The Downside Up

I had this election all wrong. It seems so obvious in retrospect.

This was never about the EU negotiations, of course – though this result undoubtedly wrecks what little clout the UK Government had. It may have been about the Prime Minister destroying Jeremy Corbyn and his party for a generation or more, with the might of the British Establishment brought to bear, even though a majority is a majority, which they already had. A more cynical explanation could be that it was to dodge the then-incoming election fraud allegations. What I didn’t realise is that this election was most assuredly about crippling the SNP – and stopping a second independence referendum.

Consider: how many Labour heavyweights were ousted last night? I can’t think of a single one. Then consider the SNP figures we lost. How many seats did the Tories lose compared to the SNP? They lost 12 to the SNP’s 21. How was it that, in a UK General Election, a party contesting only 59 seats lost more than a party contesting over 600?

Well, it makes sense once you realise that Labour weren’t the target in this election – it was the SNP all along.

Theresa May foolishly thought that Corbyn would be an unmitigated failure, and with all the sycophantic toadies in the right-wing press and the supposed public broadcaster aiding and abetting their character assassination, they surely thought England was in the bag. Scotland, however…

Corbyn was no challenge to May come Prime Minister’s Questions. Watson, O’Donnell, Abbott, Rayner, Starmer, Chakrabarti – the Tories thought them useless, not worth bothering about, easily brushed aside like so much chaff. But Angus Robertson, Alex Salmond, Pete Wishart, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Mhairi Black – they not only held their ground, they made mincemeat of the phony Prime Minister’s arguments, showing her up for the thoughtless soundbyte dispenser that she is.

The Labour heavyweights returned, many with greatly increased majorities. And the Tories let them, for they thought they had England in the bag (which would prove a nasty shock for former leadership candidate Michael Gove). But they needed to get rid of the SNP. So they targeted Moray, Gordon, Perth, Renfrewshire, the Borders – places where they were the only competition to the SNP, and they flooded them with relentless campaigning, desperate to unseat the real opposition in the House of Commons. A UK-wide operation with the vast coffers of the Conservative Party and its billionaire donors? Even the mighty SNP would struggle against such power. So we saw the Tories with a net loss of 12 seats nonetheless take 12 more seats in Scotland, while Labour’s heavyweights benefited from the Corbynite Maneuver.

And, indeed, some of our champions failed. The Tory onslaught of propaganda, misinformation, innuendo, threat, and terrorising was too much, and we were not strong enough to withstand them. Of course, the voters are ultimately responsible for who they vote for – the price and responsibility for democracy – but the party who fails must own their failure. From that perspective, the fight that Angus, Alex, Tasmina, Mike, Eilidh, Corri, Margaret, Kirsten, Paul, Richard, Calum, put up, was impressive and laudable.

So, everyone still surprised at Scotland electing Tories? Knock it off and wake up. The Tories have been creeping, slowly but surely, for years now, because the Tories are starting to pay attention to Scotland now – and not in the way we’d like.

Here’s David Cameron, following the Scottish Independence Referendum:

Nick Clegg warned that the referendum aftermath was in danger of becoming a complete disaster. He said bluntly that the Prime Minister was in danger of guaranteeing the break-up of the UK, with the only beneficiaries being the SNP.

‘Look Nick'”, said David Cameron impatiently, “I just don’t care. We’ve only got one Conservative MP north of the Border. Let Labour sort it out. It’s now their problem.

Labour failed to sort it out in 2015. The Liberal Democrats long ago collapsed, and still haven’t recovered. So of course the Tories descended from their throne and hauled on their mantle, taking matters into their own hands. Labour and the Liberal Democrats could no longer act as a buffer between Scotland and independence – they would have to do it themselves. They convinced the people of Scotland they were their friends, their allies, their Defenders of Britannia – and of course some of the people of Scotland listened. This is what people like the Tories do – they contort the truth, skew the facts, make up stories, reshape history, knock down strawmen, anything and everything in order to achieve their ultimate goal of power. Sure, there are some people who vote for them knowing full well what they are and what they represent – but hundreds of thousands of voters, let alone millions in the rest of the UK? I refuse to believe that.

