It’s hard to win elections. Thank goodness for that, says TOM HARRIS


Democracy, eh? What a pain in the backside.

All this having to campaign, argue, persuade and cajole the voters. All those compromises that are an inevitable part of a mature democracy… who can be bothered with all that?

Well, according to mainstream SNP thinking, Scotland can dispense with it. Because, apparently, we are a homogenous society with only one political viewpoint (left of centre, of course).

Therefore, in an independent Scotland, the Left, in whatever guise (usually assumed to be an amalgam of Scottish Labour and nationalist types who, having achieved their ambition of independence will be every bit as enthusiastic about political involvement after we’ve shrugged off the English yoke. Ahem…) will hold sway. We will rule unchallenged by any serious right wing opposition.

All we will need to do is stand leftie candidates at the first – and every subsequent – Scottish general election and go to bed early, in the absolute certainty that, come the morning, only the size (not the existence) of our parliamentary majority will be in doubt.

Online nats never tire of repeating their claim that a vote for the Union is a vote for Tory rule. Cameron nearly won the last UK general election in 2010, so therefore (goes nat logic) the 300-year-old Union must end. Why resign ourselves to having to fight – and fight hard – for the election of a Labour government at Westminster when instead we can have perpetual Labour government at Holyrood without having to lift a finger or deliver a leaflet?

But here’s the thing: elections should be hard to win. Politicians should never be allowed to take votes for granted. We should always be expected to come up with new ideas, to redefine and modernise our principles and policies.

Any country where it can be lazily assumed that X or Y party will take power no matter what is a badly run one. The harder it is to win the votes of the electorate, the more determined will the winning party be to make their term in office a success. And in any modern democracy, no party should assume they will retain power ad infinitum; however healthy any living thing, it must die eventually, and the same should go for governments. The principle that governments govern better when they’re held to account by strong oppositions is more than a soundbite. And a strong oposition is one that stands a realistic chance of being the government next time round.

None of this is envisioned by our nationalist compatriots. Their utopian vision of Scotland’s future is one where the right is frozen out in perpetuity, where left-leaning governments are re-elected with the certainty of day following night. Join us in our fight for independence, they say to Labour members, and you will never again have to endure a Tory government.

No, thanks. I don’t want a Tory government any more than do (most of) our nationalist friends. But unlike them, I’m prepared to fight, argue and campaign for the alternative. And yes, I’m also prepared to lose if we get our arguments and our policies wrong.

Damn this democracy lark.

Tom Harris is the MP for Glasgow South and is a Shadow Environment Minister. Follow him on Twitter at @TomHarrisMP.