The yawning chasms within British Conservatism over its DUP love-in

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There's a new word for brazen and it lives in Downing Street (for the moment)

Commentary by Russell Bruce

The people have spoken, the bastards

So said Dick Tuck in his concession speech following his loss in the 1966 California State Senate election. The outcome of the UK general election is not so straightforward. What the people wanted they got none of.

We have an unstable government at Westminster to be propped up by the DUP, an unstable and stone-age party that cannot find such an accommodation in their own backyard, yet have jumped at the chance of finding an accommodation with the hapless Theresa May.

The SNP have big issues to address but so also do the Tories, and in this article I will concentrate on the yawning chasms within the British Conservative and Unionist Party.

Ruth Davidson has moved quickly to assert her influence, First demanding of May that she deal with the DUP attitude to gay marriage. May has promised to do so though she is incapable of delivering this reversal. The DUP are fundamental evangelists who have more in common with groups of the same ilk in the US than May’s Anglicanism. Secondly she is demanding autonomy for the Scottish C&U, with the implicit threat that if she does not get what she wants, her new band of 13 will wield the Davidson pitchfork over May’s fragile coalition of chaos. Thirdly she is demanding a Brexit settlement that includes membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union, stealing the Scottish Government’s clothing. Free movement is not a concern for Davidson, well aware of the potential damage to Scotland’s business interests and economy of a rigid and restrictive immigration policy.

Within the divergent pattern of UK unionism there is one link to the DUP who also want a Customs Union to maintain free movement over the Irish Border yet they back a hard Brexit, incompatible with free movement across the border. Meanwhile the tottering May has to contend with the troops behind her back, determined to have a full English Brexit.

How the Tory press reacted: the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/31/telegraph-cartoons-june-2017/)

May’s premiership is on life support. None of the tubes are firmly secured and she has different factions tugging at critical connections. If the election outcome suggested the union was stronger on the morning of 9th June, the reality is tensions within a weak government, held together with a rope of straw could fray rapidly, like a field of wheat ripped by a tornado.

May and Davidson have been talking day to day. Scotland underestimated Davidson. May has been seduced by a relationship in which she has not the hand she thinks she is holding. Davidson will push for her interests but also carefully pull back, smoothing things to keep the show on the road as it stumbles from pothole to pothole.

The big issues facing Ireland, with any kind of Brexit, are complicated by May being dependent on one of the main parties in Northern Ireland.  Being sodomised by the DUP is not a position May’s government can appropriately adopt as a one of the tripartite guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.

The big issue for unionism is it has many faces and means different things to its supporters in the different nations of the UK.  The electorate is confused and tired of elections because that is the prescribed medicine to swallow and regurgitate.

Davidson has grasped the necessity of remaining in the single market, post election and Scotland’s need to maintain free movement. Not something the Tories mentioned during campaigning. This is a challenge to Sturgeon as the SNP also played down its pro Europe position during the campaign. Davidson sees her band of 13 sitting on the government benches as an internal challenge on behalf of Scotland’s interests, attempting to deliver what Sturgeon has not achieved.

They will meet hostility from English Tories determined on a hard Brexit. They have no experience of Westminster, will find plenty obstacles to trip them up as they seek to find their feet in new surroundings and, as yet, have no clear leader to keep them focused in a strange environment. Davidson will not be there to keep them in line.

Unionism is splattered across a canvas that depicts its fragmentation and disunity. We have much to work with.

So the fed up electorate delivered a hung parliament and the virtual certainty another election would be hurtling down the road in a Bluebird bus with no brakes before the year is out.

May’s head is hovering over the block. Davidson’s fingerprints will not be found on the executioner’s axe. Her unionism is not beyond blaming another election on English failures. The SNP, recovering from the loss of 21 seats, is ill prepared to face another election. Davidson would see that as a heaven sent opportunity to take another slice at the seats they narrowly missed.

MPs with single digit majorities do not have the luxury of a five-year term to rebuild their supporter base. Penny numbers are but hanging chards exposed to an advancing shredder when the election comes, as it must.

A clear trend is visible from the 2016 elections when the Tories ousted Labour to become the main opposition party. Ruth Davidson is in a hurry. Momentum thrives on continuous advances.

