“Analysis from the UK’s leading polling expert, Sir John Curtice, found that the Tories face losing all six of their Scottish MPs as things stand – with the SNP winning 49 (an increase of one) and Labour picking up seven overall.”Tories to return ZERO Scottish MPs at next election, in double poll whammy
Which means a huge victory for British Labour in Scotland and a ‘blow’ to the SNP. You may wonder how a gain of a mere seven seats equates to an electoral triumph while taking 46% of the popular vote is ‘disappointing’ (BBC) if not a ‘humiliating defeat for Nicola Sturgeon’ (Daily Express). You reckon without the transformative magical powers of the British propaganda machine.
This observation by John Curtice is interesting in the context.
The [Scottish Tory] party looks once again like the minnow it was before its revival under the leadership of Ruth Davidson.
Think back to that “revival”. Was it explained by anything Ruth Davidson did or said? Could it be accounted for by reference to some particular talent or skill or quality evinced by Davidson – other than her willingness to be used by the British ruling elites? Was that revival even real?
It is true that the SNP lost 21 seats at the 2017 election while the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) gained 12. But to what extent was this a “revival” for BCUPS? And to whatever extent it may be regarded as such, what was Davidson’s role in the turnaround of Tory fortunes?
As ever, the bare figures don’t tell the whole story. Despite losing 21 seats, the SNP did not lose its status. By every significant metric other than the simple gains/losses calculation, the SNP came out of the 2017 UK general election in the same position as it went in. The party still held an overwhelming majority of Scottish seats. It still had more seats than all three main British parties combined. It was still the third largest party in the British parliament. In terms of the party’s standing in both Scotland and the UK, nothing had really changed. Only if you focus on the seats lost to the exclusion of all else could the outcome sensibly be portrayed as the trouncing presented by the British media.
Losing 21 seats was bad. Just not anything like as bad as we were told.
If this loss was to be spun by the media as a massive setback for the nationalists, there needed to be a victor. It’s all relative. One side’s defeat can only be as big as the other side’s triumph – and vice versa. Ruth Davidson was crowned Queen of the Brits solely to provide the contrast that made the tales of a dethroned Nicola Sturgeon more credible. She relished the role, of course. She lapped-up the attention and revelled in the adulation and looked forward to her reward of elevation to the British Dead Stoat Cloak Club. But none of it was any of her doing.
The SNP lost 21 seats in the UK general election not due to Ruth Davidson’s brilliance as a political campaigner but because of Nicola Sturgeon’s appalling lack of strategic thinking. Under her leadership, the SNP dropped the independence issue as if it was a used tissue and instead went all-out on a campaign to reverse the democratic choice of the people of England & Wales in the 2016 EU referendum. It was Sturgeon’s ineptitude that lost those seats. The only thing that prevented the 2017 UK general election actually being the disaster for the SNP that the British media portrayed was the party’s massive dominance combined with really hard work by the party’s foot-soldiers.
The point I’m making is that what was presented by the media was a false reality. The SNP didn’t suffer a humiliating setback and there was no great triumph for the Queen of the Brits. The reality was much more mundane – not much changed. But the British propaganda was powerful enough that even a large part of the Yes movement believed it. And continue to believe it. The engineered reality won out over the objective reality. The lies beat the truth. Such is the power of the British propaganda machine. History is written by the winners. But only because the ones with the power to concoct history invariably turn out to be the winners.
If the polls under discussion here were to be an accurate forecast of what is to come – which is extremely unlikely, but bear with me – then once again we would see the situation in Scotland little changed from that prior to the election. BCUPS and British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) would swap places as per the routine of British two-party politics. But other than that, not much would be different. This is not, however, the story that will be written into history. That will be the British media’s version.
The next UK general election will be fought in large part as a contest to see which of the British parties can paint itself as the biggest and most crushing ‘hammer of the Scots’. The economy will take foremost place, of course. The issue of economic competence will, as ever, be the principal preoccupation of the British chatterati. But the more intense battle will be the willy-waving contest between two branches of British Nationalist ideology vying to be the most fervently intent on “facing down” the threat to their “precious Union” posed by Scotland’s distinctive political culture and our determination to preserve our national identity against a homogenising annexation by England-as-Britain.
The two aspects of the UK general election will be conflated, of course. This goes without saying as the anti-Scottish rhetoric of British Nationalism is largely of the ‘Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!’ (TW!TP!TS!) variety. But the British parties will both (all) be campaigning on a promise to crush the ‘separatists’ in every part of England-as-Britain’s periphery. The common battle-cry will be ‘One Nation Under Westminster!’.
Nicola Sturgeon intends to play into this battle of the BritNats by trying to insist that the election is not an election – or not only an election – but a referendum on whether she gets to continue asking for a Section 30 order. (Aye! It makes no sense to me, either!) This gives the British Nationalists of both (all) parties the ‘enemy’ that their campaign needs. For the most part, the British parties and the British media will just ignore the whole ‘de facto referendum’ thing. They’ll treat it as a normal UK general election. In the context of a Scottish Parliament election the SNP’s proposal for a plebiscitary election would make something vaguely resembling sense. In the context of a UK general election, it is just silly.
In the context of the coming UK general election, it is silly and counter-productive as far as Scotland’s cause is concerned. (You remember Scotland’s cause, don’t you? Restoring independence and all that?) The British parties and the British media will simply absorb it into the battle of the BritNats. Sturgeon will be the villain trying to break up “our family” while the British parties compete to be the ones who will crush her.
In the aftermath of this campaign, if the outcome is as the polls suggest, BLiS will take over the role played by BCUPS in 2017. A straight swap. But Anas Sarwar seems an unlikely candidate for ‘King of the BritNats’. There are limits to the British media’s ability to manipulate perceptions. Much more likely is that Sir Keir Starmer will take over Ruth Davidson’s role. He will be hailed as the real architect of the BLiS triumph in Scotland. Sarwar will dutifully join in the hailing.
The SNP’s electoral problem is that having had huge successes such as the 2015 UK general election, the party doesn’t just have to win and win every time, it has to win big every time. A small improvement is easily transformed by the British media into a significant decline. Winning as the party must is a serious challenge. It demands an appropriate election campaign strategy. Pretending the UK election is a Scottish referendum is, rather obviously, not that strategy.
On the bright side, the British media won’t have to work very hard to create the version of reality which will become history. They can take the stuff they used in 2017 and just change a few names.
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