Thursday, September 27, 2012

The SNP and the English Democrats

On Tuesday, in his speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton, Willie Rennie called on conference representatives from south of the border to make the case for keeping the union together and not just give the stage to the English nationalists. He said:

Weve already heard from some English nationalists that they want Scotland out.  They dont value our United Kingdom. These are the allies of Alex Salmonds SNP in their fight to break up Britain. They are working together, attending each others conferences and sharing ideas. But despite what you may have heard most people in Scotland dont want to leave. We want to stay but its not guaranteed.
 So I want to hear your voice in the debate about the future of the UK. I want you to show that the rest of the UK values Scotland and our partnership together. I want the moderate, reasonable, open and welcoming voices from outside Scotland to be heard. You can speak up for what the UK means for you. Whether its the National Health Service designed by an Englishman, delivered by a Welshman. Or its the BBC founded by a Scotsman for the whole of the UK not just Scotland. Or the state pension introduced by Lloyd George; a Liberal Mancunian with a Welsh accent. Speak up for what Scotland means to you.
It could be intellectual, with the Scottish Enlightenment giving us great thinkers like James Hutton, David Hume and Adam Smith. Or it could be as simple as having loved ones from Scotland and caring about the country our children will grow up in. Whatever you value I want you to make your voice heard. Promise me you won't leave the debate to the extreme views of nationalists. 

It came as a bit of a shock to me to learn that there were links between the SNP and the English Democrats. Now, before I even start, let me get one thing absolutely clear. I don't for a second think that the SNP and the English Democrats share much in political outlook, apart from a desire for independence for Scotland. The English Democrats have a pretty nasty bunch of policies that wouldn't have much, if any, traction in Scotland or among any parties represented in Councils across the country and the Scottish Parliament.

What do I mean? Well, have a look at the actions of the English Democrats'  Mayor of Doncaster. HE has cut funds for LGBT events and translation services as the BBC reported three years ago. The party as a whole want an end to multi-culturalism and to "stop mass immigration."

While the English Democrats see marriage and family in very narrow terms, the SNP is introducing equal marriage in Scotland. The values of these two parties are poles apart.

The English Democrats would be more than happy to see an independent Scotland and so share that goal with the SNP. However, their rationale is quite different. It's not so much a desire to see people given the right of self determination, but rather that they think we're basically leeching money off the English and should be cut adrift. It's pretty greedy, really.

So, we've established that there's no great meeting of minds between these two parties. Why on earth, then, did Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for the Western Isles, think it was ok to go to the English Democrats' Conference? And why was it ok for the SNP to entertain them in Edinburgh? As this blog post from their chairman Robin Tilbrook makes clear, Plaid Cymru won't touch the English Democrats with a bargepole. And Tilbrook isn't happy about it. In contrast, though, Tilbrook has kind words for the SNP:
This is in stark contrast with our friendly relations with the Scottish National Party. We have been pleased to welcome the SNP’s Angus MacNeil MP to speak at a recent Annual Party Conference and our Vice Chairman was welcomed by leaders of the SNP in Edinburgh and her hand was shaken, during a BBC Newsnight programme, by Alex Salmond.

Is it me, or is this a desperate attempt to make themselves sound mainstream and credibility by attaching themselves like limpets to the Scottish party of Government?

Following his attendance at the English Democrats' conference, Angus MacNeil went a bit Twitter happy with them for a while. On no less than 11 occasions between October 2011 and February 2012 that we know about, McNeil shared things written by the English Democrats on social networks. To be sure, none of them were in support of their more questionable policies, but it's indicative of a friendly relationship with people with whom it isn't really wise to be friends. It's a sign of very poor judgement on the part of those members of the SNP who have been so keen to make friends with them. I think it would be wise for them to borrow Plaid Cymru's bargepole. If the English Democrats supported a Liberal Democrat model of a federal UK to the absolute last letter, I'd feel queasy about sharing any physical or online platform with them, however remotely.

I think that quite a lot of SNP members would be concerned to think that their senior figures were hanging around with people like the English Democrats, in much the same way that Salmond's closeness to Murdoch made them cringe.

The English Democrats don't really take kindly to having the spotlight shone upon them. Their piece on Tilbrook's blog about Willie's comments is headlined Tummy upset and "mentally ill" Willie Rennie.

Willie Rennie's central point is that people with liberal values who live in England shouldn't think that the Scottish independence referendum isn't anything to do with them. They can add to the mood music, share the good things about being part of the UK. It's important that these voices are heard.





25 comments:

RevStu said...

Empty smearing all the way.

