Thursday 23 May 2024

Punish the SNP


The significance of the General Election in Scotland is that it might finally after more than a decade give us the chance to move on from debating independence. We have had single issue politics since at least 2011. People have voted not on the basis of party policies or competence but on what stance the party took on independence. Voters continued to support the SNP even when it ruled badly because they cared more about Scottish nationalism than they did about good governance. Naturally they were rewarded by bad governance.

If the SNP can be reduced to 11 seats as a recent poll suggested or still better to single figures, then it will be reasonable to assume that there is no longer a meaningful debate about independence. This will give us all a chance to move on.

Once Scotland ceases to have single issue politics we can go back to left/right politics and issues like the economy, healthcare, education and so on that have largely been neglected because although important they are boring compared to flag waving, revolution and refighting the Battle of Bannockburn.

For this reason, the election in Scotland is quite different from that in the UK overall. Only Labour or the Conservatives can win power at Westminster. The overall battle is between Sunak and Starmer. But in Scotland the battle is between Labour and the SNP.

The Scottish Conservatives can perhaps hold onto the seats they already have. They might even win one or two others, but that is the absolute limit. Only Labour can defeat the SNP in the Central Belt. You may not like that. You may dislike Starmer and remember previous poor Labour governments, but nevertheless if Labour fails to win most of the seats held by the SNP no one else will.

In that case the SNP would win thirty or more seats and might even remain the largest Scottish party in Westminster. If that were to happen the day after the election the SNP would be calling for a second referendum and we would be back to where we started.

So, it is possible for a patriotic Conservative voter to hope both that Rishi Sunak remains Prime Minister and that Labour wins many more seats than the SNP in Scotland.

It is perfectly possible that the number of seats Labour wins in Scotland will be decisive in determining the outcome. More important perhaps is that if Labour wins in Scotland and wins overall it will destroy the democratic deficit argument that the SNP has used for so long. Scotland will have got the government it voted for.

I strongly suspect that the result of the election has already been determined. If Labour cannot win this time, then it would be necessary to conclude that it cannot win at all.

It is vital that voters don’t vote tribally but punish poor government from whichever side it comes. Even as someone who is on the right, I think that our country needs change and the Conservative Party needs to be completely reformed by opposition or else replaced.

This does not at all mean that I look forward to a Labour government. Labour will make a mess and will do nothing to address the fact that our country is getting worse by the year. It’s not merely managed decline anymore. It’s worse than that and both parties are responsible over the long term.

What the country needs is another 1979 and a decade of economic reform, but that is not on offer from anyone who can win.

There may be a moment in the campaign overall that changes things, but I doubt it. The Conservatives are too disliked for disappointing those of us who viewed 2019 as the chance for something better.

The SNP remains especially vulnerable not merely because of the chaos involved in losing Humza Yousaf, but because Operation Branchform continues. It would have been far better for the SNP if everyone who was going to be charged had already been charged a year ago. This would have given it a chance to recover. Now it faces the possibility of a significant development during the campaign. But even without it the SNP’s thistle has begun to smell far worse than weeds.

Just prior to Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation the SNP seemed guaranteed to continue indefinitely to win 45% or the vote or more and to win big majorities both at Westminster and Holyrood. It shows the pointlessness of political prediction. No one foresaw what has happened since.

I think that swing will determine the result overall and in Scotland. It will be determined by those voters who don’t pay much attention to politics, but somehow feel that someone else should be given a go.

People vote for a variety of reasons and how you use your vote is your business. If Pro UK voters turn out in sufficient numbers and are willing to vote for the party with the best chance of defeating the SNP, then Scottish nationalism can be defeated decisively. If the price of that is a Labour government it is a price worth paying, not least because we are liable to get a Labour government no matter what we do.

If you had offered me the prospect of the SNP losing more than thirty seats in early 2023, I would have told you it was impossible. I expected trench warfare with the SNP to continue indefinitely, but we can break through their line and send in the cavalry and turn the SNP’s retreat into a rout.

Don’t take anything for granted. Polling is unreliable as pollsters routinely manipulate data and it has not much more relation to truth as divination by means of chicken entrails. No one has won anything yet.

If like me you have been in the fight from the beginning, this is the moment to take advantage of the SNP’s weakness. Think carefully about how to use your vote to gain what you want in your constituency.

The SNP has a new dull leader who has never achieved anything. It has a dreadful record in government and has changed Scotland for the worse not least by bringing a level of corruption and incompetence to government that was unimaginable when I was a child.

If we don’t punish the SNP now, we will deserve all that follows. We have the chance of permanent peace, we have the chance to move on from the division in Scotland. Take it.

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