2007 - 2021

Poll Dancing

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.

Comments (19)

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  1. indyman says:

    “Only with our discredited leader can you be dragged into economic destitution”


  2. Topher Dawson says:

    Ironic that McDonnell’s comment “The Scottish Parliament will come to a considered view on that and they will submit that to the Government and the English Parliament itself……” contains the unicorn English Parliament. He genuinely thinks of Westminster as the English Parliament, as do many English people. Perhaps it is a self fulfilling misconception.

  3. Tom Pearce says:

    Well there’s a “Slip of the tongue”. The English parliament? What’s that?

    “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.”

  4. Stuart Jackson says:

    English parliament Indeed, glad there admitted it, 300 years later.

    1. Welsh Sion says:


      It’s been the English Parliament since at least 1535, when my country was annexed (NOT united) with England under Henry VIII, the new political entity to be known as ‘England’ under statute law (until 1967) and representatives from Cymru first attended this Parliament. The English language was made official in all domains and Cymru disappeared from the map.

      But let’s not quibble over-much over dates. The fact remains that your country and mine has always been ‘periphary’ to the English elite and the various Palaces of Westminster.

    2. Jack collatin says:

      Johnson declared that WM was the ‘English Parliament’ in Carlisle just the other week.
      I don’t believe that anyone with two brain cells banging about in their head believes otherwise, therefore we would still get an argument from Tomkins, Fraser, Rennie, and Leonard.
      The game’s afoot, Watson, and it ain’t twelve inches.

  5. Millsy says:

    According to Dick Leonard – nominally leader of Scottish labour ( sic ) – ”there is no appetite for another Scottish referendum ” he claimed today .
    He clearly does not get out much and did not realise that momentum towards Independence is becoming ( in my view ) unstoppable . When even the Tory Poll this week ( courtesy of Ashcroft ) shows this to be the case , then for Dick to blindly state the opposite shows that he is either delusional or simply turning a Nelson eye to the inevitable .
    My view is that it is the former .

  6. MBC says:

    Latest canvassing from Edinburgh Morningside (toughest indy territory in Scotland) reveals that LDs and others are turning reluctantly to independence. So Rennie, Leonard and Davidson are out of tune with their core voters as the Brexit calamity sinks in. In England there are (as yet) few signs of a counter revolution that might cause them to return to the fold.

    I reckon we are at the half way mark of England’s crisis of direction and identity. This has a long way to run yet.

  7. John Monro says:

    John McDonnell is merely stating the obvious and the least stressful option. It shouldn’t be anyone else’s business to decide how one wishes to be ruled than the citizenry who make up the Scottish entity – which is actually pretty well defined. There is an acknowledged border and ownership of landmass, a long history of existence as a separate, sovereign nation, a separate judiciary and legal system, a separate Parliament with a popular mandate arising from a fair and effective proportional representation system, however, with some very important constitutional and strategic powers still held in Westminster. The Scottish citizenry, having had several years to debate the prior referendum must have the most politically educated and aware population on the planet. As for his remark “The English Parliament” he’d need to be asked to clarify what he was intending to convey by this phrase. I’ve long held the view that it will be the Tories, the supposed Unionist party, that will see the demise of the Union – it looks like my predicted irony is coming true. When you realise that the loss of the Scottish constituencies could cost Labour dearly in the “English” Parliament, I think McDonnell should be given a lot of credit for his statement, which will horrify many of his fellow Labour MPs for the reason just stated. I assume that he’s made this remark with the approval of Jeremy Corbyn, so give that man some credit too.

    I thought Nicola Sturgeon’s dismissal of Corbyn for being almost as much to blame for Brexit as the Tories was very unfair, and not reflecting the facts. Corbyn is a natural mediator; the divisions in his party and in the country at large will really distress him. His party campaigned hard to remain, even while he admitted, truthfully, he was only 70% in favour. He’s tried to steer a course through the disturbed wake left by two disparate ships name Leave and Stay. He’s been paddling his canoe in the middle of the English channel with two options still open to him, and his party, and the nation – for which he is much criticised – when really it’s been the only sane and humane thing to do. The UK could leave with a suitable agreement, following the referendum, that is his preference. But he is implacably opposed to leaving without an agreement, then the two options are to renegotiate or just stay in the Union, with a further referendum to help him decide. In fact, along with Nicola Sturgeon, Corbyn has remained professional, calm, considered and rational. If that were the criteria by which people became PM then he’s a shoe-in. But of course, not living in a rational or sane world any longer, that might not happen.

