Thursday, October 24, 2019

Would a general election in December help or harm the cause of independence?

So Boris Johnson wants a general election on Thursday, 12th December, and my guess is that this time he'll get his way.  Labour are split down the middle on whether to give the green light, but with the parliamentary arithmetic the way it is, an election can't be delayed forever, and I'm struggling to see how a delay of a few weeks or a few months will in itself get them out of the electoral hole they're in.  (Indeed they must bitterly regret refusing to back an election in October, which could have prevented Johnson negotiating his Hard Brexit deal.)  Stephen Bush suggested that it would be politically difficult for the SNP to vote for an election if Labour don't, but this isn't 1979 - a vote for an election is a vote for an opportunity to remove a Tory government from office, so it's hard to see how any cry of betrayal would stick.  In any case, there's another way of looking at this - if the SNP are minded to bring about an election, it would be politically difficult for Labour to be seen to resist an election that is going to happen anyway.  (Although a two-thirds majority is required under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, that can be circumvented with a short piece of legislation, in which event SNP support would be sufficient.)

Someone asked me a few minutes ago how a general election would actually bring us closer to independence, and I suppose the answer is that it could simultaneously bring us closer and further away.  2015 was an example of what I mean - the SNP's 56 seats vastly exceeded expectations, and yet they were denied the balance of power in the House of Commons that had looked possible (and maybe even probable) throughout the campaign.  If the SNP gain seats in December and win a third successive outright majority of Scottish constituencies, they'll have a tremendous moral mandate, but they could be faced with a powerful majority Tory government committed to defying the will of the Scottish people for five whole years.  That'll be a shock to the system that I don't think we're quite mentally prepared for, even though we've been staring down the barrel of substantial Tory leads in GB opinion polls for several months.  However, the silver lining is that a shock of that sort might put irresistible pressure on the SNP leadership to change their thinking on a Plan B.  The SNP rank-and-file have shown themselves to be patient recently, but I'm not sure they're patient enough to accept "we'll have another crack in 2024" as an acceptable strategy, especially given that we'd still be placing ourselves at the mercy of English voters in 2024.

That said, the electorate is more volatile than ever before, and we can expect pro-Remain tactical voting in England and Wales on an industrial scale.  Any Tory that thinks the election is a foregone conclusion is deluding themselves.


  1. The shift toward Indy has been frustratingly slow and it feels to me like it lags behind the sheer awfulness of the UK. I sometimes wonder what threshold of incompetence and self interest does someone need to see before they realise that self-determination is better. The lack of a very clear ‘yes’ majority in polls doesn’t help SNP be big, brave and assertive. I’m glad it isn’t me who has to make decisions about whether to stick or twist. But if an election produces a Tory majority with a big SNP gain in Scotland then we move a lot closer to the end game. If the outrage of an extreme right wing government refusing indy2 against the will of the Scottish people doesn’t motivate and mobilise us then nothing will.

  2. The SNP, greens and all other pro Indi parties need to campaign on a UDI platform if there is a December election, anything else is quite frankly bonkers.

  3. Any bets that Britain will be out of the EU by 2039?

  4. Why do these elections circumvent the fixed term act? They should be forced to stand at the regular interval anyway! It were they stupid enough to allow it?

  5. I do wonder what kind of manifesto the SNP would publish if we get a December election. Will it just say "We will demand a new independence referendum" without any mention of what they'll do if Westminster ignores or refuses it?

    1. They would continue with Tory policies but still wanting to give hand outs to the EU elites.

  6. Re the opinion poll findings of late, I am surprised that the SNP has not contracted a polling organisation to ask a simple Yes/No question re should Scotland be independent. I have been suspicious in the past of organisations only publishing results that they agree with whilst sitting on results that do not give the answer they want.