1. "They are working together"

Are they? In what way/s? A single MP going to someone else's conference isn't "working with" them - Pete Wishart is going to both Lab and Tory conferences, are the SNP now "working together" with them?

2. "attending each other’s conferences"

Which English Democrat representative/s attended an SNP conference?

3. "most people in Scotland don’t want to leave"

Really? Did we hold the referendum already and I missed it?

4. "the extreme views of nationalists"

Out of interest, which are the SNP's "extreme" policies? Peaceful democratic pursuit of independence - the normal condition of nations - hardly counts. So in which actual areas of policy are they "extreme"?

5. "On no less than 11 occasions between October 2011 and February 2012 that we know about, McNeil shared things written by the English Democrats on social networks."

Then why aren't they here so that we can judge their content for ourselves?

6. "a friendly relationship with people with whom it isn't really wise to be friends"

That rather implies the existence of an empirical definition of wisdom, wouldn't you say? I don't like the English Democrats and I don't like UKIP either, but the latter get a million votes, so who's to say what's "wise"?

7. "in much the same way that Salmond's closeness to Murdoch made them cringe"

Can you support this statement? In what way is Salmond "close to" Murdoch beyond what would be expected of a national leader and a major employer in their country? How many SNP members are you aware of who "cringe" at this relationship?

8. "people with liberal values who live in England shouldn't think that the Scottish independence referendum isn't anything to do with them. They can add to the mood music, share the good things about being part of the UK. It's important that these voices are heard."

I live in England. I've voted Lib Dem for the last 21 years. I have "liberal values". Does this mean Willie Rennie supports my expression of an opinion on Scottish independence too? Because last I heard he wanted me to shut up.

Looking forward to your responses. I've helpfully numbered them so you don't miss anything.

Andrew said...

I see the blog reproduced my photograph of Willie Rennie without crediting me as the photographer. Now that really is annoying!

Galen10 said...

Caron, I think your OP is DESPERATELY dishonest, sorry. It's very disappointing coming from someone I rarely seem to agree with, but often find it entertaining to read and interact with. Recently however your posts seem to be getting increasingly tub-thumping in their unwavering desire to "work towards the leader". It appears there are few depths to which you won't sink given your attempt to taint the SNP by association with the English Democrats.

You say:

"Is it me, or is this a desperate attempt to make themselves sound mainstream and credibility by attaching themselves like limpets to the Scottish party of Government?"

No, it probably isn't only you that thinks so... it IS you however who is cynically using the actions of the English Democrats to paint the SNP as extremists, and on what basis? One SNP MSP attending their conference? Alex Salmond shaking someones had? Really...? Is that actually your knock out blow? Pretty think gruel if you ask me.

The English Democrats may be fairly unpleasant, but they are hardly the BNP. You go out of your way to say they have very little in common with the SNP on the one hand... and then obfuscate that message by trying to make some spurious connection that the the two parties are in cahoots, or just as bad as each other, in support of your point that the debate shouldn't be left to extermists.

Seems to me you ought to be attending to the bean in your own eye first...?

Viridis Lumen said...

Disturbing and bizarre - not least that, having encountered them in elections, the EDs are a very different beast to the SNP, as you correctly diagnose. And anyone from any mainstream party lending them even a shred of credibility is dancing on thin ice, as per this :
http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/1735/english-democrats-in-our-sights

Caron Lindsay said...

I went out of my way to say that the SNP don't share their values. I don't think it's wise, though, for members of the SNP to be associating with them or to appear to be endorsing them. Most reasonable people would give thema wide berth.

Andrew said...

So, Caron, you agree they are not "allies" of the SNP? And that they're not in cahoots, "sharing ideas"?

cynicalHighlander said...

I am sure you will get your assertions in print here as they don't rely on facts either.

cynicalHighlander said...

Meanwhile the punters are short changed by Unionist MSPs.

I suppose self ego is far more important than the poor and disabled, shame on all your houses and I hope you feel proud.

Caron Lindsay said...

1. A cursory glacé on Google should give any sensible politician enough Inforation to avoid these people. They have racist, homophobic policies. I woukdn't go anywhere near them even if they adopted every single Lib Dem home rule policy..

Interesting that Pete Wishart is going to Tory & Labour conferences, but that's not the same league as this mob.

2. The English Democrats met SNP in Scotland as per Tilbrook's blog.

3. Show me a poll which has a majority pro indy.

4. Ending multi-cultural ism, stopping mass immigration and their narrow stuff on marriage are extreme English Democrat policies & attitudes that would we every Scottish nationalist I know feel cringe.

5. The very fact of such sharing, even if content unspectacular, suggests ongoing relationship. Fact that MacNeil does so having met them is scary.

