31 Oct 2019

The SNP & the Election

Hail reader!

I will be taking a short break from my usual stream of updates regarding Fallen Love and the Vampire Eirik, in order to talk about something else: politics. As usual, I am writing about a specific issue from a specific viewpoint—Scottish independence as a European citizen, to be precise. You American readers may tune in to my existing backlog of posts if this doesn’t interest you; you can take a look at the search bar to the right or the archive on the left.

With that out of the way, let me start with the first piece of big news: I’ve joined the SNP and resigned my Labour membership. Why? Well, I’ve already written a detailed and succinct explanation in my 2-page resignation letter: you can read it here. The short version is that, although I agree with the Labour Party’s policy and direction in England, I support Independence, and that practically means I have to support the SNP—or the Greens.

I did not choose the Greens because, as outlined in a previous post, I think this country has bigger priorities at the moment.

Right! Onto the other topic for today: the December 2019 General Election. I would like to share a few choice observations that have not, to my mind, been sufficiently emphasised in the discourse.

Oldies Don’t Like the Cold

Everybody knows that people aged 50+, and especially those over 65, are by far the biggest supporters of the Tory party. There would never have been a Tory government for the past 9 years if the vote had been decided by the under–40s.

In light of this fact, it may not have been the best decision for the Conservatives to hold the election in December. Old people don’t like to go out in the cold because it hurts their bones, and they are likely to slip and require a hip replacement on the NHS; this article provides a good explanation of the underlying physiology.

Speaking of the NHS

Precisely because of the above reason (and due to some other reasons as well) the NHS is at its most over-crowded and stressed during the winter months. Though the descriptors “over-crowded” and “stressed” don’t really do justice to the situation: NHS England is usually at “breaking point” or “collapse” during the winter. NHS Scotland is managing a bit better, thankfully.

This does not bode well for Boris Johnson’s Conservative party. A couple of alarming headlines, combined with a few angry parents and doctors asking him tough questions on TV, will shift the conversation away from his Brexit and towards the NHS. This will play right into the hands of Labour, and to a lesser extent the SNP as well.

The Psychology of Winter

The UK does not generally hold elections in winter: the dark nights and freezing temperatures reduce turnout, and make campaigning harder. A winter election brings to mind such evocative, poetic one-liners as “The Winter of Discontent” (which brought down the Labour government and ushered in decades of Tory government under Thatcher). It also cost Stanley Baldwin, a Tory Prime Minister, his majority in the 1923 election.

This is the least well-understood factor of the three I have presented here. The majority of commentators interpret winter elections as benefiting the opposition at the expense of the incumbent Government—people are at their most miserable and least optimistic during the winter, and are more likely to punish the Government of the day. On the other hand, the SNP and Labour campaigns rely on optimism to succeed, not misery.

Any Predictions, Alex?

The only predictable thing about this election is that it will be unpredictable. I certainly don’t know which Party will gain a majority—or which will form the government in a hung Parliament. Even so, I am willing to make three predictions.

Firstly, the Conservative Party will be punished hard in Scotland; it is not inconceivable that they will be down to one seat, or even zero—a complete annihilation not seen since 1997. Three factors play into this: the departure of Ruth Davidson; the massive unpopularity of Tory economic policies in Scotland; and Boris Johnson himself, who goes up like a lead balloon with the Scottish electorate.

Secondly, the Green Party will do pretty well, though it probably won’t gain any new seats. This is on account of the high media profile of environmental issues at the moment (which I find somewhat bizarre given the severity of the constitutional and economic crisis the UK is going to find itself in). Thirdly, and finally, I don’t think the Liberal Democrats are going to do as well its leader, Jo Swinson, hopes.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Remainers (and plenty of Brexit voters too) have a strong sense of what is right as being democratic. The Liberal Democrats’ policy—to unilaterally abrogate Brexit without a referendum vote—will be seen as arrogant and disrespectful of democracy. (I would also add that it is fantasy: you can’t just roll back the clock to 2015. Too much damage has been to this country’s social fabric, and too many bridges have been burned with our friends in Europe.) Secondly, I think lots of Remain voters—most notably the young—ultimately care more about housing, the NHS, jobs and education.

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