    1. Kenny Smith says:

      Sorry John I can’t agree with a single thing you said about Corbyn. The man is a total drip. His position on Brexit has been a fudge from the start and incoherent, they want it to happen but less so any deal they get or could have got still wouldn’t be as good as being an influential member with voting rights. A jobs 1st Brexit whatever that was supposed to mean. His efforts on run up to the vote were also confusing and conflicting. I get that the media in England hasn’t been kind to him but not being able to land a glove on the worst government in history sums him up in my opinion. All that before we start on his attitude and lack of knowledge of anything to do with Scotland. He is as much to blame he can’t command his own MPs never mind the country. Labour actually disgust me more than the Tories, the tories at least don’t pretend to be anything other than a right wing party for the rich or selfish but how Labour members can sing the red flag at conference but be in the Lords or members of the Henry Jackson society. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can spit.

    2. Jo says:

      I think your views on Corbyn are fair and balanced John. He did indeed say he was only around 70% for Remain but some in the media and beyond still present as fact, it isn’t, that he was for Leave.

      His position overall was pretty awful post the EU vote when so many Labour constituencies voted Leave and Labour MPs in those seats were warning of the consequences if the Labour Party did not accept “the will of the people”. Indeed, the likes of Nandy and Flint were happy to write articles in the Guardian declaring we must leave and to appear frequently on Peston alongside Tory Brexiteers. They even voted with them!

      On top of that he’s also spent four years with a significant number within the PLP actively plotting his downfall, including his Deputy! The depths these people have sunk to truly beggar belief. This plot took precedence over everything, even Brexit.

      John McDonnell’s recent comments are sensible. He has said, finally, that Scotland’s future should be decided here. The meltdown this has provoked from Leonard and others is extraordinary! They don’t seem to understand the implications of their reaction. They are saying, “No, Scotland, you won’t decide. We won’t allow it!” How bonkers is that? The others, the Tories and the LibDems, are saying the same. Such arrogance is very dangerous.

      The biggest mystery for me, however, surrounds this deeply held belief of theirs that Scotland doesn’t want independence. If that’s true then WHY the meltdown over McDonnell’s comments? If they know that NO would win again, WHY are they afraid? Would they not just love to stick it to YES again just like last time in a second vote? So why are screaming like banshees? Maybe they should explain that one.

  8. John O'Dowd says:

    “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. ”

    Brilliant, but shouldn’t that be: ‘Sort of Scottish, sort of leader, sort of Scottish, sort of Labour, sort of party”?

    Only sayin…..

  9. John O'Dowd says:

    Welsh Sion 7th August 2019

    It’s been the English Parliament since at least 1535. Indeed!

    McDonnell was being thoroughly and utterly accurate.

    The constitutional Bible, by Walter Bagehot, the fount of ‘UK’ constitutional law is entited:



    Scotland is mentioned ONLY ONCE – and when it does, our position is part of the ENGLISH empire – it really could not be any clearer:

    “From a consideration of these functions, it follows that we are ruled
    by the House of Commons; we are, indeed, so used to be so ruled, that
    it does not seem to be at all strange. But of all odd forms of government,
    the oddest really is government by a public meeting. Here are six hundred and fifty-eight persons, collected from all parts of England, different in nature, different in interests, different in look and language. If we
    think what an empire the English is, how various are its components,
    how incessant its concerns, how immersed in history its policy: if we
    think what a vast information, what a nice discretion, what a consistent
    will ought to mark the rulers of that empire, — we shall be surprised
    when we see them. We see a changing body of miscellaneous persons,
    sometimes few, sometimes many, never the same for an hour; sometimes excited, but mostly dull and half weary, — impatient of eloquence,
    catching at any joke as an alleviation. These are the persons who rule
    the British empire, — who rule England, who rule Scotland, — who
    rule Ireland, — who rule a great deal of Asia, — who rule a great deal
    of Polynesia, — who rule a great deal of America and scattered fragments everywhere.”

