Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Where are we?

I thought I might just share some thoughts about where we are in the General Election campaign in Scotland.

Firstly, it is important to remember there are other elections first, the local elections on 4th May.

These will give us a much clearer picture than any opinion poll but I suspect they will only confirm what these polls are saying. That the Tories are on a surge north (and now elsewhere west) of the border. Only this time "the polls can't be trusted" won't wash as an excuse.

In the 4th May aftermath there will inevitably be last minute calls for Kez and Jez to go but there appears no sign either will. Kez's ability to hang on is a bit of a mystery to me. We are in a situation where despite the clear (slight) decline of the SNP and the speculation that they might lose seats to the Tories and the Libs, there is not a single seat in Scotland that Labour is tipped  (even wildly) to take off them. Yet the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party sails on oblivious, indeed apparently unconcerned. Perhaps she just assumes nobody else wants the job, and in advance of June 8th she might be right. But if she thinks she'll survive after that she is deluded.

In the UK contest I don't think we've even started to realise how bad things could be. Every so often something pops up on social media to remind people of McDonnell and Corbyn's past affiliations but generally, so far, this attack isn't coming from the Tories themselves. I think there is a reason for this. There remains a remote chance that if the local elections were even worse for Labour than has already been priced in, Corbyn might actually be forced to go. So, the Tories have reason not to press their advantage too soon. So far, Corbyn still persuades some voters that he is no worse than "nice but incompetent". The Tories will, I confidently predict, go all out to discredit that redeeming feature and nothing that Corbyn or his team have said so far indicates they have any strategy to deal with this. And that's before we even get started on the farce of "Labour supports a nuclear deterrent but our candidate for Prime Minister would never, ever use it."

But a lot of people still won't vote Tory in England & Wales, (many of whom are fervent Remainers) so I wouldn't be at all surprised if by two or three weeks out the narrative hasn't become "Will the Libs beat Labour in the popular vote?" Indeed I wouldn't be entirely surprised if that actually happened.

So, emerging narratives. If the Tories do well in Scotland and Labour implodes in the UK, it will have various consequentials for Scottish politics.

1. The answer to any challenge to the SNP will no longer be capable of being dealt with by just shouting TORY! (Red or otherwise). The Nats will have to engage with the Tories on policy grounds. They will struggle to do that while holding their coalition together because its clear a lot of Nats are far from inimical to power being moved out of Edinburgh, lower taxes, or Brexit.

2. The Tories will more generally be able to move the general discourse of Scottish politics to the right. There has been a baleful lack of debate in Scotland while Labour and the Nats have had a common interest (albeit for different reasons) not to challenge our complacent and flabby public sector. That will change.

3. If the Nats go backwards it won't just be whether they still say they'd still hold a second independence referendum. It will become whether they still really want one. No amount of "We're still (much) the biggest Party" in the early hours of 9th June will be capable of disguising that. And the clock to their 2020 Manifesto will have started ticking.

4. If the Libs beat or even get close to Labour in the UK result, post election political realignment there will become unstoppable. That will be particularly so if Corbyn attempts to hang on. This will also spill over to Scotland, particularly as here the Libs will almost certainly have more seats, if not votes, than us.

5. Speculation will start as to whether the Scottish Tories have a ceiling to their vote. Could Ruth Davidson actually become First Minister? and

6. If the Scottish voting patterns end up with Labour holding the balance of power between the Tories and the SNP what should we do? Actually, that's likely to be a question we have to answer on May 5th 2017 never mind May 2020. Anybody got any views as to what the answer ought to be? Small in number though we remain, I think that we might literally split on this issue alone.

So, cheery days.

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