Category Archives: Nicola Sturgeon

In the end it was the Brexit election, but not the one I expected

Well, I was wrong about two things at this election. I think a lot of us were. The first was the absence of a Tory majority, the second the absence of a Lib Dem fight back, which I wrongly predicted a couple of months ago at this blog. But yesterday morning told a fascinating tale nonetheless.

On April 19th, upon hearing Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap General Election, I wrote the following:

“This decision was fundamentally, and shrewdly, party political. But it could turn into a whole lot more than that. Since Brexit is now the hallmark of British politics, I expect the upcoming campaign to be a proxy; a second referendum of sorts.”

I think have been proved more or less correct by this statement, though not in the way that I expected. Before Thursday, and like most in the country, I predicted the securing of a comfortable Tory majority. I felt that Mrs May, hopeless as she is, had done just enough to remind Leave voters of what they voted for on June 23rd last year.

I thought that in appealing to the sensibilities of Brexit voters, especially with phrases like ‘respect the will of the British people’, the Conservative Party would enhance its electoral stronghold in Westminster and would win yet another General Election. How wrong and naive I was to the consequences of a poorly-organised political campaign.

It is true that the Tories managed 43 percent of the vote share, but voters ‘returning home’ made gaining a majority more difficult. After the shock of last summer, when support for parties was vastly more dispersed, voters thought it was safe to return to their traditional red and blue corners.

I thought that UKIP voters would rally behind Theresa May as she led the campaign for a so-called ‘hard Brexit’. This proved not to be the case, as I should have anticipated. I remember when I was a member of UKIP how many former Labour voters sat in local and regional party meetings. I knew that for UKIP, a Leave vote in the EU referendum was their self-destruct button, but I underestimated the ensuing flow of voters who returned to Labour. Perhaps many of them now have an understandable and instinctive mistrust of the Tory Party.

But this election did espouse many undertones of the referendum, which I now feel was a mistake (more on this soon). As results emerged, it became clear that many of the Remain-supporting pockets of the country had used the Labour Party as a means of diluting Brexit. In this sense, I would exercise caution over the notion that Corbynism has entirely hollowed Blairism out of Labour or its voter base.

Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise scooping of 262 seats, an increase of 30 on the total that his predecessor managed, reflected a number of different factors, but his desire to prioritise, for instance, membership of the single market over immigration and a Brexit focused on protecting consumer and worker rights will have appealed to many of the country’s supporters of EU membership.

These trends were noticeable mostly in England, where politics seems to be more tribal on the issue of the European Union. In Scotland, I was pleased to see, the Nationalists took the heavy hits I predicted and the colours on the electoral map are mixed once again. Ruth Davison deserves enormous credit for helping to turn nationalistic tides and reinvigorate support for the union. She has also shrewdly positioned herself as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party.

Mrs Sturgeon, on the other hand, whose position as leader of the SNP is becoming increasingly untenable, failed in her efforts to retain seats largely because Scottish voters are tired of her drive for independence, which was always a fake given her support for EU membership and which was rightly rejected in 2014. I also suspect that Scots saw her insistence on keeping Scotland out of Brexit as a constitutional danger and a cause of yet more political instability.

As the election campaign got under way, I had convinced myself (I now realise stupidly) that the Liberal Democrats would prove to be a significant force. But their night was surprisingly underwhelming. Even prominent figures like Nick Clegg lost seats, and in many seats the party failed to garner even 1,000 votes. This is perhaps a good example of a lack of translation between membership surges and votes.

Had the Lib Dems ditched plans to offer a second referendum, which would ransack the population of its faith in and enthusiasm for politics, and instead fought loudly and clearly for an exit centred around keeping Britain in the single market, they would indeed have gained more than 12 seats at this election. All we are missing now is a party that advocates holding a referendum on whether we should have a second referendum. Don’t hold your breath.

