Thursday, March 28, 2019

Westminster rocked as the SNP at last exercise a decisive role in the hung parliament

When the SNP lost 19 of their 54 seats at the 2017 election, one of the saving graces was that it seemed logical they would exercise far more influence with 35 seats in a hung parliament than they had done with 54 seats in a parliament with a Tory majority.  They were still comfortably the third largest party, and we imagined Theresa May and the Tory media sweating over which way they would vote in each close division.  But it hasn't really worked out that way, partly because the Tory-DUP alliance has often shut them out, and partly because May is so intransigent on the subject of Scotland that there hasn't been any scope for bargaining - not even the whiff of an offer of a Section 30 order in return for SNP support on the meaningful votes, for instance.  So that's left the SNP taking an all-out opposition posture, which means they've been on the losing side most of the time - and even when they've been on the winning side nobody has credited them with swinging the balance, because their votes were just taken as read.

But the indicative votes tonight were a very different story.  The SNP had a genuine dilemma over how to vote on some of the motions (the ones that proposed different types of soft Brexit), and the decision they reached actually did determine the final outcome.  If they had voted for Kenneth Clarke's proposal for a customs union, that would have been the only option that secured a majority.  As it was they abstained, and the customs union idea was defeated along with the other seven motions.  So at last, after two years, here it is: the SNP taking advantage of a hung parliament to influence the destiny of the United Kingdom.

Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson is spitting synthetic fury about the way they jumped, but it makes perfect logical sense - if your objective is to remain in the EU, you have to try to prevent any proposition that falls well short of that from emerging as the most likely consensus.  (And as it happens, the Independent Group seem to have reached exactly the same conclusion - they actively voted against the Clarke motion.)  Even if the SNP now downgrade their objective to their previous preferred compromise of single market and customs union membership, it would still be logical not to vote for any option mentioning a customs union only, because doing so would increase the chances of parliament coalescing around a compromise that does not involve single market membership, and that would therefore be wholly inadequate.  And in respect of the ultimate goal of independence, it would from a tactical point of view be nonsensical to champion a compromise that you don't think is remotely good enough, if the first thing that will be said to you after it's delivered is:  "What are you complaining about?  We've given you exactly what you asked for.  You don't need an independence referendum now."

So a job well done - the SNP have demonstrated to the Westminster village that their voting power does pack a punch after all, and they've done so in a way that is consistent with their strategic aims.


  1. Most noticeable thing for me was how quiet (at least until I stopped watching about half an hour after the vote announcement) the Labour front bench were. Their 'policy' (what even it is not sure anyone really knows) failed to be in the top two despite them Whipping for it.

    Monday from what can tell it will be some sort of AV vote (which makes sense becasue it will produce a result). Based on the last night you would think the final two would be CU vs PV. Of course these are mutually exclusive you could have Customs Union subject to a referendum.

    Alot will depend on how the options for Monday are chosen, will it be the top 4 or 5 from last night, or will there be a fresh set of options with the speaker choosing what ends up on the paper based based on last nights results.

  2. I can see that snp had an effect, in that they ‘could’ have pushed one or more options to a majority.
    I’m less clear how the failure to get anything over the line is a good thing?
    It seems that collectively Westminster votes ‘no’ to every single option. Surely at some point the snp (and others) will need to go for the least worst option ahead of the erg getting their least worst option? Or are the two actually the same, and Mays deal is the best ooutcome to hope for?

    1. Don't think anyone really expected a result last night. I think that the real surprise was that if things had gone slightly differently CU and PV could of found a majority.

      With the vote on Monday being AV, a result should be found.

    2. "I’m less clear how the failure to get anything over the line is a good thing?"

      I explained that in the blogpost - if SNP votes had got anything over the line, it would have been the customs union-only proposal. That would have taken us closer to departure from the single market, which would have been a bad thing, not a good thing.

    3. Thanks - I understood your post, I think I’m now mentally entangled in the timelines of what might happen next and not understanding what ‘good’ options are still available.

