Ok tin hat on, fake beard in place, different clothing ready to be worn. I’m going in…
First things first. The SNP have won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats and they’ve won them fairly and squarely under the system that we currently have in place, so this blog won’t say they aren’t a legitimate force in the House of Commons. I’ll be looking at how they may act and what pitfalls that they may have to face.
On the first day of parliament I had TweetDeck open and a well-known Lib Dem blogger said that they wished that Lib Dem MPs acted like the SNP ones, I typed in a reply of, ‘what, like douchebags?’ but decided it wasn’t worth the fight. The thing is many of the SNP candidates that became MPs in May had no experience whatsoever and were essentially warm bodies to put on a ballot paper. Then suddenly the surge in support for the party following the referendum meant that many of these people would win and therein lies a big problem.
For the established parties, they generally have a set of candidates who have some experience or some involvement in politics to get to the stage where they can win a Westminster seat. Parties may put up paper candidates around the country but they do this in seats they know they won’t win and little campaigning is done. This happens at both Westminster and local council level. The problem happens when a national surge means that parties who didn’t expect to win come through and then candidates are suddenly thrust into the role of councillor or MP.
When this happens it often leads to people who aren’t either ready for or prepared for the role being elected. I don’t blog about local issues here much any more but I think considering the events of UKIP and their elected representatives from the 2014 local elections then it is clear many (if not all bar James Moyies) of their victorious candidates were not ready to take on the responsibility of winning. It has seen big fall out, one resignation and plenty of newspaper inches being devoted to just what a clutterfuck they had been (and yet the guy who resigned was actually replaced by another UKIP councillor – madness).
I saw it happen in Guildford too, two paper Tory candidates came through to second and third in a ward (where three are victorious) and neither of them wanted to win but wanted to help the Tories put up a full slate. They won because of a national surge and now will be representing the people of that ward for four years despite having no desire to do so whatsoever. I have a feeling many of the SNP victors will have this sense to, maybe not now but in the near future.
Being an MP is not a job, it is a labour of love. I know many folk say that their salary is huge but when you compare it to an average job in the city then it is actually nothing special and the workload that an MP undertakes is vast. Yes they do get significant holiday time away from the House of Commons but that doesn’t mean that work stops. Constituents still have issues and therefore if you are thrust into a job and position that you weren’t really planning for, that will turn your life upside down then you are bound to take a second look at it once the reality sets in.
Many of the new intake of SNP MPs have come in believing that they’ll be able to make a difference but as many backbench MP will tell you, you come in full of enthusiasm but soon that gets knocked off and reality sets in. It is a bit like journalism, you may dream of breaking big stories, changing the world and making it a better place but instead you find yourself rewriting a press release about how the bee population is down 9% and that it is the fault of farmers, or something equally tedious.
Now this isn’t to say being an MP (or councillor for that matter) doesn’t have its rewarding moments, the trick is to quickly recalibrate your mind set to small victories being rewarding and that the big fights will be long, hard slogs. If the SNP MPs come in, get their head down, work hard for the people they represent and understand quickly that they are not in a position to change the world then they’ll do ok. If they think they’ll be able to change Tory policy and force another referendum then they’ll get dispirited rather quickly I suspect.
Lastly on this, the bullshit about where they sit, clapping and the like, grow the fuck up. You are not a bunch of frat kids on a piss up in the big city. You are the third biggest party and you get the rights and privileges that go along with that. However you are the third party, not the second, Labour are the elected opposition and you have to deal with that. I know the old two parties act like petulant school children way too often but you don’t have to act like petulant school children who have eaten too much haribo on the coach.
The SNP have to make a decision, do they want to play at being politicians or do they want to be good representatives for those that they represent? So far it looks like they prefer the former option, I will be interested to see how they react as the weeks and months go by and the Tories push through their agenda and the SNP MPs can’t do a damned thing about it, how will they react then? Will they throw their toys out of the pram or will they do what they were elected to do? It will be fascinating to watch as I have no doubt that a significant percentage of them are woefully unprepared for what lies ahead, will they sink or swim? Will they even try swimming?
Very few Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem MP’s who have been elected in recent times have been as woefully unprepared as the current crop of SNP MPs are. It will be one to watch to see whether people should vote for party over person If they impress and succeed then it may well open up the Commons to more backgrounds as the argument that you need to be embedded in politics to be a success will be diluted. I fear for them but if they do well then suddenly the Commons could be a much more open place and that would be fantastic.
No pressure folks…
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