Sunday, December 23, 2018

What happens if a "People's Vote" is won by Leave?

Quite often when the SNP introduce a new policy or strategy that I'm not sure about, I "sip it and see", and end up realising it was a good idea all along.  But with this whole "People's Vote" thing, I find I'm going at a rate of knots in the opposite direction.  When the change in policy was first announced, I could see some value in it, because it ended the bickering on social media between SNP supporters and the People's Vote diehards, and it also headed off any suggestion that the SNP weren't truly sincere in their efforts to keep the UK in the single market and customs union.  But what I didn't anticipate was the sheer unbridled enthusiasm with which the SNP were going to end up campaigning for a UK-wide referendum (in which Scotland could very easily be outvoted again), at a time when they're very noticeably not actively campaigning for a referendum in which Scotland can take charge of its own destiny.  Ian Blackford has been cheered to the rafters at slickly-choreographed People's Vote rallies down south, where he's shared platforms with the likes of Jo Johnson, Vince Cable and Anna Soubry.  It's fair to say that the SNP are now more popular with liberal opinion in England than they've been for a very long time, possibly ever, which is scarcely surprising given that they've 100% fallen in behind a London-led liberal agenda, and have put an independence referendum to one side for the moment.  

Where is this actually getting us?  Is the idea that the SNP are building up a reserve of goodwill with liberal England that can be cashed in later?  Do they reckon a centrist, pro-European government, perhaps led by Chuka Umunna or Yvette Cooper, is going to eventually take power and will be so grateful to the SNP that they'll feel compelled to grant a Section 30 order?  I'm not sure power politics works that way. Gratitude will only get you so far - ultimately any Westminster government will act in its own self-interest.

I've already pointed out how damaging a UK-wide referendum could be for the cause of independence if it results in a Remain vote.  Fretful swing voters in Scotland would look back on the last two years of chaos as a bad dream, and would not countenance the risk of repeating that process in order to negotiate independence.  But what if the opposite happens?  What if a People's Vote produces a second victory for Leave?  It was easy in 2016 for the SNP to say that Scotland's decision to stay in the EU had been ignored, but it won't be so easy this time.  They'll be asked one simple question: "You've spent months demanding a UK-wide referendum rather than a Scottish independence referendum.  You even romanticised that UK-wide referendum as a 'People's Vote'.  How can you possibly not accept the result now?"

What will be the answer?  Has this been adequately war gamed?

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The controversial journalist David Leask doesn't seem to have much of a fan base, but after my blogpost of the other day one or two people did speak up to defend his obsession with Russia.   Basically they suggested that Putin is trying to erode western democracy by undermining our "unity", ie. by identifying pre-existing differences of opinion, exacerbating them, and turning them into full-blown conflicts.  I can't help noting the irony of that line of argument, because undermining unity from outside is exactly what Leask himself is attempting to do in respect of the SNP.  He's taking relatively minor differences of emphasis between various people within the party and trying to turn it into a full-blown civilisational war between two supposedly incompatible factions that he calls "the real SNP" and "alt nats".  It's not working, partly because of the indescribable silliness of the notion that Alex Salmond and Angus MacNeil are not part of "the real SNP", but nevertheless that's what his game is.

There's also a sense in which Leask himself is undermining western democracy.  He's trying to get us into the mindset of war by arguing that the threat from Russia is so overwhelming that we must maintain monolithic unity to defeat it, and avoid taking positions that echo Russian "messaging".  I'm not at all convinced that we face such a state of emergency.  What is Russia actually doing?  Funding political parties?  Engaging in astroturfing?  We've faced that kind of interference in our politics for decades from non-state actors, and we generally regard it as a nuisance rather than as a threat to our civilisation that we must surrender our freedoms to face down.

And surrendering our freedoms is what Leask is demanding we must do.  Democratic politics is about the freedom to take opposing views.  In other words it's about division, which Leask tells us we must avoid at all costs if we are to stand up to Russia.  To coin a phrase, 'now is not the time' to self-indulgently argue for Scottish independence, or for withdrawal from NATO, if that would damage the 'unity' of the Anglo-American alliance.  And you can forget all about the democratic freedom to express your own views if they happen to coincide with Russian "messaging".  The example given in the CommonSpace piece was Leask's attack on Neil Findlay for calling the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament a "fascist", a descriptor that has a strong basis in fact.  It seems we must avoid even making reference to facts if they happen to have already been mentioned at some point by Mr Putin.

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The "impartial election expert" Mike Smithson, known for writing letters to thousands of people in East Dunbartonshire out of the sheer goodness of his heart, has a long and proud history of producing the most risibly shallow 'analysis' of politics in the Celtic nations.  I call it "Bedfordsplaining".  My favourite example was when he Bedfordsplained to us the true meaning of the phrase "ninety-minute nationalists", which apparently we had misunderstood for all these decades.  

