Despite saying just a few weeks ago that she had no intention of calling a snap General Election, Theresa May has now done just that. Now is the time after all. The Brexit negotiations are being put on hold because we’re facing a snap General Election, which is not unrelated to the fact that the Tories are crushing all opposition in opinion polling in England. This vote is really about securing Theresa May’s position within the Conservative party, and annihilating the Remainers on the Tory benches. It’s got the convenient side effect of killing off the issue of Tory election fraud which had the potential to bring down the government.
For May, this is her Erdoğan election, the vote to destroy all opposition, the vote to give her absolute power, unchallenged and unconstrained. It’s a vote to give May her Henry VIII powers and to rule by decree. Theresa May wants to achieve unity by silencing everyone who opposes her. And Scotland is a part of that opposition. Theresa May intends to crush Scotland by achieving a massive majority in England. That’s how the Union works. May thinks that consensus is achieved by silencing and sidelining those who disagree.
If she was thinking about the future of the UK as a union, May has made a fundamental miscalculation. This General Election is likely to be the last UK General Election in Scotland. May’s unity election will spell the end of the Union. It will show that Scotland and the rest of the UK are heading in different directions, rUK back towards a nostalgic Empire 2.0, Scotland towards a future as a social democratic northern European nation. This is the election in which Scotland can break the chains. This will be the election which conclusively demonstrates that Scotland and England are on different political paths. The Union can only function as long as Scotland and England vote broadly the same way, and that’s what they did from the introduction of the universal franchise and throughout the 20th century. Those days are over. Politically Scotland and England are very different creatures. They want different things. They have different expectations. This can only end one way, with the end of the UK as a Union. Either Scotland becomes an independent nation, or it ceases to exist as a nation.
A Tory-free Scotland is within our grasp. Less than 800 votes stand between the SNP and David Mundell’s last bastion of Tory rule in Scotland, and despite the constant reports in the Unionist media that we’re past peak SNP, the SNP continues to ride high in the polls. The Tories have not recovered in Scotland, they’ve benefited from the collapse of Labour and are attracting Labour’s die-hard Unionists. But those voters are a minority, and positioning itself as the Union come what May party puts a ceiling on Conservative support in Scotland. It’s a position which in the longer term undermines and weakens the Union it claims to defend, because it associates that Union in the minds of voters with the hardline right wing policies of the Conservatives. It makes the choice starker, a choice between Theresa May’s hard right cruelties, or a social democratic Scotland that can only exist with independence.
Given the polling it is entirely likely that the Conservatives will achieve a large majority in England. Given that same polling it is even more likely that the SNP will achieve a massive majority in Scotland. The SNP will most certainly stand on a commitment to give the people of Scotland a vote on their future within the UK. Even if the SNP does lose a couple of seats, the party will still end up with a massive majority of Scottish seats, and those MPs will be elected with a clear and unarguable mandate for a second independence referendum. That’s how democracy works. A majority is a majority.
Despite the seeming insistence of the Unionist media that the SNP needs to increase the numbers of seats it holds, it means nothing at all even if the Unionist parties do manage to claw back a couple of seats. Barring something catastrophic, it remains a certainty that the SNP will be returned with a massive majority of Scottish seats, and a vote share that’s pushing 50%. Even though May is likely to end up with a huge majority in Westminster, she’ll certainly do so with a lower share of the vote than the SNP attain in Scotland. If this election gives May her mandate for a hard Brexit, it will also give the SNP a mandate for a second independence referendum. By calling this election now May has undermined one of her own arguments against a second Scottish independence referendum. She will no longer be able to argue that Scotland doesn’t want it. Now is the time after all.
As an aside, May has made the position of Ruth Davidson untenable – but then Ruth was always quite happy with sudden U-turns. If she had any consistency at all, she’d oppose holding a General Election now because it’s terribly divisive. But the only real consistency in Ruth’s politics is acting as an enthusiastic cheerleader for whatever her bosses tell her. In this election she’ll have to defend the cruel and heartless policies of a government that penalises the poor and the vulnerable. She’ll have to defend the rape clause and the removal of housing benefit from young people leaving them exposed to sex for rent predators.
Labour have nothing to offer. They’re facing a defeat in this election even worse than the defeat they suffered in 1983 which locked in Tory rule for another 15 years. They’ve lost all credibility. They had a chance back in 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit vote when the Tories were rudderless and leaderless, without a plan and without a clue, yet instead of pressing their advantage to secure a soft Brexit, Labour’s parliamentary suicide squad decided that was the ideal time to mount a coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn. It was a gross betrayal. Labour yet again put the parliamentary party before the country. And now they go into this General Election discredited, divided, and debilitated. The Tories are going to destroy them in England, and those who will suffer from the hubris of Labour MPs will be the poor, the disabled, and the low paid.
Scotland needs to make a choice about what sort of country we want to be. Vote Tory and rubber stamp May’s hard Brexit which will turn the UK into a tax haven for the rich with low wages and no social protection for the rest of us, or vote SNP and the chance to create a better country that looks after all its citizens. Now is the time.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-18th-april-2017
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