Nicola Sturgeon And The SNP Stun Everyone

Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond adressess independence rally, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)
Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond adressess independence rally, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

Some absolutely astonishing results from the UK general election so far, with the stand-out story being the sweeping of the electoral board in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP. The Scottish nationalists look set to take 57 or 58 of the country’s 59 seats in Westminster, the greatest number in the organisation’s history, and by a huge margin. Scottish Labour on the other hand has been reduced to a party of regional and local government north of the border, while south of it Ed Miliband may well be in his last days as the Labour leader unless he is willing to cobble together some sort of anti-Tory alliance with the SNP, and the likes of Plaid Cymru, the Greens, and of course our own away-team over yonder, the SDLP. He has pretty much ruled out such a scenario, and in any case the numbers required for that option may well not pan out. So did the Conservative game-plan of stoking English animosity to the Scots and fears of a Labour government with SNP support spook shire-voters into swinging behind the more explicit party of Greater England? It certainly seems like it. However what will the long-term effects of that be?

UKIP has done remarkably well, taking second position in numerous counts across Britain (mainly England), however because of the UK’s archaic voting system a party recording electoral support in the 10%+ range will only gain one or two seats in the parliament. Whatever one thinks of Nigel Farage’s right-wing grouping that is a remarkably unfair and frankly undemocratic outcome. Thank god we do things differently over here. PR, for all its faults, continues to trump its more esoteric rivals. Plaid Cymru seems to be fairing as expected in Wales, which in real terms, given the electoral turmoil in Britain, is probably a sign of stagnation. If ever the party had a chance to make a significant breakthrough this election was it. There are still results to come in so lets hope things improve for our Celtic cousins. The Greens probably have one seat, may gain another, and all in all a good night for them. Of note is the loss of George Galloway and his Respect Party in the north of England. Or rather, George Galloway and his Respect Party were no loss.

So the likelihood – at the moment – is another Conservative or Conservative-led government, possibly with Lib Dem support (or what’s left of them now that the party’s left wing has been pretty much stripped away), or – and this is where the trouble begins, for Irish national interests, at least – the British ultra-nationalists of the DUP and perhaps UUP.

BBC chart of the election results in the north-east of Ireland, via Brian O'Neill on Slugger O'Toole
BBC chart of the election results in the north-east of Ireland, via Brian O’Neill on Slugger O’Toole

Ah yes, the north-eastern vote. What can one say? The UUP back from the dead, proving that leader Mike Nesbitt was perhaps more cunning than his critics gave him credit for when the DUP-UUP voting-pact was announced. Or maybe he was just plain lucky. The “Official Unionists”, as we used to say, now have two MPs (what hope of Sylvia Hermon returning to the fold?). The DUP are down a representative but they will have the satisfaction of taking back East Belfast from Naomi Long and the Alliance Party after a nasty campaign, and seeing Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew loose her seat in FST after an even nastier one and in co-operation with the UUP. Nothing quite like some voter intimidation at the polling stations to keep the opposition numbers down, as Arlene Foster of the DUP and Tom Elliot of the UUP can now attest. The culture of colonial supremacism is well and truly alive in Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Though one awaits the statistics for the overall turn-out the loss of one nationalist MP makes it a bad night in the north-east for the majority community on this island nation, whether SF or the SDLP; though thankfully the latter held on to all of their seats (albeit with significantly lower votes). The ideological determination of the DUP-UUP axis, supported by the TUV, etc. to institutionally and culturally “de-Irish” the north may well be reflected in any agreements made with the Tories in the UK over the coming days and weeks. These could include the imposition of new local government rules or legislation on flags, parades, bilingualism, citizenship and criminal justice, as well as potential DUP and UUP support for a “Britexit” from the EU in order to harden the “border” between the north-east and the rest of the country (a return of fortified check-points and customs-posts?).