Smithson has outdone himself over the last two days with a fatuous claim that the DUP will be so spooked by the new Lucid Talk opinion poll (showing support for Irish unity in the event of a no deal Brexit) that they will do a U-turn and back the draft deal.  The funniest bit was when he doubled down yesterday by saying he had "dealt with" the DUP's position and that May could therefore regard their votes as being in the bag.

I mean, where do you start?  The DUP have been taking their hardline position in the full knowledge that opinion polls have shown for months that a no deal Brexit would dramatically increase support for a united Ireland.  They haven't been spooked, and there's no reason why that's suddenly going to change just because Mike Smithson has finally noticed one of the polls.  Their position may be entirely rational, because people are notoriously bad at answering hypothetical questions in polls.  Of course the DUP would in an ideal world prefer to avoid any theoretical risk of a united Ireland by getting a Brexit deal through, but they're not going to do it at absolutely any cost.  They would need a substantial renegotiation of the deal to neutralise the backstop - and at the moment there's no indication that the EU are willing to go down that road.  If the deal remains unchanged and is put to the vote, the DUP will vote against it - that is simply a fact.

Smithson may be on marginally stronger ground in speculating that Corbyn secretly wouldn't mind if the draft deal went through, because it would prevent him having to make a decision about a People's Vote that his party wants but he doesn't.  That sounds plausible enough, but whether he can actually engineer that outcome while remaining publicly opposed to the deal himself is more doubtful.

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27 comments:

  1. Re the first part of this, I share many of your concerns and I am quite certain that such as Chuka Umunna are going to be overcome with gratitude that they will grant a S30 order when they (hahahahahahaha)come to power. I agree with you politics doesnt work that way.
    However, I wonder if you are focusing on the right audience? It has seemed to me for much of the time this has been going on that the FM's aim is to be able to say at the end of it "we did all we could - we did this, we did that and they just wouldnt listen. We know Scotland wants to remain, but England wont listen". Set against the Unionist refrain - heard even last week - that the SNP and indy supporters love Brexit because it feeds our sense of grievance and gives us many grievances to worry away at. Is Sturgeon perhaps trying to maximise the evidence - for when we get to indyref2 - to kick that argument into the longest of long grass?
    Perhaps a more interesting question is how we get to indyref2 when, certainly May's govt, looks increasingly likely to use the "Madrid" strategy (perhaps with less violence? I hope).

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    1. The "we did all we could" strategy only makes sense if a People's Vote never actually happens.

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    2. As long as May is in Number 10, how likely is that? And remember too, a "People's Vote" requires legislation so requires a majority in the Commons. Is that majority there? According to Michael Crick on C4 not so long ago, there are about 200 MPs in favour of this. Of course its all very fluid and could change, but I dont get the sense of the Commons rushing to a People's Vote. What would the question be is another issue

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  2. What does the polling say about the strength of the Remainer vote in Scotland?

    If it rises closer to 70% or even beyond and Leave still wins, then the case for independence is strengthened. Turnout in Scotland could also be improved over the previous occasion. A great result would be two million plus votes for Remain from Scotland AND less than a million for Leave.

    The worst danger I see is that May capitulates to holding a People's Vote, but manages to keep a remain option off the ballot - ie, Deal or No Deal. The SNP would inevitably be forced to abstain from a referendum they had campaigned for, or actively campaign for a boycott/spoiling ballots.

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    1. I'm trending on twitter.

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    2. Well, in all fairness, if the no-brexit option is not on the ballot (and that is increasingly likely, because Corbyn isn't exactly pushing for it), then the SNP can say that the vote is a sham.

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    3. The worst danger I see is that May capitulates to holding a People's Vote, but manages to keep a remain option off the ballot - ie, Deal or No Deal. The SNP would inevitably be forced to abstain from a referendum they had campaigned for

      That isn't the referendum they're campaigning for.

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  3. The really interesting thing would be if Scotland were to tip the final tally from Leave to Remain...

    But that's not going to happen. If there's a People's Vote, it'll be between No Deal and May Deal. There's no time for anything else, and both Corbyn and May want Brexit.

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  4. I was under the impression that the SG position was in a 3rd EU referendum,1. 1975, 2.2016, 3. 2019 ?, then all of the 4 nations of the UK would have to vote for it for it to be legitimate.
    If you think about it that makes the UK a complete nonesense for an English Nationalist. To use the old adage a House divided against itself cannot stand so why not convert it into separate apartments.

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    1. No, that's not the Scottish government's position. It used to be, but their support for a People's Vote is now unconditional.

