Nobody Knows Anything

It may be only for this weekend, it may be an anomaly in the polling, it may not take account of the fearsome intelligence of local campaigning in key marginals as practised by the dark artists of the Tory Party Machine…but what was universally assumed to be a Dead Cert Tory Landslide in the General Election is looking like being a bit of a nail-biter. It looks like the Tory party have pulled off the trick, for the third time, (Better Together in Indyref 14, Remain in EUref16), of turning an unassailable lead into a narrow squeak…and that the hung parliament that everyone thought was going to happen in 2015 actually might happen this time instead.

Now, bearing in mind what happened in 2014, when one poll result set the Hearts of Oak aflutter…and mobilised the unionists, this may just be a blip, but even if that is all it is, it is beginning to look like “Received Political Wisdom” is fish and chip paper. If nothing else, if Theresa May ends up delivering a majority that will make every vote on Brexit into a constitutional crisis, leave alone a SMALLER majority than now, which leaves the SNP anywhere near a “balance of power” situation (a few by-elections permitting) then every single assumption that the political classes have made about the prospect of Tory hegemony in the UK for the foreseeable future is, like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove caught in the headlights of their unexpected and unwanted Brexit victory last year, left mumbling pale faced and traumatised: “Christ on a bike! That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

Brexit suddenly isn’t the settled will of anyone anymore…the party in government can’t rely on an electoral boost from a terrorist outrage, the Labour Party might find themselves winning a on a Right Wing Issue like Police numbers with a Left Wing (ish) manifesto. And here in Scotland, we might well find that the historic “SNP Tsunami” of two years ago leaves us with a Thatcher era number of Tory MPs with the SNP having directly replaced Labour, virtually seat for seat, as a somewhat despised “establishment” party of devolution…the “feeble fifty” de nos jours.

Honest to God, I’ve no idea what’s happening. I’m thinking of trading in the Crystal Ball for a Ouija Board.

Maybe part of it is to do with history having a sense of humour: that the democratising advent of social media, like the advent of printing five hundred years ago, is making the world both more promising and more scary at the same time. Maybe Twitter and Facebook and the demon algorithms aren’t so much (or not only) making politics less polite and more open, but are also sealing it in a bubble of specific leisure activity…that this hermetic form of what has always been “show business for ugly people” is now entirely divorced, in the public mind, from the “real world.”

Certainly, from the Socialists in France, the Democrats in the USA and the SPD in Germany to the Labour party in Scotland (to name only the most recent casualties) it is the parties of Social Democracy that have suffered the most from the sundering of the two parts of all of their names. The Social, with all the work and housing and shopping, is over HERE…and the Democracy, with all the politics and opinions and shit, is WAY over there on Facebook…and paradoxically, it is the comparatively de –classed cohorts of North London Radical Labour who find themselves, in England, wholly against expectation, to be doing much better, at this moment, than I’m sure they ever thought was possible.

(I don’t think John and Jeremy had any expectation of EVER assuming the offices of state, any more the afore-mentioned Boris and Michael saw themselves as the signatories of an ACTUAL suicide pact for the British economy.)

People voted for Trump…and Macron…and maybe will for Jeremy…and maybe even for Oor Nicola…not just because they might have actually WANTED to be represented by a thuggish moron, a slippery unknown, a retired geography teacher and a National Treasure respectively…but because, what they hell, it’s just Facebook. Everything is unfixably crap, democracy is a crock of shit, so we might as well be entertained.

This state of the public zeitgeist, would be, of course, for fascists and populists, a consummation devoutly to be wished…and if this is anything like what is going on, it probably has something to do with the breakdown of the neo-Liberal Globalisation project, and the consequent exposure of the moral vacuum at the heart of it…just as Islamo-fascist terrorism does.

Global trends have local consequences.