Such a doomsday-scenario and the risks of it destabilizing the fragile peace on this island nation must be resisted and the government of Ireland must play its role in that task. In the second decade of the 21st century we cannot return to a situation were Irish men, women and children are living as second-class citizens with second-class rights in their own country. Something that the vast majority of the Irish people were liberated from in the first two decades of the 20th century. Whatever the extreme of political British unionism may think, 2015 will not become 1915. We will not allow it.

On a final note, I greatly enjoyed the discomfiture of the Unionist panellists on the BBC’s local TV broadcasts in Belfast last night caused by the presence of Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin vice-president. They visibly squirmed every time she spoke, especially as she pointed out SF’s overall objectives and how she thought the events across the water in the UK would effect them. The more she said “…this part of Ireland“, “…this part of the country“, the angrier Arlene Foster grimaces became. On the other hand, Bríd Rodgers of the SDLP seemed to be taking part in some bizarre contest to see how many times she could fit the phrase “Northern Ireland” into one sentence. The more Mary Lou said the “north“, the more wee Brídín proclaimed “Northern Ireland“. It surely says something that a former SDLP deputy-leader looked more comfortable and at ease chatting with nouveau-aristocrat Reg Empey, a former UUP leader, than she did chatting with a fellow Irish nationalist.

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21 comments

  1. Fail to see the long term interest of the DUP, here.
    They have thrown their opposition the UUP a lifeline when the UUP were drowning.
    The UUP get 2 MPs with ALL the expenses the party can claim.
    They can use that money to fight AGAINST the DUP in Stormont and local elections.

    The DUP had the UUP almost extinct and now they have failed to finish them off.
    A mistake surely.
    And the method to this madness was to hold the balance of power.
    The Tories have a majority..The fix term parliament means they can rule for 5 years without the DUP.
    Also the Tory majority is even bigger than it looks due to SF not being there.
    The fixed term parliament rules out any dependence Cameron will need from the DUP. Also he has said he won’t stand again..ERgo..He isn’t seeking re lection.
    As for the b*stards that John Major was refering to..the eurosceptics..They will surely be bought off by a euro vote in 2017.
    So, no doubt the DUP..will e asking themselves..”was it worth a pact with the UUP.?”
    i dont think it was.

      1. Interesting.
        I never heard of that Catalonia group.
        Hopefully there would be too much vanity in the UUP and DUp to pull it off.
        Although i reckon this new Brit government will be even less interested in thee 6 Counties than the last one was.
        Has Villers been given her job back?

        On the other hand the DUP will probably be able to block any border poll…Not that there was much chance of one happening anyway.
        It would have been good to see SNP/Labour in charge for that reason alone.
        But I am more happy the Brexit might happen after 2017.
        Almost certain Scotland will leave and a good chance of a UI by 2030.
        Interesting times

        1. I’ll have to leave the NI angle to you folks, but the Tory majority at WM is not that large and, as is the way of things, will slowly erode over time. They may then need to call on the Ulster Unionists for support, what would they demand in return and would their bluff get called? Would London be able to play off the various NI factions against one another? Are the clever enough, and are the NI Unionists daft enough to be played?

          Anyway it’s all starting to look a lot more interesting than I first thought.

          BTW the one remaining Labour MP from Scotland, he has an Edinburgh seat, is apparently something of a rebel, opposing Trident etc. The sole Tory got in for a rural seat on the border with a very narrow majority, smaller than the Green vote — Splitters!!

  2. The spoiler effect in action.
    The SNP harmed parties that are more ideologically closer to them instead of the Tories who now have more than 50% of seats.

    FPTP is a really idiotic voting system.

    1. FPTP is pretty moronic, but otherwise you’re wrong. In the previous parliament Scotland had One Tory MP and several LibDems in coalition with the Tories (otherwise they wouldn’t have had a majority). Scotland now has just One of each. The number of anti-Tories has increased in Scotland. The SNP do not stand elsewhere. Plaid Cymru has three MP’s and the English Greens have one, both unchanged from before. Basically what happened is the English punished the LibDems for supporting the Tories, they suffered a massive loss of seats, some to the Tories, also a number of English seats changed from Labour to Tory. The leader of the Labour party said quite plainly that he would rather see a Tory government that co-operate with the (slightly more left-wing) SNP. Clearly many Labour voters agreed with him.