The SNP grew rapidly after the 2014 referendum. Like any organization facing significant growth it has become cumbersome and sluggish. The HQ organization looks in need of a restructuring to better communicate with the grassroots and the public seeking information. Failure to use strong narratives to motivate has weakened a party with a former command of events.

An army needs fed and equipped to meet the challenge of times that are changing. Unionism is fractured and fractious. That gives us much to work with.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. One of the problems that Davidson has is that a “soft” Brexit is not in the gift of the UK to deliver.
    Free access to the single market will always demand free movement of people which is anathema to many of England’s Tories and will expose the fact further that the political union really is a busted flush.
    The only solution to all of the problems the Tories have created is a second referendum on EU membership and before that another Westminster election to elect a government who will deliver that.
    Of course,given the unpredictability of recent public consultations,neither of these are certain.
    Probably,given her track record,this is just the usual posturing and bluster from Davidson in order to create an image in peoples’ minds of a thrusting competent leader.
    The momentum she has built up is going to come to a screeching halt soon,probably by which time she will have moved on.

    • How well will the tories do in this coming general election when they’ll have to run under the banner Weak and Needy while openly telling everyone who isn’t a religious fundamentalist that they’re the ones out of step?

    • Ad hominem attacks on Ms Davidson have been a feature of proindependence supporters’ strategies. (Of course ad hominem attacks are a big bazooka in the unionist arsenal, too. The appalling treatment of Ms Dianne Abbott demonstrates this powerfully.)

      However, we have to avoid believing our own propaganda.

      The philosophic ‘principle of charity’ is a good one to adopt and this entails recognising the achievements of Ms Davidson and about accepting her assertions FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT.

      During her period of leadership she has rarely had a close and sustained examination of her views, in the way that Nicola Sturgeon’s and Kezia Dugdale’s have.

      She has strong support in the mainstream media and in the so-called ‘leftwing’ part of that – Guardian, Observer, New Statesman and blogs like Left Foot Forward. In the past few days with her staking out of a position with regard to the alliance with the DUP and dogwhistles about an independent Scottish Tory Party, she is ‘seizing the time’ (as revolutionaries throughout history have done.) She recognises her own party is fractured and is staking out territory to give her power within that.

      So, let’s cease the ‘tank girl’ abuse and take on the philosophy she is espousing.

      • Boll*cks to that.

        With a large portion of the electorate politically and economically uneducated being ‘rational’ and ‘diplomatic’ and reserved does not work. This group of people swing elections because they vote on a smile or a whim or a gut feeling and we who take the time to think through our stances are scunnered every time. The media put the winds into their sails and blow them hither and thither. Granted that this election was a first where a party (English Labour) bucked the trend but in Scotland the winds of ignorance blew many of the SNP MPs out the door. I want as many referendums as it takes to get independence and I will not prevent posterity from having more! We can never deny future voters a referendum just because we didn’t win one today! Democracy allows for referendums forever provided the populace vote for a party who seeks a mandate to hold one – which is exactly what happened in the Scottish elections and that pledge needs honouring. And if they ask for another one at another election and they win on it then another one, and another….

        Political fights get messy when a large chunk of your electorate is just plain stupid or couldn’t care less. Gloves have to be off next time because I’m sick of the SNP playing nice while their opponents smear us all with their daily gutter press headlines and accusations and that includes the Unionist views from the BBC and STV.
        Democracies rely on free and impartial information for them to work. Our democracy is a festering sore where information is polluted and controlled by a few unionist elites. When they play dirty we must all get dirty too and its time for those who claim to support independence to get dirty fighting for it.

        • Agree with almost all you say. Hillary Clinton said “When they go low, we go high” Look where that got her. The trouble is, there’s no raging anti unionist pro independence media in Scotland. It’ll have to be online based & word of mouth, one person at a time.

      • What philosophy does she espouse? She’s changed her stance as often as May. She’s a shouty nobody created by a sycophantic unionist media.

