General Election

Now is not the time…

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May palpatine

am the parliament! – Credit: scottyjoycephotography.net

Now isn’t the time for political game playing. Now isn’t the time for divisive votes. Now isn’t the time for a snap election. Oh dear, oh dear… It would appear that now isn’t the time for democracy either, would it Theresa?

The reactions to the news this morning that Theresa May would be seeking a snap election were met with mixed reactions. Some, like Nicola Sturgeon, were left aghast at this monumental U-turn. Others were opposed to the idea saying that the government should be getting on with the business of dealing with Brexit, not ten weeks of distraction and destabilising an already wobbly political situation. Some were very much in favour of the idea; most surprisingly Jeremy Corbyn who, at the current projections from Electoral Calculus, stands to lose around 50 seats – surely this would be a career ender? Myself, I was confused as to why the Prime Minister would bother to call an early election; she has a mandate, what’s the use? Well, I can tell you why now, and it’s not great, really…

There is talk of wanting to ensure a smooth negotiating position with the EU, an easy path for the Brexit bills to float through parliament and the idea that an election now means that, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, three years after Brexit to work out the creases rather than one. Pish. It is a blatant disregard for the democratic process and little more. Forget the idea of opportunism given the current polls, that’s just a happy coincidence. May and her government are unhappy with opposition to the bill and have decided to obliterate it, and with Corbyn’s deeply underwhelming performance of late, that’s just what she’ll do.

Listen to the Prime Minister’s speech this morning, go on, listen all the way through and you’ll see what I mean. For example she says; “in recent weeks, Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement…” The clue is in the name ‘Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition’. Or “the Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union.” Again, this is one of their core party commitments; the SNP has been very much pro-EU for some time.

Listening to the Prime Minister’s speech this morning felt like listening to a dictator; “There is opposition to our policies and that shall not be tolerated. We will take the steps required to eliminate the opposition to our progress. Long live our glorious motherland… etc., etc.” With her current lead in the polls of roughly 20% – the highest in over twenty years – she is all but guaranteed success in this endeavour.

Surely, if so many of the opposition and your own party are opposed to a bill in its current form it can mean little other than the bill stinks! Surely if the idea of a hard Brexit is so widely hated, the bill should be redrafted, the parameters of our exit from the EU rethought? But that’s too close to a real democracy for Theresa May’s liking; no, it’s my way or bust – though it’s entirely possible that her way will mean bust anyway, but nevermind.

The sad thing is that she will get her way. As Labour voters either refuse to turn-out or vote another way as a protest at their leadership, UKIP voters will flock to the Conservatives again as the Tories are now the only party with a hope of achieving their own party’s goal of total separation from Europe. Across the whole country as well, political apathy will take hold too; with this being the second general election in two years and having had a referendum and council elections, voter fatigue will be a crucial factor. This will be even more pronounced in Northern Ireland where politics and trips to the polls have dominated daily life lately, especially following the collapse of talks for a power sharing agreement in Stormont.

In Scotland, we must make sure that this is not the case. By the time we go to the polls for the General Election, it will be the ninth time since 2010 that Scots have gone to vote – if ever there was a stage set for voter fatigue, this would be it. Rather than be turned off by the prospect of yet more elections, we need to grasp the opportunity to show Theresa May that, regardless of her attempts to subvert it, democracy is alive, well and cherished in Scotland. Regardless of what may happen to Labour, Scotland must unite as the source of political opposition to the austerity obsessed, hard-Brexit driving Tories in Westminster, pushing our country ever more to the political right.

It has become clear that May has no regard for democracy in the slightest in Scotland; this is shown by her total disregard for the Scottish Parliament’s request to hold another referendum on Independence prior to the UK’s actual departure from the EU. This, in spite of the Scottish Parliament agreeing on this course of action by a vote. This, in spite of the Scottish people electing a pro-independence majority to Holyrood in the Scottish General Election. There is not even any regard for the SNP’s 56 MPs as a mandate from the Scottish people for change. Indeed, when the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland ask the UK Government for an arrangement that would allow Scotland to remain within the single market post-Brexit, the ideas were thrown aside. Rather than regarding the SNP’s MPs as a legitimate request for a change in the relationship between Scotland and Westminster, they are regarded as a threat to Theresa May’s plans and must be eliminated. There is no room for compromise or discussion in Theresa May’s democracy.

In the last General Election, the pro-independence parties rallied behind the SNP and delivered a landslide for the Yes voters in Scotland, and we will need to see that again. Only that way, can Scotland’s voice in Westminster be assured. So the SNP will not be eliminated, the Scottish people’s desire to remain with the EU (or as close to it as possible given current circumstances) will see to it that the SNP hold their current domination of seats at Westminster. But without Labour holding the seats it did in England and Wales, the opposition will be badly diminished and make room for the Tories to bulldoze through.

So, how does Scotland get out of this one? With Britain speeding towards a hard-Brexit with Scotland sat helplessly in the back seat, it does look pretty hopeless. The question then is, how do we get out? The Prime Minister has ruled out another referendum before the UK has formally left the EU… though she did also rule out an early election so…? The SNP can continue pushing for a referendum, but it may not come, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “before it is too late.”

