And there it is – democracy in action confounding the pollsters, the parties and, judging by the surprised faces of Cameron and Osborne, even the Tories. Bloody hell, Sam…where did that come from?
The answer, in broad geographic terms, is southern England, an area that is home to the wealthy and sorted. There are spots of red there, notably in multi cultural London, but mostly it is a satisfying Royal blue. West and north there are great brushstrokes of, call it Blood red, before the monumental sweep of yellow…or is it a more piquant Mustard shade. Tory Britain has reasserted itself, bestowing on an old Etonian the distinction of an outright win to carry forth their hopes of (I’m checking the file here) self preservation. At least that’s how it appears in my desk index but in Central Office it goes under A for Austerity which translates as redistributing to the comfortable and making an example of the unqualified and the artisan. The former is Hard Working Family and the latter the Benefit-dependant. In the 21st century class war the Haves are winning hands down.
You can fob off the comparisons if you like but a union official told me today that the trades union comrades are planning their own Thatcher era resistance to the imminent onslaught they now expect. Leaving it to elected representatives – including an SNP anxious to play its role at Westminster in impeccable style – is ruled out. It’s Back to the Eighties – Tories Out.
The hard-to-grasp bit isn’t the SNP flood, but the abject failure of Labour and Left politics in general in England. The context of GE15 – crippling austerity, food banks, zero hours contracts, campaigns to help bankers, Trident renewal, child poverty, the slowest recovery on record – was like a script crafted by the Webbs – Beatrice and Sydney – directed by Marx and edited by Keir Hardie. You could foment a revolution based on that lot. But, through faint hearts, fear of the very machinery of authority the party was born to contest, and febrile leadership devoid of charisma, they bungled the chance to rescue the hopes of working class Britain. They stuck to numbers and arid economics insisting on parroting the neo liberal claptrap of the City and their friends the Conservatives who will always sound better at it than Labour. A poor leader, hamstrung by cruel public perception, and a finance minister who never really tried to remove his fingerprints from the Brown economic farce, were the public face of a confused campaign.
In some ways, thank God the SNP don’t have to prop them up. That could have been embarrassing. At least Miliband was decisive in defeat and walked. That’s leadership – but it doesn’t apply to the branch manager whose wheedling about not enough time and it’s somebody else’s fault fits perfectly the careerist we’ve come to know. I hope he does stay. There can be few better weapons than a confirmed loser leading the opposition.
If Cameron had any imagination or humility he would have taken Nicola Sturgeon aside quietly in a Whitehall Office after the Cenotaph today and said: We need to talk. The messages are already mixed – first it’s One Nation Toryism and then it’s Smith implemented in full. Oh good. Cameron’s really in touch then…
Here we have the perfect storm – a No vote close enough to be a warning – and now an avalanche of votes for the champions of Home Rule. The message is screaming – Scotland wants Devo Max – without the trickery, the Treasury memos and the Labour Party vetoes. Only the most myopic diehard could fail to hear the message because behind it is the clear warning…if not, it’s independence round two. I believe Cameron failed the test of leadership on becoming PM and should have met with Salmond to find common ground on devolution. I fear he will fail again with Sturgeon, lacking the imagination as he does, lounging feet up on the desk as hero of the hour. If he values the UK, he must see it is now in more ‘danger’ than ever.
Watch out too for the media to turn to the Barnett Formula as a means of punishing Scots. For voting SNP, we will be told that England pays the bills, so be very careful, Jock. Start getting your evidence together now for the storm will break all over again.
And well done the people who played their part in the greatest election victory in our history. I now imagine any part of Scotland from Coatbridge, East Kilbride, Edinburgh, Glenrothes, Sutherland, Perth, Ayrshire or Skye and know they voted SNP. The parade of faces who have been swept away swim into view and my sympathy for their rejection is tempered by memories of how much I wanted them removed. There will be two new clubs formed – one for the three who won against the SNP and one for the three sad Nationalists who didn’t win May 7. You can’t win ‘em all.by