‘The future of British politics’ – Scotland’s democratic deficit justifying indifference?

By stewartb

The independent research organisation, UK IN A CHANGING EUROPE has just published (11 December) an article – what it terms an ‘in depth exploration of an important topic’ – entitled ‘The British general election of 2019 and the future of British politics’.

This is an organisation whose output I follow and generally regard as high quality. The title sounded interesting and the article worth a reading. Its take on this subject ended up triggering these reflections.

Source: https://ukandeu.ac.uk/long-read-pdf/?postid=47621

The context of the 2019 General Election

We are reminded that: ‘It is two years since the United Kingdom went to the polling stations on a cold December day, returning Boris Johnson to Number 10 Downing Street with both a clear mandate to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and the parliamentary majority to do so.’ And we’re also told that: ‘In 2019, it was the spectre of the previous election (in 2017) that haunted the campaigns of both the main parties.’

Regarding the Conservatives, following its loss of a majority in 2017 it is argued that: ‘Everything the party could change, it did, whether that be its offer to the electorate, the way it constructed and sold that offer, or the way it managed the campaign – both at headquarters and on the ground. The greater urgency of the Brexit crisis in 2019, after two years of Parliamentary deadlock, helped to ensure that Johnson’s relentlessly repeated ‘Get Brexit Done’ slogan resonated with the public and thereby reduced the appeal of Labour’s ‘something for everyonecompromise messaging.’

Notably, the author failed here to add ‘with little or no effect in Scotland’!

On Labour the analysis suggests: ‘Labour was caught in a trap during the 2017-19 Parliament: it could not afford to alienate the Remain-leaning activists and voters who provided the bulk of its 2017 support, yet could not win a subsequent election without a stronger showing among Leave voters. The party had no choice but to try and bridge the Brexit divide, yet Corbyn’s efforts to do so left Labour with a Frankenstein policy (a renegotiated deal followed by a referendum in which it would not pick a side) that neither side of a polarised electorate found attractive or convincing.’

Again the irrelevance of this to matters in Scotland is not mentioned. The thing that strikes me from all the analysis in the article is that the context which framed the 2019 GE and its electoral outcome had – to say the least – very little to do with Scotland’s politics! As to the impact of all this on Scotland, we know that’s an entirely different matter!

Other parties’ futures

Notably, and certainly from a perspective gained in Scotland, the article devotes a lot of space to the Lib Dems. And it does so despite making this observation: ‘The Liberal Democrats returned a meagre cohort of MPs to the Commons for the third successive British general election, and their leader Jo Swinson was automatically removed having lost her seat ..…’ But then it adds: ‘Yet the 2019 outcome was not wholly negative for the party, as the geography of Liberal Democrat support was reorganised by Brexit in a way which may create a platform for future success.’

Sustaining its optimism: ‘There is now a very clear battleground for the Liberal Democrats to fight on, with a swathe of target seats where it starts in a credible second place. Perhaps Swinson will be to her successor, Ed Davey, as Theresa May was to Johnson – the leader who bequeaths an electoral map which forms the basis for a breakthrough performance by their successor. Time will tell.’

The article even devotes paragraphs to the Brexit Party!

British politics or English politics?

Given much – candidly, almost all – of the content, one would be forgiven for thinking the article’s title really should have “English’ replacing ‘British’ politics.

There are 18 pages of text. So what of the place of Scotland’s politics? What of the SNP, the third largest political party, presently far ahead numerically of the Lib Dems in the British parliament?

A search for the term ‘Scotland’ yields this one return: ‘The SNP continues to dominate polling in Scotland, yet the route to a new independence referendum remains unclear.’

A search for the term ‘SNP’ yields two returns, the one in the previous extract and also this: ‘It’s hard to imagine the SNP or the Liberal Democrats propping up a minority fourth term Conservative government.’ (Did the Lib Dems not prop up a minority Tory government on a relatively recent occasion?) A search for ‘Sturgeon’ and for ‘Blackford’ gives no returns.

But a search for the term ‘Liberal’ (as in Liberal Democrats) yields 15 returns. Even Ed Davey gets a mention and Jo Swinson gets four! A search for ‘Farage’ yields three returns including one from this interesting sentence: ‘Farage’s decision to stand down candidates in Conservative seats at the 2019 British general election may therefore rank as one of the most consequential campaign decisions taken by any politician in recent years. Johnson’s path to a majority would have been much rockier had Farage continued to press his case in Conservative constituencies.’

So not only did a party, the Tories, who have failed to win a majority in Scotland since the mid 1950s, win a third term in government in 2019 but it did so according to this assessment in part due to ‘the most consequential campaign decisions taken by any politician in recent years’. That is an impactful decision taken by a politician, Nigel Farage, whose party had failed to gain any substantial traction with the  electorate in Scotland ever. Another telling illustration of NOT better togetherness?

Uncomfortable but unsurprising conclusions

From this assessment of the British general election of 2019 and the future of British politics some uncomfortable conclusions can be drawn: (I) the context influencing the 2019 General Election, its outcome and impact had little to do with politics in Scotland; (ii) the success in 2019 of the Tory party which in turn was assisted by the campaign decisions made by the leadership of the Brexit party is notable for one thing – it involved two political parties with little traction in Scotland before, during or since 2019; (iii) the success in 2019 of the Tories assisted by what the article terms a Labour Party offer which ‘neither side of a polarised electorate found attractive or convincing’ is once again a feature only of England’s politics.

So when the author of the UK IN A CHANGING EUROPE article devotes much attention to the Lib Dems and scant attention to Scotland and the SNP when examining the twin issues of the 2019 General Election and the ‘future of British politics’, is this simply an acknowledgement, perhaps even unconsciously, of realpolitik – the practical and material factors of greatest importance?

