So the verdicts are in from the debate on Thursday evening and everyone is agreed that Nicola Sturgeon was the winner. Suddenly the metropolitan papers have once again remembered that there is more than one country that makes up the union which is at the heart of Britain. The last time this happened was when there was panic over the way that the recent Scottish referendum might have lead to Scottish Independence. However, the voters didn’t choose this and this led our great opinion formers to think that had put the question to bed for a generation – which I guess shows just how little they really know.
The interesting spin being put on this is that Ms Sturgeon is the real Labour leader and that a vote for the SNP is a vote for real Labour. This in turn plays into the hands of the Conservatives who have little to gain electorally from Scotland themselves other than the destruction of the Labour heartland and thus any chance that Labour might have of winning outright. So in that sense they have a considerable amount to gain from talking up Ms Sturgeon.
I laughingly wrote the other month of Alex Salmond as the next Prime Minister but perhaps I should’ve replaced him with Nicola Sturgeon? The reality is that what we are starting to see is the destruction of the old political order, which I have to admit I thought was going to start on the right but maybe it be on the left. This in turn could lead to the destruction or perhaps a better word is the reconstruction of the way that this country is run with a move to a federal system. In this model the nations would have much greater autonomy than is currently the case and the centre will only deal with UK wide issues such as defence, foreign affairs, the EU and finance. Everything else will be for each individual country to decide for themselves how to spend or not spend the money. One of the cornerstones of this new model will be the Scottish National Party (SNP) who, whilst wishing for independence, realise that this is not really a starter as they will always have the goliath of England to the south who will directly or indirectly affect how Scotland works. Also the figures didn’t add up six months ago when they last tried for independence and things have got a lot once for Scotland since then and in truth the voters of Scotland know this. What the SNP really want is devo max which, if they play their cards right, they are likely to get over the next 5 years.
There are a huge amounts of things that could go wrong with this vision, one of the biggest being Alex Salmond who demonstrated such bad judgement over the past few weeks I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms Sturgeon isn’t praying for a Lib Dem victory in the Gordon constituency. Another unknown is the reaction of the Labour party to any significant gains by the SNP. Do they see this as an opportunity to change the map of the UK for good or do they draw inwards and consume themselves in the sort of bloodbath last seen in the 1980’s? Only time will tell.
So where does this model leave the Conservatives and the Lib Dems? If we do get a minority Labour government supported by the the SNP then it is reasonable to assume that the Lib Dems would support this as well. One of the things that Labour would have to offer is genuine changes to the way that parliament is elected. Again, the SNP would not be in any position to oppose this as this is how the Scottish Parliament is elected. It would also offer the beleaguered Scottish Labour Party hope of gaining some seats back at Westminster. If this were to happen then it would quicken up the pace for a move to federal Britain.
As for the Conservatives I really don’t think they would be able to put up much of a fight against this for two reasons. Firstly I suspect that there will be some form of seismic split on the right if there is no likelihood of any vote on Europe. This could lead to the formation of two right wing blocs in parliament. Secondly, a federal Britain offers the chance for the Conservative party to have real power in England, where they may well end up being the largest party, that is if they too don’t descend into a Labour style 1980’s battle. This is not guaranteed.
So there we have it a perfect high definition picture from just two hours of TV – not bad really. Is it likely? Well in politics never say never but in truth I don’t think so as I have not mentioned the two things that politics has in abundance – ego and self interest. Given the probable inconclusive nature of the next election these two things will be most apparent and if that is the case then all bets are off