The past few days has seen the political movements in Scotland, England and the UK (in that order) realigned and exposed as never before. As George Kerevan has written: “There is no third way in Scottish politics any longer. It is an independent, socialist and green Scotland – or a Unionist, Tory and exploited subsidiary of the City of London.” As the Scottish Tories go into an orgy of self-satisfaction, their southern colleagues are engaging in a very public fratricide. This won’t work.
Kerevan is quite right, this crisis is a denoument of power relations: “I for one welcome this new political clarity. It’s not that I wish to polarise the Scottish nation deliberately. On the contrary, the independence cause has advanced precisely because the SNP’s brand of civic nationalism has remained peaceful, positive and pragmatic. But the vested interests of the ailing British state and its baying media hacks are too entrenched to let Scotland go quietly.”
If you think Zac Goldsmith’s dog-whistle campaign against Sadiq Khan was bad, the Tory English Civil War is about to get worse. Bereft of rational economic arguments they are about to come unmuzzled into the light and will turn almost exclusively to the issue of ‘immigration’.
Michael Gove, writing in the Daily Mail at the weekend produced a stream of anti-migrant bile saying: “If you think the EU’s bad now? Wait until Albania joins.” [You can give him a slap here].
While the Sun leads today (see right) with every Little Englander’s very worst fear – the Fritz! The idea of poor powerless Britain being manipulated by Germany is such a powerful / comic piece of false victimhood, but who knows, it may play well amongst the hard of thinking.
Now we hear that IDS – the Minister for Foodbanks – is said to be about to ‘spill the beans’ about the inner feuds of the Cabinet. So it’s about to get more and more toxic.
Current polls put 42% on Remain versus 40% on Leave. While yesterday we reported on the delicious irony suggested by one poll, that Scotland will hold England in Europe against its will (see above). It’s good to see the Record following this up today.
This (unlikely) scenario throws-up some wonderful connotations for the Better Together celebrants, who’s own same people are now moaning about ‘government from afar’ and the traumas of ‘remote rule’ from unelected Brussels. The irony of the language will not be lost to many of you.
THE NEW RECRUITS
Of course the newly beatified leader of the opposition isn’t responsible for the conduct of the Brexit campaign, nor the failed Conservative mayoral campaign, but she is culpable for the actions of the government we didn’t elect, and she is suffering from a strange understanding of democratic mandate.
Both at a personal (constituency) and a political (national) level Ruth Davidson is facing grand over-reach in her hyperbole. With Nicola Sturgeon on 65% of constituency vote with a majority of 9,593 and Ruth Davidson on 30.4% of constituency vote with a majority of 610. Or to put it another way with the SNP on 63 seats with 46.5% (1,059,893) of constituency vote and the Conservatives on 31 seats with 22% (501,844) of constituency vote there is little credibility n Davidson’s elevated status. As Ross Colquhoun has out it: “It’s bizarre that Ruth Davidson thinks she has a mandate to challenge SNP, but that the SNP doesn’t have mandate to act on its manifesto.”
Davidson has outlined her strategy here: “It was about being a strong counterpoint to a government which many people – especially no voters at the referendum – feel ignored and let down by. There is a real yearning in Scotland for someone – anyone – to take the SNP on. Someone who will stand up to them and tell them ‘no’ every once in a while.”
That’s a one-dimensional campaign plan, not an alternative for Scotland. As we said before the Tory revival is hugely overblown, and if the Conservative civil war continues then Blue on Blue action will mean casualties, and how will these rookie Tory troops cope? Will anyone ask them anything?
Even today as Prince Harry bawls his eyes out about media intrusion (Memo to Harry: that’s the job, it’s the only job you’ll ever have), Davidson is setting the mould for a new type of politician-as-quasi-celebrity. She doesn’t need to set policy she doesn’t seem accountable for her parties actions, she just exists in a Tory holodeck of photo opps and soundbites floating above the mayhem and insecurity brought to so many by her government. But this won’t work for the new recruits. You can only run this trick with one single figure, not thirty. You can’t make Adam Tomkins and Murdo Fraser and Edward Mountain into loveable contentless media caricatures.
This is reality that Davidson’s many cheerleaders in the press box haven’t quite grasped. Iain Martin writes: “The SNP is back in its box, by which I mean it now has to trade on day to day legislation with minority parties in the Scottish parliament. The embarrassing pre-election hype – all that Chairman Mao/Sturgeon meets Kazakhstan despot graphics – now looks silly and they have to contemplate the reality that politics is not a magical phenomenon that sweeps them along to ever more victories.”
This is wishful thinking on a grand-scale. In fact the Conservatives crisis is Scotland’s opportunity. George Kerevan again: “The Unionist parties place defence of the undemocratic British constitution above all else. In office, the SNP can (and must) prove we are competent at governing the country. But that is not the primary ground of political combat – certainly not the one chosen by our Unionist opponents. Which means our practice in government has to be a pointer towards independence. We must govern for Scotland as if we were an independent state and challenge the Unionists to get out of our way.”
There’s been a lot of negativity recently but Kerevan is right, the space for forging a new politics is here and the sun is out.
The British establishment is facing a Brexit crisis of identity of its own making that has been churning away for thirty year or more. It’s inconceivable that there won’t be fallout for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and the media bubble will burst.