Why I’m Voting for the SNP’s Stephen Gethins for the First Time

Image by Lawrence OP

As a scholar who works on constitutionalism—which I define as the study (and understanding of) the highest values of a constitutional and legal order, and the norms in society that uphold it—it seems to me that the crisis of Brexit has been one of immense political failure. The political failure is a serious one indeed, which the spectacular incompetence of leading politicians in the Conservative and Labour parties has precipitated and exacerbated.

The Conservatives are currently the most badly named political party in modern times as they throw many of the UK’s cherished norms and customs, as well as our longstanding national reputation for toleration under a bus. With the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty under threat in the UK, the true nature of the Brexit dividend that leading pro-Brexit campaigners promised is becoming horrifyingly clear.

Parliamentary democracy, once seen as one of Britain’s great gifts to the world, is now floundering. Our government is in the hands of a kakistocracy, a motley assortment of the worst political figures I have seen in my lifetime. Political messages to advance the Conservative party interest and the careers of self-interested politicians are prioritised over credible policies in the public interest.

Amidst this chaos, MPs willing to put the national interest ahead of party interest have been few and far between. One figure who has stood out in holding government ministers and the Prime Minister to account, who I have come to know personally, is my local MP in North East Fife, Stephen Gethins.

As a St Andrews resident, I have always voted Liberal Democrat here in Westminster elections. I voted for Sir Menzies Campbell in 2010 and for the Liberal Democrat candidates in 2015 and 2017, and was a member of the Liberal Democrats until recently. On Thursday December 12th, though, I’ll be voting for Stephen Gethins. The fact of the matter is that Stephen has been a superb constituency MP and as the SNP’s Europe spokesperson he has been very eloquent and knowledgeable in holding the UK’s divisive government to account (as here when he asked searching questions of the Prime Minister).

At the same time, Stephen has also shown he can reach across the aisle and has built good relationships with parliamentarians in other parties, including the Conservative MP, Tom Tugendhat who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which Mr Gethins was a member of in the last parliament.

Stephen’s success in building bridges and reaching across the political divide has been illustrated during this election campaign through the support he has received from figures such as Francis Melville, the former Liberal Democrat Provost of Fife.

In 2014 I was strongly against independence, and wrote a number of op-eds to that effect (including in the Scotsman), not least because I believed that a badly executed independence might threaten Scotland’s place in the European Union. However, as a scholar who instinctively believes that we are stronger when we work with other groups in our own communities, and with other communities in Europe and around the world facing similar challenges, I have been immensely impressed by Stephen Gethins’ commitment to openness, inclusivity and reaching out across the political spectrum.

Whatever your previous political affiliation, if you are a concerned citizen opposed to the stupidity of Brexit, and to the generally contemptible politicians running the UK government right now, then please consider voting for Stephen Gethins, who has shown himself to be incredibly effective in defending the interests of his constituents, Scotland, and the 63% of the UK electorate who did not vote for the self-harm of Brexit in 2016. I will be voting for Mr Gethins this Thursday.

 Dr David Miles is a former Carnegie Scholar and teaches in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. His forthcoming book ‘Democracy, the Courts, and the Liberal State: A Comparative Analysis of American and German Constitutionalism’ will be published by Routledge in 2020.

Image courtesy of Lawrence Op. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0


David Miles

About David Miles

David Miles is a former Carnegie Scholar and has a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He teaches international relations and US foreign policy in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He has worked for leading businesses in the UK and Germany including Santander, Lloyds TSB and more recently SAP. Apart from writing for and editing Global Politics, his writing has appeared in the Daily Beast, Carnegie Ethics Online, Huff Post and the Scotsman. His interests include American political history, US foreign policy, modern German history, American and German constitutional history, the politics of the European Union, peace and conflict studies, and the politics of the Middle East. When not doing research or teaching, he enjoys good single malts and the charms of the Old Course. He lives in St Andrews, Scotland.

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