Tag Archives: General Election 2017

Corbyn

Always felt that even the best of hands can be overplayed. Perhaps it’s just me but I can’t help but feel that “Corbynmania” is in danger of being overplayed. Jeremy is a decent lad. A real old school Labour leftie. Nothing wrong in that, nothing at all. While his party’s policy positions on areas such as Scottish Independence, Brexit and retention of Trident are at odds with mine and many in Scotland, there are still areas of common ground. However, Scotland isn’t really his issue. To win a General Election you need to win in England and at the moment I’m honestly struggling to see how this actually happens – I’d like it to, but I don’t see how.

While Labour are indeed ahead in the latest batch of opinion polls, and PM Theresa May is about as popular as a dose of the runs, the fact is we’ve just had a General Election (the second in two years) and the Tories “won” it. The Tories are unlikely to even contemplate another test of public opinion unless they are confident of winning again. While the Tories tend to have a solid core who back them in all weathers, the Corbyn factor undoubtedly has them worried. And so I don’t see another election any time soon. If and when that day does come though, I still have one major nagging concern with Corbyn and UK Labour in general.

Corbyn does not support Nuclear weapons BUT his party does.  For me it’s inconceivable that the leader can have a different opinion to their party on such a key issue. Based on some of the recent General Election TV output, the big problem appears to be that many, particularly in England, do support a nuclear deterrent. To not support one is to risk being portrayed as unwilling to “defend the realm” from invading hordes who would presumably swarm our Nuclear free shores. As mad as this may seem, it’s clearly something which plays with those in the key seats Labour needs to win i.e. traditional Tory shires. If Corbyn could get Labour into step with his CND roots AND win an election then we really would be in new ground. Can that happen? I don’t think so.

My feeling is that Corbyn will always be at the mercy of an establishment backing media who will portray him as being weak on defence and soft on terror. Jeremy’s biggest strength is also his biggest weakness – he’s different, and different while luring in some, frightens off others. In time, Corbyn’s legacy will likely have been to say there is another way to do politics. There is an electorate out there waiting to be engaged. However, in presenting something different you also need to ensure those who are afraid of change go with you. This is something the Scottish Independence movement continues to wrestle with. I think Labour will perhaps eventually return slightly more to the centre ground, but certainly not back to the days of Blair and Brown. The way the electorate are in this country you can’t simply win from the margins, unless it’s the right.

Thanks for reading.

General Election 2017 Fallout – What Now for The SNP?

It was only 10 years ago that the SNP took control of Holyrood for the first time. At that year’s Scottish Parliamentary election the SNP edged out Scottish Labour by 47 seats to 46 and went on to form an Alex Salmond led minority government. This result shocked Scottish politics to the core. For most of their history the SNP had been seen as a fringe party. A party of by-election success and a party of protest. Their call for Scottish Independence was supported by perhaps 25% of people on a good day and independence was not really looked upon as a serious discussion for debate. Despite that breakthrough in 2007 the SNP only won 6 seats at the subsequent 2010 General Election. We then come to 2011, and that’s when things really changed.

For those who don’t know, the Scottish Parliament is based on Proportional Representation i.e. a mix of first past the post and list, or “top-up” candidates. The theory is that this should ensure that no party can possibly get over half the seats and gain an overall majority. However, in 2011 the SNP “broke” the Holyrood PR system with 69 seats and a seemingly impossible majority. The momentum gained from such a crushing victory left the SNP with no choice, they had to take this opportunity to go for independence. As such the 2014 indyref was scheduled. History of course shows that the Scots chose to reject the chance for full independence by 55% to 45%. A bitter blow for many, but the country had spoken. Pundit after pundit predicted a rapid demise of the SNP at this point, but instead the exact opposite happened. Over the coming months their membership rocketed to over 100,000 and at the General Election of 2015 they won all but three of Scotland’s 59 constituencies. A year later the SNP retained control at Holyrood with 63 MSPs, having just failed to break Holyrood PR for the second time, by a mere three seats.

Not long after the 2016 Holyrood elections came the EU Referendum. This was PM David Cameron’s gamble to put an end to the In/Out question brought to the fore by the Tory enclave otherwise known as UKIP. Like most I went to sleep that night not even bothering to watch the results. It was assumed to be a certain win for “Remain”. Unfortunately for the second referendum running I was to be on the losing side as “Leave” won. The campaign was decided largely on the back of English fears and smears over immigration south of the border. This was something which barely touched Scotland who as a result voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. As a consequence the SNP government decided to put a bill to Holyrood to timetable a second independence referendum. The justification was that their election winning manifesto had clearly stated that any major changes, particularly constitutionally, would entitle the call for the Scottish people to revisit the independence question. Leaving Europe certainly qualified as a trigger and so a bill was introduced and subsequently passed with support from the Scottish Greens. At the time polls were favoring independence and many previously hostile commentators agreed it was a perfectly valid path to take.