If now is not the time for a “divisive referendum” (how delightfully ironic), then perhaps another route has to be taken. Derek Bateman, on his personal blog, offers up an alternative. In his post this morning he asks; “shouldn’t we bypass the failed referendum route and upgrade our demand?” He asserts that the SNP should run on a manifesto pledge of an SNP majority means independence. This is not new, and I have seen it all over social media with friends and colleague suggesting the SNP could simply “declare independence” if the people of Scotland give them that mandate.

To be fair to them, the SNP have been riding a political steamroller since 2007 and are predicted to carry on doing so. The issue with just declaring independence is that, firstly they would be going against their whole pledge of “giving the people of Scotland a choice” and making that choice for them. This could be played by the “No” voters in quite a bad way. More importantly, Scotland would have to obtain permission from Westminster to make such a declaration legal, otherwise the Scottish government would be seen as illegitimate across the UK and the rest of the world.

What of simply holding a referendum anyway? Then you run into the issue of the result not being legally binding and the UK Government being well within its rights to refuse independence.

In short, the pro-independence movement have been driven into a corner with no real means of escape, and this is precisely what the May’s Government wanted. Silence the pro-Europeans, silence the pro-independence lot, and continue onto oblivion unobstructed.

That’s why we need now to shout louder than ever before for independence, for Europe and for opposition to Theresa May and her Tory juggernaut. We need to generate sympathy for our cause not only in Scotland and the UK, but also across Europe. The EU, the bastion of democracy and freedom, cannot surely stand by as a government seeks to eliminate all opposition, as the democratic will of a constituent part of a long time member is dragged out against its will. Surely Europe cannot stand by as European jobs and citizens are thrown out of a country and the citizens of that country simultaneously stripped of their EU citizenship and rights. So we must shout, kick and scream. We need to make as much noise as possible and attract as much attention as possible.

We can do this by electing our SNP MPs back to Westminster to ensure that we still have that voice of opposition.

If we are serious about remaining with Europe and gaining our independence, we need to make sure that Theresa May cannot ignore us. Given her recent demonstrations, that may be quite difficult, but we have to give it a go. Whether we go for independence by referendum or declaration, Mrs. May needs to hear us loud and clear. We have a little over six weeks to do it, so let’s get started.

 

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The Weegie Worker’s election results analysis

In case you weren’t depressed enough already… an no, he’s still here.

So, the day after the morning after (I had to sleep on Friday, hence the delay) and we can start to get a look at just what happened on Thursday night going into Friday morning. Like many, I stayed up through the night watching the results come in and, I must admit, the exit poll caught me off-guard – I was with Paddy Ashdown there and would have eaten my hat had I had one to hand. The election that was supposed to be too close to call, with Labour and the Tories previously predicted to each get around 280 seats, was going to see the Tories increase their share of MPs!

The original prediction put the Conservatives on something like 312 seats, but as the night went on that number was only going to rise until that fateful moment when the Tories predicted share topped 326, the line required for an overall majority. We had expected another hung parliament but instead we got the Tories with a majority – not the night many of us had hoped for.

The majority can partly be put down to the utter collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote with nearly fifty of their seats gone leaving them at only 8 MPs in the Commons. Labour also failed to win over voters in England and Wales, the tone of this being summed up as Ed Balls, the man many expected to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer, lost his seat to the local Tory candidate. This was indeed a blow to Labour and much of their vote in England and Wales went the same way.

However, that was nothing compared to what happened in Scotland. The Lib Dem vote in Scotland caved in like nowhere else with ministers and long standing MPs losing their seats across the traditionally Liberal voting Highlands, among the casualties were both Charles Kennedy, the former Lib Dem leader, and Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who lost their seats in stunning landslide fashion. The only Lib Dem to hold his seat in Scotland was Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, but by a majority of just 817 votes.

But the real hiding north of the border was inflicting on Labour, who lost forty of their seats to the SNP in their tsunami style taking of Scottish seats. Some of the safest seats in the country were lost in truly brutal fashion with the likes of Jim Murphy losing his East Renfrewshire seat, Margaret Curran losing here Glasgow East seat and so on. One of the biggest stories of the night, though, centred around the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat, where the Shadow Foreign Secretary and Labour’s campaign director, Douglas Alexander, lost his seat to Mhairi Black, a 20 year-old student of politics who was standing for the SNP.

In his concession speech, Alexander was quite truly gracious in defeat saying that Scotland had voted against a Tory agenda but “did not put that trust in Labour”, which really was the message of the night. Many Scots are fed up with continued right-wing Tory rule, characterised by harsh austerity and a demonising of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Moreover, many Scots want to make sure that the push for more devolved powers is heeded and that whoever had ended up in government would have to listen to that call. Sadly, disenfranchised and convinced of their stagnation, the Scottish people could not put that trust in the Labour party any longer.

