Why Boris Johnson poses as big a threat to the Union as SNP – Lesley Laird

The likely election of Boris Johnson as Conservative leader poses a threat to the Union, says Lesley Laird (Picture: Getty)The likely election of Boris Johnson as Conservative leader poses a threat to the Union, says Lesley Laird (Picture: Getty)
The likely election of Boris Johnson as Conservative leader poses a threat to the Union, says Lesley Laird (Picture: Getty)
As the circus masquerading as the Tory Leadership campaign continues to wind its way across the country, I am regularly reminded of the phrase that a week is a long time in politics, and that now every week brings yet another drama, writes Lesley Laird.

Reflecting on everything that has happened since 2016, it really is quite astonishing. When David Cameron’s poor judgement led him to call the EU referendum, I’m not entirely sure he knew the political forces he had unleashed.

It soon became apparent that what started out as an act of Tory self-preservation could result in the biggest and most fundamental shock in British political history – the break-up of the UK.

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Boris Johnson has emerged as the clear favourite. He was first out of the blocks, leaving the other contenders in his wake, not that Ruth Davidson seemed to notice.

First, she proclaimed that Sajid Javid was the man for her, but it transpires that he was not the man for her colleagues. Second on her list was Michael Gove, until his campaign disintegrated on the back of his drug confession. Now, she finds herself supporting Jeremy Hunt who also looks likely to fall by the wayside.

While Ruth’s approach appears to be ‘Anyone But Boris’, it very much looks as if the Tory membership’s approach is ‘Boris Before Everyone’, and he looks set to be propelled to victory, and through the door of No 10.

The Tory membership are ruthless when selecting new leaders and nothing highlights this more than the YouGov polling of Tory members which showed that in order to get Brexit over the line they would happily see Scotland become independent, Northern Ireland reunified with the Republic, the Tory Party destroyed, and the UK economy trashed.

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With the two candidates effectively having ripped up their Party’s 2017 Manifesto with their outrageous campaign spending pledges, this should be a cause of great concern for every one of us.

Here in Scotland, Brexit, has let the constitutional genie back out of the 2014 bottle and brought with it new, and very difficult challenges.

The parliamentary processes at Westminster have fully exposed many cracks in the UK’s current constitutional settlement and has highlighted that it simply doesn’t work for ordinary people, and not just in Scotland.

In Scotland, powers have been hoovered into Holyrood. Captured, and either never used or used in such a timid fashion that it has made no real impact in addressing some of basic societal ills, despite the rhetoric of the SNP for the last 10 years.

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It is against these backdrops that I believe that there is an existential threat to the Union of the UK.

If Boris Johnson is Prime Minister, he will bumble and bluster his way through his opening 100 days. We will be heading for a crash-landing No Deal scenario on 31 October. Because, and let’s be clear, he can do that, by simply doing nothing, apart from frustrating the parliamentary processes.

At that point you can write the script; the SNP will be begging the Scottish people to press the eject button while they can. But as their Growth Commission shows, that would be akin to ejecting without a parachute.

As we celebrate 20 years of devolution this year, it is clear that neither the Tories nor the SNP support the concept. David Mundell’s appearance before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee this week appears to indicate there will be no more devolution for Scotland and the Scottish Government will need to just like it or lump it. As for the SNP, they are not interested in devolution – for them it is all about their goal of independence.

Devolution was foreseen to be the embodiment of cooperation, yet those currently responsible for preserving it are not interested in doing so. For the Tories and SNP, grievance and identity politics have become the only game in town.

Democratic decision-making was never intended to stop at Holyrood’s doors – but it has certainly stalled there. People do not feel that they have control of the decisions that make sense for them to take locally. Powers need to go with a clear purpose and where they can do most good.

That’s is why I believe it is time to move devolution on to its next evolution and take our democratic processes across the UK to a better place than they are today.

Labour believes that the time is right to take a more federal approach and a fresh perspective. We must engage in wide-ranging inclusive conversations in Scotland. Just as we did when establishing devolution, we must lead the way.

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A narrow focus on independence won’t work - it would not be representative of Scottish society. That is why we need a constitutional settlement that is equipped to deal with the social, economic, environmental and political challenges we are all facing.

For now one thing is for certain – as long as the Tories and the SNP are allowed to continue, unchecked, sawing away at the legs that support the Union, it’s future will not be secure.

Lesley Laird is MP is shadow Scottish Secretary