  2. The other thing the tories will have to face in the inevitable second election this year will be the fact that they brought the totally unnecessary and harmful division and chaos of Brexit, then a completely unnecessary cynical and opportunistic general election in which their ‘Champion’ claimed to be strong and Stable but actually was allergic to voters and so obviously completely incompetent that she could not cope with an actual debate. Or, in fact, any questions.

    Imagine a female Tory PM being too scared to appear on the state propaganda unit’s Women’s Hour?

    So in true tory fashion they’ll almost certainly assassinate May politically in a few weeks time. Who will they replace her with? Which political giant will step forward and be crowned as the saviour of the UK? Will it be the Clown King? David Davis? Perhaps Jeremy Hunt?

  3. Oops! Forgot to mention the tories will also be seen as having failed with their utterly cynical, costly and, yes, highly divisive election gamble.

    Middle England may not be very forgiving.

  4. Another election will kill the Snp. There will be a genuine probability that Corban could win. More Scots will drift to Labour. More Yoons will drift to the Tories. The SNP will be crushed in the middle.

    I hope the SNP realise this. They cannot get cosy as things are going to get worse. A strategy of wooing Labour voters in those 13 Tory seats might just save them.

    We are on the precipise of a genuine death of the independence movement. I am very worried. The SNP got things wrong in this election. Softly, softly means people shout over you. Time to get tough on the opposition.

  5. Despite still being the largest party the SNP screwed up this election. It seemed ill-prepared, inarticulate and torpid so small wonder the neo-unionists ran rings around it. It was easy meat. With a stack of postive hits available on Brexit and its likely disastrous effects on our country especially in the light of good news on the EU economic front it should not have been.
    Blaming the media is an old get out but managing media ought to be a skill perfected by now. We know the establishment tricks. As the main party in Scotland it should have wiped the floor with journalists who dared to misrepresent or distort. Sometimes the SNP appears like a toothless old sheep rather than a formidable tiger.

      • by calling them out as straight liars (which is what they are) when they are in fact either lying or failing to do basic investigation before printing everything the unionists say as gospel.
        That for a start.

  6. Of course the caveat is that Sturgeon has done everything expected of her. Noone saw the GE coming. If that hadn’t happened indy ref 2 would not be questioned.

    She got this campaign wrong. The SNP weren’t offering anything other than a rerun of 2015. Stronger for Scotland. She never countered the Corbyn effect and she never took on the Tories anti indy ref 2 campaign.

    Ignoring the white noise has cost the SNP dearly. The council elections were a warning of the Tory threat!

    She must get this next stage right. Continuing as before not frightening the horses is dead. We need to put a rocket up the horses and shake them out of the stables.

  7. There will be no general election in the U.K. If the SNP doesn’t vote against the Tories. I’d suggest that until the deal over Brexit is known the SNP group in Westminster stet should just keep a watching brief and allow the Scottish government to get on with taking control of the economy and public funding by exploiting existing powers it has

    • “I’d suggest ….the SNP group in Westminster” should use their Scottish majority of 35 MP’s to give notice for Scotland to withdraw from the union of parliaments the same way it began. And, similar to the UK withdrawal from the EU, to then allow 2 years for negotiations and UN recognitions, the latter possibly involving a requirement for a ratification referendum to finalise matters, which can be administered by Scotland working with the UN. This takes key decision making powers away from Westminster, who cannot be trusted to deal fairly with Scottish self determination.

      • Correct. Never forget we have a simple ‘treaty’ with England and treaties, like contracts, can be ripped up. We, not the monarchy or Westminster, are the sovereign power in Scotland and when we want to go, either via voting or UDI, we go regardless.

        Never forget we are the source of all power in Scotland and it is what we want that counts. It is not the monarch. It is not Westminster.

  8. Reality check people. The SNP still won 35 seats. Until the last election that would have been seen as impossible. Some we only lost by a tiny margin, although equally some of our holds were with tiny margins. We still won in areas like Motherwell, Lanark, all but one of the Glasgow seats. We held on in Perth which was a miracle. Our support is not going to collapse the way it did in the eighties.

