Double Double Toil and Trouble - A Yes/Leave view of the general election

Double Double Toil and Trouble - A Yes/Leave view of the general election

by William Ross
article from Friday 28, July, 2017

SINCE I LAST WROTE for we have had a momentous election, which disappointed me in many ways. Wearing my "Yes" hat, I was disappointed (and frankly surprised to some extent) about the serious SNP losses. Wearing my "Leave" hat, I was disappointed that we are left with a weak minority Westminster government when British strategy and resolve needs to be at its strongest. Lastly, as a citizen, I was deeply disappointed that a problematic figure like Jeremy Corbyn got 40 per cent of the UK vote and is now leading Theresa May in polling. Any failure to implement Leave will represent a crisis in our democracy.

For the first time in my life, I had serious trouble in knowing how to vote. My postal vote sat unmarked until Wednesday 7 June. I saw the choice as being between defending Brexit and preserving the frail mandate of Indyref2. With no enthusiasm, I followed the habits of a lifetime and voted SNP. I thus supported a trendy, lefty, Europhile party. A fair amount of gnashing of teeth was involved. I thought the English would take care of Brexit. They did, in a funny way.

Much can be made of the collapse in the SNP vote. But the phenomenon is curious. There was a significant move to the Tories, particularly in the North East but very little from SNP to Labour. The real damage to the SNP was done by the fifth of our 2015 voters who failed to show up at all. And it could have been much worse. A couple of thousand additional SNP votes lost could have horribly multiplied the damage. Clearly my party rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, to put it mildly. Why exactly? 

Well principally, as all Unionist parties correctly understood (and also many Nationalists!), there is absolutely no appetite in Scotland for an early pre-Brexit Indyref2. Theresa had said "Not Yet" to Nicola's reckless demand for a Section 30 order in March, 2017 with a referendum to be held in late 2018 or early 2019 after the Brexit terms became known. If Nicola's request had been granted, campaigning would have started virtually immediately.  By Nicola's lights, Theresa's "Not Yet" should have triggered a torrent of Scottish patriotic fury. Quite the contrary! Vehemently anti-Indyref 2 Unionists beat the SNP/Greens by nearly two to one in votes. Speaking as a Nationalist, I am very pleased that Theresa did not take up Lynton Crosby's advice and bring Nicola to battle in an early referendum. It would have been a Flodden of SNP hopes. At least we dodged that bullet!

The current SNP looks very much like a party which has been in power in Holyrood since 2007 and which talks and thinks in bubbles. The leadership seem to believe that Scotland`s 62 per cent Remain vote is a genuine deep Europhile constituency when most Remain voters in my view never understood the real nature of the EU and were moved by Project Fear. While most may still disagree with the Leave vote many want Brexit to be implemented. If Remain voters had really felt otherwise, then support for independence would be in the sixties or seventies because we must remember that a near majority of Scottish Leave voters were also Yes Supporters. Many of the half million SNP supporters who stayed home in GE 2017 were certainly angry Yes/Leave voters tired of being called thick and xenophobic. Never in the field of British politics has a political party so brutally, continuously and brainlessly demonised its own core support. Still, the Tories did come a good second with their astonishing attack on pensioners!

Nicola Sturgeon now states that her immediate emphasis is on keeping Scotland in the Single Market as part of the UK. Oh No! There are so many objections to this ludicrous scheme that it is hard to know even where to start. Firstly, as a political matter, all Scottish Tory and Labour votes were cast for parties supporting Lancaster House Brexit (UK leaves both Single Market and Customs Union) and allowing Scotland to stay in the Single Market while RUK exited would mean inevitable Scottish independence. Secondly, the EEA Treaty would have to be amended to allow a non-state to become a member. The UK would have to try to negotiate this in parallel with Brexit. Fantasyland?  The third objection might be termed "worst of all". Let us for argument sake only assume that the SNP is correct in its argument that the UK leaving the Single Market will be devastating for Scotland`s economy. Let us further assume (for argument only!) that the UK will not be able to conclude a meaningful FTA with the EU. That means (in Nicola`s logic) that the UK will be massively prejudiced by Brexit induced trade barriers. In such a scenario, if Scotland remains in the Single Market, Scotland will suffer from these same barriers in attempting to trade with RUK. The RUK as an export market for Scottish goods and services is four times more important to Scotland than the EU!  Scotland in the UK and the Single Market is a worthless blind alley and will be seen as another political stunt.

