Among little recorded post natal conditions would appear to be a uniquely Conservative form of selective amnesia. Writing in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, erstwhile Tory leader Ruth Davidson assures her readers that the “deal is done”, “the pact is made.” In evidence of her conviction that the SNP has promised to help propel Jeremy Corby into number 10 in exchange for another independence referendum, she cites some carefully edited quotes from the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor.
Sadly she fails to add either dates or context to these “quotes” – one of which emerged from John McDonnell at an August festival fringe event, and a Corbyn one which has long since been superseded by a very recent comment that any assistance with Indyref2, far from being a priority, would happen, if at all, years down the line. All’s fair in love and elections, and we could dismiss this carelessness as just that were it not for the fact that Ms Davidson’s thoughts on the matter co-incide with an open letter from fellow Tory MSP Annie Wells.
Ms Wells, one of the more unusual recruits to the Conservative cause, has penned an open letter to Labour voters, urging them to “lend their vote” to the Tories. “Labour and Conservative voters won’t agree on every issue’, she writes, in a sentence making a late bid for understatement of the year award. “But most of us can agree that we want to stop Nicola Sturgeon from getting IndyRef2”, she adds. Actually, poppet, most of us can’t.
A significant proportion of Labour voters have already decamped to indy supporting homes on the grounds that they are no more enamoured of Boris’s cabinet collection of mad, bad and sub standard ministers than the rest of the Scottish electorate. They join an even more substantial cohort of erstwhile Labourites who think the Scottish party and its increasingly underpowered leadership are a busted electoral flush. Not to mention a third constituency who can’t bring themselves to vote for the people’s party for Corbyn related reasons, but would entertain scoffing their toenail clippings before plighting their troth to Ms Well’s cause. So we might readily assume that the Davidson/Wells pincer movement is what we might loosely describe as a strategy rather than just some more stray fantasy politics. And it’s not unreasonable to suppose that if their party has to resort to seeking votes from the enemy camp, things are not going swimmingly for the blue tide north of Hadrian’s dyke.
However all that can be filed under minor irritations compared with some of the other utterances emerging from the party leaderships down south. Ms Swinson, whose likeness now adorns a very large battle bus, has joined the Prime Minister in vowing that she would never “allow” a second Scottish referendum. “Allow” has become my least favourite word, easily eclipsing any four lettered oaths. The First Minister, at her party’s election launch, waved away these serial insults to Scottish intelligence by suggesting that any diktat falling from Boris’ lips was likely to have a shorter shelf life than a haddock in a heatwave.
It’s a not unreasonable assertion given that the ditzy blond, after whirlwind, carefully orchestrated pit stops at a Scottish distillery and an Northern Irish reception gave every impression of a man on only nodding acquaintance with his own “fantastic deal.” In fairness, as they used to say in many Scottish courtroom dramas, “alcohol may have been a factor.” But in full possession of his faculties or not, the PM’s expansive Irish rant, has become something of a star turn on social media, enlivened as it is by the full set of arm waving, shouty certainties. “I am the Prime Minister” he assured one bemused Ulster CEO, almost as if he couldn’t quite believe it himself. Join the club, sunbeam.
Yet this Eton “educated” eedjit feels able to tell Scotland what he will “allow” us to do; and has given himself the risible title of Minister for the Union. The fact that Ms Swinson has stepped into the echo chamber need not detain us over long. A party passionate about overturning one Referendum result whilst insisting another is chiselled in lifelong stone cannot be accused of consistency, only hypocrisy. I have been trying to deconstruct Nicola Sturgeon’s speech, the words, as ever, carefully calibrated. She stands by her pledge to hold IndyRef2 next year, not least since little Mr Gove has signalled yet another no deal cliff edge for the end of 2020.
It’s true there is no shortage of well deserved scepticism about Tory pledge breaking, given that Johnson has turned that hobby into something of an art form. But neither is there an indication in her address of what happens next if setting his face against “allowing” the section 30 powers to transition to Holyrood turns out to be the one promise he manages to keep. Nobody with two functioning brain cells is in the prediction business after an election prequel week which made Fawlty Towers seem like a model of customer care. Nevertheless I wouldn’t bet against a UK wide Tory victory on the 12th whatever happens in Scotland. And, should Labour get over the line, I’m not in the market for assuming they would keep their word over any section 30 promises either. We have enough promissory notes from that quarter in respect of more powers to paper the walls of the average semi.
It’s arguably long past time, that we ceased to stand with cap in hand to a trio of party leaders who have manifestly less credibility than the one in Bute House. For sure a healthy number of SNP MP’s in Westminster will give us leverage. It won’t guarantee us independence. We can risk another bout of double dealing. Or we can chuck away that cap and fight for our own future. There have always been myriad reasons to play safe: risk of abstentions, need to avoid European scepticism, fear of failure etc and et bloody cetera.
But there is one sure fire way to prove “it’s time” or not. Put the case and ask the people.
First published in The National 11.11.19