Nicola Sturgeon announces plans for a second independence referendum

After all of this excitement politics began to settle down. The earliest “indyref2” would take place would likely be 2019. It would only happen once the outcome of the negotiations around UK exiting the EU were defined. In essence it was designed to give the Scottish people the chance to remain in the EU within an independent Scotland, or stick with the UK outside of Europe. We then entered a period of relative calm with only the 2017 Local Council elections on the horizon. Then the unthinkable and unforeseen happened. On April 19th the UK parliament, at the behest of the Conservative government decided to call a snap election. The purpose was to gain a meaningful mandate ahead of the EU exit negotiation process i.e. a mandate to clear up a mess the Tories themselves had created. More than likely, the real reason was to crush Labour who languished 20+ points behind in the opinion polls. On June 8th the second General Election in two years took place. The full result and some high level analysis can be found here. The SNP went into this election with 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. They left it with only 35, a loss of 21 seats and 400,000 votes.

Disappointment as the 2017 loses mount up

So now we are up to date, we can return to the original question – what now? Firstly some perspective. In winning 35 seats the SNP still has 11 more seats than the other parties combined. It was the second best result in SNP General Election history. If you’d said after the 2014 referendum that the SNP would have 35 seats in 2017 you’d have been laughed out of town. However, because 35 is 21 less than 56 any sense of perspective has been lost. Not even the most ardent of SNP supporters expected us to retain 56 seats. That election was a night where all the stars aligned and anyone who had the smallest of reasons to vote SNP did so. This time that wasn’t the case. This time the opposition parties beat us into submission with joint agendas which demanded a second referendum be taken off the table. In the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum opposition from Labour and the media softened towards a second indyref. This was undoubtedly due to the polls favouring such a move. However, over the months which followed the polls slipped back to roughly 2014 levels. Therefore old battle lines were redrawn and once more it was the SNP against the rest. It wasn’t a fight we seemed ready for and it meant we got stuck on the back foot and were rarely able to go on the attack. Tory leader Ruth Davidson was barely questioned on actual UK Tory policy, most of it divisive and unpopular. Instead she and the other Scottish leaders simply stuck to the “No Referendum” line from pillar to post. This resulted in tactical voting, a rise in Tory support as “saviours of the union”, which allied with SNP core vote not turning out led to the results we had. Reality is Both Labour and the LibDems barely moved – they won seats with less votes than 2015 because the SNP vote dropped and the Tory vote rose.

In the aftermath of the result there were the usual calls from both ends of the spectrum. We should talk about independence more. We should shelve indyref2 and get on with governing Scotland. Well, what do I think we should do? Well for one we shouldn’t panic. As things stand the SNP have 35 MPs, 63 MSPs and 431 Local Councillors. We remain the largest and most successful political movement in Scotland. Ten years in government, while not perfect, have shielded Scottish voters from the worst excesses of UK Tory policy. Scotland would be a lot worse off it it wasn’t for the SNP in government.

I’m no political strategist but as someone who is sick of the SNP being on the back foot I’d say we need to go on the attack. We may never again be as strong as we are now. As such we need to be defiant. Show passion. Show we’ve had enough. Stop taking shit from our opponents. Lay it out in Blue and White. Indyref2 is not coming off the table, in fact It’s being nailed to the table. It’s staying. Deal with it. Why should the Scottish people burn the only  lifeboat we may have as the once previously unsinkable UK is about to hit an iceberg called Brexit? The only people who want a second independence referendum off the table are Unionists. The reason they want it scrapped it simple – they think there is a good chance they’ll lose it. Even if polls aren’t necessarily in our favour at this moment, we’re not talking about having the vote now, we’re talking about having it once we know EXACTLY how the UK is to leave Europe i.e. summer 2019. There are no more elections between now and then. No more predicable debates where the opposition are allowed to ignore policy to simply play the same old no referendum tune. Once the grim facts are laid bare voters will then know the true cost and risks of leaving Europe. By then the SNP will have a fully fleshed out plan for independence in Europe. No confusion over currency. No argument over EU membership. No doubt left as to how much staying in the UK will cost the Scottish economy.

For now I’m not going to look beyond indyref2. That’s precisely what our opponents want us to do. To take our eye off the ball and to let slip possibly the best chance we’ll have to be free to run our own country. We can’t afford to do that. If it does all crash and burn at least we’ve gone down fighting the good fight. I’d rather that than stay passive and watch a chance to be a proud independent nation pass us by.

Thanks for reading.

General Election 2017 – Final Analysis

For the second time in two years the votes are counted and the result of another UK General Election is in the history books. Truth is most people and pundits felt this was a completely unnecessary election called simply to take advantage of Conservative positioning in opinion polls i.e. 20+ points clear of Labour. The idea was clearly to bury any possible opposition under a hugely increased Tory majority. Another interpretation was that it was run to give the Tories a mandate to clean up a mess of their own making – Brexit.

Prior to voting on Thursday the Government had a slim majority, but a majority none the less with a total of 330 seats. Once the final result had been counted and lodged the party tallies were as follows:

  • Conservatives: 317
  • Labour: 262
  • SNP: 35
  • LibDems: 12
  • DUP: 10
  • Sinn Fein: 7
  • Plaid Cymru: 4
  • Greens: 1
  • Independent: 1 
  • Speaker: 1

With 650 members, the UK parliament requires one party to have 326 (nominally 322 after you remove Sinn Fein, who don’t attend Westminster, and the speaker) seats to form a Government. As you can see this didn’t happen as the incumbent Tories actually lost seats instead of gaining, which had been the whole purpose of them calling the election.

