2007 - 2021

Altered State

Boris Johnson has destroyed the Conservative Party, expelling Winston Churchill’s grandson and twenty other MPs, prorogued parliament, lost his Westminster majority in one day and now wants a General Election. That’s something we should look forward to.

The list of the 21 Conservatives MPs from whom the whip has been removed includes two former Chancellors, one of which held the office only a few weeks ago; a former Attorney-General and a former Deputy Chief Whip; all the others bar one have been Ministers. Their expulsion leaves Boris Johnson 43 votes short of a majority.

Despite the louche disdain of Rees-Mogg and the rantings of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s attempted coup has failed, splitting his party and threatening the economy. His regime tactics of threat and bluff have been exposed. It is clear that there is no intent to negotiate any deal with Europe. Repeatedly challenged to provide evidence yesterday he (Johnson) provided nothing. There is no good faith, no trust and he has been found-out once again as a dissembling fraudster toiling at the heart of a constitutional crisis of his own invention.

The consequences are immediately clear.

The Scottish Conservatives face wipe-out: YouGov predicting they lose ten of their 13 seats north of the border, according to analysis by John Curtice. The SNP would be expected to secure 51 seats, 16 more than in 2017. Labour would be pushed into fourth place behind the Liberal Democrats at Holyrood. There would be a pro-independence majority of 19 in the Scottish parliament with ten Scottish Green Party MSPs predicted.

Sadly even the seat of newly appointed Alister Jack, with a majority of just 5,600 is at risk.

The results – if they played out – would be catastrophic for Richard Leonard’s disastrous leadership – and provide a true legacy of Ruth Davidson’s time at the helm – but more importantly give a renewed and huge mandate for negotiating independence.


But what does it mean in the rest of the UK?

Paul Goodman, writing at Conservative Home predicts:

“The Tory MPs of the immediate future looks to be more pro-Leave than today’s are. In broad terms, the balance of the Parliamentary Party will shift rightwards. To be more precise, the Conservative Party’s appeal at the coming election will be pitched, even more than in 2017, to northern, older and Leave-backing voters. In a nutshell, the Party will become less economically liberal and less socially liberal (on, say, crime and immigration).”

Wow. Less socially liberal? That’s code for hang ’em and flog ’em and god alone knows what a less socially liberal immigration policy than now looks like?

Goodman continues:

“If this appeal works, Boris Johnson, whose family background can fairly be described as liberal elite, will become Prime Minister of a more Trump-flavoured party, with Dominic Cummings presumably hovering in the wings: bent on delivering Brexit, more northern infrastructure, cash for “our NHS”, tough policy on crime, “an Australian-style points immigration system” and tax cuts for poorer workers. And it is quite possible that Johnson will succeed – at least in England, which in turn could pave the way for a second independence referendum in Scotland and a border poll in Northern Ireland.”

Goodman concludes:

“If he doesn’t, there will probably be no Brexit. But the Conservative membership and Parliamentary Party as both stand are unlikely to let the project go. Expect both to cling to it, as debate gathers about a permanent arrangement with the Brexit Party, for at least one more Parliament. And popular support for leaving the EU is likely to remain substantial for the forseeable future.”

“It is hard to see this kind of profile playing well in London, in big parts of other cities, among ethnic minorities, younger voters and in the prosperous parts of the greater South-East in which there was a high Remain vote in 2016.”

So, setting aside a huge pro-independence result in Scotland, there’s at least three possible outcomes of a General Election in the rest of the UK that will affect prospects for independence.

One scenario is that the disaffected and ejected Tory MPs either cross the floor to Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats or fight their own seats as independents causing mayhem and splitting the Tory vote; the other is that a “permanent arrangement with the Brexit Party” means that Johnson and Farage unite the right and the far-right in Brexit Heaven and win in England; the third is that the chaos and mayhem allows Corbyn to muddle through soaking up revulsion at the Johnson regime with Remain and repair sentiment across England.

It might be thought that a Corbyn government (minority or not) would be the best bet to negotiate independence. But it may be that a Johnson regime would be so obsessed with Europe and so consumed with their own rhetoric about subsidising Scotland as to be persuaded to “let us go”.  Certainly the polling shows that large amounts of voters south of the border think losing the Union would be a price worth paying for gaining Brexit.

As Johnson’s government floundered Nicola Sturgeon announced: “We will seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge. We have a clear democratic mandate to offer the choice of independence within this term of parliament – and we intend to do so.”

“We intend to offer the people of Scotland the choice of a better and more positive future as an independent nation,” she said. With the shambles at Westminster this is now an open door again.


Comments (24)

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  1. MBC says:

    How does it work Mike? If 21 Tory MPs have the whip withdrawn, do they then sit on the Opposition benches? Or can they continue to sit with the Government?

