Well, that’s 2 weeks to the election that could change everything. I might be scarce until then, because I’m going to be working dawn to dusk to get this man elected.
This man is Ronnie Cowan, and he wants to be the first ever SNP MP to represent Inverclyde in the UK Parliament. This fantastic video was directed by the Bafta-winning director David Newbigging, and I am proud & privileged to have played a part in making it… mostly holding heavy equipment up in high winds praying I don’t break something, but I’m part of the team, my arms’ll stop aching eventually. Right now, things are looking promising for Mr Cowan: currently SNP are on 2/7 to New Labour’s 3/1 in the popular bets, and Arc of Prosperity offers some very insightful projections, including a possible majority of 4,181 – lower than Mr McKenzie’s 2011 majority for sure, but it would represent a phenomenal swing. Yougov also shows tantalising possibilities:
This shows the SNP at 38.1% – 49.9%, New Labour at 27.8% – 39.9%, the Conservatives at 5.3% – 11.1%, “other” (in this case UKIP & the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol guy) at 2.4% – 6.7%, and the NeoLibDems at 0.7% – 3.5%. Imagine a 49.9% SNP result, what a sweet irony. That tiny overlap of a mere 1.8% between the two frontrunners is what’s bothering me: far too close for my liking. A high New Labour turnout could beat a low SNP turnout – and that’s when the tactical votes could come into play. The lost 2010 Liberal and Conservative vote may be vital. Votes for both parties haemorraged in that year, as did New Labour’s, while the SNP’s share and numbers grew. It was likely the Liberal/Conservative vote which decided the referendum in Inverclyde, too: 86 votes.
Yet the press is all but writing Inverclyde off. The Daily Mail (North Britain) said of the incumbent: “A 2011 by-election victor, Iain McKenzie’s short tenure as an MP is surely set to come to an end. There are some Tory and Lib Dem supporters who may vote tactically, but probably not enough.” Academics at the New Statesman “think Inverclyde is nearly twice as likely to vote SNP as Glasgow North West,” – rather amazing, as Ashcroft puts the SNP 6 points ahead in that constituency. The narrative appears to be that New Labour is floundering, its councillors spluttering in incoherent rage, its activists lost and aimless, its voters barely enthused enough to cheer on their champion, much less get out and campaign with the stalwarts. The last dinosaur, its mighty heart crumbling to fragments, rasping its final breaths in clouds of dust. That’s the story. But it’s just that – a story. Don’t think for a minute that New Labour are going to give up Inverclyde without a fight.
In the past year alone Ed Miliband, Jim Murphy, Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling and more all came to Inverclyde. Just last night, Gordon Brown himself shambled through another exclusive visit. Not a single one of these “events” was open to the public. Invitation only, naturally. They’re afraid to lose this seat – any seat – to the SNP, and in Inverclyde, the SNP present the only challenge to their hegemony. Already we have tales of New Labour activists trying to convince the Conservatives of Kilmacolm to vote for Iain McKenzie – even as they campaign for the Tory candidate in another constituency, and the NeoLibDem in another. Better Together is back under a new name: SNPout. New Labour have more than tactical voters to aid them: they still have 9 councillors, and had overall control until Vaughan Jones left the party after announcing her support for independence. New Labour still has the constituency MSP. New Labour can still rely on a strong base of people who have voted for the red rosette all their lives. Still a higher proportion of elderly and pensioners than the Scottish average, still a lower proportion of young voters.
Back in the referendum campaign, I said Alistair Darling’s visit is what made it all “truly real” to me. I have no such feelings with Gordon Brown’s fly-by-night on the Clyde – for I’ve been living in this reality ever since September. Gone are the naive days where I dreamed a massive Yes majority to wash away the smears and the tears and the fears, where even the staunchest No voter would come to realise that taking control over your own political destiny isn’t that bad, and Scots remained close to the people of the UK. On the 19th of September, I realised the enormity of the task we faced.
I’m not going to say the SNP will win Inverclyde. But I will say that the SNP can win Inverclyde. Ronnie Cowan, more than anyone, is the one who took Inverclyde from “no chance of a Yes vote” to 49.9%, and I still believe he is the one who shows our best chance at making history. And just like in the referendum, the only way to do that is to convince as many people as you can.
Back to work.