One of them, on these islands, has been the rise of nationalisms in Scotland and England, with what optimists like Robin McAlpine have described as “Trade Unionism for the People” on the one hand, and Never-Neverland pre-Suez Nostalgia on the other. Maybe everyone is voting for time machines, either to fling us into a bright, imagined future or into the warm glow of the imagined past. I still think of the Glasgow Taxi Driver who told me he voted to Leave the EU because he wanted to restore Full Employment on the Clyde…”because we used to have that before we joined.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“Maybe everyone is voting for time machines, either to fling us into a bright, imagined future or into the warm glow of the imagined past. I still think of the Glasgow Taxi Driver who told me he voted to Leave the EU because he wanted to restore Full Employment on the Clyde…”because we used to have that before we joined.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

Maybe the present tense, for young and old, is unbearable. Maybe there’s nothing new in this. Maybe this discontent is a constant of our human condition. Maybe I should stop there before I get too philosophical. Maybe, like William Goldman so wisely said about trying to predict successful movies in Hollywood, “Nobody Knows Anything.” As a fully paid up member of the Political Nerd Club I am probably entirely unqualified to comment. All I know for certain about this election, this weekend anyway, is that the way it’s shaping up is making me feel very excited and very, very old…all at the same time.

Comments (20)

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  1. TheStrach says:

    Labour have been hugely helped by the most inept Tory campaign and manifesto I can remember. Hopefully it will lead to a hung parliament but my guess is the Tories will still be in power on June 9th.

    However, they will be much diminished in authority which will be good for us all.

    If the SNP get 75% plus of the seats I’ll be happy. They’re certainly not feeble in holding the Tories to account at Westminster unlike the branch office.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “..holding the Tories to account.. ”

      Does such a statement actually have any meaning? When India, Malta, and several dozen other former colonies sought independence, did their people vote for nationalist MP’s so that the latter might venture forth to Westminster tae haud thair colonial maisters tae accoont, or did they not simply view their national majority as their democratic right and obligation to assert their nation’s independence there and then?

      1. TheStrach says:

        The SNP is not forgetting about independence. Far from it. The process has already begun with the Scottish Parliament voting to hold another referendum. We await the response from Westminster following the General Election.

        We have to take the country with us. If we can’t get a majority of people to vote for independence then it simply won’t have legitimacy in Scotland or across the world. If the polls are to be believed the SNP won’t get near a majority of the vote at the GE. To declare UDI on less than half the vote, even if they get the vast majority of seats, won’t be accepted.

        We need to let the process which is already in train take its course however frustrating that may be to many of us.

        1. Juteman says:

          “We have to take the country with us. If we can’t get a majority of people to vote for independence then it simply won’t have legitimacy in Scotland or across the world”

          Ireland had less than 50% wanting independence pre uprising.

        2. Alf Baird says:

          TheStrach – the advantage of 1. using a majority of Scotland’s elected MP’s to assert Scotland’s independence is that, 2. if/once the UN General Assembly ask for a subsequent referendum to ratify matters, the latter can then be organised from within Scotland, rather than depending on Westminster to set out its own terms, including even permitting any referendum, or ratifying the result (it might refuse to do so), or agreeing to the result by 600 MP’s of other nations and their Lordships (none of whom represent the sovereign will of Scotland’s people), and also to allow them to then determine the ‘shape’ of an independent Scotland. If the SNP MP’s act as they should, based on their democratic majority, they do not have to depend on their every move being directed by another ‘hostile’ country. The voting franchise in any referendum will also be even more critical next time than in 2014 and this should likewise only be determined in Scotland.

      2. joe Gibson says:

        My sentiments exactly.

    2. Bill Chapman says:

      I am glad the SNP’s aim is to be “not feeble in holding the Tories to account”, forgetting those foolish dreams of an independant Scotland.

  2. e.j. churchill says:

    No tu quoques … Good rant, man.

    1. Gordon says:

      In such times, what else is available?

    2. Gordon says:

      The author didn’t know whether to laff or cry at the taxi driver so decided to scoff…the fact is the uk lowest ever unemployment rate was 3.4 percent the year we joined the Eu and has averaged around the 7 percent mark since peaking at 12 during the mid 80s at the height of Thatcherism..for a political nerd he should have checked his facts…anyone of adult age pre 1973 will tell you they were better of in wages…and value for money..not necessarily the neo liberal eu fault…but a fact never the less…

  3. MBC says:

    It has been noted that the public does not take too kindly to the perpetrators of snap elections.

    Maybe that’s the link?

    The public mood is certainly highly volatile and uncertain. I’m out canvassing and the majority of Tory voters are saying they don’t know who they will vote for, except not for the SNP.

    The Labour and SNP vote is however holding up as far as I can tell in my Edinburgh constituency.

    1. Josef O Luain says:

      Your Tory voters know exactly who they’ll be voting for, methinks.

  4. Mike Fenwick says:

    “Soon, if we are not prudent, millions of people will be watching each other starve to death through expensive television sets”. Aneurin Bevan 1952.