6. In my opinion, anything less than a barge pole is inappropriate for any dealings with this lot.

7. Your First Minister wrote in Scottsh Sun on Sunday in it's very first edition an article in which he played down phone hacking. He sucked up to Murdoch like he pandered to the Chinese over the Dalai Lama.

8. What are you on about? You can say what you like. Just don't pretend breaking up our nation is a mere triviality. It's huge.


RevStu said...

"A cursory glacé on Google should give any sensible politician enough Inforation to avoid these people"

That's not really an answer to my question on how they were "working together", is it? (I do like the idea of a "cursory glacé", though.)

"The English Democrats met SNP in Scotland as per Tilbrook's blog."

So NOT, as you claimed, attending the SNP conference. That was a lie. Glad we've cleared that up.

"Show me a poll which has a majority pro indy."

Here's one:

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/298664/Poll-Now-51-back-independence

But of course, that's not the point anyway. In early 2011 the SNP trailed Labour by 15 points, yet won a majority two months later. Get back to me in autumn 2014 and we'll discuss what "most people in Scotland" do and don't want.

" extreme English Democrat policies & attitudes"

Ah, so Mr Rennie was talking exclusively about English nationalists, rather than the SNP as implied in the post? Fair enough. Glad we've cleared that one up too.

"The very fact of such sharing, even if content unspectacular, suggests ongoing relationship"

Says you. Unfortunately the rest of us can't judge, because for some unaccountable reason you keep refusing to publish these tweets. Since they're the entire apparent basis of your smear, don't you see how that looks a little odd? Why are you so scared to publish this supposedly damning evidence?

I'll ask again, Caron, because you don't seem to be answering: have YOU, personally, seen these tweets?

"In my opinion, anything less than a barge pole is inappropriate for any dealings with this lot."

I'm glad we've got that down from a statement of fact to your personal opinion.

" an article in which he played down phone hacking"

Similarly, that's your less-than-impartial spin on the article. I didn't read that at all, and I vote for the same party you do.

" Just don't pretend breaking up our nation is a mere triviality. It's huge. "

What on Earth did I say that suggested to you I considered independence trivial? I think it's the most important decision in Scotland's history.

Caron Lindsay said...

There you go: here's the list of RTs. As I say, the content is unspectacular, but I would cross the street to avoid the English Democrats. While I might (although I don't) follow them on Twitter, I wouldn't contemplate RTing them.

And, Rev Stu, what's beyond dispute is that the English Democrats have met the SNP both in Edinburgh and at their own conference as the leader's blog says.

All the evidence points to the support for independence going down - only 32% in the most recent poll. I know it's nowhere near over yet, and I'll be campaigning for us to stay in the UK until the last possible moment, but there's no indication that anything like a majority of people support independence.

16 February 2012
English Democrats @EnglishVoice
Cameron hints at further devolved powers to Scotland should they vote to remain in the Union...as for the English, not a word was heard !
Retweeted by AngusBMacNeilMP
2:31 PM - 16 Feb 12 via Facebook • Details

English Democrats @EnglishVoice
Scottish independence would be good for Liverpool, Alex Salmond says in Roscoe lecture - Liverpool L http://fb.me/16vSaFf1n
Retweeted by AngusBMacNeilMP
9:28 AM - 15 Feb 12 via Facebook • Details



English Democrats @EnglishVoice
Congratulations to the English Darts team who have just won the Darts World Cup
Retweeted by AngusBMacNeilMP
10:35 PM - 5 Feb 12 via Facebook • Details


18th January 2012
English Democrats @EnglishVoice 13h
‘NO’ to Scots MPs Voting on English Matters http://fb.me/xNlGm8qN
Retweeted by AngusBMacNeilMP


16th January 2012

English Democrats @EnglishVoice 16 Jan
Amid the talk of Scottish independence, it's now time to answer the English Question - Telegraph http://fb.me/12FpaNnge
Retweeted by AngusBMacNeilMP


14th October 2011
EnglishVoice English Democrats
by AngusMacNeilMP
OFGEM reports that energy suppliers profits have risen from £15 per customer in June to £125 today...the energy... http://fb.me/KujmFf3x
2 hours ago


13th October 2011

EnglishVoice English Democrats
by AngusMacNeilMP
As Alex Salmond warned only last year, voting for one of the LibLabCons will destroy the English Health Service. http://fb.me/FoExxTLY

11th October 2011

EnglishVoice English Democrats
by AngusMacNeilMP
Scottish independence will reinforce our social union http://fb.me/11BKPEM5h

10th October 2011

EnglishVoice English Democrats
by AngusMacNeilMP
Alex Salmond: The days of Tory PMs telling Scotland what to do are over http://fb.me/1gwUEwujV

3rd October 2011

EnglishVoice English Democrats
by AngusMacNeilMP
Brian Monteith: Scots unlikely to care much about conference - Scotsman.com http://fb.me/LUzDCT4C

3rd October 2011


EnglishVoice English Democrats
by AngusMacNeilMP
"If printing money (quantitative easing) produced wealth then counterfeiting wouldn't be illegal"


Galen10 said...

