Last night the UK fell victim to its third terrorist attack in as many months, the second in two weeks. Not surprisingly this drew a strong response from the United Kingdom Government. As expected a speech was given by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, outside No. 10 Downing Street. All well and good you may think. So what is my issue you might be asking?
Well, my problem is that her speech included the announcement that all national campaigning would be suspended for the day. Now, you can argue long and weary whether the democratic process should ever be put on hold, but that’s for another day. The Prime Minister then proceeded to read a speech which was as overtly political as you could possibly imagine.
To clarify. The current Government is only the Government until Wednesday. On Thursday the country goes to the polls to elect a new Government. Therefore any response to recent tragic events will lie with whoever wins Thursday’s election. In all likelihood that will be Tories. However, nothing is set in stone. Yet, this morning the PM read out a list of actions which would be taken (need to be taken) to escalate the war against terror. These were in effect policy commitments on behalf of the current Conservative Government i.e. it was blatant politicking. Maybe I’m being naive, but I would have expected a strong, heartfelt, respectful and unified message – perhaps even reference the other party leaders. Instead we got electoral commitments. To stand there and say national campaigning was suspended and then launch into national campaigning was frankly staggering.
Look, I’ll not hide my views. I don’t like the Conservative party, for a whole host of moral, ethical and political reasons. However, to see them take such brazen advantage of a tragedy is sickening. More over it’s utterly hypocritical. I’ve always thought it, but today proved it. The Tories would do anything to hang onto power.
On Thursday the 8th of June the United Kingdom will once again open up its polling stations. It may have been only two weeks since the local council elections, and two years since the last General Election, but in those two years something fairly significant happened. It was called the EU Referendum and the result was a Tory contrived disaster which led these Islands out of the European Union. Having made this mess the typically opportunist Conservatives are now looking to get a moral and practical mandate to clean up an unholy mess they themselves created. To that end a snap election was called. The Tories clearly hope to seize on apparent Labour weakness to build a bigger majority.
However, I’m not going to get into too much, if any, detail today. All I wanted to do was kick off my General Election pieces with an introduction to the candidate I will be voting for, Mairi McAllan. At the moment I live in a constituency which has the only Conservative MP in Scotland. His name is David Mundell, and not surprisingly being the only representative of the UK Govt in Scotland he is our Secretary of State. His majority is only a few hundred but you can expect a heavily funded Tory effort to keep him in his seat.
Now, as much as at any other time in recent history, there needs to be tough, unflinching opposition to the Tories. That is something only the SNP seem capable of doing. If elected I’m sure Mairi will carry that fight as much as anyone else on the opposition benches.
Yesterday the Scottish electorate went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2016 Holyrood elections. In 2011, Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic, and apparently, all but theoretically impossible majority considering the constraints of the De Hondt voting system. Last night, the SNP, under the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, came within 2 seats of breaking the De Hondt system for a second time. However, the overall result was never really in doubt. The SNP are re-elected as Scotland’s party of Government for the 3rd term in a row.
A quick look at the numbers shows the SNP winning 59 of the 73 “first past the post” constituency seats with over a million votes – a record, and more than Labour and Conservative combined. However, despite over 950,000 votes on the Regional Lists, this only garnered the SNP an additional four seats. That’s the De Hondt system for you – it sometimes fights back and actually stops the thing it was designed to prevent i.e. a majority. In some respects this election was all about who would come second. Much to the on-going disappointment of Labour in Scotland, it was the Scottish Tories who now form the second largest grouping with 31 seats. This includes a constituency seat for the abrasive but undoubtedly media friendly figure of Ruth Davidson. Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale failed to win her seat and instead was once again elected via the top up list votes. Elsewhere LibDem leader Willie Rennie won his seat in Fife and the Greens did well on the list to move ahead of Willie’s party in number of seats.
Moving forward, despite no SNP majority, there is a natural pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens having 69 seats between them. I can’t begin to speculate what horse-trading may go on over the next few years, but the SNP have governed before in a minority scenario (with many fewer seats) and I’m sure they can do so effectively again. Just as interesting as how the SNP perform is what will become of Labour in Scotland. It should now be clear to even the most blinkered Labour supporter that their party was well and truly used and abused by the Tories to save the union. The price they paid for that toxic marriage has been reflected at the last two national elections. Labour in Scotland need to move ground, reinvent, put distance between themselves and the Tories. Until they do I can’t see any way back. Until then the Tories will revel in Labour misfortunes – misfortunes of their own making.