All bets are off

Not so long ago, I would have dismissed talk of a split in the Conservative Party sufficient to jeopardise their grip on power. For decades, the Tories have managed to avoid the kind of torrid factionalism that so fatally weakens their British Labour counterparts. The secret of the Tories’ success – they’ve been in power for three of the last five decades – is their ability to heal, or plaster over, internal wounds when the stakes are high.

British Labour, by contrast, is never more tragically riven by internecine warfare than when they have the most to lose.

Things have changed. The old certainties about the Tories’ capacity for finding the necessary degree of solidarity when the alternative is being out of office do not apply to a party captained by Theresa May and crewed by the likes of Boris Johnson and David Davis. Quite literally, anything can happen. Even – perhaps especially – the previously unthinkable.

In a world where Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Jacob William Rees-Mogg is being touted as Prime Minister, don’t bet against being overtaken by a white rabbit with a giant pocket-watch next time you’re strolling down to the shops.

Only a few years ago I would have dismissed the Morgan Stanley researchers’ prediction that the Tories would lose a vote of confidence as breathless sensationalism. Now, it seems all too credible.

However one views the prospect of yet another UK general election next year, we have to accept that it is a distinct possibility. Which necessarily implies that we must consider the implications. Two things immediately spring to mind. The first is that an election in 2018 would coincide with arguably the most crucial period in the farcical Brexit ‘negotiations’. What the impact might be is anybody’s guess. Cynics might opine that the process could only be enhanced by taking the British side out of the equation. I couldn’t possibly comment. But what I would say is that the UK could not expect any special consideration from the EU. It is extremely doubtful that they would agree to extend the two-year period allowed by Article 50. Having so ludicrously botched things up to now, the British political elite isn’t going to get any sympathy at all from the remaining EU member states who will regard an election as just one more failure.

Just as significantly, a UK general election in 2018 would clash with the new independence referendum – anticipated to be held in September. And that’s when things start to get really messy. The UK Government will use the election as a pretext to prohibit the referendum. The Scottish Government will insist on going ahead with a referendum that would presumably have been sanctioned by the Scottish Parliament. This would give the British state the excuse it needs to suspend Holyrood and impose direct rule from London.

Think I’m being alarmist? Watch out for that white rabbit.

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8 thoughts on “All bets are off

  1. bringiton

    As we all know,Cameron called the Brexit referendum in order to sort out the problems he had with the right wing of his Tory party.
    All that has happened subsequently is that they have been unleashed and along with the bigots in the Irish and Scottish Unionist parties now present the UK image to the world of a small minded,foreigner hating,sectarian,homophobic,racist cabal of extremists who cannot be counted on to keep their commitments with trading partners.
    The EU is well shot of them,they have enough of those problems in former Soviet states without Little Englanders stirring that nasty little pot.
    However,you are right and those in the Tory party who consider themselves to be above all that nastiness will eventually rebel,they have their image to consider after all.
    Interesting times.

  2. Willie John

    Such an outcome (suspend Holyrood and impose direct rule from London) could possibly trigger something currently considered unthinkable – UDI.

    What then? Tanks in George Square?

  3. grizebard

    It seems to be becoming a tactic of the Tories to engineer a UK general election whenever a Scottish independence referendum is pending (and to hell with The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act). Not only screws-up the timetable, it compounds the voter fatigue that is present in Scotland right now.

    However, that tactic could backfire. Possibly already has in the last UKGE. Punish those who are clearly unable to govern. But as far as Scotland is concerned, voting Labour will just exchange one set of clueless southerners for another. The moment needs to be seized for independence.

    A timely independence referendum will free us from all this UK turmoil. A great selling-point.

  4. Vestas

    My money is on the tories (blue, orange and red) to stymie indyref2 by calling a referendum on the terms of Brexit. We’ll then get more years of “respect the will of the (English) people” guff.

    Sadly I don’t think the SNP are up to dealing with this 🙁

    1. Donald McGregor

      I think the idea of Westminster trying to interfere with our own democratic processes is a given; I’m not so sure that they can really call a referendum on the terms of the Brexit ‘deal’ – it’s looking very likely to be not sorted, or, sorted but not to UK liking. What on earth could they do with a vote against whatever ‘deal’ is in the air?
      Start again? Don’t think so.

  5. Lorna Campbell (LC)

    No, indyref2 will be stymied somehow. But that is not the end of it because it probably cannot be won, in any case. Little has changed in the way of voter numbers either way, with, perhaps, EU citizens – however many are left after this Brexit debacle – voting YES this time. If the numbers are roughly equal to those of 2014 for YES and NO, there can be no winning a second indyref, and to believe we can is tantamount to insanity: doing the same thing again and expecting a different outcome. It has to be acknowledged – no matter how reluctantly and no matter how un-pc it appears to be – that there are those in Scotland who are colonial and imperialist in their mindset and will never change.

    The only way that we can conceivably win, is if large numbers of NO voters change sides, and that will happen only if the whole Brexit nonsense starts to unravel seriously, if, at the same time, the Tories unravel, if Labour and the Lib Dems do not prop them up, and if, simultaneously, the Union itself starts to crumble in England, leaving English migrants in Scotland little choice because they will already have crossed the proverbial Rubicon and will not wish to return to an England in turmoil. All these things will happen, of course, but will they happen in time to save Scotland – and/or the SNP?

    I’m not saying that we should not have another idyref, but it has to be preceded by common sense actions to put even more pressure on the Tories and the Brexiteers by appealing to the international courts and the UN. This would have the efficacy also of circumventing that huge NO vote by challenging it indirectly, but in the open, and democratically, before embarking on a second idyref. If the Unionists (and Westminster and Whitehall) try – they will – to scupper a second indyref, we have a second front on which to challenge them, and their actions will be seen by the world as being both ultra vires and oppressive. Meanwhile, the travesty of Brexit will continue apace, as England finally begins to understand the true cost of its actions, and we continue to challenge every policy, every move, every sleekit, wee, underhand and dirty trick at Westminster – politically, through our SNP MPs because we cannot challenge through the courts. The end of the Union is the only way that all four parts can live in the future – the real future, not some delusional second empire.

    What we cannot afford to do is to put all our eggs in the one indyref2 basket.

    LC

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