The news today is that the Scottish Tories are hoping that they can use their influence on the Westminster party to delay a General Election until after March next year. The reason that they want to delay is so that the vote is held after the Alex Salmond trial, which is expected to begin early in the New Year. The Scottish Tories hope that they can minimise their losses if they are faced with an SNP which is dealing with the fallout from the trial of their former leader. As opposed to the Scottish Conservatives, who are dealing with the trials of their current leader.
It’s a breath-takingly cynical approach to politics, but exactly the kind of thing we’d expect from the Scottish Conservatives, for whom prinicples are a distant concept somewhere out beyond the furthest fringes of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s ego. Which at best places it in an adjacent galaxy to the Milky Way. The Tories have certainly heard about principles, but wouldn’t recognise them if they encountered any, and wouldn’t know what to do with them if they did. Once upon a time, the Conservatives prided themselves on being the party of business, the party of pragmatism, the party of moderation. Now they’ve morphed into right wing English nationalist populists for whom Brexit has become a religion, an article of faith which must be sacrificed to no matter what the cost. The Scottish Conservatives seek to distract us from all of this by delaying the election until the focus of media attention is on the Alex Salmond trial and its consequences for the current SNP leadership.
There are however at least two grave problems for the Scottish Tories in pursuing their self-serving strategy. The first is that the Scottish colonial division has about as much influence over the decisions of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as a vegan cookbook does on the dining habits of a vampire. He is no more going to base his decisions on what is best for the Tories’ house jocks than he’s going to stop dropping distractions in an attempt to avoid the mounting allegations about his personal behaviour.
Johnson is facing allegations that he groped two women, and moreover allegations that he has a history of inappropriate behaviour with women. These are allegations that are being dismissed by the same Tories who eagerly sought to condemn Alex Salmond. On top of that it is now alleged that when he was the Mayor of London, Johnson used his influence so that a woman with whom he was in a relationship received many thousands of pounds of public money for her company even though that company may not have been entitled to it. He may not survive as Prime Minister until May. The question of the fitness for high office of this charlatan, liar, and chancer is now foremost. His character will most certainly be a major topic in the election to come.
Ruth Davidson was until recently the beneficiary of media hype and hailed as the saviour of the union, but even she wasn’t able to extract a small concession from the Prime Minister. The nonentity that is Jackson Carlaw has as much chance of success in getting a much bigger concession from the Prime Minister as Mark Francois does of turning out to be larger in person than his Spitting Image puppet. Downing Street is calculating that it can win a majority by picking up leave voting Labour seats in the north of England. That’s what the recent announcements of lots of spending are all about. They’ve already written off the Scottish Conservative Party as the hopeless case that everyone in Scotland outside the newspapers already knew them to be.
This is a Prime Minister who has already lost seven votes in Parliament in the few short days he’s actually had to face the opposition parties in the Commons. He knows that they could inflict substantially greater damage on him if he agreed to face them across the floor of the chamber for several more months.
The other, far more serious, problem is that a government with no majority which has systematically alienated the opposition parties and a signficant number of its own former MPs is a government which continues to exist solely as long as it is convenient for the opposition parties to turn the screw on the Prime Minister. It won’t be up to Lyin’ Bastert Johnson to decide when the next General Election is held, it will be up the opposition parties. The date of the next General Election will be decided at the convenience of the opposition parties, not the convenience of Johnson. They’re going to pull the plug on this government the moment that the Prime Minister is seen to have broken his promise to leave the EU on 31 October come what may.
It ought to be clear by now to just about anyone who has been paying attention that this government is making no serious attempts to reach a deal with the EU. The leaked proposals for a deal which have come to light today have turned out to be a plan for customs checks in Ireland away from the border. This is a plan which the EU has already rejected. Today the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated that Ireland and the EU expect the UK to honour its promises to avoid any border checks. The Prime Minister has been forced to distance himself from the proposal like a puppy looking at a pile of crap on the carpet with an innocent look on its face, hoping that the cat will be blamed for it. There’s only 30 days to go, and still no sign of a deal. There has to be a border, or there has to be a backstop. The UK government can’t insist that there should be no backstop but at the same time fulfil its commitment for there not to be a border. The Tories are still waffling on about technical solutions that don’t exist in the real world. Rather like their chances of electoral success in Scotland, come to think of it. Since he has no chance of getting a deal, the Prime Minister will not be able to avoid crashing into the law that requires him to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50. That’s not going to do his electoral prospects any favours at all. The Tories are on borrowed time.
It is a painful truth for the independence movement that the trial of Alex Salmond has no positive outcome for the SNP. We must not prejudge the outcome of the trial, but there will be difficult questions to be answered whatever the verdict. The anti-independence parties know that too. This knowledge has a lot to do with why they are currently insisting that Westminster should refuse to concede a Section 30 order until at the very earliest after the next Scottish elections.
However irrespective of what happens in the Alex Salmond trial, and irrespective of any fall out for senior figures in the Scottish Government in the aftermath of the trial, none of it changes the underlying dynamic driving the demand for independence. It will not magic away Brexit and Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will. It will not magic away the contempt with which the Westminster government has treated Scotland’s concerns. It will not magic away the way in which the anti-independence parties failed to live up to the promises and commitments that they made to the people of Scotland in 2014. It will not magic away the chaos and uncertainty which is set to define British politics for years to come. None of this changes whatever happens during and after Alex Salmond’s trial, whatever the revelations that may come out. The dynamic driving demand for independence will not be affected, because that dynamic is powered by the failures of the British state in its treatment of Scotland and has nothing to do with Alex Salmond or the SNP.
The trial of Alex Salmond may harm the most important electoral vehicle for Scottish independence, but it does nothing to alter the need for the journey, it does not change the need to reach the destination. Vehicles can be repaired or rebuilt. Despite their unseemly glee, all that the British nationalists can realistically expect is for there to be damage to the SNP which in turn might pause the growth in demand for independence – but it will only do so for a short while. The underlying drivers of the rise in support for independence will soon reassert themselves because they are independent of the SNP. It’s a sign of their desperation that this is the British nationalists’ only hope.
The real issue here is a question of character. However it’s not about the character of Alex Salmond. It’s not even about the character of Boris Johnson. It’s about the character of the UK and of British politics as a whole.
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