PR guru and ex political aide Andy Maciver offers his take on the RISE manifesto.
The left is a very crowded place in Scottish politics. The SNP has the rhetoric of the left and runs public services from the left, and although it has thus far taxed from the centre it shows signs of moving.
The traditional party of the left, Labour, has taken a sharp turn further in that direction under Jeremy Corbyn, with Kezia Dugdale following. The Lib Dems, which likes to think of itself as a party of the radical centre, has in fact moved well left in competition with Labour (inexplicably, as I wrote here last week). And the Greens, looking to capitalise the market of agitated, left-wing Yessers, has continued to adopt a hard-left position on key issues such as tax.
In this context, it is difficult to see where RISE fits in. This is backed up by multiple polls; since the party’s formation in August 2015 it has maxed-out at 3% nationally on the regional vote, and hasn’t risen above 2% in 2016. Of course, the regional vote (clue in the name) is regional and not national, but outside of Glasgow (where competition is further complicated by Tommy Sheridan) it is difficult to see where the party is close to the 6% required to scrape a seat, far less achieving an MSP in each region (as its leader, Colin Fox, predicted today).
Is the party’s lowly position deserved? Well, their manifesto does reveal some clear red water between them and their competitors. The document’s cover majors on four issues; taxing the rich, ending cuts, land reform and #indyref2 and whilst there is nothing unique about those in headline format, the detail reveals a different grade of leftism. It wants a £20k minimum and £100k maximum wage; a national tax rise of one-third for anyone earning over £50k and a new local income tax on top of that; and it wants land removed from its owners.
RISE’s key selling point, though, will surely be its position on the second referendum. The party does have something unique to say here; the SNP has distanced itself from #indyref2, and whilst the Greens could be said to be keener, the wording in their manifesto is unnecessarily convoluted. Not so RISE, which promises a second poll in the next five years. This could appeal to a particular section of the electorate – not a huge section, but enough to win some list seats.
However there are two problems. Firstly, there is no evidence as yet that the RISE campaign has in place the structure or strategy to turn this message into votes. Some basic mistakes in their manifesto (they want a 60% tax rate on incomes over £150k as well as a maximum income of £100k, and they based their tax calculations on an incorrect current income tax rate) reflect badly on the party’s professionalism.
Secondly, and primarily, it remains difficult to see a space for RISE in our politics. If you are a hard-left independence supporter, you probably head towards the Greens. If you’re less focussed on independence and are just looking for a party to soak the rich, you could do worse that hang your hat on Jeremy Corbyn’s peg, since Labour at least have some skin already in the game.
What RISE is likely to wake up to on May 6th, though, is the realisation (again) that Scotland simply isn’t as left wing as it wants it to be. As Einstein said: “A man should look for what is. And not for what he thinks should be”.