There’s a strange phenomenon at the heart of Scottish politics, and it runs far deeper than the independence referendum. It’s summed up pretty well in this image.
The picture and the comment alongside come from the Facebook page of Labour’s newest Parliamentary candidate, Kathy Wiles. They were made more than two months ago, so you’d imagine that any selection committee worth even a quarter of a damn would have checked her out enough to have a look at her social-media accounts and see if she might have said – or be likely to say in future – anything stupid.
But the thing is, we’re sure they did. Because as far as Scottish Labour as concerned, calling “most” of the voters of the most popular party in the country a bunch of workshy scroungers only interested in claiming benefits isn’t even a gaffe. It’s pretty much the official policy position.
You’ll never hear the SNP attacking the voters of any of the Unionist parties. You’ll hear plenty about them reaching out to Labour voters in particular, telling them that they share their values and can help to implement them in an independent Scotland, or even that an independent Scotland would enable them to elect a Labour government.
Whether you doubt the sincerity of such pleas or not isn’t the point. The point is that the Nats’ approach to the voters of other parties is to try to win them over, not insult them. But the UK parties, and again Labour in particular, think that the best way to win elections when you’re way behind in the polls is to call everyone who doesn’t vote for you a moron, or a bully, or a racist, or a Nazi.
Note that most of these comments and the countless others like them aren’t directed at the SNP itself, but at ordinary Scots, many of whom will have been Labour voters in the past. And they don’t come from anonymous internet nutters, but often from some of the party’s most senior figures. Their sheer loathing of an electorate that’s had the temerity to vote for someone else seethes from every word.
Perhaps in the case of Kathy Wiles, Labour figured it didn’t matter how much of an abusive imbecile she was, because with the party in a distant 3rd place in the Angus seat she’s been selected for she’s a no-hoper anyway. Maybe they didn’t want to waste any of their sparse talent on a seat they had no realistic chance of winning, and just stuck a pin in the local membership list. Maybe she was the only applicant.
But whichever it is, it’s a strange way to try to win hearts and minds.