Well, that’s the end of summer (what summer?) Be fair, the kids went back to school and we had a few days of glorious sunshine – it was ever thus!
Summer is usually the dull time for us political junkies, but boy, has this year been an exception. We have been deafened by the sound of dragging feet from the Tories following their Brexit debacle (what a jolly wheeze that was!) To add to the seasonal delight, the “once great” Labour Party have kept us all amused as they publicly beat themselves to death. As if this was not enough for us sad anoraks, we could look across the Pond where Donald Trump is doing his best to destroy the “once great” Republican Party.
Not to be outdone, here in deepest Ayrshire we have had a Council by-election. Yes, the SNP came first with 37% of the vote, Labour being in second place with 31%. But here’s the rub – that was on the first ballot! By the time the 5th round was completed, and many Tories had given their second votes to Labour, we found that the Labour candidate was the winner, although the Labour vote had dropped by over 8% – an anomaly of the STV system when only one candidate is being selected. So not too much to fear for the Council Elections in May next year where STV comes into its own in the multi-member ward system. There will not be the same loaning of votes to other parties when your favoured party will get your first and second preferences. However, here is what has struck me about this result. No, this is not a sign of a Labour revival in these parts. If anything, it showed their continued decline, but what came through clearly was the willingness on the part of many Tory voters to give their second vote to Labour! A pattern is emerging, seen in the previous Holyrood elections and was a big factor in Edinburgh South at the Westminster Election last year. That is, the tactical voting by those of a Unionist persuasion. It seems that it matters not which party they vote for, as long as it is a Unionist Party – The “save the Union” syndrome! I would contend that a Unionist Coalition is forming led by the Tories with Labour, albeit the junior, but most willing partner.
A wee history lesson folks! Way back when the writer was but a slip of a girl, the Tories could put up the proverbial “collie dug” and win a seat, Yes, I said the TORIES! The working class vote in the west of Scotland was divided by religion, not class. The Tories had the Orange vote and Labour had the Catholic vote. Even in the 1980’s it was quite usual to find a staunch Tory vote in the most deprived estates – a remnant of the historical “Protestants vote Tory.” Slowly this Orange Tory vote declined and working class voters turned to the Labour Party. Labour were cleverly playing Orange Card/Green Card depending on the doorstep! One by one Tory seats in the West of Scotland went to Labour until the last Tory seat, in Glasgow – Cathcart, fell to Labour’s John Maxton in 1979. Teddy Taylor went off to the new pastures of Southend – not many orange voters there, methinks!
It may seem strange to readers outwith the Central Belt but Orangeism never went away in these parts. Our wee village of Dreghorn was once again festooned with Union flags and bunting during the July “marching season – It’s no easy living in Dreghorn! At Irvine’s annual Marymass festival last Saturday – the Union flag reigned supreme yet again. It is these cultural bonds that make the transference of votes between Unionist parties an obvious option. A realignment is taking place – the bonds of party loyalty are being replaced by loyalty to the Union.
I speak from the perspective of the Central Belt, but other areas of Scotland will be affected by this emerging Unionist Coalition. Seats where there are traditional Tory voters could now be augmented by Labour voters wishing to defeat the SNP. Make no mistake, it is becoming a two-way split in voting patterns in Scotland. Us versus them, or Nationalist versus Unionist. We have to plan our strategy with this in mind. The Labour Party is but a shadow of its former self, but the Tory vote is rising (up 8% in the aforementioned by-election). We have to acknowledge that about half of Scots have still to be convinced of the benefits of Independence. It is these people we must target if we are to get over the line to reach our goal. The non-nationalists who voted to remain in the EU are the most obvious people to persuade. As the Brexit saga gains pace we must raise the momentum and constantly expose the position in which Scotland finds itself due to the votes of our neighbours in England.
The lines are drawn – let battle commence!