Fantastic week at Westminster. Too many briefings to count and my mind if full to bursting but it will all take shape as the weeks progress. The parliamentary estate is very grand and I hesitate to post pictures because it may look like I am being seduced by my surroundings. I am not. Every room is on a grand scale, every hall is ornate, the corridors are long and elaborate but it’s an office block, a place to work and there is a job to be done 🙂
Ronnie Cowan, the new MP for Inverclyde, posted this to the Ronnie Cowan for Inverclyde Facebook page. Like his fellow MPs Mhairi Black, Natalie McGarry and the other members of The 56, Ronnie has been keeping in touch with his team and electorate while settling into his new job.
Yet Ronnie is anxious to reassure us that the genius loci of Westminster is not drawing him in with its siren song. He really didn’t need to.
There is an implicit understanding that no matter what baubles or trinkets or privileges the centuries-old establishment tosses at our feet in exchange for our souls, the prize we strive for is something they cannot give. An SNP MP goes down to Westminster with the express purpose of making his stay as short as possible – to make themselves ultimately redundant. I never felt the need to give Ronnie “the talk”: reminding him who got him there, what he was going there for, and what his ultimate aim is; gently warning him of the dangers of Westminster, urging him to be mindful and never be lead into temptation. He knows. He, of all the people of Inverclyde, knows. That’s why I voted for him, that’s why the SNP Inverclyde branch voted for him, and that’s why, in the end, the people of Inverclyde voted for him.
Even given the gargantuan scale of the SNP surge nationwide, you could be forgiven for thinking that even a monkey (or a donkey) with a yellow rosette could have won most of their seats. Deplorable pithecaphobia/donkalamitphobia aside, such a sentiment cannot be applied to Ronnie, for even given the SNPocalypse, he did very well in several regards. I put together a spreadsheet for the 56. So, in the SNP56 League Table, Ronnie Cowan claimed:
The 28th largest number of votes (24,585 of 44,607)
The 20th largest majority in terms of vote number (11,063 of 24,585)
The 18th largest majority in terms of percentage (24.8%)
The 17th largest percentage of votes (55.1%)
The 11th largest vote share increase for the SNP (+37.6)
The 9th largest swing to the SNP since 2010 (31.63 points)
Joint 9th highest turnout (75.2%)
Every result puts him in the top half of the 56, 5 in the top 20, and 1 in the top 10. For comparison, here are Number 1s in those brackets:
Largest number of votes: Falkirk (34,831 of 60,340)
Largest majority in terms of vote number: Falkirk (19,701 of 34,831)
Largest majority in terms of percentage: Dundee East (39.77%)
Largest percentage of votes: Dundee West (61.9%)
Largest vote share increase for the SNP: Glasgow North East (+43.9)
Largest swing to the SNP since 2010: Glasgow North East (39.28 points)
Highest turnout: East Dunbartonshire (81.9%)
Then you have to consider the range:
Vote (numbers): 8,662 (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) to 34,831 (Falkirk)
Majorities (numbers): 328 (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk) to 19,701 (Falkirk)
Majorities (percentage): 0.6% (Berwickshire, Roxburth & Selkirk) to Dundee East (39.77%)
Vote (percentage): 36.6% (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk) to Dundee West (61.9%)
SNP share increase: +8.7 (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) to +43.9 (Glasgow North East )
Swing: 2.38% (Moray) to 39.28 points (Glasgow North East)
Turnout: 55.4% (Glasgow Central) to East Dunbartonshire (81.9%)
So this means Ronnie was:
10,247 votes away from the largest number of SNP voters
8,639 votes away from the largest majority in terms of votes
14.98 points away from the largest majority in terms of percentage
6.9 points away from the largest percentage of votes
6.4 points away from the largest vote share increase for the SNP
7.66 points away from the largest swing to the SNP since 2010
6.8% away from the highest turnout
Then you have to remember that some of these are not just records for the 2015 General Election, but for the history of the UK. The people of Inverclyde acquitted themselves finely, going from one of the top Yes-voting constituencies in Scotland to among the top SNP seats. Good targets for 2020, eh?
I don’t doubt Iain McKenzie went down to Westminster with anything but the best of intentions, and for all my many criticisms of his term, I’m sure he did the best he could – and that’s part of the problem. Even if you’re a rebel like Katy Clark or Ian Davidson, there’s only so much you can do within the party system, tied to a party that explicitly puts the UK establishment before the UK people, and within an establishment that closes ranks at the first sign of trouble. I truly feel for folk like Anne Begg, Fiona O’Donnell, and even Katy Clark: they were doing what they thought was best for their constituents. Yet at the end of the day, they stayed loyal to New Labour, and New Labour destroyed itself – is continuing to destroy itself. When the party’s former leaders lament that it was Ed Miliband being too left-wing that scuppered their election chances, that Chukka Umunna is being considered the fresh new leader they need, and still banging the old “vote SNP get Tories” drum, you have to finally wonder if New Labour actually wanted to win at all.
I feel greatly for the people in England and Wales, who are yet again subjected to a Conservative government, this time without the supposed mitigating influence of the Neoliberals, and the first majority Conservative government in decades. But to be perfectly frank, I think any jubilation at New Labour getting in would be short-lived at best. Both parties are committed to the ruinous, discredited Austerity Cult; both parties committed to the destruction of the welfare state and the NHS started by Blair & Brown; both parties eager to engage in military adventures; both parties want greater restrictions and reduction of immigration; both parties still want to waste tens of billions on nuclear weapons. The only difference is in degree. Miliband in 10 Downing Street is the epitome of the iron fist in the velvet glove. At least Cameron bears his brutal hand openly and without shame.
If there’s a silver lining to a Conservative majority, I can only hope it galvanises the people of the rest of the UK into taking constructive, positive action. If New Labour won, there could have been a danger in people taking a “lesser of two evils” approach, excusing or ignoring New Labour’s destruction of civil liberties and right-wing policies for the simple reason that they’re “not as bad as the Tories.” That’s not good enough. The sooner people realised that, the better. The entire system needs up-ending, and voting in New Labour wouldn’t have done a damned thing for the vast majority of issues. To be frank, I don’t think it would’ve even helped having the SNP “prop up” a minority New Labour government in the end.
But that does not mean the SNP are powerless – far from it. The SNP were never going to be in coalition whoever was in government, and if anything, a Tory majority makes things clear and simple for us. New Labour blaming everyone but themselves for their disastrous showing proves that they would rather fail than even risk being seen as influenced by the SNP. And the SNP knew this, and prepared for it.
I had lunch with my new MP a few days before he started his new job. We went into a local cafe with his election agent, campaign manager, campaign co-ordinator, and me & my mam. We talked about his schedule, his plans, what he expected. He told us a few stories from his visit to the Forth Bridge, meeting Nicola again, chatting with his “neighbours” Patricia and Mhairi and Brendan. He had a big glass of milk with his dinner. We toasted to everyone’s hard work. He still couldn’t quite believe the result. On Monday morning, I caught the BBC news (aye, I know). The 56 were at Glasgow Airport.
My MP, my friend, was on his way to history.