What does this mean?

Well look down that list and you’ll see a party called the “DUP” with 10 seats. Who are the DUP and why are they important? Well, the DUP are the Democratic Unionist Party who are a Northern Ireland based party. You can read more about them here, and here.

DUP leader Arlene Foster with new Govt “partner”, Theresa May. Photo credit: Charles McQuillan/PA Wire

As of me writing this post nothing seems to have been agreed. There is talk of a formal coalition as well as of a looser (but still binding at key moments) “supply and confidence” agreement. However, things are ultimately defined the bottom line is that the Conservatives are having to rely on another party to keep them in power. Also worth pointing out that the leader of the DUP sits in the Northern Ireland assembly. This is something May had previously derided as untenable when Labour and SNP were being talked of in coalition. How times change when needs must.

The vultures are now well and truly circling for Mrs May. It would seem unlikely she’ll survive to see the damage that her deal with the DUP might cause. There are already calls for another election. Whether the British people have the stomach for that, I’m not sure. Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party are now already ahead in the latest polls – perhaps another reason why we won’t be seeing another election any time soon. Either way politics could be interesting over the coming months, more interesting than Theresa and the Tories would have bargained for in their worst nightmares.

Thanks for reading.

Power At Any Cost

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.

Thanks for reading.

General Election 2017 – Scottish Leaders’ Debate

Sunday night saw BBC Scotland hosting the first (not sure if only) debate featuring the Leaders of the main Scottish parties, and, err, UKIP. For those reading my blog who aren’t perhaps up to speed with Scottish politics, we essentially only have one wholly Scottish party, the SNP, who stand just in Scotland. The other party leaders could be looked upon as

(L to R) David Coburn (UKIP), Kezia Dugdale (Scottish Labour), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservatives), Willie Rennie (Scottish Lib Dems), Patrick Harvie (Scottish Greens)

heads of their respective Scottish branches. Not meant in a disrespectful way, but you get the picture. Currently the 59 seats up for grabs are split as follows: SNP (56); Tories (1); Labour (1); LibDems (1). While it’s probably unlikely that the SNP will get as many seats this time, there is little doubt that they will win the election in Scotland, with anything from 45-50 seats being predicted. The Tories are expected to bite back in a few marginal seats as the Unionist parties continues to trade votes to lessen SNP numbers.

As for the debate it was along standard lines. An opening 40 second salvo from each of the panel followed by a Q/A with an invited audience. I won’t get into the “audience” in this piece, but suffice to say it was the usual array of interest groups, plants and those who clearly had no idea of the difference between a Scottish and UK election. What then followed was a rather confused broth of Devolved (ruled on by Scottish Parliament i.e. Health, Education) and non-Devolved (ruled on by Westminster i.e. Defence, Foreign Policy, Brexit) policy questions. For reasons unclear the BBC decided to allow effectively irrelevant questions on devolved policy for the reason that “those were the questions people asked”. My response to that would have been to find other people who were prepared to ask relevant questions i.e. ones meaningful to a UK election. However, it is what it is, and as really pretty much any forum involving Scottish Leaders inevitably ended up focusing on the Scottish Parliament and in particular the job done by the SNP government.

Scotland’s Woman Leaders – Kezia, Nicola and Ruth go at it

The expected “No to second referendum” line was trundled out early doors by all concerned. It’s something the Scottish FM has heard a million times before and dealt with it comfortably. Really Nicola had a fairly easy night, and it was her Conservative counterpart who posted one of her weakest performances on television. Fact is Ruth Davidson has been cosseted by the Scottish media but in the last couple of weeks the gloves have finally come off. Last night she was actually treated as a Tory and asked questions a Tory (the UK Govt) would be expected to be asked. Ruth isn’t at her best when being put under pressure and she quickly resorted to shouting and looking extremely angry. Kezia Dugdale didn’t input much. I sort of admire Kezia for taking on the challenge of Scottish Labour leader but she just doesn’t have the substance to match any potential style. Willie Rennie was placid by his usual standards and saved his most savage attacks for the Tories, a change from his usual tirades on the SNP. Green party man Patrick Harvie spoke well. Not perhaps the most riveting public speaker, but he is passionate and did a good job. Not going to comment on David Coburn. He simply shouldn’t be there as he and his party are utterly irrelevant.

My overall feeling when it finished was one of frustration. While I enjoy politicians having a tear-up there was just too many areas and questions not pertinent to the up coming vote. Bit of an opportunity lost – a feeling shared by some in the post-debate spin room section. The only real loser on the night was Ruth Davidson who crumbled under the unusual sensation of pressure. All the rest stood their ground and can be happy with their night’s work. Sadly for Ruth, her national leader has also just had a day to forget with an interview by Andrew Neil being particularly grim viewing for those of a Tory persuasion. Things are definitely beginning to get a bit more interesting.

Thanks for reading.

General Election Countdown – Vote SNP, Vote Mairi

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.

Thanks for reading.