“If you value it, vote for it.”
As a veteran student of election slogans, that’s my favourite.
Used by Labour in the 2005 general election, it was the purest of messages and it worked.
It allowed the then Labour Government to real off its proudest achievements in office and ask the voter to back more of the same.
And it was a record to be proud of – huge investment in schools and hospitals, the introduction of the national minimum wage, devolution for Scotland and Wales, peace in Northern Ireland.
Better rights at work, including paternity leave. Hundreds of thousands of children and pensioners lifted out of poverty.
A record to be proud of, one that demonstrably proved the difference a Labour Government could make.
In truth the SNP are more of fan of the New Labour campaign playbook than they’ll freely admit, and you can draw a straight line from Labour’s 2005 election strategy to the one that Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon advocated in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election.
With a series of campaign videos posing the question: “What have the SNP ever done for us?”
They were able to real off their list of achievements, like scrapping bridge tolls.
The pedants amongst us disputed some of the bigger items on the list such as free personal care or free bus passes for the elderly as things Labour had delivered in the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament, but a decade or so later, we’re almost over that. Almost.
You and I, the dear voters of this country aren’t predisposed to using our democratic vote as a thank you card.
Most voters in fact cast their ballots rooted in what party’s promise to do next and how credible a proposition they believe that to be, but there’s no harm in reminding them, particularly if it’s a record to be proud of.
The point of this history lesson is to put Friday’s SNP general election campaign launch into context and highlight just how odd a spectacle it was.
Humza Yousaf’s message, launched in Glasgow where Labour are very much hot on the tails of the SNP MPs who have represented the city since 2015, was to promise to rid Scotland of Tories.
The last time Glasgow returned a Conservative MP was in 1983 and that’s only if you include Strathkelvin and Bearsden as part of Glasgow which I won’t dare to do here.
The leader of the SNP has set out his desire to win all six seats the Conservatives currently hold in Scotland off of them. If he pulls this off, it’s completely possible that it will be in the context of losing many more seats in the central belt to Labour.
Will that be considered a success by anyone other than him?
‘Nonsense by any measure’
What’s even odder about the party’s general election pitch is the straight faced volte face in their electoral analysis.
For countless elections, at the heart of the SNP’s mantra has been the argument that Scotland voted Labour thanklessly for years. That all it did was get us Conservative Prime Ministers.
A message backed by the rhetoric that Scotland was so much more naturally left leaning, than an England full of top hat Tories.
Now we are told that red hot socialist England will vote Labour for us.
Keir Starmer is such a shoe in for PM, Scots have votes to spare. What nonsense by any measure.
If Labour need to win 110 seats at this year’s election in order to form a Government, you’d expect at least 10% of those to come from Scotland. Call it a Barnett formula share.
Without winning any seats in Scotland, there is still a route to Number 10 for Keir Starmer, but it requires securing something akin to a 14% swing.
That’s larger than the one Tony Blair secured in 1997 and larger still than the one Clement Attlee delivered in 1945. A breeze says Humza.
It’s such a bizarre claim from the SNP you’ve got to question whether they’ve really thought it through.
It’s one thing to use a tortuous line like this to get through a difficult press interview, quite another to put it at the heart of your electoral strategy.
Or perhaps they are deliberately playing fast and loose with political history, inadvertently revealing another dangerous truth.
They’re prepared to gamble on the prospect of the Tories staying in power. Let me whisper it, might they even prefer it?
Edinburgh East Tommy Sheppard let the cat out of the big this week when he noted “If the SNP lose the election in Scotland, the debate on independence stops.”
Many voters will get two things for the price of one Labour vote this year.
A long over-due end to Tory rule and an end to the dominance of the constitution as the defining issue of Scottish politics.
If you value that, all you have to do is vote for it.