“… former members of the International Marxist Group, a bus load of town councillors, party apparatchiks, fading TV presenters and welfare rights officers. But among the Braveheart dreamers, useless time-servers and local authority drongos arriving in Westminster are some seriously ambitious Scots on the make.”
So spaketh Private Eye in the latest issue in regards to Team 56, after a predictable sang on Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh which should fit right in with their interminable “Salmond Loves Murdoch” gong-bashing. I’ve gotten past my initial anger at Private Eye after the Wakefield scandal and the growing disillusionment as it seemed clear they were toeing the Establishment line in regards to the referendum almost by default: now, all I can do is laugh, for as with Wakefield, poor old Eye are very much on the wrong side of history here.
Those members who are not “Scots on the make” they call “Braveheart dreamers, useless time-servers and local authority drongos.” One wonders what bench my MP would sit on: naturally I’d consider him very much a Scot on the Make, but I’m sure he’d accept Braveheart dreamer given those fanciful dreams of self-determination brought him this far! Yet most of those very same “dreamers, time-servers and drongos” can boast a far greater mandate than the vast majority of MPs in the rest of the UK on multiple levels. I’m going to list a couple of amazing statistics about Team 56 which somewhat belies the dismissive attitude of Lord Gnome:
- Only 15 constituencies had swings under 20%: that leaves 29 constituencies with 20%+ swings, and another 12 which had 30%+ swings. For context, the largest swing record in post-war UK elections was Merthyr Tydfil at 20.83%, in the 1970 General Election. 41 of the 56 SNP MPs beat that record comfortably in 2015. How’s that for “dreamers”?
- Aside from the 3 unsuccessful candidates, only 2 constituencies gave the SNP candidate under 40% of the vote (Edinburgh West and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk), and only 21 had under 50% of the vote. This means no less than 35 SNP MPs had an overall majority – even if every other party tactically voted against them, the SNP would still have won those constituencies. Not bad for “useless,” eh?
- The SNP candidate holds a 5,000+ majority in 49 seats – that’s 5,000-10,000 in 22 seats – and a 10,000+ majority in another 27 seats! That leaves only 7 seats with less than a 5,000 majority.
- Only 6 SNP MPs have majorities less than 10%; 22 SNP MPs have 10%+ majorities; 23 have 20%+ majorities; and no less than 5 have majorities over 30%.
- Two constituencies were significant outliers for different reasons: Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk. Na h-Eileanan an Iar has a significantly lower population than any of the other 56 SNP-voting constituencies leading to a turnout of 15,938, was the only constituency with less than 15,000 votes for the SNP, and also had the 3rd smallest swing to the SNP, yet it was still enough for Angus MacNeil to gain 54.1% of the vote. Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk had by far the tightest contest, with only 328 votes between success and failure for Calum Kerr.
- Of the 6 SNP incumbents, 5 were the 5 lowest SNP swings (Moray 2.38%, Perth & North Perthshire 4.36%, Na h-Eileanan an Iar 6.46%, Angus 8.3%, and Banff & Buchan 10.48%), with the first 4 being the only SNP constituencies to have swings under 10%. This is natural, given that they already had strong bases to build upon from their successful 2010 elections. Nonetheless, every incumbent SNP MP had over 49.5% vote shares, and majorities over 17.79% (both Moray.)
- An SNP candidate won in 11 constituencies despite being 3rd place in 2010 (Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock; Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross; Central Ayrshire; Dumfries & Galloway; Dunfermline & West Fife; Glasgow North; Glasgow North West; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey; Ross, Sky & Lochaber; Stirling; and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine)
- Even more amazingly, the SNP won 10 constituencies where they were 4th place in 2010! (Aberdeen South; Argyll & Bute; Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk; East Dunbartonshire; East Lothian; East Renfrewshire; Edinburgh North & Leith; Edinburgh South West; Edinburgh West; North East Fife)
- The number of constituencies with a turnout lower than 60% (Glasgow Central 55.4%; Glasgow North East 56.8%) was the same as those with turnouts over 80% (East Renfrewshire 81.1%, East Dunbartonshire 81.9%).
- 48 of the 56 constituencies have never been represented by the SNP at Westminster before.
- The last time a single party won 50% of the Scottish vote was in 1910 (53.6% for the Liberals) which, coincidentally, was also the last time the Liberal Party gained the largest vote share and number of seats at Westminster. The highest Labour vote in Scotland was 49.8% in 1966.
“Dreamers, time-servers and drongos” they may be – but they’re dreamers, time-servers and drongos the people of Scotland back, to a degree that makes the Conservatives’ majority based on a pitiful 37% vote pale in comparison.
Something is happening in Scotland that the rest of the UK has yet to truly cotton onto. How many new MPs in England & Wales were elected on a swing of over 10%, let alone 20%? How many have over 50% of the vote? How many have majorities over 10%? How many constituencies had a turnout of over 50%, let alone 60%, 70%, 80%?
I came across a particularly interesting article about voter turnout in 2015 election. Basically, if one takes non-voters into the equation, and consider those lack of votes to be “anti-votes” in favour of a hypothetical Apathy Party, then this apathy party would have an outright majority in the House of Commons with 345 seats. And remember, this has been the highest turnout for a UK election since 1997. But what’s even more interesting is how this would – or would not – affect Scotland: the SNP would lose “only” 6 of the 56, while every other party aside from the Conservatives (with 208) would have 45 altogether. In other words, the SNP would have more MPs throughout the entire UK than New Labour, the Neo Lib Dems, and everyone else combined.Why? Low turnout affected New Labour far more than the Conservatives – and at the risk of doing yet another autopsy on a party whose life or death I no longer care about, that is what killed New Labour. Not the SNP, not even the Tories – New Labour completely failed to engage the electorate, to give them someone worth voting for.
Private Eye’s failure to see the cascading optimism gripping Scotland is understandable: after the betrayal of the Neo Lib Dems, they’ve seen no cause to shake off their mantle of cynicism keeping them sane against the gibbering monstrosities devouring our democracy. Hence why they make little barbs comparing Nicola Sturgeon to Nick Clegg, pointing out how “powerless” the 56 SNP MPs would apparently be, and the usual tiresome Nat jokes: they don’t share our optimism. Not only that, but since they cannot share it, they cannot appreciate it anywhere else: it is either foolhardy naivete, or tainted with sinister undertones. They’ve been in the cave so long, they cannot even recognise the shadow of hope dancing on the walls.
Gnome is right about one thing, though: there are Scots on the Make. Thing is, it isn’t just in Westminster you can find them: they’re all around. Communities are waking up. Business people, public servants, writers, artists, actors, musicians, the disabled, the unemployed, families, young and old, all becoming more politically and socially active to a degree unheard of in recent memory. They’ve decided they won’t settle for the crumbs of the Westminster parties. They’ve decided they’re not going to just let their politicians off the hook without a fight. They’ve decided to make something of themselves as a people – as a nation.
We are all Scots on the Make.