Not that Labour didn’t play their part in this election, of course. Thanks to the three UK parties’ united “Stop the SNP” message, no less than 13 Tories were elected. While we won’t know for sure, I do have to wonder if Labour are happy that the 6 seats they won are worth the 13 the Tories did, not a few which could have been stopped if Labour voters didn’t let the Tory candidate in the back door? Was granting the Tories a landslide and denying your leader a shot at Prime Minister worth stopping the hated SNP? Ian Murray seemed to take his victory as a sign against independence, rather than attributing it to his new leader – but then, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Yet there’s a vital lesson here, too. After the 2015 election, my few remaining Labour-voting friends were understandably deeply upset. One in particular thought my campaigning – the Devo Files in particular – was cruel, an attempt to deprive “good men and women” from their jobs. I didn’t see it like that, and while I took some shameful delight in a few individuals’ dethroning, it was not because I wanted to make them unemployed – it was because the SNP represented hope for the future. This wasn’t about “my guy beating your guy,” “my party beating your party” – it was about what I thought was best for the people of Scotland. Now that some of our heroes have lost their elections, we can say we know something of what Labour voters felt on the 8th May 2015 – that bewilderment, that feeling of betrayal and anger and sorrow at people we view as family being rejected by their electorate. It hurts like hell – not like 19th September 2014, nowhere near that – but it’s a horrid feeling that we can say we share with Labour voters. It’s something we must take to heart if we’re to have a hope of building support for Scotland’s future.

So, against what seems to be logical despair, take heart. We’re hurting, weeping, devastated at the loss of some of our finest voices from the UK Parliament, and their hardworking staff losing their jobs – but we’re still here, and there is an upside to the downer. For one thing, there is hope for the people of England and Wales – they watched what we Scots achieved in 2015, back when the Tories thought Labour had the SNP under control. They saw the opportunity for change, real change, and by thunder they grasped it tight. Those terrible words uttered by the triumphant Thatcher, “There Is No Alternative,” have splintered and shattered to the ground, Theresa May’s authority fractured into smithereens. The people of England woke up – not enough to grant Corbyn the largest number of seats, much less a landslide, but enough to rattle the Tories’ bones to the core. They did what we did in 2014 and 2015. We can do it again.

As for independence? We’ve seen now just how desperately frightened the Tories are. The great scalps the Tories claim as their trophies belonged not to Labour or Liberal Democrat juggernauts (Nick Clegg notwithstanding), but SNP figureheads. We were their prize, their dragons to be slain, their beasts to be subdued, their demons to be exorcised. We should be honoured, and heartened, that they fear us this much – over the hundreds and hundreds of Labour candidates, it was the SNP which they truly sought to vanquish. And yet, ultimately, they failed. Pete Wishart, the Tories’ number 1 target, was re-elected; so was Mhairi Black, another top target for the UK Government’s mantlepiece. The Tories contested 59 seats in Scotland, and won 13: the SNP won 35 – 59% of seats, an unambiguous overall majority. We know that the UK Government threw everything they had at Scotland, and they still failed. The Triple Mandate is secure.

After all, the only people who are claiming Indyref2 is dead are the people who insist on equating the independence movement to the SNP. Speaking as a member of the SNP, they couldn’t be more wrong. If it transpires that the British Nationalist Parties were so desperate to preserve the UK that snatching a Labour Government from victory’s grasp was deemed worthwhile, then they sorely underestimate the fragility of this Union – hanging by a thread. Clearly they think ousting our leaders from the UK Parliament will destroy us, cutting off the head of the Separatist snake. But they don’t realise – we don’t think like them. We are not beholden to our leaders they way Tories are, following Mummy’s every word for as long as she’s good to us and takes care of us. Our leaders are people like us – people from all walks of life, united in one great cause.

15 thoughts on “The Downside Up

  1. antmcg says:

    Nice post, thank’s for brightening an otherwise dark day.

  2. TheStrach says:

    Fantastic post. Although we’re disappointed we’ve still achieved our second best showing in a Westminster election ever. We’re still Number 1 with 59% of the seats in Scotland. If the Tories ever got that the MSM would be lauding a stupendous result.

    We’ve lost a few superstars but as you say we’re bigger than that and we still have magnificent performers such as Joanna Cherry and Pete Wishart.

    We’re not going away and will continue the fight with renewed vigour. The shambles at Westminster can only get worse and when Brexit hits the fan the Tories popularity will fall even further.

    Getting our freedom was never going to be easy and what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

  3. Alan Nicholson says:

    The best summary of GE 2017 Ive read so far!

  4. Seoras says:

    Excellent article, thanks. This election was the execution of Theresa May’s aim to “silence the extremists and separatists”.

  5. Fantastic! I think you are spot on with this especially what you say about the Tories needing to get rid of our strongest voices in Westminster, and I find it hard to belive it was done honestly!

