real risk.
Low turnout is also a very real risk. That’s why the SNP is encouraging our supporters to apply for a postal vote. Postal voting is safe and secure and means you don’t have to brave the elements to be sure your vote will count. It’s very much worth considering.
If there are elements of this election which are high risk, the stakes too could not be higher. At the heart of the SNP’s campaign will be the right of the Scottish people to determine their own future through a referendum on independence.
This doesn’t mean that a vote for the SNP will deliver independence. There are many former No voters out there now considering independence. But that doesn’t mean they are ready yet to put their cross against the Yes box, without having considered the competing arguments very thoroughly first. We need to respect that.
But they do want the choice. And the more people there are who want to be able to make that choice, the less sustainable it will be for the UK Government – whoever they may be – to refuse it. This is, of course, particularly the case if the next UK Government is a Labour one which needs SNP support to implement its manifesto.
So now is the time to get out and make the case for the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future. It may not be the time of year we would have chosen but that can’t be helped. In politics you need to play the cards you are dealt and make the most of every opportunity you are offered. So get your Yes badges back on and wrap up warm – I’ll see you on the doorsteps.