    I didn’t understand why the DUP sits on the Opposition benches. OK, I get theirs isn’t a formal coalition, but…

    Surely if the 21 Tories are now sitting on the Opposition side, or will be soon when whip actually withdrawn, then Johnstone no longer controls the House and cannot remain PM.

    Sad that Scots Tories did not join the rebels, especially as Mundell always opposed No Deal, since they acknowledge it is catastrophic for Scotland, and especially as they surely know they are about to lose their seats anyway, so this was a chance to redeem themselves.

    1. Jo says:

      The DUP isn’t in coalition with the Tories. It’s just a confidence and supply arrangement so they stay on the opposition benches.

      Foster has made it clear a new arrangement will be needed with Johnson so no doubt she’ll be looking for another £billion!

      1. Mary McCabe says:

        None of the polls seem to include Northern Ireland. The only one I saw indicated that the DUP are set to lose all but three of their seats. If that happens they’ll have lost all their sway – nobody will care anymore what they think of No deal, the Irish Backstop, or anything else. Their opinions will be as disregarded as Scotland’s.

    2. Heartsupwards says:

      More indication that there will be no Scottish Parliament for the conservatives(Scottish) to be worried about. They’ve lost their jobs already with the only option of following in Jack McConnell’s footsteps.


    The door is certainly now open. Can Scotland walk through it to an independent future ? We are on the verge of making political history and events suggest that a few more steps will complete the return of Scotland’s sovereignty.

    1. MBC says:


      I had a scary thought though. What if Davidson returns, vindicated? (Over Boris and No Deal).

      What if the progressive rebels succeed in saving Britain from Boris and No Deal?

      Pondering on this, and on current scares at how easily the British constitution can be subverted and democracy hijacked by extremists, any saviour government (in which the Lib Dems might be strongly placed), really needs to consider constitutional and electoral reform. FPTP needs to go. And a written constitution. Prerogative power needs to go.

      1. MBC says:

        So… I’m now thinking that the SNP, Greens, LDs, etc., forming the progressive alliance, really need to make some demands of Corbyn in return for their support.

        As well as preventing the shit storm, they ought to be thinking of what they want from a successor government to ensure that there never is such a shit storm ever again, and how their own agendas can be extended in the aftermath of the crisis.

    2. Grafter says:

      Dinosaurs never return.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        Winston Churchill returned, Boris Johnson returned, so it is a possibility that Ruth Davidson could be ‘persuaded’ to return. The self proclaimed ‘progressive’ media would be drooling. A fair number in Scottish Labour would be happy.

        Clearly in Scotland, Labour, LibDems and the Tories are reading from the same script – tonight on ‘The Nine’, both Lesley Laird and Christine Jardine said almost word for word, that ‘this is no time for fantasies like independence; there is a national crisis and we see the chaos arising from trying to disengage from a 50 year union, think of the problems of disengaging from a three hundred year union.’ This has been run several times in the Herald. I suspect BBC Scotland will give it big licks for a while. Pamela Nash of Scotland in Union was trotting out the same line – a former Labour MP bankrolled by Tories.

        However, I think things are shifting towards independence and even more towards a second independence referendum.

        I think this is ‘Better Together’s’ main line to frighten NO voters back into line.

  3. MBC says:

    I think things are finally stirring in England. The English are now coming to their senses now that it is beginning to dawn on the moderate majority just what is at stake under Boris and No Deal. I think a lot of moderate Tories will now desert the Conservative Party. Quite how that will play out in terms of parliamentary arithmetic under FPTP is anybody’s guess. But if there is enough time, if Corbyn et al succeed in getting an A50 extension and calling an election at their timing, there could be electoral pacts between opposition parties to ensure the Brexit/Tory party is quelled.

    1. Roland L Reid says:

      I was at the pharmacy this morning to collect my usual repeat prescription. I was told that I was fortunate to get it. Other patients on the same medication are now on a waiting list. I asked if this was due to Brexit but got no response.

      1. Charles L. Gallagher says:


        A friend of mine near Lanark told me months ago that his friend was given an unsuitable alternative and was told it was due to ‘stock-piling’ in ENGLAND for NHS, ENGLAND.

  4. Jo says:

    Johnson’s latest slogan, “the Surrender Bill”, to describe the position of the opposition Parties, will be enthusiastically received by many in Scotland, that’s for certain.

    Look for it appearing in the Tory rhetoric at Holyrood any day now and from Jack. It has a specific purpose to serve.

    I think it is a bad mistake to start predicting massive gains for the SNP. There is work still to be done.

    1. Wul says:

      Interesting observation Jo. The language is telling right enough.

      We have had: “Surrender”, “Collaborators”, “Enemies of the people”, “Traitors”, “Our Precious Union”, “Conspirators” etc.

