Getting twitchy? You should be – the Tory ghouls are gathering and their slavering mouths are calling you out. You, Angus Robertson…be gone! You, Wishart…we will devour you! They’re cackling and mewling at all Nationalists now that you’re time is up. They’re coming to get you.
The Tories of course are the zombie party, the barely breathing husk of the Undead. They were supposed to return to the swamp and submerge for ever. They were on their way until a saviour arrived in the form of Labour who sacrificed themselves and gave them a blood transfusion. Woooo….(Can’t keep this up any longer)
One thing that’s noticeable is the tone of the Tory campaign and it’s most un-Tory. Tweets from Carlaw Jackson and Murdo Fraser sound petty and mean – ‘Smell the fear’, ‘Sturgeon squirming’. Others adopt the cruel tone of some Nationalists (re-sitting MPs) ‘Tick tock.’ Davidson alludes to her uniform and the IRA. A Tory MP tells a Scots schoolgirl to ‘fuck off back to Scotland.’ Tory blood lust has descended like a red mist. For them this isn’t the election of a government. It’s an act of revenge.
For the first time in twenty years those of a Tory persuasion are getting their own back. After a generation of humiliation in Scotland, the feeling has changed and things are looking up. The transfer of votes from Unionist Labourites is sending pulses through the moribund apparatus. And, as the Scottish election and the council elections showed, if the anti-Nat votes coalesce in the right places, the SNP can be defeated.
And that’s all they need to know. Just offering a threat is enough after a lifetime of hopelessness and failure. The one win they did get – in the indyref – was hollow as it merely confirmed just how strong the anti-Union forces now are. The issue teeters on the edge, at risk from the slightest tremor – Scotland’s political San Andreas Fault.
So there’s a demotic, chaotic sense to the Tory effort in which they appear as the outsiders, the insurgent raiding party storming the power base. (However ironic in light of events at Westminster).
I sense the Nationalist and progressive reaction to this is mostly disbelief. First, incredulity that anyone with centre-left sensibilities could ever go Tory and second, that it doesn’t make logical sense. The Tories are anti-Europe. They have strangled the economic life out of working families. Public servants use food banks. They continue to hack at essential benefits while subsidising big business. They stand for grammar schools and fox hunting, for nuclear weapons and arms sales. They are heading for tripling the national debt. The NHS is being privatised. They haven’t lifted us out of austerity yet, 10 years on. Their Brexit policy is already cutting household budgets and putting up prices. In Scotland they have nothing you can describe as a policy and no one outside three or four people you could name.
It doesn’t make sense, right?
Well, think of it this way. If you can honestly say you hate the SNP and their rise frightens you. If you believe deeply that Scotland is in no state to be independent and that to argue the case is dangerous and delusional. If you imagine your whole way of life and your identity is acutely threatened – then it begins to make sense.
This is the flip side of Scottish Nationalism which vocally damns the Tories and laughs at Labour. Most Nationalists don’t, or rather can’t, know for sure what the morning after independence would bring but we believe in ourselves and our ability so that’s alright. The manifestations of Union are detested – Westminster, the right-wing media, British hubris – just as virulently as Tory Unionists and their new-found ex-Labour supporters loathe Sturgeon and Holyrood.
Base emotions play a key role in voting and often override policy considerations. Hating the other side is as powerful a motivation as any other and, as I’ve said before, I have heard expressions of hostility from otherwise sane people. This looks like a time of reaction and, if so, it has been a long time coming. The SNP has defied the laws of politics to stay on top so long. Some rebalancing is overdue so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
On the other hand, it still doesn’t look like a decline in SNP support so far as I can see. Rather it is a transfer of votes from a failing party into another causing a realignment. The effect though will be felt differently in places, with areas defending small leads over the Conservatives at risk of the waters breaking the banks.
But while I feel sanguine about much of this as part of the great wheel of fortune that is politics, I harbour deeper feelings of concern about where the result of this General Election is taking us.
Brutal, simple messaging like No Second Referendum or Theresa Not Jeremy mask what is really happening. This is deliberate. Like the EU referendum, we are not debating the policy direction of the country – instead we are playing the game of the party schemers and spinners whose job is to win, not inform nor enlighten. Behind-the-scenes manipulators like Lynton Crosby don’t care what happens afterwards. He’s only paid to do everything possible to secure the votes that win the election.
It is we who will pay the price demanded of the winner.
Blinded by anti-SNP sentiment and sold on the upfront message, many voters won’t ask themselves what happens later. What do they imagine a Tory government ensconced for a decade at least is going to do? Look at the signs already visible from a Prime Minister running a tight policy-making cabal who had to be dragged to the Supreme Court so Parliament could have a say in the biggest decision in forty years.
Freed from effective scrutiny, is she going to bow to opinion on Scotland? Isn’t that what Not Now meant? She means all other decisions will wait until she has control of all the power and she has completed the surgery removing the UK from Europe so can reshape the country in her neo-con image. The Supreme Court ruling confirmed that Scotland’s parliament is nothing but a lame beast of Westminster, vulnerable to being put down at will.
Assumptions that it will continue to shape different policies and be given the budget-raising powers needed to fund it need to be revised. Theresa May is no defender of devolution and a post-Brexit UK will be no place for distinctive devolved policies and institutions. Britain will be alone, climbing into the lifeboats, bobbing on stormy seas, when patience for dissent will be severely limited. It will be all for one – and that one will be a Tory-run Westminster.
Of course it may be that this adjustment in political sentiment will develop its own hybrid form and that the Tories will return to their original stance on Scottish devolution – against. It may be that those same Scots are tired altogether of Holyrood being at odds with London, and sick of arguments over referendums and finances and powers. Perhaps that’s where this is heading, back down the other side of the hill towards a British hegemony. Maybe the game is up.
I doubt it though. I truly doubt that the mood is running so strongly that MPs with considerable track records of achievement will be turfed out in favour of individuals with distinctly limited ability. Or that enough Labour and Lib Dem voters simply give up and swap over to an anti-Nat movement. There are enough people whose politics is philosophically grounded and enough with the foresight to see that, if for no other reason, Scotland needs the potential escape route offered by the EU until we can appraise the damage and benefits of Brexit. Labour and Lib Dem voters going Tory risk not only a damaging Brexit deal and closing off Scotland’s options, but undermining the whole devolution home rule project which was their own parties’ work. Voting Tory this time to oppose a possible referendum already approved by the parliament gives hope to those who would destroy the work of the originals…Kenyon Wright, Dewar, Wallace et al. Giving this anti democratic Tory Party votes based on a thin and transitory premise of preventing us from deciding democratically our future, will allow them to consign the Claim of Right to the dustbin of history. if we care, we must choose.by