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Forget the sour mood on social media. Labour supporters are thrilled right now

A party isn’t made up of the roaring voices of Twitter - and I will always remember the thrill of Election Night 2017.

I always try to be nice to canvassers, even the ones from the Green Party (sorry, Greens). I do this for the same reason I’ve never been canvassing myself, despite having been a Labour member for a few years now: I can’t imagine anything more appalling than knocking on door after door to be told where to stick it. But there are, incredibly, people who volunteer themselves for this social horror. Without coercion or payment, thousands and thousands of Labour activists stomp out the pavements in seats where every vote counts and in seats where they barely have a hope of making a difference. They do it for the party.

It’s extraordinary enough that candidates put themselves through elections. (In April, I spoke to one Labour MP who casually told me they were still paying down debts from the 2015 campaign, and now facing the possibility of being unemployed in seven weeks.) But at least for them there’s the possibility, however slim, of a seat in parliament at the end of it. The foot soldiers, though – for the foot soldiers, the only incentive is loyalty and the thrill of the fight (such thrills being hard to come by when you’re getting up at 5:30am to run dawn leaflet drops). And they still do it.

The last couple of years have seen a lot of tetchy meetings in my constituency Labour party. There’s no point pretending otherwise: all the frictions in the parliamentary party have been present too in halls and (for the tiny rural branches secreted in Tory safe seats) CLP secretary’s living rooms around the country. Members honestly horrified at what seemed to them unmotivated attacks on a leader they really believe in, vs members honestly horrified at what they knew of Corbyn’s history and leadership, and painfully conscious of the opinion polls and election results which were slurping at the party like a drain.

Here’s the important thing: members turned out for the campaign, no matter what they thought about Corbyn. This year I acted as a counting agent for Labour in Bath, which means pottering around a sports hall keeping an eye on the ballots as they’re turned out of their boxes, and then watching to make sure none of your candidate’s votes end up in the wrong pile. I got to the count in the candidate’s agent’s car, squidged in alongside other volunteers – some of whom I think had last seen me delivering a passionate speech about the relative virtues of Owen Smith.

When the exit polls came in, and we allowed the first shards of cautious optimism in, there was no “I-told-you-so” lurking behind the smiles. Or if there was, it was generously buried. (No one, in any case, had really allowed themselves fully to hope for a hung parliament, having been burned last time.) As we totted up our rough tallies by ward, and started to see on our notepads the shape the night would take, we were just happy. Our candidate (Joe Rayment) wouldn’t win, of course, but he would build on the total from last time. The Lib Dems were doing well, and the Tory incumbent was falling back. The Greens were choking.

We drank tea, shared snacks, and swapped gossip nabbed from Twitter or friends in other constituencies, cheering the wins for our MPs in Bristol, pumping fists in celebration when we caught the (sadly false) rumour that the anti-feminist Philip Davies was out in Shipley. And after the result for Bath had been declared, and we’d applauded the candidates (but mostly our own, obvs); and after the result for North East Somerset (counted in the same hall) had been declared too, and we’d applauded those candidates as well (but much more our guy than Jacob Rees-Mogg, obvs); and we piled back into the car with the greys of dawn creeping into the sky; and I thought, soppy and overtired, that I wouldn’t have been anywhere else for this unexpectedly splendid loss.

The post-election atmosphere on social media has been, well, not much like that car. Some Corbyn ultras, apparently, will not be happy until they’ve seen the traitors’ bodies dragged through the town square. And a lot of this aggro, for some mysterious reason, appears to be focused on women. But a party isn’t made up of the roaring voices of Twitter, and a party that listened to them and drove out anyone who’d ever had a heretical thought would soon be dead. Instead, the activists go on, getting ready for the next round of street-stomping and leaflet-dropping (which is possibly not that far away), for the party.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.