The General Election of 2019 centred on England’s politics. The future of British politics is really the future of English politics whilst this Union still exists. A self-evident democratic deficit – and consequent limitations on agency within this Union – might well justify the author’s relative indifference to Scotland and its politics.

12 thoughts on “‘The future of British politics’ – Scotland’s democratic deficit justifying indifference?

  1. Thanks, again for an interesting article, unearthed.

    In my experience many self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ organisations based in London, mainly, tend to be very anglocentric and, indeed, when this is pointed out adopt a condescending attitude of, “Well, Scotland (or Wales or Northern Ireland) is no really significant in this matter. We are one country after all, aren’t we?”

    This was exemplified a few years back when Jeremy Corbyn, in response to a question which had implications for Scots Law replied, “You can’t have two sets of laws in the one country.”

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Yes and the increased use of “UK”, even on the weather forecast when the geographic names are more appropriate, is part of their deliberate propaganda to deliver their so-called One Nation

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well , no surprises here !
    Scotland put in its place ( again ! ) as not even a footnote in the discussion of English/UK politics .
    The only surprise is the failure to talk up the pitiful Scottish Tory performances – as FIRST losers in Scottish elections !

    Liked by 4 people

  3. England means England but sometimes it means Britain or U.K.
    Sometimes Britain means England, ,Scotland and Wales. Sometimes Britain means England and Wales or England and Scotland.
    Need I go on with this? They have not got a clue.
    My best one was a senior manager years ago waiting for a late flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh who when asked where he was going answered “ Rosyth dockyard, I’ve never been to Northern England before”. I suggested he never say that at Rosyth dockyard as he would be found floating face down in the Tyne.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Or ‘North Britain’ as England renamed Scotland at one time. I always wondered about the ‘North British’ hotel in Edinburgh, seemed like a strange name to have in Scotland, and of course there was once the ‘North British railway’ etc.
      Lena’s blog discusses this subject and it’s very interesting ineed, imo.

      What will the ‘UK’ be called when Scotland throws off the shackles I wonder?

      https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2021/12/12/whats-in-a-name-royalty-a-very-english-affair/

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So when the author of the UK IN A CHANGING EUROPE article devotes much attention to the Lib Dems and scant attention to Scotland and the SNP when examining the twin issues of the 2019 General Election and the ‘future of British politics’, is this simply an acknowledgement, perhaps even unconsciously, of realpolitik – the practical and material factors of greatest importance?”
    In my opinion, more likely just plain ignorance and lack of interest or English arrogance.
    Just watched people being interviewed by BBC and heard a comment that “ Boris had made some good decisions” and intention to vote Tory again. Talk about being blinkered
    Good analysis as ever, Stewart.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t believe it’s ignorance at all. It’s an attempt to belittle Scotland, you are not important you subsidy junkies! It’s a sort of disappear Scotland tactic, invisible Scotland, of no relevance, and your self important pretendy parliament deserves no mention and the SNP, lol! It’s same as that MP who stood up in WM and said ‘Scotland is no more important than Leicester town council’ or whatever/wherever she muttered about, to insult the people of Scotland and their actual democratically elected social democratic government.

    The BritNats in power in London are adorned with coats of many colours, and they have Scotland stitched up. Britain, UK, great Britain, UK of great Britain and NI, what does it all mean and stand for? Where do I count? Which ‘country’ and government do I caste my vote for in a democracy? It’s deliberately designed to divide when required and pretend there’s a unifying objective when push comes to shove. ‘Four nations’, all for one and all for one! Just keep sending those massive revenues you raise Scotland that’s a good boy, taps on head…kick!

    The BritNat bulldog bullies ignore Scotland, they don’t want attention brought to our country in some crucially important contexts, (ie if at all positive) because if say, a significant person happens to read about Scotland and their effective, democratically elected government it legitimises the fact that Scotland actually has their own parliament, their own Scots law, their own health system and education system, all of which have never ever been assimilated into the English systems, yet.

    It’s ridiculous to have a government next door making major (very bad) decisions about your country, it could hardly be less democratic and it cannot continue. It’s a clear portrait of a colonised country, while portrayed as what by the EngGov and their utterly biased media, one ‘country’ what a myth if ever there was.
    Since COP26, when er, Scotland really did have ‘the eyes of the world’ on it, the BritNats are attempting to disappear Scotland until they can ‘take back control’, via direct rule and they will do so.

    The so called UK is more like a dysfunctional dystopian nightmare prison now, and Scotland must escape while the door is ajar, or be fully assimilated into great England. I scare myself with that thought!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think you’re the only one who worries about that. I certainly do.
      With the changes in relative populations within Scotland, because of young people and families having to move south for work or housing. Meanwhile older, more prosperous folk come from south of the border and buy property at prices the locals cannot afford. They can enjoy more space, usually settling in pretty countyside, and benefit from the numerous ‘freebies’ we grant them, their student children or elderly relatives while still considering them selves British/English so that very few would vote for Scottish Independence.
      We could be a minority in our own country within a couple of decades or so.
      Look at the recent example of the ballot in New Caledonia to see what could happen.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with your comment, but I should add that I used ignorant with its alternative meaning of discourteous or rude. This may be an Ayrshire thing!

        Like

      2. Arayner I read a blog recently which highlighted the population changes you mentioned. From memory it was averaging 65,000 per annum emigrated versus 50,000 immigrated from rest of UK.
        Additionally it would seem that the emigrants were younger and immigrants older, a worry that native Scots will soon be outnumbered, if not already. (Note to self, must look up last Census figures)

        Liked by 1 person

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