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One more than you

Posted on May 11, 2012 by

We don’t know if anyone still reads the BBC’s “Blether With Brian” column since the Corporation banned Scottish readers – uniquely in these islands – from posting comments on it, nor can we normally think of a reason why anyone would. It’s generally the blandest-possible summary of events people have already seen for themselves, with no effort to impart any sort of insight or analysis.

However, once in a while the understated approach yields a more profoundly powerful result than screeds of polemic, and we can think of no way to better illustrate the bizarreness of Johann Lamont’s chosen line of attack at yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions than to simply relate the events as they transpired, in the most neutral and factual manner, as the national broadcaster’s Scottish political editor does today.

How to decide who has won an election? The customary method is to count the ballot papers – and to award victory to the one with the most votes. Now the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies adds a degree of sophistication to that. But, still, the spoils tend to go to those with evident popular support.

This, apparently, is an old-fashioned outlook. Just so Twentieth Century. At Holyrood, Labour’s Johann Lamont suggested another test might be used instead. The SNP, she said, might have won the council elections “on the arithmetic”. But “on the politics” they “got stuffed.”

It is difficult to be entirely certain, but I suspect that most political leaders would probably settle, on balance, for winning “on the arithmetic”.

Stranger still was Brian’s citation of Fat Les in support of his assertion, but other than to wistfully dwell for a moment on our long-held dream of Scottish fans repurposing the song in question with the words “Irn Bru” replacing the title, we’ll let that one pass.

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17 to “One more than you”

  1. pa_broon


    A curious idea. One would have thought that winning more votes represents a quantitative manifestation of the deployment of a greater number of agreeable political policies.

    Going by Johann’s logic, the Libdems may as well also claim election success.

  2. Doug Daniel

    Strange, I also made a now-rare visit to his blog and was surprised by the posting. Maybe he was just trolling when they had comments.

    Incidentally, a local councillor (and I think this is the general Aberdeen SNP line) tells me that we “won” the election here because we got 31% 1st preference votes in Aberdeen compared to 29% for Labour. I think trying to argue we won because we got 2% more first preference votes (what about 2nd and 3rd?) despite getting two seats fewer is just about on a par with Labour trying to claim victory for managing to cling onto Glasgow. I find it difficult to criticise other parties when my own is guilty of the same crappy spin. I wish parties could just be honest.

  3. Morag

    Now the Dunoon result is in, the results for the main parties in terms of seats are as follows.

    SNP 425, +62
    Labour 394, +46
    Conservative 115, -28
    LibDem 71, -95
    Green 14, +6

    2012 results compared to the previous election in 2007, in case anyone is in any doubt.

    Perhaps Labour are claiming a moral victory?

  4. Patrick Stirling

    So more people voted SNP than labour, so therefore the SNP got stuffed because people didn’t like their polices….oh yeah that makes sense……PMSL

  5. Doug Daniel

    Note that the Beeb is still showing erroneous results, despite updating their figures for the Dunoon result.

  6. MajorBloodnok

    They’ll probably update it after the Langside recount…. or perhaps they’re waiting until other unopened boxes turn up?

  7. Juteman

    I’m having a Vindaloo tonight. Nothing to do with fat Les.

    I just wanted to post something, and see it appear straight away. Cheers, Rev Stu.

    I wonder what will appear first (if at all). My last post on NNS or Labourhame?

  8. Morag

    Ooh, lucky you.  NNS have just put me on moderation too, because I got very fed up with the writer of an article who had published a load of mince and would not correct it.

    I should coco.

  9. Arbroath1320

    From what I can remember, the proposed Labour policies down here in D&G were the same as the SNP’s. Still why put out your own policies, if you have any, when you can steal those of the opposition. I think this goes particularly well for Glasgow. As I recall, brain is rather dim today so I might be wrong here, the Scottish government in 2011 promised to keep the Council Tax frozen for 5 years. Mr. Matheson in his council election promises promised to keep council tax frozen for 5 years. Now in my mind this is a pure downright theft of an SNP policy, something that is working. Oh but wait a minute, hasn’t that nice Mr Matheson been fighting against council tax freezing and screaming from the roof tops that freezing the council tax doesn’t work!