"All the evidence points to the support for independence going down - only 32% in the most recent poll. I know it's nowhere near over yet, and I'll be campaigning for us to stay in the UK until the last possible moment, but there's no indication that anything like a majority of people support independence."

Caron, as the estimable Scottish_skier has pointed out elsewhere, the percentages tend to look a lot different when you give people the binary choice between
the status quo or independence. Since your party is one of the unholy triumvirate bent on denying the Scottish people the chance to vote on a second question in the referendum, you can hardly complain when it becomes evident to more undecided and/or pro devo-max voters that the only sane choice in 2014 is independence.

There are 2 years in which to campaign... and I wouldn't be too confident if I were you that the % in favour of independence is going to go anywhere but upwards. Remember how convinced Labour were before the last Holyrood election that they would have a majority?

We've seen Lamentable Lamont write Scottish Labour's suicide note recently when she basically said everything including free University tuition, free prescriptions and free care for the elderly was on the table to be withdrawn, so I think you can safely assume another tranche of Labour voters will be thinking very hard whether to carry on supporting the increasingly right wing policies of the depenedency
parties.

As for McNeil retweeting, the context doesn't support your tendentious attack. I happen to agree that it is probably unwise to give them the oxygen of oxygen, never mind the oxygen of publicity, but re-tweeting things doesn't allow you to make the fairly big leap that he's a fellow traveller.

Munguin said...

Oh Dear Caron, your slavish adherence to the pro-Westminster doctrine of failed Fife MP Willie Rennie seems to have dropped you in the soup and shown you up for the nodding dog partisan apparatchik I’ve been saying you are for ages. Caron do try to grow an independent finger nail and attempt to think for yourself!

Your list of re-tweets is so anodyne and inoffensive it’s simply incredible that you would be using them to smear the SNP.

As for your moral outrage at the English Democrats. If I remember correctly were the Tories not once considered to be both homophobic and racist? Were Sinn Fein not once considered to be murders and terrorists and were the Lib Dems not once considered to be principled and compassionate? Just goes to show how things can change and what political expedience can lead you to doesn’t it!

Andrew said...

I'm sorry, those retweets as a basis for Rennie's attack is ABSOLUTELY LAUGHABLE.

There's not one tweet in there I could honestly say I have any issue with. This is not evidence of any kind of relationship, friendly or otherwise. These tweets are pretty innocent, all that you object to is their source. In that case I would ask you if you seriously vet every individual whose tweets you share? Certainly, I have no idea where some interesting tweets originate, but that doesn't stop me RTing them.

This is frankly desperate stuff. I should add that I also know of a Liberal Democrat peer who met with a delegation from the Campaign for an English parliament, that may or may not have included English Democrat members. What do you make of that?

scottish_skier said...

Last year (15 polls) combined:
42% Yes
15% unsure/thinking about it
43% No

Since 1998 (42 polls) combined:
43% Yes
14% unsure/thinking about it
43% No

I don’t see any real change from the long term over the past year. Still a lack of majority support for the union with Y and N rather neck and neck. The crucial factor is that the unsures clearly are not big fans of the union, otherwise they'd say 'no'.

I hope people are not picking out individual polls (nor using recent Yougov) – that would suggest they’ve no idea what they’re talking about.

Anyhoo, now that Devo max (~3 in 10 on top of the ~4 in 10 for independence) is soon to be written off for all to see, we should soon return to something like 1998 values which would have delivered (if there had been a referendum) ~6 in 10 for yes, just like Y-Y in 1997.

Source: ICM, ICD, MORI, TNS-BMRB, Visioncritical/AR, Panelbase, Comres, SSAS, and Yougov pre 2007 before their weighting methods stopped working, putting their polls at odds with all the others.

Munguin said...

I thought the silly season was over. But what with Lamont and her own goal of a rethink on free stuff and Rennie and his English Democrat smear. I’m not so sure!

My God “congrats to the English darts team”! How dare he re-tweet that! I’m outraged! It clearly shows an underlying creed of racism and homophobia that has hitherto been hidden from me!

More risible than your usual drivel. Are the Lib Dems ever wanting to win an election in Scotland again?

