The Meaning of the Ashcroft Poll
The latest Lord Ashcroft polling (‘Yes to Independence takes the lead’) has sent one section of social media into howling meltdown, and others into a state of euphoria.
BREAKING: A new poll by Lord Ashcroft has found that a majority of Scots now favour Scottish independence. That also includes 20% of No voters from 2014 and 40% of Labour voters. pic.twitter.com/A0wm81qQwI
— Bella Caledonia (@bellacaledonia) August 5, 2019
People are rightly saying three things: first the obvious point that this could be a rogue and what you’d really want is two or three consecutive polls to confirm (or deny) this direction; secondly that the prospective for independence needs to be not just based on ‘isn’t Boris Johnson terrible’; thirdly that other issues remain preventing a mass pro-indy majority.
All of which are true, none of which are particularly interesting.
What does come out of this is not just a possibly significant shift in opinion, but that it completely undermines everything for the Conservatives, and Unionists.
While the commentariat have been lining up to write-up Ruth Davidson’s obituary, the news is worse than to have a fatally wounded leader.
It’s true its all very bad for Ruth Davidson
Andrew Tickell writes:
“She arrived in the right place, at the right time, with the right set of communication skills to exploit the moment. She may have no evident policy commitments, almost no core convictions, no pl;ans about how to govern Scotland and no shame about reversing those few policies she has publicly committed herself to, but these are vices few political hacks will hold against you.”
But what the poll does – or will do if it’s repeated – is really destroy the core argument that the Unionist tribe have been rallying around.
That is: “we said no and we meant it” – and revolves around an assumption of moral and democratic certainty. It assumes that ‘they’ represent the solid and quiet majority of people in Scotland, and that the dreaded Nats are the wayward and wild minority. It’s not so much a coherent political argument or stance as just a feeling of superiority, often reinforced by age, class or education. It’s often articulated by people who don’t (and haven’t) had their own views challenged much in real life and who bring to the table a combination of a bristling visceral hatred of the Yes movement, and a sense of cultural self-hatred born from an entire lifetimes experience.
All that self-importance and incomprehension deflates like a flan under examination but also under pesky things like facts and polling data.
The Hubris of Unionism depends on the cultivation of two myths: first that Britain is an infallible construct that is eternally magnificent and unique; and it’s mirror, that Scotland is uniquely incapable and incompetent. The first myth is utterly destroyed, the second is the task facing Scotland’s democracy movement.
The people who voted for dependence in 2014 are seeing their idea of Britain fading into humiliation while the idea of a vernal Scotland rising is more alluring than before.
If Conservatives and Unionists have to base their politics on actual ideas and arguments rather than a sense of self-importance, they lose.