    Ireland is also “ruled” by England (see above) and here:

    “The ultimate authority in the English Constitution is a newly elected
    House of Commons. No matter whether the question upon which it decides be administrative or legislative; no matter whether it concerns high
    matters of the essential constitution or small matters of daily detail; no
    matter whether it be a question of making a war or continuing a war; no
    matter whether it be the imposing a tax or the issuing a paper currency;
    no matter whether it be a question relating to India, or Ireland, or London, —”

    And when Bagehot refers to Parliament, it is of course the ENGISH Parliament as, for example, here

    “……— that Government proposed to keep a moderate surplus and to
    apply it to the reduction of the debt, but even this the ENGLISH Parliament
    would not endure”. (my emphasis)

    And I would point out to Welsh Sion: Wales, does not get one single mention – it is subsumed in its entirety in “England”.

    That’s us telt!

    1. Welsh Sion says:

      And I would point out to Welsh Sion: Wales, does not get one single mention – it is subsumed in its entirety in “England”.

      That’s us telt!


      I know, John. That was the whole point of the First ‘Act of Union’ (Laws in Wales Act 1535) which I referred to in my original posting. It was a complete and utter Anschluss of my country – a situation only remedied legally by the Welsh Language Act 1967. All mentions to ‘England’ in Westminster statute before then covered @Wales’, too. Mind you, a second Welsh Language Act passed by Westminster in 1993, repealed both our ‘Acts of Union’ (1535 and 1542) under Schedule 2, so you could argue that we are a wee bit more independent of our neighbour than Scotland.

      For Scotland / Dros Gymru.

      1. John O'Dowd says:

        Thanks Sion,

        My education is a little bit more complete now – I have to admit that my knowledge of what was done to Wales is sadly inadequate.

        My comment was more one of shock, than of instruction – I’d read the ‘English Constitution’ years ago, and using the ‘search’ function on the digital text to see overall what was there (and what wasn’t) genuinely flummoxed me – though it shouldn’t have.

        One should never underestimate the imperial mendacity of the world champion imperialists!

        Much appreciated. John

        1. Welsh Sion says:

          Suggested reading, John – as homework! Best 1 volume history of my country in English (translated from the Welsh by the author himself.) Dr Davies was an active Plaid man, but scrupulously impartial as an academic – sadly missed.


          (Then you can read my book on Scottish indy! 😉 )

  10. SleepingDog says:

    Perhaps the assumption that unionists do not have to make difficult choices should be stress-tested. At the moment, a common portrayal is that all unionists have to do is decide between break-up of the UK and a possibly imaginary status quo. But what if they were forced into a classic dilemma, a tragic choice between two goods?

    A related example might be: what if the UN held the UK to be in contemptive, flagrant and persistant violation of its central tenet of self-governance of nations, and demanded that either it immediately relinquished its permanent seat on the UN Security Council or divested itself of all offshore remnants of Empire. This might be a conundrum for some unionists, however it may not induce an major splits.

    Yet, what if the choice was between retaining the UK or losing some other cherished institution? Yes, the UK can keep its overseas territories if they vote to stay in periodic elections, but must let Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vote in the same way. Or would they prefer that England keeps its established church, House of Lords, nuclear weapons, monarchy over keeping Scotland? Such choices may indeed split the unionists along fracture lines, and it would be interesting to see polls on that, at least as a discussion point.

    Sure, it is artificial to rank constitutional components in order of priority, yet occasionally these choices may appear in referenda. And it would be interesting to see how Scottish unionists respond to English unionists strongly preferring to keep the Queen over Scotland, say.

    1. The UN doesnt have those powers.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, perhaps not. I am not versed in law, and the example was a thought experiment. Yet the UN General Assembly reserves the power to override a permanent member of the UN Security Council in extremis:
        “The Assembly may also take action in cases of a threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression, when the Security Council has failed to act owing to the negative vote of a permanent member. In such instances, according to its “Uniting for peace” resolution of 3 November 1950, the Assembly may consider the matter immediately and recommend to its Members collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

        There are tides, unpredictable chains of events, moments when political will overrides diplomatic decorum and all that is solid melts into air. Which of the permanent five will be booed and jeered and slow hand-clapped out of the hall first? Maybe we should ask a bookie.

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