The calling of a General Election by the Prime Minister may have caught everyone by surprise but it does not change the fundamentals of the current political scene – only a game-changing event, such as last year’s vote to leave the EU, or a vote for Scotland to leave the UK will do that.
It is therefore surprising how few of those active in politics understand the first three fundamentals and are already devising their election campaigns oblivious to the political environment they operate in. Even elected politicians from all parties can be completely ignorant of how they are being used and abused by their opponents who understand the fundamentals better than them.
The first and most important fundamental is that the SNP does not wish to destroy the Conservative Party, no matter what it says to create that impression. Such rhetoric is devised to play to audiences that might welcome such sentiments, namely those voters with left-of-centre sympathies, but especially Labour Party supporters.
Indeed, the SNP position is quite the reverse; the SNP needs and wants a Tory victory in this General election.
What the SNP really wants is the destruction of the Labour Party, and especially the Scottish Labour Party.
But wait, I hear you say, the SNP wants a “Tory-free Scotland”, and has made an offer to work with Jeremy Corbyn to form a progressive Alliance to keep the Tories out of power.
To accept on face value the SNP’s public position is to fall for a cunning ruse; the SNP wants a Tory-free Scotland, but it also wants a Labour-free Scotland and a Liberal Democrat-free Scotland. The SNP is driven by one thing and one thing only – Scottish independence – and it will therefore not settle for Labour or the Liberal Democrats keeping their solitary seats – those parties are unionist and will be given no quarter.
Moreover, the SNP wants to replace the Labour Party in Scotland, not just to help it achieve independence but for it to then remain as the dominant political force in Scottish politics afterwards. Despite what some of its politicians have said it will not take down its posters and drape its flags at some memorial shrine, no, it will continue campaigning as the natural inheritor of nationalist socialism in a new country where the test of your patriotism will be how hard you campaigned for independence.
Stalwarts of the unionist parties who chose to accept the democratic earthquake that independence would bring would always be mistrusted by the SNP and always be open to the belittling name calling of “Quisling” and “traitor’ that they are already subject to on a regular basis.
To achieve independence nationalism requires a demon and the SNP’s demon is the Conservative Party, disparagingly referred to as “Toarries” by the SNP, usually with an accompanying expletive when possible. Tories, including all those who vote Tory, are presented as the enemy of Scotland and the argument goes that the only way to avoid Tories making decisions for Scotland is to break with the UK. The possibility of a permanent Tory government at Westminster is therefore hyped-up so as to convince Labour voters to throw in the towel and vote for independence to achieve socialism; be it red-blooded or rosé tinted. Every Tory election victory provides fresh bait for the SNP to use as a lure to attract Labour voters to its hook.
The fact (and it is a fact) that Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland are either governed by conservatives now, or have been in the last ten years, exposes the lie that independence can provide an escape from Tories.
To further the destruction of the Labour Party and ensure there is a Tory Government – both being desirable outcomes for the SNP – it is paradoxically a necessity to hold out the hand of coalition to the Labour Party, and this is what Nicola Sturgeon did this week and Alex Salmond did before her in 2015. It was the fear of Alex Salmond dictating policy decisions to a weak Ed Miliband that caused a late stampede of English voters who had been dallying with voting UKIP, Lib Dem or Labour back to David Cameron’s party that won him the last General Election. As soon as this phenomenon was identified by Tory strategist Lynton Crosby the Conservatives staked the house on it – and it worked.
The second fundamental of current politics is that the Scottish Conservative’s need (for the moment) the independence movement to be a credible threat to the continuity of the UK – because the Conservative Party’s recent success in Scotland has been built upon providing a moderate vehicle to oppose that threat. Ruth Davidson’s party is now essentially Scotland’s Unionist Party of old, before it adopted the new name of Conservative and Unionist Party back in 1965. Whisper it, but it is intentionally Zero-Cal Conservative.
The third fundamental is that due to the centuries-old history of fighting each other the three main unionist parties are unable to consider allowing only one unionist to compete against the SNP – they will thus remain at a disadvantage against the SNP in an election focussed on independence unless voters abandon their party loyalties in significant numbers.
Once these three fundamentals are understood it should then be entirely plain that until the Labour Party, at both and Westminster and Holyrood, rules out even a smidgeon of co-operation with the SNP to obtain power at any level of local, regional or national government only the Conservative and Unionist Party can stop the SNP – and the Labour Party shall continue what is becoming a terminal decline. Many voters have already worked this out, which is why the politically androgynous but devoutly unionist Conservative Party continues to gain on the SNP at the expense of Labour.
For Jeremy Corbyn to have any hope of winning enough seats to form even a minority government he cannot afford to give any ambiguous comments about working with the SNP. He needs to say firmly and repeatedly that there will be no deals.
If saving the Union requires holding one’s nose to vote Tory then more and more Scots are willing to give it a try and the more Ruth Davidson reduces the amount of blue in her mix of red white and blue the easier it is for Labour voters to make that switch.
l Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org