I went along to the Eastwood Hustings last night to get a better idea about who to vote for in the SNP’s election for a new depute leader.
It was quite interesting — although unfortunately Angus Robertson couldn’t make it — and I now feel I know how to prioritise the candidates. Here are my thoughts, started with the candidate I’ll be ranking lowest and ending with my preferred depute leader:
- Chris McEleny has some decent ideas about reforms to the party structure, but I think the other candidates have listened to these and are likely to implement them, too. However, his focus seemed very strongly to be on local elections, and with the possibility of a new independence referendum, I don’t think this is the right kind of depute for the SNP at the moment.
- Tommy Sheppard is great and I’m really appreciative of the things he’s done during the indyref campaign and as an MP. At another point in time I can imagine he would have been my preferred candidate. However, like Chris he seemed to focus more on local elections and on the party structure, and again I’m just not sure this is the right time. Paid organisers might be a great idea, but when the next referendum campaign gets called, a lot of activity will probably shift to Yes Scotland 2 (or whatever it’ll get called), and then these organisers could almost become a hindrance.
- Angus Robertson is one of my heroes. As somebody who’s half German myself I really admire the way he’s explaining Scottish politics in German to German and Austrian audiences — he simply says all the right things, like for instance: “Wir Schotten sind […] Weltbürger — von daher ärgert mich die deutsche Übersetzung meiner Partei: Wir sind keine Nationalisten.” He’s also doing a great job in Westminster, and I’m sure being depute leader of the SNP could help him there. Finally, his point about making sure that the SNP doesn’t lose the rural areas now that the party is becoming much more urban makes eminent sense to me. I’ll be very happy if he wins this election.
- Alyn Smith is, however, my preferred candidate. His famous speech in the European Parliament has shown he can win over European hearts and minds, and that really matters at the moment. He also pointed out last night that his election will send a strong signal to Europe that the European Parliament matters more to Scotland than the UK Parliament in London, and he can really use the depute leader title to impress on people across Europe that he’s to be taken seriously. Finally, although he didn’t say it, I can’t help thinking that somebody who’ll lose his current job if Scotland gets chucked out of the EU will perhaps work harder to keep us there than those who won’t. Given how much staying in the EU matters to me as a New Scot from another EU member state, I’ll cast my first vote for Alyn Smith.