An interesting discussion on Newsnight Scotland tonight about whether or not the SNP could ever work in partnership with the Labour Party. Someone made a point that I've frequently made myself - and that was that whilst members of the respective parties have a deep antipathy toward one another, supporters of each of the parties do not.
Lorraine Davidson reckoned that such is the hostility between members that we cannot walk down the same street without hurling abuse. That's not quite true. We've grown up a lot in Scottish politics over the last decade and I can't remember the last time I witnessed that kind of antagonism. I will admit, however, that feelings run deep.
From my point of view, I just don't get it. I do not understand why anyone would campaign for the Labour Party. I've often watched them (well, okay, not often seeing as you rarely see them!) and wondered if they really and truly believe what they are saying. Is it that they see a career for themselves? Do they have an emotional attachment to the Party?
I could understand the latter - I am deeply emotionally attached to the SNP and if we ditched our principles in the way that the Labour Party has, it would break my heart and I'd struggle to accept it was really happening. So it would take me time to extricate myself from it. I guess I would stay for a time, hoping, praying, no doubt campaigning for a return to the principles on which we were founded. (This is all hypothetical you understand because it just wouldn't happen in the SNP.)
But I don't honestly think that I would be out there campaigning and faking it. And that's what I think Labour activists MUST be doing. It MUST be fake. They can't seriously have joined the party as unilateralists, as socialists and not know that something has gone terribly wrong with the Labour movement - for example, the Iraq war; for example, Son of Trident!
Anyway back to the point. Political activists get so caught up in the politicking that they forget - political opponents may be arch enemies, their voters are not. Your average Labour voter in Glasgow East has no problem with your average SNP voter and vice versa. If you ask a Labour voter who their second choice would be, I bet you most of them will say the SNP and again, vice versa. Ask an SNP member who their second choice would be and you'll find few who'd tell you Labour - more likely it'll be any party other than Labour. Any party other than the Tories too mind you. Any party other than ... hmmmm, gets difficult for us.
But the voters are not caught up in the fundamental principles in the way that we all are, it's just not that black and white for them. Probably because they've got LIVES unlike the rest of us!! I think perhaps the SNP learned this lesson in the not too distant past and that's why we probably run more positive campaigns than any other party these days. Highlighting the failings of other parties is an important part of campaigning, slagging them off just because we don't like them, is not. I hope we continue in that vein and it would be something the other parties would do well to remember too.