    Having viewed … discuss, where else but via Facebook.

  5. Del says:

    What sort of poll percentages are likely to lead to a hung parliament?

  6. Big Jock says:

    The Tories are likely to be the biggest single party in a hung parliament. We know Corbyn will not deal with them. So that leaves the SNP and Libs. Would the Libs do the dirty again?

    If not that leaves Labour and SNP open to form a loose case by case coalition. I don’t think a post GE Corbyn would have any objection to working with nationalists. At the moment for the campaign it’s a no go. However if he had a chance to govern and to keep the Tories out?

    So that leaves the SNP in the dream scenario of offering support for a deal. That deal would be either Scotland having single market access and an independence referendum section 30 granted.

    Sometimes the world of politics throws up strange bedfellows.

    1. Graham Ennis says:

      Corbyn, if he gets into office, and deviates in the slightest from Neo-liberal orthodoxy, will end up like Robin Cook. I kid you not.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        Big Jock: I suspect the LibDems would only ask for one thing; a second vote on the EU after the negotiations have finished. The SNP would be well advised to ask for two things: a separate EU status for Scotland and also a new referendum on independence.

        In that scenario, a progressive alliance is quite possible.

        Graham: you’re probably right but there’s room for some Labour progressivism within that a la Scottish Government programme that Labour seems to want for the UK.

  7. IJM says:

    This GE ,for me, is about one thing and one thing only. To affirm our desire for Independence.
    Full stop. Brexit is an American project engineered to enslave uk workers for the benefit of the
    US. I want no part of your TTIP or your GM foods.

    England may have delusions of grandeur, but it is also skint and have no chance of paying their
    debts. A long comes Mr wonga (USA).

    The British establishment have been robbing us blind for years. Planting traitors in our midst
    ( Davidson and her far right crew, Carmichael, Forsyth to name a few) and bombarded us with
    messages about how Scotland is rubbish ( main stream media) . Let us give them a little
    piece of their own medicine. Declare UDI and get it over with. It is within our right.

    Or let us just whinge about media bias, hatemongering towards us, basically it is no fair.
    Vote SNP as a vehicle for Independence. Once free ,do what you want. Simples

    1. douglas clark says:

      IJM,

      It will be ‘interesting’ to see whether Nicola Sturgeon makes the GE manfesto an independence manifesto, or not.

      Frankly I thought she shouldn’t, about a fortnight ago. Now, I’m not so sure.

      This whole Theresa May for chancellor thing is getting too ridiculous for words.

  8. Mach1 says:

    We should all remember what happened in the US. The socially conservative massaged via the internet into thinking the idiocy of Trump was preferable to the expertise of Clinton. There is a clear division in how both sides of the electorate are being treated by the commentariat. The rightwing arguments are being presented as mainstream, and the BBC’s incredible insensitivity to the issue of racism is a case in point. Just as its disproportionate coverage of Ukip gave that now thankfully irrelevant party an electoral advantage, the Beeb now treats Ruth Davidson as if she is leader of the opposition in the UK parliament.
    The opposite is true for the treatment given to the anti-establishment, nationalist and activist base of the SNP. It is simply ignored, or sidelined (who stayed up to 12.10am to watch Andrew Neil interview Nicola?) and complacency and indifference is bred.
    It would be shameful if the Scottish Tories, a party at odds with itself over Europe, was given support to deliver an intransigent right-wing Tory government. It should be the task of all left-thinking voters to ensure, first that the SNP vote is mobilised, and that the argument, particularly on the racist, anti-immigrant front, is challenged.
    One argument worth studying can be summated as: “What would Churchill do?”
    It is worth reminding those who want to support an anti-immigrant agenda that Britain built alliances across Europe during the dark years of the second world war by accepting refugees, who themselves became the best riposte to Nazism, whether Free Polish or Free French, and went on to help win the peace. They are also, economically, Scotland’s greatest hope. So how dare weak-kneed mediacrats like Davidson dare suggest that it is in anyone’s interests to turn our backs on Europe, and those seeking refuge or prosperity by coming to these shores.
    Immigration is the Tories greatest weakness, since their vaunted policy runs counter to every argument from Churchill to Thatcher that supported the development of the global economy and the free movement of labour.
    Let’s take on the racists, with constructive and determined support for Europe and an open, and fair Scotland.

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