“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Thomas Paine
Last night was a long one. It was a long one for myself as I was on election analysis duty over at Broadcasting Scotland and didn’t get home till almost 7am.
It was a long one for Scotland and the UK as well. The balance of the last couple of years of hung parliaments and indecision has been struck. Boris Johnson has won the largest Tory majority since the Thatcher era.
Disclosure and Disclaimer: Although I am politically active and an active member of the Scottish Green party, this post is intended to be objective and politically neutral. This is a guide on how to vote, not a blog to try to convince you to vote for or against any particular person or party.
For the third time in four years, the UK is preparing to go to the polls to elect a Parliament to the House of Commons. The UK would not normally have been expected to be in this position as for the last several years there has been a law in place called the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) which was supposed to have fixed parliamentary terms at five years rather than the older system of leaving election timing to the whim of the Prime Minister of the day who could call or delay elections (within some limits) according to when they felt particularly advantaged or disadvantaged in the polls.
But Brexit, as with so much in British politics, has changed everything and the current logjam caused by the minority government inherited by Boris Johnson has meant that even his reforms to the Brexit Deal could not be passed through Parliament (and nor could any other permutation of result).
And so, just two years after the 2017 election that resulted in that minority Government, the UK is going back to the polls to see what happens this time.
The 2017 UK General Election Results
As stated in the disclaimer above, the purpose of this blog post isn’t to convince you to vote in a particular way – that will be for another time and is already being done by others. This is instead a post which acknowledges that a great many people have never voted in a UK General Election before and this may be their first vote of any kind. If you are aged 20 or under, you will likely have been too young to vote in the previous election and there will be some who were eligible to vote but haven’t ever done so before and maybe there’s an issue in this election which has proved to be particularly important to you. It may also be the case that you were not eligible to vote in previous elections but have just taken on British citizenship or suchlike and nor are eligible to vote. If any of these things are the case and you’d like to learn more about the voting process then this blog is for you and is a continuation of my long running series which has also covered the 2015 UK General Elections, the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Elections and the 2017 Scottish Local Authority Elections. and the 2019 EU Parliamentary Elections.
This guide is also unashamedly Scotland focused because that’s where I am and where the centre of my sphere of political interest lies but the basic principles of this guide will apply elsewhere in the UK (although the balance of candidates and thus voting considerations may vary)
“Fact be virtuous, or vicious, as Fortune pleaseth” – Thomas Hobbes
It’s that time again! The annual GERS report has been released and interested parties continue to analyse, pick apart and spin the numbers as required. And my now annual tradition of diving into the numbers continues with another installment.
At the weekend I gave a talk to Yes Edinburgh North & Leith on the subject of splitting the UK’s debts and assets in the event of Scottish independence. It was based on my 2016 paper Claiming Scotland’s Assets and my recent episode of the Common Weal Policy Podcast but during it someone asked a very interesting question that I’d like to explore here. What happens to Faslane and the UK’s nuclear weapons when Scotland becomes independent and what is the prospect for Scotland “renting” the base until things can be moved elsewhere?
“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” – John Steinbeck
Theresa May, in one of her last acts of power before abdicating as PM and turning over to either Boris Johnson or (perhaps) Jeremy Hunt has made a surprise announcement of a trip to Scotland to launch a “review of devolution” in the UK by Lord Dunlop – who was Head of Research within the Conservative Party during the Thatcher era and worked with David Cameron to formulate the UK Government’s strategy against the 2014 independence campaign.
Details of the review will be published on Friday but the early press release doing the rounds today has said that it will not “review” powers already devolved to the Scottish parliament and other administrations but will instead look at reserved areas to determine if they are still functioning optimally in the face of the changing politics of the UK and the last few rounds of devolution since the 2014 independence referendum.
This story comes in the same week that the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Lib Dems are having an almighty temper tantrum at the thought of the Scottish Government running a round of Citizens’ Assemblies on various issues including the topic of independence. Elected MSPs have even been encouraging a boycott of these Assemblies by Unionist supporters, seemingly not quite understanding that those who abstain from democracy lose the right to complain about the results of it when it happens without their input.
I won’t “empty chair” democracy. I won’t be disengaging from this devolution review but will instead offer some thoughts on it and speculate about what it might discover if it chooses to look. Continue reading →
“It is likely that such a replacement will be from the Brexiteer wing. Rees-Mogg has ruled out a run for the job but I think he’d be happier as Chancellor of the Exchequer under his able deputy PM Boris Johnson” – The Common Green, November 2018
The Conservative and Unionist Party’s leadership contest has completed its first phase and has whittled the number of candidates down to two. These two will now make their case to some 120,000 Tory party members across the UK who will vote for their preference.
Once they have done so, Boris Johnson will become the leader of the party and, unless there is a general election, will become Prime Minister of the UK.
After the last three years of dismal Brexit jockeying the only thing that could have made this any more Brexit-y would be if the other person in the race had been Michael Gove. Then we could have relived that picture of the two of them standing at their “victory” press conference with that “What do we do now?” look plastered over their faces.
But alas, Gove was knocked out by two votes and the other contender is Jeremy Hunt. And that look may have gone but believe me, the question hasn’t been answered.
So, with the caveat that my last attempt at a Brexit prediction failed badly because of my assumption of rationality and basic competence, let’s try and answer it. What will PM Johnson have to do once he takes the helm?
“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century: Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others; Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind; Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.” – Cicero
I write this on the eve of what would have been the UK’s departure from the UK. As it stands, there is still no actual plan on how to do so – though a recently negotiated extension has pushed the cliff edge out to April 12th. I didn’t realise just how prescient my “dystopian Brexit” mini-fiction was going to be when I wrote it last year. The UK Government still doesn’t have a clue how it wants to cut through its own red lines.
Incidentally, CGP Grey recently posted a good video illustrating the same paradox as I did but with shinier illustrations.
One interesting thing has happened though. Parliament, as exasperated as everyone else is, decided to “Take Back Control” from the Government and yesterday held a series of “Indicative Votes” in which the Parliament came up with a list of 15 possible options for Brexit (of which, the Speaker chose 8), and then they held “free”* votes on each of them.
*”Free” in the sense that some of the parties only whipped for or against some motions and the Cabinet were whipped to abstain on everything.
And the results of the Indicative Voters to check to see if Parliament, rather than Government, could come with an option that could command majority support? Well, in true Brexit style…they couldn’t.
The annual ESS report came out last week and – as is traditional in Scottish politics – it was pounced on by those eager to make a quick headline out of the numbers. When statistical reports like this come out it’s always better to take a bit of time to dive a little deeper into them and to discuss the details that can often be far more interesting than those initial headlines.