  6. Douglas says:

    Well said,
    56 out of 59 was a fluke in 2015 the unionists were caught off guard. They wanted to revisit this and could be pretty certain of cutting SNP numbers down below 50 with a coordinated attack. Angus Robertson was a particular thorn in their flesh.

    Refusing to rule out IndyRef2 cost us seats but was the correct decision

    I am glad that the SNP did NOT give up on IndyRef2 and they must not do so now.

    If we had 50+ SNP MPs but had ruled out a referendum Scotland would be in a very desperate place.

    Maybe holding off asking for section 30 until the unfolding disaster is clearer would have been better but there was huge pressure from YES to get on with it and we didn’t know that the PM would call a snap election.

    Maybe a clearer explanation would help:
    ‘The way Brexit is being handled will be like hitting an iceberg, Now is not the time (!) to burn our lifeboat’.

    The SNP absolutely must not abandon IndyRef2.
    We paid the price of this principle and still won the majority of Scottish seats.

  7. This sounds spot on. Now, more than ever, SNP and Yesers must push back.

  8. Patrician says:


    That was a good read, lots of food for thought.

    I think that the election had been planned for a long time, only the timing of it was at May’s discretion. This was hinted at by the sacked advisor at the weekend. I also think that the Scottish element was a part of the plan but not the only reason for it.

    If I follow your line of reasoning I would argue that they weren’t interested in removing people who asked them a couple of embarrassing questions questions every week. Who ever sees those questions apart from a few anoraks? They wanted to ensure that the Scots couldn’t walk out of Brexit negotiations at any time, what is the point of negotiations if some of the strongest cards you own could just get up and walk away. The plan wasn’t to beat the SNP comprehensively, just reduce their majority to less than 30. The Tories would have been polling and focus grouping this in earnest since last year, hence the “Now is not the time” spiel. I am sure that Ms Davidson promised Mrs May that result and the rumbling we have heard since about Scot’s Tory MPs breaking away is Ruth protecting herself after failing.

    More by luck than judgement the Tories failed in Scotland (and in rUK) as no matter how they paint this the SNP ran a terrible campaign. I think that the SNP vote didn’t turn out, it didn’t go to other parties in any great numbers. The message from the SNP was this election isn’t about independence, If SNP don’t fight elections with independence at the core of campaign, what is their point? You might as well just vote labour or tory or stay at home. I think early on in this campaign the SNP decided they couldn’t win 56 seats again and didn’t bother fighting them all.

    The strategy that was used wasn’t good enough and someone somewhere has to put their hand up and take the blame and learn from it. There has to be a quick inquest into this as we could be back into another election before the year is out and to fight again with the same strategy is just asking to be wiped out next time. This needs passion and energy, attributes sadly missing from the campaign.

    Is the loss of 21 candidates a mortal blow to the SNP? No it isn’t but I don’t see the point of sending MPs to Westminster if they aren’t furthering the cause of independence.

    I also think the unionists who did fight this as a referendum are in serious problems now, they managed 1.6 million voter turnout with non-stop TV and election material. That is almost 50/50 in a real referendum and tallies with the opinion polls. As long as every one hold their nerve over the next year or two things are going to get very interesting.

    Apologies for the long post, and the lack of grammar and spell checking but I am venting a bit here.

  9. […] an interesting take in The Downside Up on A Wilderness of Peace a wonderful narrative of some of the strategies behind and GE17 is […]

  10. Robert Harrison says:

    If the snp dont push back its we who believe that scotland should govern itself that should do the pushing for indy as its we Who’d vote for that would bring it about not the msps and remember the promise of more powers got to hammer that home with independence holyrood would have all the powers 100% not what little it has the vow won it that September as yes was in the lead which lead to the vow being created

  11. […] Every major scalp May’s party claimed was SNP, not a single Coalition or Opposition Party big beast. In fact, they only won 4 seats from the Opposition Party – none of the four were particularly high-profile – and their sole trophy from the Coalition Party was from Zach Goldsmith’s old seat. The only Coalition figures of any consequence who did lose their seat (their Spokesperson for Wales, their Campaign & Communications Chair, and their former leader & Deputy Prime Minister) lost to Plaid Cymru & the Opposition Party. In fact, the UK Government gained more seats in Scotland than they did in England and Wales combined, more than twice over. Combine this with vastly increased campaign spending & presence in Scotland, and one could argue the UK Government were willing to jeopardise their seats in England and Wales in order to overturn the SNP’s remarkable 2015 result. […]

What're your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.