Brexit, Conservatives, Democracy, Democratic Unionist Party, GE2017, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Nicola Sturgeon, Opinion, Politics, Scottish Independence, Scottish Nationalism, SNP, Theresa May, Tories, Unionism
The historical significance of GE2017 lies not only in its confirmation of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum but in its slaughtering of one of the fattest myths that had previously justified a new Scottish state. This snobbish fantasy that Scotland is somehow an intrinsically more left-wing country than England. Since devolution, this fantasy has been widely expressed, consciously and unconsciously, and not only by vote-seeking politicians but by reputable academics such as Stephen Maxwell and Tom Nairn.
Scottish readers will be familiar with how the story goes. The Scots are more communalist or socially democratic in spirit because of the history of their civic institutions. Scotland’s egalitarianism is reflected, for example, in its preference for tenement housing. Scottish nationalism is the recourse of a people who have always remained smugly aloof from Thatcherism. Indeed the Union, in Ludovic Kennedy‘s and Lesley Riddoch’s paraphrasing of Pierre Trudeau, is a scenario in which Scottish voters are “in bed” with a stupid English Thatcherite elephant.
How can this junk sociology ever continue following the results of GE2017? A Tory majority has crumbled before a Labour election campaign that was squarely to the left of any pursued by a mainstream Scottish party. Moreover, Scottish Tory voters have lately done more to hold a Tory government to account – to use the SNP’s wooden parlance – than they could have ever achieved by voting SNP. By propelling the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson into the forefront of the Union’s politics, Scottish voters have checked the potential influence of the DUP and wielded power over Brexit. In other words, Scottish Tory voters have exercised real political opposition, whilst SNP voters have indulged in their usual vanity and posing.
Happily, three of the SNP’s worse culprits are gone. Having spent the last parliament moralising complacently about the Tories, Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons, Alex Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh have all lost their seats to Conservatives. The SNP owe their trickle of remaining relevance to not frustrating the formation of a majority Labour government. The nearer that we get to this Unionist power politics, the more evident becomes the good-for-nothingness of the SNP, with their worship of “national” differences on a politically homogenous island.
What is more, a higher percentage of Scottish voters have again participated in one of the Union’s elections than normally turn out for indigenous ones. 55.6% turned out for Holyrood last year, 66.4% for Westminster this year.
GE2017 has left contemporary politics in ruins. The people have spoken and the politicians have to listen solemnly and respect their vote. The people are also exhausted – their patience has been severely tried by seven weeks of the most monotonous and uninspiring election campaign from a ruling party in living memory. Nonetheless, there will have to be another election.
Parliament is currently like a nightmarish chess game in which the board is so gridlocked that neither side can make a move without taking one of their own pieces. The cabinet propose that they can act as a government without a prime minister or a parliamentary majority. They think that May will be a mute figurehead and that politics can be suspended, without any laws being passed, until they have obtained a suitable leader from somewhere. The upcoming EU negotiations are going to scotch this daydream.
The UK cannot seriously commence negotiations with the EU until we have a new prime minister. Our “partners” are hardly going to engage with a powerless one whose word has no value. Yet a Tory leadership contest will unleash the chaos that Theresa May’s coronation was originally intended to avoid, with Brexiteers and Remainers both trying to gain a greater sway over the party. May thus has to remain and, with this logic, her personal power is superficially back to where it was. Her government will still not be able to pass any laws, at the very point when it is repatriating sovereignty, because its parliamentary majority is so slender. Hence there will have to be another election. The Tories are not going to call another election, however, until the coalition of disparate interests that has gathered around Jeremy Corbyn has lost its cohesion. This might not occur immanently.
It is hard not to feel sorry for May. All of her colleagues had urged her to front the Tory campaign because her personal popularity rating was so high, and now they are bitching that they were never included. It is also too easy to hold her to blame for the present absence of a workable government. It is down to us – we have to take responsibility for the current fiasco and decide, in our many millions, how to clear it up. It may take a succession of elections for a durable administration to emerge. Perhaps we should look to Spain for a guide and a warning. Until last October, 314 days and two hung parliaments had passed in Spain without its parliamentarians being able to form a government.
So she was right all along. We should have voted for strong and stable leadership!