So it’s done again until 2020…or 2017 probably after the EU referendum. As a liberal-minded unionist lefty it’s not a great result for me either way today: SNP up here wanting to separate the union and the Tories down there ready to screw everyone even more in the next five years. It’s the first election I’ve voted in that has left me with little to be pleased about.
The historic win has to be recognised and as long as we have the first past the post system. But there are a few things to remember here, the SNP are the opposition party in Scotland to Labour and finally they won – it’s been a long time coming. Also it’s not a vote for another independence referendum, although that will come, but it does shake up the system which is maybe not a bad thing. However Nicola Sturgeon has to be careful what she asks for – recently she’s moved from wanting “full fiscal autonomy” to “fiscal responsibility”. While it might seem like semantics the two are very different.
“Autonomy” means we are left to run our own money – raise it and spend it with no Barnett formula, whereas “Responsibility” gives Sturgeon a safety net. Why would she need it? Well with current oil prices and no grant from Westminster we’d be anything from eight to ten billion pounds short in our budget. Where the SNP have to be careful is if they ask for it, it’s in the interests of the Tories to give it to them just to see it fail and get rid of the SNP possibly for a generation. While some may like to see the SNP in real trouble, it would mean the poorest in Scotland would suffer most.
Where do you start? Well I’d start at the point where Ed Miliband got elected as leader of the party. No one outside the unions wanted him – the public was expecting his brother to get the job and he would have had a much better chance than Ed yesterday. The reason? The lurch to the left. A return to the tribalism that kept the party out of power for eighteen years through the eighties and nineties.
Labour under Blair – regardless what you think of him – were a party that a majority could get behind. While it had an eye on working for everyone, it could also work with business and the banks. As much as we hate the banks we have to accept that we live in a capitalist model and until we – as a country – change that centre left is the best position for the Labour party. Weak leadership, no presence on the world stage, ideas with no substance and a man who let’s be honest we’re pretty glad will be gone. There’s no space for “pity politics” when they are in charge of our money and lives.
What next? Well for me Andy Burnham has always come across really well. Honest as Ed was but with more substance – and he’s not part of the political elite so he’d do well with the “working family” Labour claims to stand for.
I have a soft spot for the Lib Dems, despite allowing tuition fees and the bedroom tax, they will be remembered for making the last five years almost bearable. If you don’t believe me write yourself a note saying “Remember the Lib Dems?”, stick it on your fridge and in about a year’s time you will be wishing someone was in the cabinet holding the Tories back from more cuts to the poorest in society, tax cuts for the richest and biggest businesses, and a lack of moral backbone of any kind.
Nick Clegg was not a monster but happened to fall foul of the “Black Widow” coalition – they were devoured by their mates after they screwed them. Should he have teamed up with the Tories? Well I don’t see how they could refuse in all honesty – a chance to implement their ideas and policies was too good a chance to miss. And they did deliver on raising the tax threshold by £5000 meaning most part-time workers or those on minimum wage didn’t pay any tax. I hope they bounce back stronger for the experience.
Can fuck off
It’s going to hurt. No two ways about it. For the next five years the belt-tightening will leave most of us with a permanent ingrained mark round our middles. Twelve billion pounds of cuts and a national debt that increased by half a trillion means no one will escape. And if track records are anything to go by we know that the worst off will face the biggest struggle. Foodbanks increased by a factor of more than ten in the last five years and around 900,000 people used them last year. Further cuts to benefits regardless of need, the removal of the Disability living allowance and reduced Child Benefit won’t bother the 1% super rich – but will impact on you and I.
Then there’s the biggest danger – Europe. This is the key to where we will be by 2020. Here are the two options:
1. Cameron negotiates a new deal and wins a referendum, decides to retire as Prime Minister and Boris steps up to the plate without the electorate getting a say.
2. Cameron negotiates a deal, but loses the referendum. This then will spark a second referendum in Scotland for Independence as we are Europhiles north of the border. With the prospect of fish, farming and oil being impacted it’s easy to see the Yes side winning.
And my fear is the latter is more likely.
Over the next five years I honestly think we could see a massive constitutional nightmare all because Cameron lurched right to call UKIP’s bluff. Redwood, Mitchell and other Eurosceptic Tories have already been on TV making warning noises.
While I will always respect the democratic process – and the shoddy first past the post system that left the Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems ridiculously under represented according to share of vote – I do think that with polar opposites either side of the border, we could be looking at Cameron being the last PM of the UK, and being the man who broke it.