      The big question is now what will happen to Labour. If they move to the Right they really will be indistinguishable from the Tories, so why should anyone vote for them? If they move left they may lose support in the South of England. Could the party fragment? Unfortunately as long as FPTP remains small parties stand little chance of getting MPs elected, unless their support is concentrated geographically. UKIP are hopping mad because they got more votes than the SNP but only a single MP, which is probably no bad thing, but of course the Greens suffered in the same way. Any new party with a similar ideology to the SNP (anti-austerity, WMDs etc) would be in the same postion. It’s a vicious circle. No one takes small parties seriously because they can never win many seats, so no one takes them seriously.

      All the same Tory policies are very divisive and they got in with barely more than a third of the votes, so there are a lot of very unhappy and possibly angry people in England. Interesting times?

      1. I think the new leader of Labour should be Jim Murphy.
        At least then..Labour would have one Scottish member LOL 🙂

        1. Or perhaps I should say if they made Murphy leader they’d double the number of Labour Scots.

        2. Murphy is out on his arse, he’s neither an MP nor an MSP, although he could sneak into the Scottish parliament next year if the party put him at the head of the list. My guess would be that they’re as sick of him as everyone else. Especially after stunts like his ‘Riot’ ‘Rally’, which was simply a staged photoshoot, as the wide angle photos that were posted clearly showed.

          Actually I wonder if the fellow is altogether in his right mind. He seems oddly detached from reality, even for a member of ‘Scottish’ ‘Labour’. Of course you may have been using the word ‘member’ in its virile sense … but honestly it’s in poor taste now. Lotsa fun at his expense over on the Dug mind you 🙂

      2. But that’s what I said – the SNP increased its number of seats at the expense of other parties that are ideologically closer to them than the Tories.

        They punished the LibDems for supporting the Tories by giving the Tories the absolute majority of seats and ensuring that they’ll not be constrained by any coalition partners any more – that’s not a very smart move..

  3. “Nothing like some voter intimidation at the polling stations” : you appear to be attributing Gildernew’s defeat to the intimidation of her supporters. What evidence do you have for this? In my experience Sinn Fein supporters are not easily intimidated.

    1. Ginger, I was referencing the DUP-UUP mini-march in the dispute over the location of the polling station on election day itself. As well as I suppose the effectiveness of the appeal to militant Unionism or pro-union vote in general off the back of the flag-protests, blockades, and so on.

      1. Er, in other words there was no voter intimidation at the polling stations : I suspect if there had Ms Gildernew and Sinn Fein would have made a huge fuss about it.

    1. Yes – like the Tories. They got the absolute majority and leaders of their competing parties had to resign.

      Also the rise of the SNP didn’t affect them – it hurt their main competitor – Labour -the most.

      1. Labour wouldn’t have been much better off…even if they had of won every seat in Scotland.
        They are about 100 seats short of a majority..so they still would have lost.
        Also the tories are planning boundary changes..which if they had of been in place for this election, and if everything else was been equal Liebour would have got 20+ seats fewer.
        So it looks like the Tories will be in power for the next 15 years or more.
        so The SNp diodn’t hurt Liebour..Liebour hurt themselves with tony BLIAr and his illegal wars and WMD spoof stories.

        1. The old Labour line in Scotland, “Vote SNP get Tory”, is never going to work again.

          And now the Labourites are arguing that the party was not right-wing enough to wing the election? A return to the days of Blairism? Madness!

          1. Yes..They want an Heir to Bliar.
            Just goes to show how political parties work.
            He won 3 elections…he must be good.
            And that is all they care about..winning elections.
            Nevermind the policy..here’s a majority!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            1. Tony Blair and a swing to the right? How bad must politics be in England & Wales for Labour to think that is the answer to their electoral woes? Maybe the old axiom is true? England is a conservative, right-wing nation kept vaguely liberal by its Celtic neighbours? So what would the Rump UK be like if the Scots had leapt in 2014? A western European Hungary?

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