In defence of Louise Mensch (or maybe not)

There was a rather predictable gnashing of teeth from many of my fellow travellers this morning with the announcement that the rather unlovely UKIP would be included in the leaders debates for next year’s General Election, whereas our own SNP would not, despite being the UK’s third biggest party. I failed to be moved, not by the unjustness of the decision, but by its predictability.

All that I’ve resolved to do is ponder what a party with almost 50 years continuous representation at Westminster, consistent representation in Holyrood and Brussels, and with the UK’s only working parliamentary majority, needs to do to get a spot in these debates: a seat in the Lords maybe? That’s about the only level where they are represented, and we are not.

New York-based Tory pantomime dame Louise Mensch came up with a seemingly novel solution this morning – getting the SNP to stand in every seat in England, an opinion for which she was predictably heckled. The fact that this has been mooted in the past notwithstanding, or the fact that it is in many ways an easy way to piss £266,500 up the wall, it did get me thinking.

During the referendum, there emerged the tentative voice of some on the English left, Billy Bragg most notably, who expressed a wish to see a Yes vote, and expressed an admiration for SNP policies. I personally know many English friends, mainly Northerners, who have either voted SNP or expressed a wish that they could do in English elections – and even among those who wouldn’t go as far as expressing support for a Yes vote, there is a wish that a new left party could somehow take Labour away from the ‘Red Tories’ tag. Could the SNP take votes from Labour in England just as it will take votes from them in Scotland?

I’m not going totally mad – and I’m willing to give Ms Mensch the benefit of the doubt, because she may have been given inspiration from a recent precedent. The candidate who finished third in this summer’s Turkish Presidential election, with almost 10% of the vote did so on an ostensibly left-wing, secular ticket which sought to build on last year’s Gezi Park protests – offering a home to many Turks disaffected by the politics of the established parties.

However, Selahattin Demirtaş, and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) both have their origins in the more exclusively Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), and while they naturally find most of their support in the Kurdish regions of the South East, they drew many votes from both the Kurdish diaspora and sympathetic Turks of other backgrounds, including less-heralded minorities like the Alevi (Alawite) religious community (which includes, confusingly, both Kurds and Turks). Indeed, in the Turkish parliament, they have 3 MPs from Istanbul, elected thanks to the super-proportional Party List system, which we partly use at Holyrood.

Now, I don’t think that the SNP should follow an HDP-style policy: but that doesn’t mean that those less-versed in Turkish politics shouldn’t know of a clear precedent for this sort of thing. As with the idea of a Yes alliance in next year’s election, I remain unconvinced by the idea of broad-based collations of the left, and have a feeling that it would become something more akin to the barmy, directionless Italian Five Star Movement (M5S) than the HDP – but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

As for Selahattin Demirtaş and his party – anyone interested in the plight of Kobane, and plight of the Kurdish areas of Northern Syria could do worse than listen to what they have been saying on the subject over the last couple of weeks: and as it appears the issue could be having effects both in Turkey and in the wider Middle East, you’ll probably be hearing more from him soon.

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