    Yes, Sturgeon made a tactical mistake by calling a second ref (but the new members should not have encouraged her to do so). The media also provided the bait with their 50/50 polls and she fell for it. Clever trap. Independence is a long game. I joined the party in 2005 when we were nowhere and do not need to be fighting referenda every few years to keep my interest. We will win when the dire effects of Brexit become clear. All we have to do is sit and wait it out. Those who make the “fundamentalist” argument for independence, aka Craig Murray in a recent post, don’t remember the recent history of the party. The gradualist argument of Alex Salmond, gaining independence in incrememts, brought us closest to it.

    Apologies if this sounds preachy at times. It’s just my opinion. It is great to have so many new members and supporters on board. Also, I think the last thing we want to do is to end up in a coalition. It did not end well for the Liberals. In many ways our support increases when we are out of the media spotlight.

  9. Some strong and realistic comments here. The fact is mistakes have been made since 2015 and new thinking required. No amount of blaming media/ Kezia / Ruth / whatever changes that. Nobody said this would be easy.

  10. The SNP are guilty of being ‘an administration’ and like one has no vision for Scotland. Trying to play nice doesn’t work. That is now TWO general elections where the SNP were not asking for a mandate for independence.

    Ridiculous!!!

    Sturgeon is a good debater but she has no vision and she constantly seeks not to offend while her own opponents do so without a care in the world. She needs to get dirty because the unionists have dragged us into the sty they’re in and that’s where the fight is.

    We should simplify our stance: independence first then let the Scots decide what constitution they want, whether they want to be in Europe and if so in what form, whether they want to be part of Nato, what currency should we use. All questions for referenda at some future date after we win independence.

    Keep the vision clear and simple and hammer every policy which comes out of Westminster which damages Scotland. Hammer the unionists at every turn just like they have being doing to us. Stop being nice.

    • “The SNP are guilty of being ‘an administration’ and ..has no vision for Scotland”

      Correct. Thay SNP MP’s aw got whit thay deser last Fuirsday, fir thay selt us aa doon the river whan in May 2015 thon 56 “rairin lions” (sic) decidit tae sattle intae Westminster insteid o sattling up feenaly wi Westminster, e’en wi a whackit Scots majority, mair than eneuch tae feenish thon union o pairlaments fir guid the same wey it wis stairtit. 56 MP’s wastit, an noo 35 MP’s wastit an aw; aye, e’en wi anither majoriti tae, thay’ll aye tak thon unionist seats an siller raither than tak oor naition bak. “Rairin lions” ma airse. ‘Competence’ niver wan ony naition its naitionhood; gurr is whit’s needit fir thon, but thay SNP heid bummers dinna hiv ony gurr nor gumption.

  11. It’s obvious from comments that independence supporters are annoyed, frustrated and wanting to blame someone or something and it is understandable given recent events. To my thinking it’s a time to pull together. We lost seats at Westminster sure, but looking at the historic picture, it now looks as though we are seeing the logic of the situation, our support is now settling into more realistic proportions.

    The unionists have decided to adopt pro-union political parties as their vehicle for stopping independence, mainly the Tories and independence supporters have shown their affiliations mainly, to the SNP. It is a separating into a more understandable division of where we are.

    I have been impressed by the SNP’s handling of our nation’s day to day government and have little criticism of them but feel that like every governing party, through time, we are beginning to get a bit stale with our main focus – independence.

    There has to be a vision of a new better country under independence with thought through answers to the questions that let us down last time capable of understanding and communicated to the voter and not taking our foot off the peddle. We do not want to be in the position of having to react to every question the opposition throws at us but should be able to challenge them to give the reasons why we should remain in this union.

    The SNP are too easy a target for opponents and having one person in the limelight continually taking the flack is demoralising.

    If we must learn lessons from current events one of them is that the independence issue must be pushed by not just one party but by many organisations thus spreading our opponent’s focus of attack and weakening their assault. I would envisage a momentous push financially to get the ‘YES’ campaign up and running with all its affiliated members encouraged to achieve greater impact. This should be a wide umbrella to include other parties whose members favour independence as opposed to their party line.

    Basically, it’s not about party politics it’s about power, our history, our culture, our self-respect, our children’s future and our nation’s attitude to other countries in the global context.

    At the present time the SNP is the only credible force to take us to our goal so full support should be given to them.

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