Firstly, is Shuggy right in saying this?
"We're always being told that parties are collapsing, their grassroots withering on the vine. We were told this about the Tory party under Hague and IDS. Like the Church of England and the monarchy, it was suggested that we couldn't assume that the zeitgeist would retain their services indefinitely.I ask because I think that this needs a bit of thinking about. I'd question how leadable a hollowed out party can be.
Philosophically true, I'd agree - but it seems a little arrogant in retrospect given the state of play now. The withering of the grassroots is a phenomenon that has afflicted political parties across Europe and certainly in Britain. But so what if parties are 'hollowed-out'? They are still going to compete in elections and someone has to win. Those whose prognosis relies on an analysis of the state the parties are in make some acute observations - but they understate the importance of leadership. For those of us who are sympathetic to Labour, ours is a disaster that simply can't be dismissed as a function of a palsied grassroots."
Machiavelli's republicanism had an almost Darwinist sub-text: That achieving power by the successful marshaling of the forces at your disposal can provide a leader with the momentum that they need to really lead. In democratic terms, you can't do that if you were the beneficiary of a coronation. You can fight a big fight once you've shown you can win a few smaller ones. And hollowed-out parties usually lose minor skirmishes.
And while I'm slightly more upbeat than the bookies about Labour prospects at the next election*, my biggest worry is that Cameron appears to be able to get the Tories to act in concert - and that at the next election, we (Labour) will be faced with the kind of organisation you can only have when you have thousands of reasonably disciplined councillors (each pulling their own social networks out to knock on doors and identify voters).
In 1997, I know that a lot of New Labour's stage management was in getting people around the spokesmen. We had to position them - on camera - surrounded by grinning activists. Part of a crowd - a tide even. Cameron will be able to do this because - for the first time - the Tories aren't hollowed out.
My second question is this: I've noticed that most of the bloggers that I like in Scotland have a passionate dislike of Scottish Nationalism. Now, is this a dislike of SN (Prop: The SNP) or a more general objection to it?
I ask this because, I suspect that I would be in favour of a much greater level of devolution - even to the point of independence - from the rest of Britain if I were Scottish. I think that all decent socialists should favour decentralisation of power wherever possible, and the idea that you should be largely governed by people who owe their position to the effective triangulation of a few thousand voters in the home counties ... well, were I a sweaty, I'd not be very keen.
At the risk of blowing a few gaskets, I'm asking this in all innocence. Is this an objection to the Tartan Tories, or to the very idea of nationalism?
*... and unlike the commentariat, the bookies aren't paying out on Tory bets yet.