What have ended up with now, though, is really a tale of two countries. It’s looking rather like a messy marriage at this point. There have been fights in the past and last year Scotland and England looked set for a divorce, but settled against it because it looked like too much of a fuss (and anyway, think of the kids, do Wales and NI really want to see us fighting like this?). But that marriage is still tense and is now more passive aggressive than ever – and as holder of an official award for passive aggression, that is a subject on which I am most qualified to speak.

No matter which way you look at it, Scotland voted left; they voted for the progressive, centre-left, anti-austerity agenda of the SNP. They voted for a party that they felt would make their voices on free healthcare, free education, investment in our public services and so on heard more loudly than ever before.

England, on the other hand, voted right. You can look at it how you like, but Labour fell apart in England, losing a number of seats to the Conservatives. Even if Scotland had voted Labour unanimously, we’d still have the Tories in power down south.

When you look at the results, the SNP polled a solid 50% of the votes across Scotland. Add Labour into that mix and the ‘left vote’ polled at 74.3%. Whilst Labour may only have held onto one seat in Scotland, the result was a pretty resounding left-wing vote.

Look now to England and the results tell quite a different story, the Conservatives and UKIP, making up the majority of the right-wing vote, polled at 55.1% of the total votes cast. A pretty clear right-wing vote in England.

So we now have a country that is deeply divided between right and left, austerity and investment, trident and nuclear disarmament, ‘Brexit’ and continued EU membership. The list goes on… It is no wonder now that all the major broadcasters are talking about a second Indy Ref (I know, will he ever stop talking about it?) and some are predicting the UK not actually lasting past the end of the next parliament.

I am elated by the sheer size of the block of SNP MPs that have been sent down south, I truly feel that they will make the voice of Scotland heard in Westminster and that they will do all in their power to fight against the Tories. But there is a key phrase there; “in their power”. Because, for all the power the SNP and Scotland now have, it may well not be enough, the Tories do, afterall, have a majority of seats and 56 votes may still not be enough to block certain pieces of Tory legislation.

This parliament really will highlight the deepening divisions in the UK and the raw deal that many Scots are getting. Yes, we have devolution, yes, Cameron has promised more powers to Holyrood, but, at the end of the day, all the big decisions, including the ones surrounding our public funds and welfare, etc., are still made down south. And with the Tories now in a majority in parliament it looks like they’ll be able to walk all over us while, as loud as our voice at Westminster may now be, we’re still unable to shake them off.

However, Nicola Sturgeon has noted all through this campaign that the SNP vote is not a mandate for another referendum, that would require a “seismic” shift in the political landscape such as, say, an exit of the EU. Whilst the SNP’s landslide may not be a direct mandate to hold another referendum, it will make the case for independence stronger and stronger.

With regards to another five years of Tory rule, however, there is a sliver lining – David Cameron’s majority is quite slim indeed of just four seats. To put that into perspective, Tony Blair’s government in 2005, as increasingly unpopular as it was still had a majority of 28 seats, which presented severe struggles for Blair, and later Brown, in securing votes.

With a majority of just four seats, David Cameron will have to keep every backbencher in check with his whips working around the clock on every vote. Any abstentions, rebel votes, or even MPs not turning up to vote, could hinder his legislation hugely. Any defections, resignations or lost by-elections could threaten to bring his government into minority.

Cameron may already be needing to look the UKIP’s MP (a former Tory MP) and the DUP and UUP for support – but with the extreme right of those parties and his own clashing with the more moderate centre-right of his own party, he may struggle to find agreements.

Whilst the result of the election looks bleak at a glance (i.e., Dishface back in Downing Street) there is a sizeable block of progressive MPs in the form of Paid Cymru, Labour and the huge block of Scottish Nationalist MPs who would do well to work together and hinder Mr. Cameron’s government at every turn.

It will now be interesting to look forward to the 2016 Scottish General Election as the SNP hope to maintain their success and go for a third term in Holyrood and a second as a majority. Labour, under their now seatless leader, Jim Murphy (who, despite no longer being an elected representative, refuses to resign), must look to rebuild and reshape their message to the Scottish people.

The Additional Member System used at Holyrood, as a proportional system, will guarantee the Labour party at least some seats, but how many is up to their campaigning and how they choose to review their policies. With only ten months until the official campaign for that begins, Labour will have to act fast if it wants to survive in Scotland.

I am saddened by Labour’s result as a whole across England and Wales, their more left message, moving away from New Labour, simply didn’t resonate with the voters south of the border. I am also disappointed to see Ed Miliband go; despite him not being a shiny ‘off-the-telly’ politician, he had some good ideas and had done well to bring Labour back to the left a little more.

At any rate, the next parliament will be interesting – we have an unpredictable five years ahead of us; A referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the prospect of further devolved (but unspecified powers) to Scotland, Wales and NI, “fairness for England” (whatever that means), and the Union moving onto shakier and shakier ground.

Let’s just hope that our new block of SNP MPs are up to the challenge and the Labour is able to throw their dogma aside and work with the SNP to keep Cameron’s Tories firmly in their place.

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Details on Scotland’s vote, including turnout and results by constituency can be found here.