Rishi Sunak pretends to be a new broom sweeping away the 13 years of incompetent government. There are reports that his HS2 policy is meant to signal to the electorate a new approach. It and the lies about cancelling policies based on social media conspiracy theories show just how desperate the UK government has become. They’ve run out of ideas, they’ve run out of money and they offer nothing but trumped up culture war issues to appeal to their GB news watching base.
The problem is that most voters aren’t interested. Inflation, housing and the contraction of public services will always be the focus of voters’ minds and on these questions the Tories have no answers.
Sunak may be right on one issue though. He says there isn’t widespread enthusiasm for Labour. And on this he’s maybe closer to the truth than many commentators want to believe. There certainly isn’t anything like the feeling of excitement and enthusiasm for Starmer as there was for Blair. The end of the Thatcher / Major era didn’t feel like this. There was a palpable shift then, a sense that change was coming and a certain level of optimism and excitement went along with that. Today it feels more like resignation. That the only way to get these appalling crooks and charlatans out is by voting for something no one really wants but which at least has the virtue of not being the Tories.
In Rutherglen turnout was lower than at any Scottish Westminster by-election in history. Voters aren’t flocking to Labour. Nor does the evidence suggest that they are particularly ‘turning back’ to Labour. Instead it looks in Scotland like many SNP voters are staying at home. We can’t expect Scotland not to be impacted by the slow implosion in normal politics which is taking place in the UK. The gravitational pull is so strong and the British political planet so large compared to ours that we will get dragged along as change happens.
That presents problems for the present SNP leadership and it will have the job over the next 24 months or so of calming activists. It seems likely that the present electoral cycle may result in difficulties for the SNP. If the leadership is unable to motivate activists and voters we may see some losses.
Our project is large enough to sustain some setbacks at Westminster. The damage which the UK has done to itself through Brexit and the long term destruction of infrastructure is not something which the state will ever recover from. The decades long decline isn’t coming to an end any time soon. Labour will soon be overwhelmed by the job of managing the problems they will inherit from the Tories. They have no clear plans about how they’ll deal with these massive difficulties. And there are no easy solutions. Any move towards reintegration with the EU will be tortuously hard to manage given the widespread support there is south of the Border for English isolationism. An early return to the EU is unlikely and without it the economy will continue to falter.
Starmer won’t enjoy the electoral benefits of the economic boom that accompanied Blair’s first term. It’s almost certain that support for Labour will quickly ebb. And that’s good news for independence supporters. Because our electoral cycle in Scotland places us in a position where we can gain from Labour’s problems. It seems possible that the main opposition to Labour in England will come from the radical right whether that’s within the Conservative party or from Reform UK. The unionists used to sneer when we forecast the UK leaving the EU and Boris Johnson becoming prime minister. But we were right. And now it doesn’t seem so unlikely that Nigel Farage may end up as PM in the not so distant future. If Starmer is elected it’s certain it will be a short interregnum between hard right English nationalists.
The UK is failing. More and more it’s the case that England is turning away from the world. Turning in on itself, focusing on its long term obsession about the dangers of outsiders and foreigners. While this process of change is underway it seems inevitable we will see our main concerns sidelined and our electoral successes may not be as overwhelming. But it is certain this will be a temporary problem. The UK won’t recover. The only way to create a modern and prosperous country is through independence. That logic will reassert itself shortly and our journey to full sovereignty will become inevitable.