In France the National Front’s Marine Le Pen has done shockingly well in the first round of the French Presidential election, and it seems that the second round will focus on keeping the far right out of power. Here in the UK we don’t need to worry about keeping the far right out of power, because here in the UK the far right are already in power. What we need to worry about is what they’re going to do after a general election in which the polls are indicating that they could have a majority of 200 seats. They’ve already managed to wreak havoc with a majority of 18, the damage they could do with a majority ten times greater doesn’t bear thinking about. It’s like taking away a box of matches from a teenage arsonist and giving them a flame thrower.
For all that the hard line Unionists on social media are crowing about the Conservative revival in Scotland, the truth is there’s not much of a revival at all. What’s happening is that the Labour party is in the last stages of its death spiral and the Tories are picking up the votes of hard-core Unionists who previously voted Labour. Those are the people who support the Union blindly, and who would continue to support it even if it could be conclusively demonstrated beyond any shred of doubt that independence would make Scotland a far more prosperous country. They’re the people who support the Union without caring what sort of Union it is that they support. They’re the people who would never, under any circumstances, vote for independence. They might be vocal, they might have a lot of media support, but they’re a segment of the Scottish population that’s always going to be a minority.
Despite this, the Scottish Unionist media will do its best to paint any increase in the number of Conservative seats in Scotland after June’s election as a blow for Nicola Sturgeon and a reverse to the prospect of independence. But that’s nothing more than a desperate act of self-delusion. The fact that that people who would never under any circumstances have voted for independence are now transferring their red white and blue loyalties from one Unionist party to another Unionist party doesn’t damage the cause of independence any. Their votes were never available to independence campaigners anyway.
It’s a bit like you had a cake that was divided into halves and then you divided one of the halves into into two equal quarters. Then you get a new cake and divide it into halves, and divide one of the halves into two pieces, one of one third of the whole cake and the other one sixth. Then you point to the part that’s one third of the whole cake and say that the half cake has got smaller and it’s a huge blow for those separatist half-cakists.
What’s really happening is that the sixth part of the cake is far more likely to throw in its lot with the half cake, because the half cake isn’t flavoured with the stale and bitter seasoning of Conservative contempt. Those same polls that show that the Tories are sooking up hard line Unionist votes like a hoover nozzle stuck down a drain also show that 40% of those who are undecided on independence are more likely to vote for an independent Scotland if there’s a large Tory majority in Westminster. The Tories can have their stale one third of a cake if they want, it just makes it all the more likely that independence can get the tasty two thirds that’s left.
Meanwhile Scotland’s sole remaining Labour MP Ian Murray has said that he supports tactical voting to defeat the SNP, because for Ian defeating the SNP is clearly far more important than defeating the Tories. In Ian’s imagination it’s the SNP who are taking us all out of Europe into the hardest Brexit imaginable. He think it’s the SNP who have introduced the rape clause. He believes it’s the SNP who have denied housing benefit to young people making young women more at risk of sexually predatory landlords offering sex for rent deals. It’s the SNP who are demonising immigrants. It’s the SNP who are threatening employment rights. It’s the SNP who are responsible for turbo-charged austerity. Ian thinks that the SNP are worse than all the evils inflicted on the poor and the vulnerable and the low paid by the Conservatives. As such Ian represents the blinkered and tribalist thinking that has led to the Labour party being an irrelevance in Scotland, and even worse an irrelevance in a UK in which it’s still the official opposition. If Ian wants to understand why his party is staring electoral oblivion in the face, he only needs to look into his own soulless eyes in the mirror. Ian’s advising Scots to vote tactically for the Tories in order to keep the SNP out, and then he’ll blame the SNP for allowing the Tories to get into power.
Upset that people have been taking his comments to mean precisely what he was clearly implying, that Unionists should support Tory candidates in constituencies where the Conservatives are second to the SNP, Ian has tried to clarify by claiming that’s not what he meant at all. Oh no. When he said he supported tactical voting against the SNP he really meant that he supports tactical voting to defeat the SNP in his own constituency, not in anyone else’s. Which means that Ian has just admitted that he’s not merely blinkered and tribalist, he’s also opportunistic and bereft of any principles at all. Although to be fair that’s pretty much the definition of a Blairite or Brownite Labour MP.
Even if the Tories do manage to claw back a few seats from the SNP in June’s election after standing on a manifesto commitment to oppose an independence referendum, it will still be a massive defeat for them. Scotland will still have said in a very loud voice that it rejects the Tories and it rejects their policies, and it rejects their commitment to oppose another independence referendum. They are likely to come out of the other side of this election with a massively increased majority in England and Wales, but they’ll still be defeated in Scotland. The Tories will be stronger in Westminster, but Theresa May’s precious Union will be a whole lot weaker.
There will be another independence referendum within the lifetime of the next Westminster Parliament. June’s vote will be the last UK General Election in Scotland.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-23rd-april-2017
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