The Ashcroft poll continues to have an aftershock, spooling out into the new reality of political chaos and economic uncertainty as October nears.
The glee with which independence supporters met the polling is mirrored only by the grim denial from Unionists. But this is odd. The same Unionists who last week were sure the same pollsters confirmed their own certainties and were the rock on which they could pronounce “there is no appetite for change” – “there is no energy for another referendum” ad nauseam – are now claiming the polls are flawed. And so it goes. Well you can’t just believe the polls you want to, and that goes for all sides.
But there’s another mirror being held up this morning.
As the well documented collapse of Project Ruth continues – her own predicament is mirrored now by Richard Leonard, the beleaguered sort-of leader of sort-of Scottish Labour. With the Ashcroft polling revealing that 34% of Labour voters saying they will now back independence, and a huge 53% saying that Brexit strengthens the case for independence his back is against the wall.
Who to turn to in times of crisis?
His super-charged colleagues Blair McDougall and Ian Murray? Mibbes naw. His one-chant colleague Willie Rennie? His own LibDem supporters have jumped from 11-34% in their own support for independence, so no. In the past Leonard could turn to Davidson, but she’s now electoral novichok.
Leonard’s problems are today exacerbated by John McDonnell’s announcement that Labour would not block a second referendum – insisting it was up to MSPs at Holyrood to decide whether “indyref2” should happen.
McDonnell said: “The Scottish Parliament will come to a considered view on that and they will submit that to the Government and the English Parliament itself.
“If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.”
The revelation is a breakthrough and a significant moment.
But as with all things Labour it is full of caveats and clauses, uncertainties and ambiguities.
Ian Murray was first out of the blocks to wail:
“One of the architects of the Corbyn project that is destroying the Labour Party now appears willing to destroy our United Kingdom with thoughtless rants at the Festival.”
While a Labour source was less sanguine saying: “He’s a f*****g imbecile and has just given our opponents all the ammunition they need. We will now be perceived as pro-Brexit and anti-Union. Well done the arses that run what was the Labour Party.”
Blair MacDougall took to Twitter to agree with that quote.
The Hunt for Red October
So here we have the architects of Better Together reaping what they sowed. Those in the Labour Party and the Conservatives in Scotland who advocated dependence are now experiencing their own centralising forces. A bitter if pleasing irony that won’t be lost on many.
The destructive obsession with the Union that these politicians have clung to is now more of a constitutional millstone than an electoral buoyancy aid. It is dragging them under the choppy waters of Brexitland. They are drowning not waving.
The splits within Labour and Scottish Labour are mostly ideological rather than constitutional, but that just adds to the ongoing chaos. The party makes their mirror the Conservatives look like a project of calm and united fraternity. But both Leonard and Davidson have choices to make: do they adhere to the toxic right-wing brand that is dragging them down, or the left-wing brand that appears chaotic and incoherent? I think they will and it will destroy them.
The clock is ticking and neither has the political decisiveness, party base or acumen to make a bold move. It goes against all of their own rhetoric about the construct of British politics and this bitter irony may destroy them.
Are there alternatives?
A Corbyn government could form through the splits and fissures of the English right and far-right, I suppose. But the Hunt for Red October is likely to be ruined by Tory opportunism and alliances, with the forces behind Farage likely to be absorbed into Boris Johnson’s political project if and when that seems expedient and Labours internal splits and sores likely to have more energy than their lacklustre leader can summons.
Of course a credible plan for reform of the UK political institutions could emerge, but after 100 years (+) there’s absolutely no sign of it, nor any energy, nor any momentum towards it, nor any movement towards or for an English Parliament.
Neither is there, (and this seems almost incredible but true), any coherence or substance to the ‘remain and reform’ arguments of the pro-EU movement. Where is that which could convince troubled Leavers and those very many people terrified by the No Deal calamity?
McDonnell’s statement is a good one and clear, or as clear as anything emanating from Labour can be. But it piles chaos on chaos. As the plan to create the conditions for a No Deal Brexit become explicitly clear, so too does the pressure on Labour to be able to do something. Hence the wild and incoherent ideas being thrown about, from Paul Mason’s Popular Front to Fintan O’Toole’s complex plan for Sinn Fein’s to stand down (today rejected by their leader).
Already the Labour Deputy Leaders statement has allowed the Scottish Conservatives to repeat the mantra “only with Ruth Davidson can you protect the Union” (blah blah blah). But this is no longer the golden ticket they once believed it to be. It is akin to saying: “Only with our discredited leader can you be dragged into economic destitution”. It’s quite the slogan.
A general election would seem to be a perilous option for both Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour, but great opportunities for a future beyond this travesty lie beyond the carnage.