  10. Seasick Dave

    This line of thinking has also been adopted by Michael Moore when he said about the Referendum consultations:

    The Scottish Secretary, who wants to meet Mr Salmond “in the next few weeks”, said the fact that 19,000 replies had been received – more than six times that of Westminster’s – did not make it any more valid.
    Speaking ahead of the closure of the consultation tonight at midnight, Mr Moore denied he was trying to bounce the First Minister into a deal on the referendum, and insisted there was now “consensus” on having a single question.

    “It’s not about the numbers [of responses], it’s about the arguments,” he added.


    That’s right, Michael, so lets not bother with the pesky referendum.

  11. pa_broon

    This notion that less is more must be a new political idea, I mean it makes sense if your party happens to be a bit crap.

    Perhaps Lamont and Moore are reading the same manual?

  12. Tris

    Let’s all agree that Mrs Lamont won the elections and that her strategy  is working just fine.

    *She should continue looking as if she has sooked on a lemon;
    *she should continue to ask silly questions and to refuse point blank to listen to the answers;
    *she should continue to allow her sloppy research team to come up with questions which give the First Minister the opportunity, without any effort at all, to point out just how lacking in basis any of them is;
    *she should continue to do what Iain and Wendy before her did, oppose for the sake of opposing without giving any consideration to the effects of the policy (inmage a Labour party that opposes council house building when there is such a shortage of rentable homes);
    *she should continue to read for a script and lose her place and stutter over the words.

    She’s doing just grand.

    So yes, Johann, you won the elections, if just sort of missing out a bit on the arithmetic.

    *LOL* (Lots of Love, of course, before you ask)


  13. Juteman

    LOL. ) 

  14. Christian Wright

    In politics it’s the perception that matters, not the reality. Or so goes the argument, and I think this is what the Holyrood Labor leader meant.

    Now given the misrepresentation by Labour and the media in the first day or two after the election, it would be true to say that low-information voters would almost certainly get the impression that Labour had taken the SNP to the woodshed. 

    Seven days later, as Sadie McCludgie stood up at FQM to offer the lead-in proforma question, the trained seals behind her started clapping and making barking noises, suggesting some sort of parliamentary victory lap, a spiking of the football in the end zone, a both-hands-above-the-head, fist-pumping celebration of the rout of the SNP. 

    This presumably was to reinforce the perception among the Great Unwashed, that holding Glasgow with a reduced majority was an historic victory.

    Labour thought this visual would be the 5 to 10 second burst that would get on the news. That sort of thing is like catnip to news producers, after all.

    A good visual is more powerful than any explanatory narration, times ten, and the message of this visual is “Labour won and the SNP lost”.

    Labour had clearly cooked-up this pantomime at FMQ to reinforce that meme, originally inculcated during the critical hours after the election, when the electorate was still paying attention.

    Now, it’s true Labour were been unable to sustain the fiction as the days wore on, but they did not need to sustain it.

    Past the first day or so, after the election, the great majority of punters had already turned their attention back to things that really matter to them. They switched off.

    The impression left in their minds, if they retained any impression at all, was again, that Labour won and the SNP lost. It is the simplest of messages that is retained. 

     The FMQ kabuki was meant to reinforce that message.


  15. Domhnall

    the arithmetic jiggery pokery continues…the latest being the attempts to justify overtutning the results of the referendum in aberdeen on the union terrace gardens plans. circa 15k people voted labour, circa 45k voted for the gardens. now labour claim they have a mandate as elections are a better way to run things than referenda……..dangerous line of argument that, the SNP would be entitled to declare independence right now according to the labour thinking.

  16. Tris

    Beautifully written, Christian.

    Hopefully at least one outcome of this will be complacency in Labour ranks. Come the next elections, the people from Labour who could’t tear themselves away to vote will think to themselves… ‘They managed without me last time; they can do so again’. Whereas SNP supporters who think only superficially about politics will take the opposing view, ie: “We lost the last time. I must make the effort this time”. 

  17. MajorBloodnok

    I see “haudit and doddit” are back in action.  Brian is trying to redeem himself:

    Whilst Douglas Fraser’s report on the FM’s trip to Norway isn’t as dismissive as usual:

    Is he making an analogy with the UK government’s poor stance on renewables at the end?

    Do you think that now the local elections are over they’re seeing the writing on the wall?

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