Saturday 9 May 2015

What we achieved twice running

My political views insofar as I have any are pretty much in the centre. I favour free market economics, but I also favour fairness, equality of opportunity and a society where no-one is left behind. I want to reduce poverty everywhere, but my solution to doing so is for our country to become more prosperous. I can see merit in each of the three main parties. There are good and sensible people in Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. There are people I agree with in each of these parties and people I disagree with.

I didn’t even stay up for the exit poll on the night of the General Election, but because I had voted Liberal Democrat I went to bed hoping beyond hope for a Liberal Democrat overall majority. You see I believe in miracles. The party I voted for did very badly. This is most unjust. The Lib Dems put country before party in 2010 and have been punished for it. This hardly encourages other parties to do the same. The UK is in a better situation because the Lib Dems were in Government. But they have nearly been wiped out.  Oh well the Centre ground looks rather vacant. No doubt it soon will be filled again.

My second favourite result would have been a Grand coalition of all the pro UK parties. The UK faces an existential threat from the SNP and we should act towards it accordingly. It is of course a democratic, political threat. The people who are trying to break up the UK are sincere and some of those I have met online are very nice indeed. Even those who are aggressive or abusive are so mainly because of an excess of enthusiasm for their goal. This is forgivable as passions are bound to run high about existential issues. But I try always to think clearly and it is simply a fact that the existence of the UK in its present form has never been more threatened that in the past few years and in the next few. Our opponents are peaceful, but recognise them for what they are. If you are in favour of the UK, if you have any love of our shared country that has existed for centuries through thick and thin, then you have a duty to oppose the SNP with everything that you have. When your country is threatened it is normal to put aside party politics for the duration. Our country is threatened. So take that seriously and act accordingly.

My third favourite result would have been either a Labour or a Conservative majority. I probably narrowly favoured the former as I believe the SNP prefer the fact that we now have a Conservative Government and I always follow the maxim of  doing what your opponent least wants. But no matter, the fact that we have a pro UK party with an absolute majority is massively beneficial to the cause of keeping the UK intact. The one result I feared was a Government that dependent in any way on SNP votes. With this they could have used such dependence to undermine the UK.

I am of course disappointed that so many pro UK MPs lost their seats in Scotland. I would like to congratulate the SNP on their achievement. Yours really is a remarkable party. You campaign very well indeed and have some remarkably effective politicians. You have been very lucky to have had a leader of the stature of Alex Salmond who brought you to this point. But if anything Nicola Sturgeon is still more effective as she campaigns with a smile and with friendly words. I don’t try to portray opponents in ways that are false or abusive. I’m quite sure that the vast majority of SNP MPs and supporters are people who would make pleasant dinner party companions. I don’t hate anyone not even those who delight in abusing me. Hatred only damages the person who hates. It need not even touch the person who receives it.

I took part in a tactical voting campaign in Scotland with the hashtag #SNPout. In one sense it failed. We did not prevent the SNP landslide as we had hoped. The pity is that in huge numbers of seats our analysis was correct. If pro UK people had put country before party, we would have limited the damage. But I suspect more people in Scotland voted tactically than ever before and we can build on this in future elections especially where some sort of proportional representation will favour the #SNPout cause. But in another sense our campaign succeeded massively. Our task was to keep the SNP out of government. We have succeeded. They are not in Government. Our campaign in part contributed to the mood that saw huge numbers of people in the UK vote so that the SNP would have no influence on a UK government. Job done.

The SNP are a party of Left, Right and Centre. They have supporters from across the political spectrum.  They only really have one goal, independence and say and do everything in order to achieve that goal. They have destroyed the Left in Scotland for the sake of independence. There are now equal numbers of Conservative and Labour MPs in Scotland. When was the last time that happened? Not only have the SNP destroyed the Left in Scotland they have pretty much destroyed it in England too. The SNP campaign of promising to rule both England and Scotland and propping up a Labour government has spectacularly backfired. English voters faced with this campaign preferred to vote Conservative rather than have Alex Salmond pulling the strings. The trouble is that having destroyed the Left in Scotland it is very difficult now for Labour to win an overall majority again without being dependent on the SNP. The same logic will apply next time. Look where nationalism leads.

Labour committed suicide in 1997 when it implemented unequal devolution. It just took 18 years for them to expire. By offering inequality of devolution they undermined the principle of equality of opportunity. With hindsight and with the opportunity to do things differently I’m quite sure Labour people would revisit 1997 and think again. All parties make mistakes. No-one can predict the future, but the root of the constitutional mess facing the UK today is what happened in 1997.

I am in favour of devolution. But it must be done fairly. This is the task now facing the UK. We need people from all parties to come up with a plan that both devolves and unites. The SNP only want independence. They are happy to make little steps towards the line and then fall over. That way lies the breakup of our country. We must find another path.

The UK constitutional settlement at the moment is tends towards disunity and  is also completely unfair. However, it will only make the situation even worse if we come up with a short term fix. What we need to do is to go right back to 1997 and start all over again. The solution is that we have one parliament that deals with all issues that we share and local democracy that deals with all other issues. This solves the West Lothian question by bypassing it.  Call this federalism if you like. But we must understand federalism in the correct way. Each state in the USA has equal devolution, indeed each county has a great deal of local power, if not each town. But there is a strong central government that unites the whole.

So let us devolve even further but let us at the same time unite. The key to this is to recognise that we are one country. By a quirk of history we call the parts of the UK countries, but we are not a union in the sense that the European Union is a union. There is only one sovereign and that is indivisible. If you think of the UK as a union of sovereign nation states, you have already conceded the argument to the SNP. Of course I am Scottish and I come from a country called Scotland. But this is just a manner of speaking. I could equally well come from Wessex or Strathclyde. They have just as good claims to independence as Scotland does. Anyway that argument is finished. The issue has been decided. I expect Mr Cameron to react to any demand for a further referendum with the answer “Sorry Nicola, you have already had your once in a lifetime opportunity. You lost”

Scotland has not got the government that it voted for. To be frank if you vote for a party that only stands in Scotland it is impossible that you will get the government that you vote for. Scotland only has 59 seats while a majority requires 325.  In every democratic country parts frequently vote differently to the whole. The UK is such a country too.  For that reason it matters not one little bit to me if the SNP win every seat in Scotland. Of course I would prefer that they didn’t, but it doesn’t actually change anything.

The only thing that I am scared of now is that David Cameron offers Scotland Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA). He surely has learned his lesson by now. Don’t make concessions to nationalism. FFA fatally undermines the UK. It turns us into something resembling the Eurozone if not the Austro-Hungarian Empire and puts us firmly on the path to breakup. It amounts to independence, not now, but very soon. Out of self-interest English voters should realise such an arrangement, that exists nowhere else in the world, would damage their interests as much as Scotland’s. The UK is our country. We have defended it together for centuries. Don’t give up on it now.

No other country in the world is so blithe about the prospect of their nation state ceasing to exist. This is the problem with Scottish nationalism it undermines the centuries old ties that bind us. The SNP would be delighted if in England there were a rise in nationalism. Thus far there hasn’t been. Despite all the provocation, English nationalism was overwhelmingly rejected at the election. It won one seat. Be proud of that fact.

Frankly I am delighted by the General Election result. I didn’t get everything I wanted. But there is a government that has the power to defeat Scottish nationalism, by putting forward an alternative of devolution plus unity. Above all there is a government that morally and legally can simply say No to any further attempts to break up our country. This is what #SNPout campaigned for. This is what we achieved

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.