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.