Council elections weakened Boris Johnson but Tories are still set to stay in power for years. No wonder despair affects so many – Kenny MacAskill MP

Groundhog Day! The local elections have been and gone but what’s changed?

South of the Border the Tories took a pasting, but Boris Johnson clings on, tottering but more from internal Tory discontent than an external political threat.

Events from Covid to Ukraine have protected him from a reckoning so far but they won’t always be there and a day of judgement’s coming.

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Assuming Keir Starmer survives “Beergate”, he still neither looks like a Prime Minister in waiting nor Labour a replacement government. The Liberal Democrats did well in some areas, but they’ve flattered to deceive before and rest on Tory voters’ discontent with Johnson, more than a conversion to their cause.

Boris Johnson may not last long as Prime Minister, but another Conservative, not Keir Starmer, is likely to replace him (Picture: Toby Melville/WPA pool/Getty Images)

Looming Westminster by-elections which will certainly be lost by the Tories may well dovetail with the long-awaited Sue Gray report. Barring a worsening of the situation in the Ukraine and the apocalypse looming for us all, then he’ll be ousted by his own.

But what then? A clean Tory skin pledges probity in office and a willingness to do more to address the cost-of-living crisis. Whoever that is continues in office until the general election in 2024 and, on the basis of what we’ve just seen from the council vote, the Tories will be back in office.

Not through a formidable election machine but instead backed by the power of oligarchs manipulating a news agenda and blaming all the ills on global factors whilst warning of the need for stability at home.

We’ve been through it all before down through the decades. They’re not the most successful party in British history for nothing.

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What of Scotland? One very astute commentator spoke of “limbo” and that’s for sure. SNP dominance remains, Tory discontent continues with Douglas Ross looking as doomed as the PM he’s vacillated over.

Minor gains for Labour putting it marginally ahead of the Tories hides the failure to win in Glasgow and other critical battlegrounds. If ever a city was ripe for electoral plucking it was the currently far from “Dear Green Place”. Limited progress by the Lib Dems and a failure by my own Alba Party to break through leaves Scotland much as it was.

What’s the response of the SNP to their continued dominance? Instead of seeking to act on the mandates they have, it’s to clutch onto the coat-tails of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

Now the latter’s victory is seismic and continues the march towards reunification. However, there’s no early border poll, this is simply the end of the political “protestant ascendency”. Focus will be on the Northern Ireland Protocol and forming an administration.

There’s no excuse now for Nicola Sturgeon not delivering on her referendum in 2023. Senior MPs have said that Tory consent isn’t required. But simply lodging a Bill and allowing the legislative sausage machine to mince it is not enough. There needs to be action across the board.

Like other independence activists, I stand ready. But I’ll not hold my breath.

Instead, I fear the constitutional impasse will remain, all as storm clouds loom over Scottish ferries, the offshore wind bounty fails to blow in jobs onshore, and council services diminish with potholes worsening.

No wonder so many despaired and didn’t even vote.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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