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    2. Strange young James why you Nat sis want to sell out Scotland to the EU when you have been struglin fur independence. You are a weird lot.

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    3. Cordelia's on the sherry again singing the same old song. Can we club together and buy her a bottle of Winter's Tale? Poor old soul.

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  5. If people's vote is in/out and produces overall leave result with Scotland once again voting remain, it will reinforce case for indy.
    If people's vote is Treeza deal or no deal its a strategic error for SNP to back it.
    Scotland has already rejected both of those options.
    All depends what's on the ballot paper of the people's vote.
    Anyone know what that's going to be?

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    1. Even if the Tories go for a deal v no-deal ref, I am sure it would be amended to put remain on the ballot, and with any luck to remove no-deal as well. Pretty sure, no-deal is the least favoured option in WM.

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  6. A few points .1) No other country in the world has interfered with other countries affairs more than the USA (and UK) Think Nicaragua etc... 2) it might be hard not to grant a second independence referendum if 2 EU referendums have been held in a short period of time. 3) And finally the SNP should ONLY commit their MPs to support this 2nd EU people's vote ONLY if there was an understanding that if once again Scotland voted overwhelmingly to REMAIN then there has to be some consideration to the needs of Scotland as a pre condition

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  7. I don't get the opposition to EURef2/PV. The answer to the question posed is, "we gave it our best shot to stay in the EU with rUK but having failed we're damn well going to use our Indyref2 lifeboat".

    The odds would surely be on a remain win this time though. Even with zero change of mind the demographics and the motivation of remain voters to turn out this time will see to that I think.

    The transition to our independence is much easier if rUK and us are both in the single market/CU. It will be much harder for Unionism to make the argument that we'll be stuck outside the EU this time. The UK is unravelling irrespective of whether Brexit happens or not. I think a little patience in order to achieve a smoother transition is worth it.

    Having said that, if Brexit goes ahead, although Indy may be a harder short term economic shock, it becomes even more necessary than ever and we will have an enthusiastic new cohort of pro-EU campaigners on our side.

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    1. "The transition to our independence is much easier if rUK and us are both in the single market/CU."

      That's a technical argument that would be dwarfed by the enormous psychological impact of remaining in the EU after two or three years of chaos. Many voters would be unwilling to risk the upheaval of constitutional negotiations like this ever again. Independence is only on the cards now as a possible solution to the Brexit crisis - if the problem disappears, so will the solution.

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  8. I assume that in backing the "People's Vote", the SNP are looking to be able to make the argument that if the EU referendum can be rerun less than three years after the original vote, then the indyref can be rerun whenever the Scottish Government decide to call another one. Whether this point will embarrass a future Westminster Government into granting another Section 30 order or not, I'm not sure. Both the Tories and Labour are a disingenuous and shameless bunch.

    As long as Scotland continues to support remaining in the EU, I don't think there is a downside to this approach. If there is a second EU referendum, and Leave wins again, the UK leaves the EU, the Scottish government calls a new indyref. If they aren't granted another Section 30 order, then the next Holyrood elections can be a de facto indyref, with a pro-indy majority having a mandate to start the process of making Scotland independent. Either way, the SNP can point out they did all they could to keep Scotland in the UK and the EU, but now we all have to choose which union is more important to us. If Remain wins a second referendum, then the SNP can refocus on their initial strategy (before the EU referendum) of trying to win over people who previously voted No. Certainly, the chaos of the last two and a half years contradicts the idea that remaining tied to Westminster keeps us in a stable, predictable political system.

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    1. I should note that when I say, "make the argument that if the EU referendum can be rerun less than three years after the original vote, then the indyref can be rerun whenever the Scottish Government decide to call another one," I mean make the argument to the people of Scotland, regardless of where they fall on the pro/anti-independence axis. Obviously, it's helpful if the argument is accepted by a Westminster government as well, but refusing to accept the results of a vote (or "allow" the vote in the first place) that Scots view as legitimate ultimately plays into pro-indy hands.

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  9. Merry Xmas to my many admirers. To know me is to adore me.

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  10. Seasons greetings James. All the best in the new year.

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  11. If the UK votes Leave again it will be very tight again and it will tear itself apart arguing about the type of Brexit it voted for. Independence supporters should not worry about "losing" a second EU referendum as Scotland will vote remain by a substantial amount. There would be no going back for English and Welsh remainers if they lost a second vote but the process of dragging Scotland out against its will would have well and truly begun. The difference between Scotland and rUK in our views on the future will be clear and stark. These are exactly the conditions we should be seeking before the next independence referendum.

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    1. Working Jimmy frae the CaltonDecember 27, 2018 at 10:39 PM

      How dare you? How bloody dare you?

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    2. Poor Cordelia. Too much Toilet Duck again...

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