Daily archives: May 7, 2022

Some Off-Beat Points on Thursday’s Elections 204

The Labour Party’s national projected vote share is 35%, which is the same as the Labour Party’s national projected vote share in 2018 under Corbyn. The “Starmer surge” is a lie, broadcast by the media to perpetuate the myth that a more radical Labour Party would be uniquely unelectable. Tory switching to Lib Dems, Greens or sitting at home helped Labour, but hardly represents Starmer enthusiasm.

(Projected vote share here means an extrapolation of swing trends to areas where no election took place to give a projected total if this were a general election, done by John Curtice.)

Starmer remains the neoliberal insurance policy. But do not go out and bet on him winning the next general election. The Lib Dems look like their vote could finally be recovering from their coalition disaster to something like their “normal” level, which should see them return as the main challengers to the Tories in those parts of Southern England where people do not speak Estuary English. The Greens made real and welcome progress, though from a very low base.

Northern Ireland is the real story of the elections, and I am absolutely delighted to see Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party. It is essential that the unionist knuckle draggers are not now allowed a veto on democracy and that we see Michelle O’Neill properly installed and functioning as First Minister. It should be noted that it is not only that we saw movement from SDLP to Sinn Fein and from DUP to Traditional Unionist Violence (I might have the name slightly wrong). Adding DUP, TUV and UUP together, there was a decline of over 3% in the total unionist vote, which is highly significant.

It is also worth noting that the election has just been won by parties which broadly support the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU. That ought to give pause to Tory efforts to abandon the Protocol, but it probably won’t. The EU, however, will undoubtedly have noted the election result and be strengthened in their opposition in any changes. The Toru hand is weakened, to say the least, given the elected Northern Irish leader is now on the EU side and not the UK side.

I have no doubt the Tories will be discussing with the unionists ways to contrive to prevent O’Neill becoming First Minister. A long period of direct rule by the ultra-unionist oaf Brandon Lewis MP may be in prospect. That will only hasten reunification.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru continue to make steady progress and the more left wing platform of Mark Drakeford continues to outperform Starmer in voter appeal.

As for Scotland – well I remain personally a member of the Alba Party, which continues to make no significant electoral impression. Voters maintain faith in Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP increased its number of councillors significantly. It was also a breakthrough for the Scottish Greens, if from a low base. The net result however is a significant net advance for pro-Independence parties over unionists. That is more important than Labour overtaking the Tories for second place. The alternative to Independence is Westminster rule by Tories. Scottish Labour is irrelevant to that.

After the election Nicola Sturgeon immediately started to make plain there is not going to be an Independence referendum in 2023. This is what she said:

“Look, the Alba Party didn’t register, I didn’t think it would register, I don’t think it’s ever going to register. You know, however much they may want there to be the groundswell of frustration with the SNP over progress to Independence, there’s not. Equally, I think sensible people know that however impatient they may be for Independence, there is no magic solution to make it happen, and you know Alba have actually been perpetuating a fiction on that, so I am not surprised… For me, my job is to get on with leading the SNP, leading Scotland and yes, I hope, leading the country towards Independence.”

Progress “towards” Independence is reduced to a “hope”. I defy anybody to claim those are the words of somebody who is about to launch an Independence referendum. She did not say “Alba are talking nonsense, there will be an Independence referendum next year as stated in our manifesto for the Scottish parliament.” Her words convey the opposite impression.

I would particularly ask you to note the major difference between “towards” – as opposed to “to” – in Sturgeon’s last sentence. That is not an accident.

Instead she positively scoffs at “impatience” and derides the notion that Independence can be quickly attained. The “fiction” which she says Alba are perpetuating is the claim – correct in international law – that Westminster has no veto on Scottish Independence. Sturgeon’s position remains that a referendum cannot be held without Boris Johnson’s say-so, which she knows will not be forthcoming.

Sturgeon seems supremely confident that her latest electoral success endorses her approach. That I think is the key question in Scotland after these elections. It is a question to which I do not know the answer.

Are the SNP voters, like Sturgeon herself, only paying lip service to the idea of Independence without being really concerned to attain it? Is voting SNP a kind of nationalist gesture with no real meaning, a never-ending journey “towards” Independence? Or is it that SNP voters have not noticed that the plausible Sturgeon is just stringing them along with no actual intention of reaching the destination?

I had fondly imagined that SNP voters would “see through” Sturgeon. But is her cosy nationalist posturing, as a colonial governor making a licensed show of nationalist thinking, all that SNP voters really desire?

I think the crunch point will come when she does, eventually, officially abandon the 2023 Indyref date. She will manage that to make it appear Johnson’s decision and then call for yet another “mandate” in the 2024 Westminster elections. I can see clearly what is unfolding, but it seems so far a charade which voters are happy to support.

On a happy note of karma, a notable swing in Glasgow from the SNP to the Greens saw Rhiannon Spear and Mhairi Hunter, two important Sturgeonites, lose their council seats. Both played a crucial role in the jailing of Manni Singh for starting a demonstration a few hours late.

As for Alba, I don’t know if I shall remain a member. There needs to be a vehicle for those for whom Independence is the genuine and overriding political priority, and plainly the SNP is no longer that party. But the ferocity and unkindness of Alba’s stance on trans people – and the extraordinary priority it puts on the issue in campaigning – is something with which I am entirely out of sympathy. I don’t expect to agree with every policy of a party which I join, but this is really very difficult for me. I shall await developments following these sobering elections.


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