Arc of Prosperity

Scottish Independence within the EU – with a Scandinavian Slant

LabourLibDemsSNPToriesWestminsterwritten with ChatGPT

All Change on Thursday?

As the UK gears up for the general election on Thursday, 4 July 2024, the air is thick with predictions and analyses from every corner of the political spectrum. It seems fitting, then, to offer my own perspective.

The Labour Party is on track to secure a dominant majority, significantly surpassing 400 seats. Such a victory would not only reshape the House of Commons, but also redefine the dynamics of British politics. While Reform may outpoll the Tories, I reckon they’ll get less than five seats.

The real suspense, however, lies in whether the Liberal Democrats will eclipse the Conservatives to become the official opposition. Opinion polls offer conflicting signals, and my lack of familiarity with South West England does little to clarify my expectations. Yet, one cannot help but hope for a Liberal Democrat surge. As Edwin Hayward has insightfully described, the consequences of the Tories slipping to third place are profound and far-reaching:

If relegated to third place, the Conservative Party would lose critical privileges that define the official Opposition. This includes six questions at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), significant media coverage under the “balance” requirement, 17 Opposition Days to set the agenda, almost £1 million in Short Money, among other benefits. These advantages are indispensable for a party aiming to rebuild and maintain relevance in the political arena, and they would instead transfer to the Liberal Democrats.

Finding themselves in third place would likely condemn the Conservatives to political obscurity, leading to a potential exodus of donors and supporters. This scenario could drastically alter the political fabric of the UK, providing the Liberal Democrats with a unique opportunity to challenge the current Brexit consensus between the Tories and Labour. Important topics such as Single Market membership and potentially rejoining the EU could resurface under a Liberal Democrat opposition, as would pressure to introduce Proportional Representation.

In Scotland, the picture is equally intriguing but for different reasons. The Tories will do badly there, too, and the Lib Dems are unlikely to benefit. Neither the Greens nor Alba are expected to gain seats, shifting the focus to whether Scottish Labour might surpass the SNP.

This scenario presents a dilemma for independence supporters. While a pro-independence majority would symbolize the ongoing vitality of the independence movement to observers in the rUK and the rest of the World, in Scotland a situation where the SNP are struggling could catalyse a much-needed strategic realignment towards more effective action on achieving independence.

Thus, the stakes are high, not just for the parties involved but for the future trajectory of Scotland’s independence movement. A strong showing for the SNP could ensure that independence remains on the agenda in the UK, yet a setback might provoke a necessary introspection and recalibration of the SNP’s approach to securing independence.

To return to the UK, a recent analysis by Matthew d’Ancona in The New European poignantly captures the current, somber mood of the British electorate. This year’s general election contrasts sharply with the spirited atmosphere of 1997, reflecting deep-seated frustration rather than hopeful anticipation. This sentiment, reminiscent of the divisive Brexit vote, indicates an electorate driven by desperation for change rather than allegiance to any party.

Ever since the Great Recession, people have been hurting – a reality that nearly led Scotland to vote for independence in 2014 and pushed England toward Brexit in 2016. However, the quick disillusionment post-Brexit and the stagnation under subsequent Conservative leadership have only deepened public discontent. Now, as voters consider handing Labour a majority, their desire is not for subtle policy shifts but for radical transformation.

The SNP and other parties have misunderstood their electoral victories as endorsements of over-all programmes. However, these victories were more about voters rejecting the status quo rather than embracing the offered alternatives. The SNP, in particular, has seen enthusiasm wane as they’ve struggled to obtain independence, or at least greatly expanded devolution, for Scotland.

Labour’s manifesto, titled “Change”, largely perpetuates Tory policies, albeit with slight improvements in kindness and competence. This approach overlooks the electorate’s profound desire for significant systemic reform. Voters are seeking not mere improvements but a revolutionary change to restore prosperity and fairness.

D’Ancona draws from Albert O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty to suggest that the electorate’s move to ‘exit’ from one party to another is a critical signal of dissatisfaction. If the incoming government fails to address the root causes of this dissatisfaction, voters will likely continue their search for alternatives, potentially embracing more drastic changes in future elections.

The challenge for any governing party is therefore not just to administer but to fulfill the public’s deep-seated hunger for tangible change. Failing this, the cycle of electoral volatility and public disillusionment will persist. Labour has five years to implement meaningful reforms, while the SNP must reignite its quest for independence to regain its position as Scotland’s preferred choice.

As we look towards Thursday, my predictions are as follows – time will show whether they are prescient or wishful:

Labour: 457 seats
Liberal Democrats: 77 seats
Conservatives: 69 seats
SNP: 19 seats
Plaid Cymru: 4 seats
Green: 3 seats
Reform: 2 seats
(Plus, of course, the Speaker and the Northern Ireland seats.)

One thought on “All Change on Thursday?

  • I don’t trust the polls. From my canvassing days, I learned that the ‘don’t know’/’won’t say’ people are those who’ll either stay at home, or vote in a way that distorts the outcome. Currently, embarrassed status-quo voters (Tories in England, SNP in Scotland) are probably not accurately represented in polling. So I suspect in England Tories will hang on to enough seats to deny LibDems the official opposition role & in Scotland the SNP will live to dangle yet more ‘give us a mandate’ carrots before the electorate. I wish I could be more optimistic.


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