Wednesday , October 20 2021

Should All for Unity have Sturgeon worried?

All for Unity – Unity’s the name, and unity’s the game. The party, founded as the ‘Alliance for Unity’, but renamed at the behest of the electoral commission is the creation of (gorgeous) George Galloway, and until recently, it was led by him too. Jamie Blackett is the man in charge now, though George is still playing an active role in All for Unity, whose raison d’être is to defeat the SNP in the upcoming May elections and beyond, and to bury a second referendum on Scottish independence for a generation. 

The means by which AFU seek to beat the SNP is twofold. Their first ambition is to encourage tactical voting against the SNP, and AFU has distributed a wealth of content across social media to this end. They have kitemarked non-SNP incumbents and the best placed SNP challengers for the attention of fellow unionists. In so doing AFU have done a better job at making the Lib Dems look cool than the Lib Dems have managed in a long time. And George Galloway made waves on Twitter recently when he announced that he would be voting for a Tory. Speaking on his RT radio show, he told listeners that “I will be voting Conservative in the elections in May on my constituency vote for the first time in my life…This is because my local MSP is a Conservative and the challenger to him is the SNP.” Say what you like but not if what you like is that the AFU is unserious. 

Secondly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the insurgent party wants you to vote for them. In Scottish parliamentary elections, voters get two votes. The first is for a constituency MSP, and the second vote is for a party on a regional list. It’s your second vote that AFU wants. Because regional list seats are allocated proportionally, using the d’Hondt methodology, they think they might be able to win a seat there without splitting the vote. What’s more, they argue that the rules of d’Hondt means a vote for AFU packs a bigger punch than a vote for a major party. Jamie Blackett, writing in The Critic, put it this way: 

‘The d’Hondt method of allocating the second “List” votes deliberately favours smaller parties that have not won seats with first votes in the first-past-the-post constituency battles. Thus if, with George Galloway’s help, the Tories win four seats in the South of Scotland, their votes will be divided by five (one plus number of seats won) in the List. This means that tactical voters have more chance of securing their desired outcome of defeating the Nationalists by giving their first vote to the best placed “pro-Unity” candidate and their second vote to All for Unity. In fact, giving a second vote to one of the big parties would be to reduce its effectiveness.’ 

Galloway’s determination to oust the SNP is second to none, and his willingness to expend serious time and resource promoting Liberal Democrat, Labour and Tory’s candidates, despite the fact they shunned his call for an electoral pact, is admirable. But AFU isn’t just Galloway and Blackett, the party is a broad tent and within are a wide variety of characters, united by their opposition to separation. The party can boast of housing Alan Sked, founder of UKIP, to David Griffiths, self-described lifelong Rangers fan, to the creator of Japan’s #1 English language magazine, Mary Devlin, and many more besides. They aren’t household names by any means, but they are diverse, and many accomplished, and united in their aim to give the SNP a bloody nose. What it says on the tin in short.  

I would wager that the triumph of the AFU is one for which they will likely go unsung. Their tactical voting campaign has taken off on social media, and taken up many column inches to boot. Though the party’s ground game will naturally suffer due to the pandemic, while we are in lockdown the effect of social media is amplified. I predict we might see a couple of shocks come May and those shocks will come about in no small part due to AFU’s campaign. But I don’t think they’ll win seats, I think it likely most people, even those inclined to vote tactically, will revert to their party of preference when they come to vote on the regional list. I hope I’m proven wrong though, because having a socialist Celtic supporter, a right-wing Rangers fan, and the founder of UKIP giving Sturgeon what for on a daily basis would give anyone cause to tune in to Scottish Parliament TV. And that’d be a first. 

 

About Mario Laghos

Mario Laghos is the editor of Just Debate.

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