The SNP keeps on inventing Brexit myths. The fact that the SNP won a majority of Scottish seats in the 2017 seemingly completes a "triple lock" on Indyref2? There is no  acceptance that Unionists beat us two to one in the popular vote and that winning a majority of Scottish seats in these circumstances means very little in constitutional terms. Ignoring the fact that some 85 per cent of the UK electorate voted for parties supporting Lancaster House Brexit (as did a clear majority in Scotland) Nicola tells us that "Hard Brexit is dead in the water".  Something does appear to dead in the water but it is not Brexit, more like Scottish Independence in Europe. The SNP wants a seat at the Brexit negotiating table, but this is a total red herring. It is quite impossible for the UK negotiating team to include members who want radically different things from HMG. That’s simply nonsense! The UK Government is strongly criticised by the SNP for saying that "No deal is better than a bad deal". I am constantly engaged in commercial negotiations and it is elementary that you will never be able to negotiate any deal unless you are willing to walk away. David Cameron tried the "Any deal is better than no deal" approach with the EU and look what it got him. Diddly Squat, as someone said.

There are  some signs of realism creeping into the Nationalist mind-set. Euro-scepticism is increasingly being expressed from the left. Jim Sillars was an early leader but he is supported by Alex Neil and euro-sceptic noises are being made by figures in the far left such as Colin Fox, Cat Boyd and Carolyn Leckie. Significantly, the lead article in the recent Bella Caledonia magazine was a "Lexit" piece by David Jamieson of Common Space. Unfortunately, there are no public euro-sceptic voices from the  Nationalist Centre and Centre Right. There are precious few such voices in Unionism either, for that matter.

What about the Tories? It was a tremendous result for them in Scotland. So congratulations are in order. And yet... the party won on a single compelling message: "No to Indyref2" or was it "No to early Indyref2"? In my view, the party dodged the major strategic question, which was does Nicola have a mandate to call Indyref2 at all? Remember that before the election, Davidson and Mundell, as well as Theresa, explicitly and implicitly (in Theresa's case) agreed that there WAS such a mandate. What does the GE 2017 mean for the mandate argument? Did a majority of Scottish voters reject Indyref 2 for ever or only for now? It may well be that the SNP will need to revalidate the mandate in the next Scottish elections. The Scottish Conservative and Unionist party should drop the word " Conservative".

Beyond Indyref2 I was disappointed by the Scottish (and UK) Conservatives. The campaign was a disaster. How could anyone expect to win the great British debate that is the GE if they refuse to debate? Why attack pensioners explicitly? Why not make the case for low taxes and free markets? Being involved in upstream oil and gas I could not believe that the Tories supported capping energy prices! I was genuinely disturbed after the election was over to hear Ruth Davidson demanding that the UK now stay in the Single Market despite that fact that every single Conservative MP was elected on the basis of leaving it. For the first time in my life, I thought about voting Tory precisely to protect Lancaster House Brexit. Just as well I didn't do that then!  It was also surprising to hear Ruth critique the right of Ulster's Loyalist population to participate in a UK Government. I could  be wrong, and it's early days, but I am not greatly impressed with the intake of new MPs though there are exceptions. I hope that Ross Thomson sticks to his Brexit principles. What sort of authority does Ruth Davidson have over Scottish Tory MPs? 

The key unexpected trend  of the election was the surge of young people voting for Jeremy Corbyn. So many people said that he seemed authentic, particularly seen against his wooden "strong and stable" opponent. I am of an age when I look at what someone has done rather than what they say. Frankly, I think a lot of millennials were taken in. The Glastonbury crowd hailed a man who had lionised the Communist dictator of Cuba who had banned pop music. Gay rights advocates voted for the man who befriends Hamas and Hezbollah.

The young Remain crowd voted for Westminster's longest standing Brexiteer who went on to fire junior government ministers for Brexit rebellion. The people who were concerned about the Tory – DUP alliance were happy to vote for a life-long Sinn Fein supporter. I think we have hit Peak Labour. Major warring will shortly break out on re-selection and Brexit, and divisions between London and provinces will sharpen. The Scottish party will go into its own meltdown. The Tories will never be so ineffective again surely.

The single most important thing is for the UK Government to successfully conclude Brexit on Lancaster House principles. Anything less will be a betrayal of the Leave vote. It there is to be a transition period, the reasons for it must be explained and it must be short and subject to a definite end. Deluded elitists say that Brexit is tearing the UK apart. One thing that is clear to me is that if Brexit is indeed thwarted by conniving elites then that WILL signal the end of the UK in the worst possible circumstances. The lion would have laid down and died without a whimper. We will become a humiliated Euro-Province. It is Brexit or broke. 

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