Having spared you political comment on this forum these past eight months or so, events have overtaken us; comment is coming.
What has become absolutely clear is:
- Scotland wants to remain in the Union
- England wants a right-wing conservative government
- Scotland doesn’t.
These ideals may be mutually exclusive. The political landscape has undergone massive upheaval as the voting across these lands on Thursday proved.
The Lib Dems were decimated, both north and south of the border, perhaps for different reasons. Scotland could not forgive their role in bringing Cameron and his policies to ravage her communities. England could not forgive the impoverishment of her students; the breaking of a vow. And perhaps England could not forgive a hand that may have restrained the tories, wanting more of what they offered.
And more they will have, more austerity, and the need for more food banks; more shame, on them. But Labour are not without blame, having rejected the hand of friendship; rejected the fight against austerity whilst voting for more of the same. Much has, and is, being said, in our weekend columns and on our airwaves. The best I have heard came yesterday, the words of Andy Kerr, former Labour Finance Minister at Holyrood. There problems began, he posited, quarter of a century ago. I may shorten that by a couple of years, but certainly giving the reins to the Blair/Brown axis was the start of the end.
In Scotland they had been in denial for years, suffering defeat in 2007, annihilation in 2011, and finally, after not listening again, suffering humiliation. Let’s get the gags out the way first. Scotland, as well all know, now hosts more nuclear-armed submarines than nuclear arms supporting MPs; and the old one about the pandas now applies equally to all three unionist parties. And there are probably more visitors to the zoo than members of said parties.
Very quickly after the results began to emerge on Friday morning Robin McAlpine, he of the Common Weal and one of my real hopes for the future, grasped the meaning of the underlying numbers. The demise in the unionist vote was far less then the rise in the nationalist vote. That is crucial to appreciate.
Across these lands turnout rose from 2010; but in Scotland the rise was significantly higher, to more than 70% on average, exceeding 80% in hotspots, against 65% elsewhere. For Scotland had been mightily engaged in politics in recent years, and the legacy of the Indy Ref was a massive rise in participation, through membership of the losing parties, to activism on the streets. They came out to vote, and they all voted SNP. Thus the swings were enormous, unprecedented, and we witnessed history unfolding on our screens as a result of which Portillo will now be best remembered for fingering his guide book on the trains. His moment was surpassed, with every declaration, as the big Scottish beasties fell, some with more grace than others.
Our local campaign was wonderful. We faced one of those contemptuous career politicians, all suits and family on the payroll, with more than 52% of the last vote and a massive majority. But Dr Lisa Cameron rose from the campaign of the previous years, joined the party and was given the nomination. And she is now our MP, over 55% of the vote and a whopping majority which her opponent tried hard not to hear, leaving the count before being dragged back on protocol and publicly flogged. That, for our small team of dedicated and hard-working supporters, was a moment of sheer joy, and a just reward. I salute you all.
Labour’s problems will not go away. They appointed the wrong brother, (though the choice it seems may have been the wrong family) and he was too far to the left for England, too far to the right for Scotland. He epitomises the problem Cameron now faces. For it’s not nation v nation, but left v right. Miliband chose to follow Blair, seeking votes in Middle-England, from the same grounds that Cameron and Farage made their pitch, ignoring everywhere else. More than 50% of England voted to the right; but in Scotland the majority voted against it.
There is now talk of what should have happened post 2007, if not before – an independent Labour party in Scotland, fast to the ideal of the long-forgotten founders. That party should then have campaigned for in independent Scotland, and retained power therein for decades. But they had not the foresight, and now they suffer, buried by their own ineptitude and disdain for the people.
Cameron’s dilemma is deep. He promises to deliver Smith’s proposals. But they are a fudge, molten and inedible, the dregs of The Vow. And he has promised to be Evel, which surely he will be. So wherein lies cross-border consensus amongst that? Well Smith is far too little, and 56 voices will forever protest, long and hard. More powers. We were promised close to federalism. And I suspect that is where we are now going.
Which brings me to that House of Lords, where some of the fallen may find themselves as Keir Hardie rolls restlessly below. Labour and Lords, that home for the bishopric, for the benefactors, and for long-service. It surely must become an elected upper chamber, casting an eye over four federal states, bringing a common hand to rest on each shoulder.
And the SNP? Well as by far the third largest party in the union, this party must change. For it now will take a seat on each and every Westminster committee, and the chair of a fair number of them. Its members will even be asked to speak in debates, and the Speaker’s whims will have to change. And from the running costs of the parliament it will receive the funding that went to the Lib Dems, the Short Money, and a couple of million a year is a massive boost for all the parliamentarians and for those hundred thousand plus members. It’s a game changer.
The Conundrum is yours Mr Cameron, and the Countdown has begun.