James Kelly said...

"Just don't pretend breaking up our nation is a mere triviality."

Caron, the only person I know of who wants to break up our nation is Tavish Scott - he seems to think Shetland should go its own way in the event of independence.

Good luck to the Shetlanders if that's what they want (self-determination is for everyone), but personally I'd be delighted if the Scottish nation stuck together, regardless of the constitutional choice we make in 2014. I was extremely surprised to hear that the former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats does not share that view.

Caron Lindsay said...

Blimey. I seem to have touched a raw nerve! Drivel, eh?

The important thing about this is that the likes of the English Democrats don't define the debate south of the border about Scotland's future as part of the UK. There are many more people who think that we are stronger together as part of the UK family. Like Willie said, they don't have a vote, but they have a voice.

I would cross the street to avoid the English Democrats. They are pretty much BNP lite. The SNP have nothing in common with them other than a desire for Scotland not to be a part of the UK for vastly differing reasons. Angus MacNeil has had, at the very least, had a lapse of judgement on this one. I can't imagine even following them on Twitter, let alone RTing them.

This was a very small part of Willie's speech, yet you're all making a huge deal about it because you don't want to discuss it.

James Kelly said...

"I seem to have touched a raw nerve!"

To be fair, if Alex Salmond had alleged that the Liberal Democrats were "allies" of a hard-right organisation with racist/homophobic undertones on the basis of such thin "evidence", my guess is that you would have been pretty angry, and that you wouldn't have regarded 'Dearie me, touched a nerve, eh?' as an adequate or appropriate response to that anger.

scottish_skier said...

If we consider ‘extremes’ of politics by the standard definition – i.e. deviation in socio-economic stance from the global centre, then the SNP are the least extreme of all parties in the UK, being very centrist on both social and economic scales.

http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

In contrast, the current UK coalition is one of the most ‘extreme’ right-wing authoritarian governments in Europe.

http://www.politicalcompass.org/euchart

Personally, I’m a little surprised that the Liberal Democrats seem largely ok with propping this up.

Galen10 said...

I think you can cut the faux surprise Caron... you're not really convincing anyone!

The "many" people you are referring to who think we are better together appears to based on those in the non-Scottish parts of the UK. They are of course entitled to an opinion, but unless they actually have a vote in Scotland, they aren't entitled to any say in what Scotland's future is.... unless of course you're lining yourself up with the likes of the Spanish government who want to deny the right of the Catalan people to even hold a referendum, or the nutters in England who think they should be able to veto Scottish independence?

You're the one who made an issue of this by your ill-judged and (deliberately?) provocative attempt to draw some moral equivalence between the ED's and the SNP; you then have the gall to play the surprised and slightly hurt "naif" when you get called out for this crass, unworthy and ultimately self-defeating piece of agitprop.

RevStu said...

" I seem to have touched a raw nerve!"

As I recall, that was your line when desperately trying to defend Rennie's appalling personal slurs against Martin Sime too. Does it ever occur to you for even a moment that when people - some of them members of your own party - call you out for saying something defamatory and disgraceful, it's because you have?

Andrew said...

"This was a very small part of Willie's speech, yet you're all making a huge deal about it because you don't want to discuss it."

Caron, as you might know, I did discuss the entirety of Willie's speech in some depth. I did want to talk about it. Indeed, this was a small part of the speech, but it was a very significant claim to make in a speech to the party's federal conference. In my view he's misled the party on this one.

"If Alex Salmond had alleged that the Liberal Democrats were "allies" of a hard-right organisation with racist/homophobic undertones on the basis of such thin "evidence", my guess is that you would have been pretty angry". Agreed James. In fact, we do have links to a horrible homophobic organisation allied CARE that provides interns to the leader. I know Willie doesn't agree with their views, but clearly the link he has to CARE is stronger and more easy to prove than the SNP's links with the English Democrats.

Of course, Willie is guilty of nothing more than a "lapse of judgement" on that score. I'd prefer if he didn't accept interns from that homophobic organisation, but I wouldn't accuse him of being "allies". I know that Caron also accepts this view - so why not in the case of Angus Macneil who simply retweets a few perfectly innocent tweets?

In fact, I'm very surprised at Angus. I mean, why would a Scottish nationalist want to congratulate the English darts team?

cynicalHighlander said...

BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.


It seems that Unionists are more extreme than wee Willie is asserting.

Anonymous said...

Caron,

Glad you pointed these links out. I wouldn't normally think of the SNP and the ED in the same breath, but apparently Wee Eck has lost the plot, if he is allowing his MPs to associate with Philip Davies' dad's sad Pool of Vomit Party.

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