I don’t often comment about politics in my blog – (in this case “don’t often” is a euphemism for “never”) – but in the wake of the UK general election, and the subsequent wave of misinformation and sour grapes that I have heard, I’m now going to make an exception.
The overall result of the election came as a shock to almost everyone. All the pundits, pollsters and talking heads were predicting a “hung parliament” or at the very least a shaky coalition government with even a debate about which major party would end up forming the coalition. Even as the exit polls were compiled (under UK law, news outlets are not permitted to publicise even exit poll figures until the polling stations have closed) they were starting to suggest the Conservative Party being two seats short of an overall majority. The only thing that was becoming very clear was that there had been a huge surge of support for the Scottish National Party in the Scottish constituencies.
The word “Landslide” wasn’t enough to cover it; “Tsunami” was barely adequate; as the results started to come in, and in the cold light of morning, the major UK parties were all but wiped out in Scotland. Of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster, SNP won 56. Conservatives (perhaps miraculously) held the one seat they had prior, the Liberal-Democrats were literally decimated from 11 seats to 1, and Labour, historically used to Scotland being a solid base, were reduced to a single solitary seat from the previous 41 that they had.
In the UK as a whole, the other major surprise of the election emerged in the shape of what has been dubbed “the Shy Tory”. Despite all polls to the contrary, Conservative support has actually increased slightly since the last election, but the big point being, that opposition to them has splintered more. At the end of the count, the Conservative Party gained a surprise overall majority
This brings us to the point that has prompted this posting, the outpouring of contempt, disgust and sour-grapes aimed at Scotland, the SNP and Scottish voters by the many people who are, by and large, dismayed at the idea of five years of a majority Conservative government (just a hint here, the Scots aren’t thrilled about that idea either). I’ll highlight the complaints they’ve made, debunk them, and then explain exactly why this situation has come about.
“Thanks Scotland, you just handed power to the Tories for another five years.”
- “Um, no we haven’t. Tories had 1 seat in Scotland before, and they have 1 seat now. Taking 50 seats from one minority party and giving them to another minority party is not going to reduce the Conservative majority”
“Thanks Scotland, you’ve just destroyed the Labour party”
- “Seriously? No, they did that themselves – though admittedly the Labour leader publicly saying that he wouldn’t form a coalition with the SNP to defeat the Tories really didn’t help gain support in Scotland”
“The SNP only got 1.5 million votes, but have 56 MPs. UKIP got 3.9 million votes and only got 1 MP. That’s not fair”
- “Actually, it’s simple Arithmetic. By their very nature (the clue is in the name) the SNP only contested 59 seats. UKIP contested 625 seats. The SNP garnered an average of 25,000 votes for each seat they contested; UKIP only got an average of 4,000 votes for each seat.”
“The SNP only got 1.5 million votes, but have 56 MPs. Lib-Dems got 2.5 million votes and only got 8 MPs. That’s not fair”
- “Okay, instead of complaining to us, go explain to the UKIP why you have 8 times the MPs that they have, after only getting 66% of the votes that they got, while contesting as many, if not more, seats. That ought to confuse the shit out of the UKIP”
“The SNP only got 1.5 million votes, but have 56 MPs. ITS NOT FAIR!!!!!”
- “Sigh. Look, I’ll try to put this another way… SNP only contested 59 seats. Literally 50% of voters, who had an SNP candidate on their ballot, voted for them. The level of support for the SNP in Scotland at the moment is unprecedented.”
“Why is there massive support in Scotland for the SNP now?”
- “Fucking finally, you ask a sensible question, the one question that none of the leaders of the other parties even thought to ask, which is why – for Labour and Lib-Dem leaders – their political career is now disappearing down the plug hole. Let me explain…”
I really can’t comment on what happened south of the border, other than the fact that the Liberal Democrats, across the UK, lost 49 of the 57 seats that they had before, purely and simply because in their desperate haste to join the Conservatives in a coalition government, they basically abandoned all their principals and election promises. Their supporters were understandably unimpressed.
For the turn of tide in Scotland it goes back almost exactly a year, to the run up to the referendum on Scottish independence. All the major UK parties were united in their assertion that the UK would be “Better Together”, against the SNP’s lone call for independence and self-determination. The “Better Together” won the day, 55%-45%, with their campaign of fear-mongering, disinformation, and vague promises of more autonomy if Scotland stayed part of the UK (and, obviously, continued to hand over the royalties of North Sea Oil to Westminster). Once the matter was decided, those self-same parties promptly turned their back on Scotland with the disdain that they always had, and carried on with the same disregard to the views of the Scottish people that they had always displayed. To be honest, I totally understood that attitude from the Conservatives and didn’t expect anything different from them, but for the Liberal Democrats, and Labour in particular, it was a bit more perplexing. Without their traditional support in Scotland, Labour frankly has little chance of ever forming a UK Government again. Was it really wise to stab us in the back so obviously?
So while the rest of the UK bemoans Scotland’s rejection of Labour and the Lib-Dems, try to remember that we’re not the reason the Conservatives have a majority; you need to look at your Southern brethren to figure that one out. And perhaps, the next time you make a promise to get your way, it might be an idea to make good on it, because that’s the reason Scots have sent 56 SNP MPs to Westminster, to be a loud (and hopefully, disruptive) voice to remind those there of the promises that were glibly made to retain the revenue of the black gold.