Monday, September 26, 2022

Early polling evidence suggests Truss has dug herself deeper into the hole with her mini-budget - this could be a Black Wednesday / 'winter of discontent' type event that guarantees Tory defeat at the general election

It now seems like a statement of the bleedin' obvious that the gamble from Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng in the mini-budget has not paid off, given the firm thumbs-down from the markets and the slippage of the pound to bargain basement levels not seen since the 1980s.  However it's still a landmark moment to have opinion poll confirmation of the Tories falling further behind after the mini-budget, because many right-wing commentators and a large chunk of the mainstream media clearly felt that voters would be delighted to have more money in their pockets as a result of tax cuts, and would happily vote Tory in gratitude.  Indeed, Scottish journalists were queueing up to claim that the real story here was "intense pressure on Nicola Sturgeon" to replicate the tax cuts in Scotland, which now looks like a hapless misreading of the room from well-off individuals with very narrow horizons.  What it seemed to boil down to was that they just couldn't bear the thought that their counterparts down south might soon be slightly better off than them.  The true 'politics of envy'.

GB-wide voting intentions for the next general election (Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 25th September 2022):

Labour 44% (+2) 
Conservatives 31% (-1) 
Liberal Democrats 11% (-1) 
Greens 6% (+1) 
SNP 4% (-) 
Reform UK 2% (-1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 38%, Conservatives 28%, Liberal Democrats 15%, Labour 14%, Greens 2%, Reform UK 2%

Crucially, the percentage changes are measured from a poll on 22nd September, before the mini-budget but well after Liz Truss becoming Prime Minister and the death of the Queen.  So, assuming the change is real and not an illusion caused by margin of error, the extension of the Labour lead can only really have been caused by the mini-budget itself.  

It's sometimes argued that there's an iron law in British politics that the initial reaction to a Budget will eventually prove to be the opposite of the longer term verdict, but it's very hard to see why the public would change their minds this time given that Kwarteng's misjudgement seems to be spiralling into one of those rare events of economic calamity that pass into folklore and thus fundamentally change the political weather - with other examples being devaluation in 1967, the various crises of the late 1970s, and Black Wednesday in 1992.  And all of those examples have one thing in common - they all consigned the government of the day to a whopping defeat at the following general election by destroying its reputation for economic competence.

If we're moving into a period where a post-2024 Labour government looks like a near-certainty, it's fair to say that will probably be sub-optimal from the point of view of the Scottish independence movement, especially if the Supreme Court verdict goes the wrong way and we start to look towards a plebiscite election.  Our best chance of success would be a general election in which there is no hope of change at Westminster, allowing the SNP and others to argue that we must take our destiny in our own hands.  Instead, there's now a danger of voters having their heads turned by the false prospect of change from Labour, who in fact have reinvented themselves as old-school One Nation Tories. 

But there are a couple of caveats to add.  Quite a few commentators have pointed out that Liz Truss is as far to the right as Jeremy Corbyn is to the left, and it would never have been possible for her to become Prime Minister if it hadn't been for the weird political leanings of the London media.  I remember when Corbyn first became Labour leader, Matthew Parris predicted that it "could be all over far quicker than anyone expects, possibly by Christmas".  That didn't happen, but it's not hard to see how it could have done if Corbyn hadn't proved as tenacious as he did.  So I wouldn't totally rule out the radicalism / extremism (take your pick) of Truss proving to be her downfall within a few months, in which case the Tories could get themselves back into the game under a more moderate leader.

And secondly, what is happening now could be a game-changer in terms of the debate over the currency that an independent Scotland would use.  Arguably the biggest weakness of the Yes campaign in 2014 was the perception that Scotland might not be "allowed" to use the pound - but it could be getting to the point now where nobody will be that bothered about losing such a discredited currency.  The euro or an independent Scottish currency could start to look like a much safer bet.

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  1. The only result of use to us is a hung WM government - the SNP plebecite notion can simply be ignored and might backfire on us if pro-indy parties get less than 51% of the total vote share.

    1. That's a counsel of despair. Hung parliaments are incredibly rare, and anyone who hangs their strategy on them is doomed to fail. If the Supreme Court rule against a referendum, a plebiscite election becomes the only game in town. We have to do the total opposite of "ignoring" it - we have to go in all guns blazing and do everything we possibly can to win it.

    2. Oh, and just to add to that - not only are hung parliaments rare, but even if one were to happen it wouldn't guarantee the SNP the balance of power. The 2017 election produced a hung parliament, but one in which the Tories and DUP had a majority between them. That was almost as useless in terms of leverage as a Tory majority government would have been.

    3. Rare but that's where we are with a weedy SNP - however, if we've no choice...

    4. Might there be another option James? Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's nothing to stop a private individual with deep enough pockets from organising their own referendum, is there? It's not a happy comparison, but that's what Brian Souter did with his Keep the Clause campaign. Of course, a private indyRef2 would be boycotted by the unionists, but assuming we actually had over 50% in favour and could get them to vote in sufficient numbers, then it might prove hard to ignore, say, a 98% vote for independence on a 54% turnout, i.e. 53% of the electorate.

  2. I agree with you James that the Tories are having a "1992 Black Wednesday". Quite a change from 2019 for the Tories. Unlike 1997, Labour don't have a charismatic leader to match Tory Blair. A lot of Tories just didn't vote in the 1997 election which skewed the win by Labour and it might happen again. Voting against the Tories rather than voting for Labour might help Labour to win in England.