Something I remember from the first IndyRef in Scotland was that, after No scared up a victory, Westminster politicians talked about listening to the voters and the grassroots rejection of Westminster politics. Miliband’s proposal at the time was for a Westminster Labour party generated grassroots organization. If people were tired of Westminster based politicians telling them what to do and what they should think then Westminster would design and present a ‘grassroots’ branded politics for them to enjoy instead. A bit like large brewing conglomerates producing “craft” “beer” for your drinking pleasure in the face of the popularity of micro-breweries producing craft beer. Completely missing the point, as only an out of touch, living in a bubble, mentality could produce when it craves to maintain its vicelike grip of control.
During the Labour leadership election of 2015, Jeremy Corbyn found himself the benefactor of a grassroots support group in Momentum, a group that has expanded that grassroots support ethos to encouraging, directly and indirectly, 100,000s of people to join the Labour party. Grassroots support that is still expanding, way beyond the confines of Momentum. Momentum helped usher in a change to the Labour party leadership that many believed was much needed and Corbyn’s leadership has certainly changed Labour’s narrative. A work in progress.
June 2016 and the response to Momentum is ‘Saving Labour’. Purporting to be a ‘grassroots’ movement to “save Labour” from Jeremy Corbyn, it has undisclosed financial backing and has been conducting, what the BBC have reported as, a “secretive campaign in the Labour leadership contest to oust Jeremy Corbyn”. Saving Labour boast of having “recruited more than 120,000 registered supporters and affiliated union members to vote against Mr Corbyn” and “has amassed details of 60,000 people on its own database in just two months”. It is unclear from the BBC report quite how they have accumulated the data. The New Statesmen reported back in July of Saving Labour’s involvement with a scandal involving the ‘think tank’ Progress, where Saving Labour supporters within CLPs were asked to potentially breach data protection laws for the purpose of targeting lapsed members of the Labour party in a recruitment drive. Where the grassroots support of Corbyn’s leadership has been reflected by the tens of thousands of people turning out for his rallies, grassroots support for his rival, Owen Smith, has been more cursory, where tens of people have shown up.
In Scotland, the SNP are gearing up for a second tilt at an IndyRef and have launched a new conversation for the Scottish people to discuss the prospect. I can’t help but think it would be best if we could keep the politicians and media out of it and then let them know what the people have decided after they’ve decided it. If the EU Referendum and IndyRef1 has taught us anything, vested interests will lie through their hind teeth to steer public opinion. Faux grassroots initiatives, like Saving Labour, that can’t actually muster any semblance of grassroots support, shouldn’t be allowed within a thousand miles of democratic decision making unless they are open and honest about their practices and their organisation. Likewise, commentary on matters concerning elections and referendums should require disclosures of conflict of interests, bias, and prejudices. The anti-Independence dance has already started, rather predictably like the first go around, how big a pinch of salt will Scottish voters take with it this time?