    4. I think your just mental.

    5. Cordelia's guttered again.

  3. My current UK subsamples poll of polls. We could do with a full Scottish as the last couple were nearly a month ago and it seems there is significant movement underway, both in Scotland, and UK-wide.

    Changes on 2017.

    45(+8)% SNP
    22(-7)% Con
    17(-10)% Lab
    8(+1)% Lib
    3(+3)% Green
    3(+3)% UKIP

    Labour's brexit strategy certainly seems to be a vote winner.

    1. Incidentally, if you normalise these to account for the fact that, in the end (due to FPTP tactical and lack of candidates), you basically get the vote split between the main 4, the numbers become like so:

      48(+11)% SNP
      24(-5)% Con
      19(-8)% Lab
      8(+2)% Lib

      Utter wipeout for the unionists; 2015 all over again.

      And we know that, according to unionists, any increase in SNP MPs means that support for a new referendum is surging (as a decrease means 'support for a new iref is collapsing', as per 2017).

  4. Sorry, I appear to have missed something.

    Isn't Monday too late, as we'll already have left without a deal by then?

    1. No 12th April is deadline to of voted for a deal or decided to leave with no deal. Extending the deadline for say a second ref or GE would require UK to take part in EU elections.

    2. Got extension from EU till 12th April

  5. I hope the Scottish Government is planning to hold EU elections regardless - even if we've been dragged out of the EU by then, we should have our MEPs waiting in the wings to take their seats.

    It would also show proof of intent.

    1. couldn't hold elections if out of the EU, can't hold elections for what would be non existent seats. Having said that it will be preparing for if we do have to hold EU elections (in the case of a PV or GE for example).

      Normally if a Government wins and vote its position is stronger and the PMs authority grows. Brexit has become such a mess that you now have a PM who will quit if she wins and vote and stay if she looses and a Government who will loose support of its C&S partner if they win the vote (DUP have said previously that their support is dependant on the WA not passing). Shows how much Brexit is tearing up the political norms

    2. Yes give the MEPs their money and wine vouchers. Whit a mug ye are ejfj.

    3. "You're all mugs except me! Boris and Farage wouldn't have lied to me to suit their own purposes!

  6. Always worth keeping in mind that the withdrawal agreement - as Westminster is trying to pass (tearing each other's eyes out over) presently - is the easiest bit of brexit.

    The really hard part, which will go on for many, many years to come, begins straight after that, i.e. the tough trade negotiations with our 27+ neighbours and beyond.

    That's when countries will start looking to take control of our laws (trade laws), eating into UK sovereignty. They'll also be demanding big concessions, particularly if the UK economy takes a hit so it's in a very weak position.

    But hey ho, we'll have Bozo, Gove or even 'the man with the brexit plan' Corbyn at the helm, so it will all go super smoothly I'm sure.

    I hope everyone's liking hearing about England's brexit anyway, as it's going to be the top item on the news for at least a decade.


  7. Progress Scotland have published their first opinion poll.

    1. It's very interesting too. Despite the research having been conducted by professionals, we can expect brainboxes like Wells and Bouncy to find faults.

    2. If Scotland became an independent country, it should be a full member of the European Union

      Agree: 80% Disagree: 20% (ex DK)

      Well that's pretty 'decisive'.

    3. We would not be independent in the EU. The EU would be our master and dictator.

    4. The UK is currently showing the world how the 27 countries that make up the EU have pretty much zero influence on the internal affairs / sovereignty of member states.

      Nope, England/Britain is making the biggest domestic, international, political, social, economic and constitutional clusterfuck of its entire history all by itself. Not even the slightest wee bit of 'dictating' help needed from outside for this prize mess at all.

    5. Clackmannanshire Central (Clackmannanshire) first preferences:

      SNP: 40.9% (+2.6)
      LAB: 31.9% (-8.0)
      CON: 19.8% (+3.2)
      UKIP: 3.3% (+3.3)
      GRN: 2.5% (-2.7)
      LDEM: 1.7% (+1.7)

      SNP HOLD.

    6. "We would not be independent in the UK. The UK would be our master and dictator. I for one am grateful to our masters for the crumbs from the table."
      Fixed that for Cordelia.