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Sunday, 20 March 2016

What happened to the "Third Party of Yes?"

This week, the fifth member of the SSP EC stood down amongst allegations of bullying, arrogance and ego since July. The woman Co- Spokesperson (Colin Fox's "equal"); Woman Co-Chair; Allan Grogan, former leader of Labour for Independence; another woman EC member; and me, the Website and Social Media organiser, have all either resigned from EC or from the party completely.

The SSP detoxed during its involvement with the many thousands of Yes campaigners and supporters between 2011 and 2014, much to the chagrin of (or at the very least- not understood by-) those who had been plotting and drawing up plans (steeped in the Sheridan fiasco of 2005-2011) for the left outside what was going on during that time.

The extraordinary importance given to the tiny "Team RIC" by those who had no interactions outside their tiny left cadre, during the Independence Campaign, has been extraordinary.

The SSP consistently polled 3% until October last year. Yet the SSP "leadership" clamped down on the innovation that saw 3000 people registering interest in joining post indyref and saw 50000 online interactions a week.

Rise are polling 0%. Ten or so activists are constantly photographed behind a banner looking  enthusiastic. And they will do all the way up until May, when they poll less than the SSP did at the last Scottish Election.

Why? Because they are targeting voters who don't trust them (Colin Fox made the extraordinary speech during the launch of Rise that had the tag line, "Taking the fight to the SNP," - the very electorate they want to attract!)

Team Rise/RIC (Shafi, Boyd etc) were always seen as microphone grabbers trying to personally profit (unwarranted in some instance), much in the way many of the other "tacked on" groups were. I would argue, though, that until about six months before the referendum, they were truly independent. However, that is for another time.

The odd thing was the decision of the SSP leadership, who twisted and turned in order to be seen as the leadership within their own party (Colin Fox, one Sunday, when we were on the phone, resorted to repeatedly shouting down the phone at me, "DO YOU TRUST YOUR LEADERSHIP? DO YOU TRUST YOUR LEADERSHIP?" ...I was under the impression that 1 the ssp was a "ground up" party and 2 Those on the EC had equality around that table.) This was a party that was innovative in its democracy, and was, I would argue, the most democratic organisation in Europe between 2002 and 2004. A proud history.

Why did Colin and other experienced political activists think it was a good idea to bury the "third party of Yes" in something unknown?

Some in the SSP leadership have said that those around the ISG (the core of "Team RIC" and now "Team Rise") were going to launch something anyway and they had to be part of it. What analysis led them to think that a group OUTSIDE a mass campaign- the biggest campaign Scotland has ever witnessed- would make more ground than a "brand" that was seen as firmly within the huge Yes Movement? A brand that for many, represented the "new left" since it's fantastic work during the Independence Referendum- a brand, for example,  Labour for Independence folk saw as the place for their list vote (so much so, Labour for Independence founder, Allan Grogan joined the SSP!).

What led the SSP leadership to believe that a small group of activists who, to give them credit, could fill a hall now and again had a better profile and expertise than the many talented people within its own party? (The odd thing is, what didn't seem to be part of their analysis was that Yes Scotland, of which the SSP was a corner in the triangle of Yes founders, was almost weekly, filling halls to a greater extent across the country!)

When this election is done, the decimated SSP and the failure (though enthusiastic) that is Rise, will have to rethink. Those activists who deserted or who were bullied out of the SSP and those who didn't come on board Rise, if they haven't already thrown their hats into the SNP or Greens -or walked away completely, will have to be consulted rather than ignored or condemned. And the SSP "leadership" need to be brought to account by those who truly want to build a party that represents the working class.

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