      We must be on a War footing. We need to give up our human rights, protection in law and safety in order to save the….er….what?

  5. Wul says:

    Spot on Mike.

    This direction of UK travel (towards facism, intolerance, unregulated profiteering and rentier supremacy) was already apparant in September 2014.

    It was the reason I voted “YES” to Scotland’s independence.

    I hope to god that some of those who voted “NO” can now see that “keep things as they are” was never an option. The UK has been sold, usurped by buckaneers, and it will not change course any time soon given that our English cousins continue to vote for more of this.

    It is high time we left this party. It has gone rotten.

  6. Adrian Roper says:

    I’m an independence sympathiser but worried about whether an independent Scotland might end up as a smaller version of the rich dominated UK (and most other states). I remember thinking on that Friday morning in 2014, “what would have happened if the vote had gone slightly the other way?”
    The forces and attitudes of the No campaign wouldn’t have disappeared. With a bit of adaptation they could have ended up running the country a few years later.
    And I’m not saying anything new in pointing out that many a Yes voter was (is) very similar to the tribal/populist Brexit voter in England.
    And as I understand it, Irish independence didn’t go the way James Connelly would have wanted at all.
    So it seems to me that the progressive independence movement needs to be obsessing not just about how to get over the line, but how to set in train a demand for constitutional and economic structures that shut down the possibility of (in Animal Farm terms) Scottish pigs sending Scottish horses to the knackers yard.
    Step one is maybe an analysis of Scottish wealth and power distribution, step two is maybe making this knowledge widely known, and step three is surely making redistribution a central part of the independence agenda.

    1. Thanks Adrian, its a good point – certainly in terms of wealth and power distribution this is very much worth tracking and part of the remit of Bella for a decade +

      As for the future, nothing is set in stone and the point about creating a Scottish democracy would be to allow people to decide. I (obviously) bring a left-green perspective but I cant forego future decisions.

      WE can put in place constitutional structures that ensure democracy and limit hierarchy.

      1. Adrian Roper says:

        Thanks Mike
        You’re definitely right about Bella’s good efforts. Onwards and upwards.

  7. John Monro says:

    Such amazing times, even amazing from my distance of 12,000 miles here in Martinborough, New Zealand. It’s as if politics in the UK was, up to recently, a game of cards, with trumps, tricks, plays and hands that might occasionally be a bit strange, but did work within some arcane rules of a long-played game, which if you enquired might even be intelligible. But it’s as if some of the players have forgotten the rules, or cynically disregarding them, and instead have grabbed the pack and thrown it into the air, and will only play some new game with the cards scattered on the table, or retrieved at random from the floor, and expecting all the other players to follow suit, as it were.

    In which case all these prognostications, fascinating as they are to ponder here, are more than likely to be totally wrong.

    But good luck, all of you fine people, I suspect you’re going to need it.

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      “The honest man, though e’er sae poor, is king o’ men for a’ that”.

      Aye, amazing times, John.
      I’m looking at it all from Canada.

      It’s time for the liars, cheats and charlatans to be called out. And for honesty and decency to prevail.
      The game is on, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

      1. Heartsupwards says:

        Let the love of our land’s sacred rights,
        To the love of our country succeed;
        Let friendship and honour unite,
        And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

  8. Morag Williams says:

    As I understand it, Corbyn adopted a surprising strategy by instructing Labour MPs to abstain in a vote that would have resulted in a general election. I suspect there were several reasons for this:
    1) he supports Brexit;
    2) he knows that the Brexit deal on the table is the only one possible;
    3) he is happy to watch the Conservatives in disarray and
    4) he knows that he will lose a general election.

    Nicola Sturgeon is now in the most powerful position that she has ever been in and ever likely to be in.

    Nicola can discuss with SNP MPs in Westminster . . . and then Boris.

    SNP support for a general election if and only if the election result is taken as a referendum and a date for independence is nominated . . . ie if the SNP wins a majority of seats then Scotland can become an independent country on the date specified. The biggest draw back I could envisage would be an amendment in the Lords that would allow a general election and disallow a majority of SNP MPs in Scotland as a mandate for independence.

    Sadly, I think it foolhardy to imagine that there is any other way of getting an S30. Neither Johnson nor Corbyn will give a S30 after the next general election even if they say they will . . . remember The [email protected]

    1. Andrew says:

      I think Corbyn’s strategy is obvious: (a) if there is a GE before 31/10, it is still possible for a No-Deal Brexit to be pushed through (b) if Boris fails to push through his no-deal Brexit — after all the bluster — then he looks incompetent and no-Deal voters are more likely to back the Brexit Party and split that vote, and (c) since things are not going well for Johnson’s prime ministership so far, and his character flaws are being exposed every day, then the later a GE is, the more chance Johnson has to demonstrate his character weaknesses and look less and less Prime Minsterial etc.

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