It’s not long ago that a Leader column in the Scots Independent talked about Theresa May as akin to Harry Houdini. No matter how much she got tied in knots and chains, she somehow wriggles out. The last few weeks are a case in point.
Just as commentators and opponents (both within the Conservatives and outwith) were predicting she would be out the door of Number 10 by Christmas, so the departure point was postponed to the first vote on her Deal.
Well that has come and gone. Despite the biggest Commons defeat on any topic by a post-War government, Mrs May has arisen to ‘unite’ her party in an illusion which might not quite get her membership of the Magic Circle. The Tories have come out the worst headlines for an incumbent government to rising poll support and the prospect of another General Election by the Summer.
Many non-political friends and associates ask wearily, what will happen next? A French friend who has lived in Glasgow for over 20 years is now seriously considering moving home to France (where she can continue her transient business), just to avoid the uncertainty of being out of the European Union. Yet, she had a faint hope that the British people would rise up in revolt against the elite business and political interests taking us out of the EU.
Alas it was a solemn duty to remind her that Brits, and even Scots, don’t do revolution. Nae yella simmets for us.
For now, the UK is united politically by a Prime Minister, who apparently voted to Remain, determined to deliver a Brexit Deal, and a Leader of the Opposition, who apparently voted Remain and is determined to deliver a Brexit Deal. Together their parties represent over three quarters of popular opinion delivering for a 52% mandate.
As is the way in politics, it is likely that there will be some sort of Withdrawal Agreement that is officially signed off by Brussels and London with tacit approval of the Dinosaur Brigade in Belfast. The implications of which will take years to transpire. Nissan decision to halt investment in Sunderland – the Vote Leave capital of England – is perhaps the first swallow of our Brexit-facing Spring.
More manufacturers will work out that access to the EU market is easier and cheaper if you are located in continental Europe as the likes of Slovakia continue apace as the car manufacturing hub of Europe. A small price to pay no doubt for a region that was is so reliant on inward investment for its sustainable economic growth.
What about north of the border? Well, the more a Brexit deal is struck, the more people recognise that the veil of ‘Great Britain’ is lifted over an England, hurting more than ever from its lost place in the world. The first Scottish independence referendum woke up many people in the rest of the UK to the realisation what we are not all united under one flag. A sizeable chunk of North Britain rejected that image for right and proper reasons. Whinging Scots makes fertile territory for bruised Englanders. If you have your Saltire, we have St George, and so the rise of a nationalism in search of an identity has flourished over the last five years and more.
When the price of Brexit is a disunited Kingdom, polls indicate that this is a price worth paying for. How awful this must feel to those Unionists in Scotland who relied on financial and emotional support in 2014, only to see resentment develop in the intervening period.
As Ruth pencils in a return to frontline politics, her heart must grow weary at figuring out where she takes the Scottish Tories next. Many said that the General Election of 2015 was the high watermark for the SNP. Imagine how Ruth feels knowing the Scottish Elections of 2016 was both her personal and party political high watermark. She may be flung a lifebelt from a Shire Tory constituency keen to have her cheeky antics for themselves but Bute House is unlikely to ever know her interior décor requirements.