The general election was decided on simplistic arguments amid rancour and blatant lies. If we are to improve our country, we need to be more civilised and saerious, writes Donald Anderson.
As the dust settles on the election, the implications for Edinburgh and Scotland are not yet obvious. What’s crystal clear though is that we will now have a Conservative Government with a working majority, and we will have Brexit. As a passionate “Remainer” with increasingly faint hopes that Brexit could be avoided, that is a bitter pill to swallow. “Get Brexit Done” is not a clever or particularly memorable phrase, but it struck a chord with some voters exasperated at the seemingly never-ending wrangles of parliament over the outcome of the 2016 referendum.
So, Boris it is then. Shares and the pound have bounced up, and Boris will have a honeymoon for a short time at least. But – and there’s always a “but” – Boris made an array of spending promises that will be difficult to deliver. The “Catch-22” is that Brexit, however smoothly handled, will be a drag on the UK economy for many, many years. All those promises may yet go unfunded, and Boris is unlikely to be able to hide in a fridge, or from Andrew Neil if that happens.
And what of Scotland? Another triumph for the SNP. Strategically, the SNP outfoxed the other parties by pressing for an early election and both Labour and the Lib Dems fell into a trap so brightly illuminated you could probably have seen it from space.
Such is the fall from grace of the Labour Party that in Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath – a seat once held by Gordon Brown with 65 per cent of the vote, voters preferred a candidate quickly and wisely disowned by the SNP after allegations of anti-semitism appeared. If such a result doesn’t cause Labour to rethink its approach, it’s unlikely anything will.
Boris won’t stop indyref2 if SNP win in 2021
In Edinburgh and Scotland, the night belonged to the SNP. Ruth Davidson may have been spared that dip in Loch Ness, but the advance of the Conservatives stalled when confronted with what voters saw as a competent and effective opposition led by Nicola Sturgeon.
That gives fresh impetus to demands for another independence referendum. It won’t happen quickly; Boris will bounce any move before the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. However, if the SNP fights and wins that election seeking a mandate for a referendum, then it would be politically indefensible to hold out against a new vote.
An election driven by ending uncertainty simply hasn’t achieved that. “Getting Brexit Done” is just a simple slogan. Delivering it will be immensely complicated. Uncertainty for Scotland and Britain has been paused, but not stopped as the constitutional debate continues unabated.
Government is a complicated business which is at times decided on simplistic arguments. This election is just such a case. The rancour and at times blatant lies told during this campaign do not reflect well on our democracy. Social media has become a haven for ill-informed comment and abuse.
If we are to improve our country, then we need to ensure a civilised and serious debate. Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart – now a political exile – famously railed against simplistic populism by saying: “We need to be more serious.”
As we look up from the results of the general election, I can think of no better advice for our politicians and for voters. The debate about the future of Edinburgh, of Scotland and of Britain deserves no less.