I’ve just woken up to the sun shining brightly over Loch Ness, as the final results of the General Election trickle in from around England.
At around 6am I headed to bed with only one Scottish seat left to declare, and its announcement looking likely to bring the total number held by the SNP to a staggering 56 out of 59 possible.
It’s important to reiterate just how incredible this outcome is. Some of the safest Labour seats in the UK have fallen to the SNP, mere months after a ‘no’ vote in an independence referendum. The seven seat stronghold in Glasgow has been swept aside with seemingly remarkable ease, colouring the city yellow – along with much of the rest of the country. Between them, Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories now only have three representatives. The record breaking swings to the SNP were so large that they broke the BBC’s swingometer.
Where once household political names would be relatively safe from such shifts in the political landscape by virtue of their recognisability, it seems like that prominence may only have served to aid in their downfall. Danny Alexander has gone, Jo Swinson has gone, the Scottish Labour Party leader has gone, and the former shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has gone, losing to a 20 year old politics student. It’s fascinating.
Even as the losses piled up, Labour Party members seemed unable to deal with the idea that they have fundamentally lost the confidence of the Scottish people – taking swipes at the SNP rather than asking themselves what the hell just happened. Scotland doesn’t belong to Labour, and the continuing failure to comprehend that by entitled politicians has doubtless played a significant part in their downfall. It wasn’t a ‘rise in nationalism’ that crushed Labour, as Ed seems to think. Labour have done this to themselves.
This isn’t just about standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories as part of Better Together (though that certainly has been an element), it’s about a complete inability on their part to speak up for Scotland in Westminster: instead, working as a branch office of the British Labour Party. The Scots are fed up of their hollow promises. My now ex-MP who held his seat for 15 years voted to invade Iraq, against any investigation into the war, for national ID cards, and even to raise University tuition fees in England. Typical of the toxic sort of politics that has no place in post-indyref Scotland. Oh, he’s also the one who said that he was ‘bored with politics‘ just last week. Jog on pal.
As the results came in over the night, there was a markedly different mood between my Scottish and English friends. The former were abuzz with excitement and anticipation, whilst the latter despondent and almost disconnected from the whole thing. It’s not hard to see why this might be, given the bleak choice that faced those on the left. Miliband wasn’t just a weak opponent, but one who has spent so much time trying to appease Middle England on issues like immigration that red has seemingly just become another shade of blue. If I was down south, I couldn’t have brought myself to vote for him, tactically or otherwise.
It may seem strange to be celebrating a landslide SNP victory in Scotland when the Tories are currently finalising a majority from votes in England, but for the Scots, having no real impact on those who hold power in Westminster has always been the case. Given this, seeing real change sweep across Scotland became the most exciting and important thing, not whether we got Cameron, Miliband, or some other cookie cutter Prime Minister that we didn’t vote for anyway. The ‘roch winds blew through the Great Glen of Scotland tonight’. The established political wisdoms no longer apply here, and it’s exciting.
For all of that though, when the dust clears we will still be faced with the decidedly grim prospect of another 5 years of Tory governance. It’s incredibly unlikely that we will see ‘some sort of federal offer’, as Boris Johnson has suggested. Instead, what we definitely will see is a concerted attack on civil liberties, with the Tory tongues already drooling at the prospect of scrapping the Human Rights Act. We will see more hateful rhetoric around immigrants, with the currently ludicrous and contradictory system being stacked even more against British citizens with non-EU spouses. We will see a referendum in 2017 that could ultimately rip Scotland out of the European Union against the wishes of the people, and directly in the face of that membership being hailed as one of the benefits of remaining in the Union.
Ultimately, last night was a clear statement of how politics in Scotland have shifted. There could yet be a revolution, but things are going to get worse before they get better. We have a fight on our hands.
4 thoughts on “General Election 2015: The aftermath ”
The worry for those who aren’t in favour of independence has to be that this pushes Labour further to the middle ground, as it has to make up all its Scottish losses in England, which further exacerbates the political divide between England and Scotland. The dynamic for independence is very strong if we stick with FPTP. English-centric parties will confront Scottish parties with little to lose if they face the smaller Scottish parties down and ignore them. They can even gain from English voters: this is where the Conservatives and UKIP are already.
I wonder if either Labour and Tories are clever enough to understand that the choice is between PR (and having a reason to compete for Scottish votes) and a (maybe not so) long road to Scottish independence?
Interesting thoughts Jim, thanks for commenting.
> I wonder if either Labour and Tories are clever enough to understand that the choice is between PR (and having a reason to compete for Scottish votes) and a (maybe not so) long road to Scottish independence?
If the Tories or Labour did decide to bring in a proportional system, it would benefit them both massively in Scotland – but harm them elsewhere in the UK. Selfish party interests mean that they wouldn’t let this happen. A lot of the talk about introducing PR in the wake of the results has come down to the flaws of the system being exposed so visibly by the Scots shifting from Labour to the SNP. Rather than it being seen as something that needs to be dealt with for general equality’s sake across the UK, the Tories (and Labour) again used anti-Scottish rhetoric as a scare tactic to galvanise their voter base in the largest population centre – England. That makes sense if you are dealing with a disparate minority group of people, but not in the context of a whole country within a political union.
Because of all of this, I believe that whether there is electoral reform or not, Scottish independence is now almost an inevitability. The mindset of the Westminster parties mindset is so entrenched that they are doing the SNP’s job for them. The only real thing that would conceivably stop this would be for there to be a substantial transfer of real powers to Holyrood. Boris seems to have realised this, with his statements about how there has to be ‘some sort of federal offer’. I doubt that we’ll see anything like it though.
p.s. I’m all for PR.
An interesting blog and there is a lot for those of us in the Labour Party to think about. In terms of PR, I would have to say that given the experience of when we introduced PR for local government, there has been a reluctance to re-visit this issue, though given recent events that view might change.
Thanks Bernard, I’ve thought some more about this and posted a follow up: http://angry.scot/2015/05/10/proportional-representation-wont-save-the-union/