Remain voters quite clearly had their say at this election. Most shocking was the Tory-Labour switch in Kensington. I think our departure from the European Union has been compromised and cannot bring myself to trust Theresa May to negotiate our exit. And the price we pay at home? A minority government doomed to failure and backed up by the DUP. There is no other way to see it. This is a national embarrassment.

 


This election is oh so depressing

I am profoundly jealous of anybody who found an excuse not to watch yesterday’s pitiful TV debate between five of the country’s most uninspiring party leaders. I didn’t watch it expecting to be anything other than dismayed at the growing pile of political deadwood we now have in Britain.

It is made infinitely worse by how similar they all look. Tim Farron, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas are as irritating as they are indistinguishable from one another. They all, as far as I can see, have exactly the same beliefs.

They all sneer at the prospect of Britain being a self-governing, sovereign country once more. They all despise grammar schools whilst refusing to acknowledge the kinds of selection brought about by the massive and failed comprehensive experiment in education. They all support mass, uncontrolled immigration and the egalitarian wonders of multiculturalism.

But there is something else that unites them all so glaringly: none of them are even remotely electable. I am still surprised that broadcast time was allocated to them, given that the total number of MPs in England represented was 10 and neither of the two major parties took part.

Paul Nuttall, mediocre and paling in comparison to the charisma of Nigel Farage, stuck out, but that was to be expected from a UKIP candidate. It is time for their members to accept the now painfully obvious fact that they are no longer a purposeful or serious electoral force.

As always with these totally overhyped and underwhelming affairs, we were treated to two hours of spin from the Public Relations industry, whose agencies write the scripts and formulate the annoying slogans and soundbites that the live and televised audiences are showered with.

That, added to the fact that we already know which party will be victorious on June 8th, only helps to make this whole thing so utterly depressing. I now see the logic behind holding a snap General Election more clearly. The mobilisation of the non-blue parties was forced and feels so rushed and obligatory.

I wrote a few weeks ago that this election was a second referendum in disguise. I still hold that view, but I can’t describe myself as unsure about the result. Like readers, I know what will happen. The Conservative Party will expand on its majority, by perhaps 50 seats, the country will forget about the fraud it was proven to have committed during the 2015 General Election campaign and Theresa May will lead the country into its third post-war political era, whatever it hopes to look like.

(More on Theresa May very soon.)

The Tories, of course, don’t need to participate in meaningless debates, which I actually disagree with on the grounds that they reflect presidential systems and the UK’s localised, parliamentary format. I may not even feel it necessary to vote for them, since my constituency (Bexleyheath and Crayford) is both Leave-supporting and a relatively safe Conservative seat. After toying with this election for a few weeks, I now realise that there is simply no real need for me to vote.

For Labour, the principle target now ought to be to convince as many of its traditional voters as possible not to jump ship or abstain. Their defeat in June is inevitable, but a turnaround in the coming years (as we saw back in the 1990s) is more than possible. Much will depend upon who succeeds Mr Corbyn as leader later this year, provided of course, that he agrees to step down.

This election is a realisation of three things. Firstly, the neo-liberal consensus has been irrevocably altered. Secondly, the Conservative Party are embarking upon their second era of parliamentary dominance in the last forty years. And thirdly, that Brexit is now a Tory plaything; a policy they have total control over in Westminster and almost no yearning for in Brussels.

I left the party for a reason I am now sharply reminded of. I just can’t bring myself to trust them.


Nicola Sturgeon needs a legacy-defining moment, but won’t find one in independence

Realising that she has become the only major British politician without a legacy-defining moment, Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for a second Scottish Independence referendum are once again doing the rounds. This recognition must be especially difficult for her to stomach, since she came very close in 2014 to causing the biggest constitutional disruption to the United Kingdom in its history, only to be defeated two years later by an equally significant referendum result on our membership of the European Union.

