The UK General Election continues to go from bizarre to dysfunctional and it’s all the fault of Scotland! Having assured themselves that they had killed off the independence threat back in September 2014, the Unionist parties (Conservative, Labour and LibDem) turned their attention to the upcoming election in May, assuming it would be business as usual. And yet, as with the Independence referendum, they have been caught off guard, and are scrambling around trying to look like they have some relevance to the real world.
The Tories are split between those who seem to be talking up the SNP, which polls suggest may wipe out the Scottish Labour vote, and those who warn about the long term consequences of this strategy. The Labour Party south of the border has made it clear that they won’t go into coalition with the SNP – which is fine, as the SNP have already said they wouldn’t join them in one – and appear to have written off the party north of the border. The LibDems object to all of it, but then they are facing electoral oblivion as no one who voted LibDem in 2010 can forgive them for going into coalition with the Tories. They are left making obtuse pronouncements, such as Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie’s statement: “Vote for everything, vote LibDem“.
After a UK leader’s debate in which SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was seen as the clear winner, there were Scottish leader’s debates, which basically came down to the Unionist parties shouting at Nicola Sturgeon. (One Scottish debate included Green Party co-covenor Patrick Harvie, but he was kept out of the other ones for some reason).
Then there was another UK leader’s debate, but this time the Prime Minister didn’t show up, and his deputy wasn’t invited (here he is freaking out after being asked difficult questions). So this debate had Labour challenger Ed Miliband, far right UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists) and Natalie Bennett of the Greens. The three women articulated progressive politics (ending austerity, not renewing Trident nuclear weapons), Ed tried to sound relevant and Nigel Farage attacked the audience for being too left wing.
Sturgeon was seen as the clear winner from the debate, Milliband did better than most people expected and Farage appealed to his base. There’s still over two weeks to go, but so far the SNP continues to outpoll Labour. Sturgeon has become one of the most popular politicians in the entire UK, and journalists in England are beginning to discover that there’s more to Scotland than alcoholism and deep-fried Mars bars. No doubt the Westminster machine is planning some new surprise to try and halt the advance, but their last attempt at a smear backfired badly, and they lack the sort of consistent strategy they had during the referendum.
Perhaps they can just send a bunch of politicians up north to try and reason with us like last time.