In my view, Mrs Sturgeon has been hypocritical in her approach to both referenda. If independence was her goal, then an important step towards achieving that would have been securing a Leave vote back in June. The unfortunate contradiction in The SNP’s position on sovereignty is that, for it to reach the jurisdiction of Holyrood, it must first filter through Brussels, which, of course, isn’t sovereignty at all. This is perhaps one of the reasons for Ruth Davidson’s surge in popularity over the last twelve months. She is at least more believable than Scotland’s current First Minister, who doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between countries ‘working together’ and the ceding of parliamentary sovereignty.

Her rehashed insistence upon Scotland becoming independent is at least partly down to a feeling that she has been left behind, ostracised from considerable political change taking place around her. It is well known that politicians are vain, and there are good reasons for this. They must have the belief and self-assurance that they can enact important change and steer the country on a new course. It is not a job for the light-hearted. Mrs Sturgeon, coming off the back of two, humiliating referendum defeats, is desperate to reclaim some of the spotlight, and for her to have any truly meaningful political legacy, she simply must be able to persuade Scots to vote to leave British union.

Without seismic victory (and no, The SNP claiming a vast majority of Scottish seats at the last General Election is not enough), she will go down as a noisy loser, who talked the talk but who was, in the end, unable to walk the walk. I should say that in principle I understand the desire for independence. As somebody who considers himself a prominent and fairly central Leave campaigner last year, anybody should be intrigued by the opportunity for their country to govern itself. The question, though, is on what terms independence will be delivered.

Even after the country’s historic EU vote, I do not think that Scottish people will vote for a cessation of Britain’s union. The economic case for doing so will have been immensely weakened by a shocking fall (only partially recovered) in the value of oil in the 18 months following 2014’s initial Scottish Independence vote, and by a weakened pound, cited by Remain voters incessantly as evidence that the Brexit vote was a mistake.

I also think that Scottish people have been made aware of The SNP’s rather cynical obsession with membership of the European Union, which, unlike Westminster, seeks to further integrate legislative power and remains opposed to any real devolution. This should act as a warning to Scots who are told that upon leaving the United Kingdom, Scotland will seek to re-establish itself as merely another EU province, only this time, lacking the presence that it had as part of the UK and faced with enormous pressure to abandon its currency and adopt the Euro.

So I think that Mrs Sturgeon should be careful what she wishes for. She is undoubtedly a talented politician, catching eyes during the televised leadership debates in the lead up to the 2015 General Election. But what she is not is a figure that has made an impressionable mark upon British politics. Yes, she has provided Scottish nationalists with an avenue through which they can pursue their patriotic utopia, but her insistence that she can change the political weather (almost Trumpian in nature) and take advantage of Brexit will not inspire like she may think it will. She can rustle feathers in Westminster all she likes, and between now and the next Scottish Independence referendum she will, but inevitably her vision for a Scotland detached from the United Kingdom will not be realised. And I think her desperation suggests that she knows this.

 


A few reflections on an historic referendum result

Joyous tears, sleepless nights and a fair few units of alcohol later, the result of Britain’s EU referendum has finally sunk in. In truth, I feel pretty numb. I played a part (however modest the role) in changing the course of British and European history, in salvaging our plundered democracy and in setting a powerful precedent for the future of national and international politics. It’s a day I will never forget, and one for which I will be eternally proud.

A lot has happened over the course of the last 48 hours. I managed my first uninterrupted night of sleep only last night, a Prime Minister has resigned, Hilary Benn has been sacked, and the pound is bungee-jumping its way round the international markets like never before. British politics is at least interesting again, and that must count for something.

Hysteria after such a monumental result was to be expected. Spiteful, bitter Remainers are grasping for excuses and accusations. This is not, I dare say, something likely to end any time soon, and Brexit campaigners must be prepared for this. I’ve already received three death threats over social media thus far; something I’ll be speaking to my local police force about a little later. For the next few months, expect any tragedy or instability to be associated (not always unfairly) with Brexit. Waves of attacks will be launched as a last-ditched attempt at trying to reverse the decision and overruling the British public. I urge readers and fellow campaigners to ignore such petulance and focus on their triumphant victory.

Two especially horrendous sources of this disdain have been Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Frankly, it is to their shame that two senior political figures have stooped to the anti-democratic lows of the union they seek to keep us in. Mr Farron said on Saturday evening: “The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a clear and unequivocal promise to restore British prosperity and role in the world, with the United Kingdom in the European Union, not out. If you agree with us, join us to make this happen.”

The comments came after his pathetic outburst on the BBC News just hours after the referendum result was announced, in which he said: “What a tragedy that other voters have chosen to damage their [young people] future.” He quite correctly notes that 75% of young people voted to remain, but he forgets to mention that youth turnout was, as was expected, very low. Pensioners and parents did not betray young people, young people let themselves down by not speaking up and voting – or at least those, unlike myself, who support EU membership.

The great irony here is that Mr Farron, leader of the Liberal *Democrats* is actively seeking to overturn the democratic desire of the British people. I am certain he and his party will lose respect and support for this. A party of democrats showing their support for the European Union is a bemusing contradiction in and of itself, but an abject refusal to accept Friday morning’s mandate leads me to believe that Tim Farron, along with Nicola Sturgeon (whom I shall come onto in a moment), is a charlatan.

But the arrogance of political leaders doesn’t stop here. In typically opportunistic fashion, Nicola Sturgeon ensured that she herself be the first senior voice to speak out after the referendum was lost. A second independence referendum (timed quite remarkably after the UK’s vote for independence) ‘must now be on the table’, she asserted. She did, I will admit, warn us prior to the vote on many occasions that a second Scottish independence referendum was inevitable, but sensible people are left wondering why such a prospect is necessary after June 24th was quite defiantly proclaimed Britain’s ‘Independence Day’. I’m starting to respect David Cameron more and more by the minute. At least he had the decency to abide by the result and stand down.

Enough negativity, though. This is a victory for me personally, after months of passionate campaigning, a victory for democracy and, perhaps most significantly, a victory for our country. What a pleasure it was in the early hours of Friday morning to witness the quiet residents of England’s rural heartland stand up and roar. An oddly appropriate coalition between the grassroots communities of the Labour and Conservative parties, each with their own largely ignored concerns about EU membership, was forged – and the UK achieved something most commentators and investors deemed impossible.

Such unity between usually divided parties was not as shocking as it may seem. There is real disconnect between the beliefs of those in Westminster village and those who are suffering in their local neighbourhoods. Many traditional Labour voters retain social and moral conservative values, just like the Tory grassroots, and this vote has exposed this brutal fact quite unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. This referendum will go down not just as an impassioned defence of democracy, but also as a reminder that the British people remain noticeably distant from those that govern. They threw everything at us, from dire pension warnings to shocking projections from authoritative economic institutions, and they were still defeated. I couldn’t be prouder.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody I’ve met along the way, everybody I stood at street stalls with, everybody I worked with at Vote Leave HQ, everybody who veered off with their own enterprises (from Students for Britain to BeLeave) and everybody who came into Westminster Tower to volunteer by phone or by leaflet – thank you all. I’ve had the honour of meeting some very genuine, bright and enthusiastic young people along this incredible journey (many of you know who you are), and I appreciate the outstanding effort that you’ve all put into to this remarkable campaign.

We all knew that if we kept our heads down, stuck to our key messages and fronted the positive, patriotic case for leaving, we would win this referendum – and the finger-pointing and accusations of xenophobia from the Remain campaign post-defeat shows how successful we were, and how disappointed they must feel. We are democrats, not xenophobes. We love this country, we believe in this country, and we refused to talk down this country, and that is why we won this EU referendum. Britain is in for a period of turbulence, no doubt, but the erection of a petition onto parliament’s website last night calling for an independent state of London was desperation personified. And they call us little-Englanders.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. My warmest congratulations go out to everybody who helped make this dream a reality, right across the political spectrum. My second full day as a member of the Tory party is a happy one, and I’m confident that, given time, we have a great future outside of the European Union. Believe in this country, believe in its people, and we can make independence work…for all.