The Election and Ayrshire.

The results from the general election are in, and I’d be lying if I said I was anything other than disappointed. England has turned almost completely blue, and while Scotland itself has turned away from its flirt with Toryism, its not turned to the left. We’re going to take a look at the results in Ayrshire, the UK as a whole and what this could mean for the future.

Unlike last time I won’t go through each of the four constituencies in Ayrshire as they all tell a similar story. The whole of Ayrshire is now represented in Westminster by the SNP, with the Tories coming in second and losing their seat in Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock. In every seat Labour lost a voting share of around 10 to 14 percent, and are no longer the second party in Kilmarnock and Loudoun. While this loss has largely been the SNP’s gain- their voting share went up by around 8 to 10 percent in each seat- we can’t know if this has been a shifting of party preference or tactical voting from Labour supporters hoping to keep the Tories out. It does at least look like Labour weren’t losing voters to the Tory party here. With former mining towns in Yorkshire and elsewhere in England turning blue, this might not be as absurd a fear as once thought. Indeed, Kensington- the constituency where the Grenfell tower fire happened- also voted Tory. At least we can take some solace in the fact that there’s no longer a Tory MP in Ayrshire.

 

Across Scotland the SNP made massive gains, even managing to unseat the standing Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson. A Lib Dem leader losing their seat is becoming something of a tradition now. The SNP are already pushing for these results as a mandate for a second referendum, and with protests in Glasgow the day after the election against Boris as PM there is clearly some visible groundswell behind this idea. My concern however, is two fold: firstly, that while the SNP have gained a sizeable share of the vote, some or even most of this could have been tactical voting by supporters of other, unionist parties that were worried about Brexit and Boris. Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, and now the SNP will have to position independence as a question of remaining in the UK or the EU. Will this be enough to convince the unionist remainers to still support the SNP? How many will go back to supporting the union when asked to put an X next to a Yes or No ballot?  My second concern for the SNP is that despite positioning themselves further to the right than in 2017, they didn’t manage to gain many Conservative voters, instead taking a big share of Labours voter base. The SNP may therefore see fit to move further to the left, as they could be able to secure these gains from the Labour electorate long term. However, my concern is that they might see this as a battle already won- the Labour party in Scotland is in the worst state it has been in living memory-and instead double down on trying to secure the sizable part of the Scottish vote that is to the right.

A protest in Glasgow against the election results.

As a whole the UK has been washed over with a tide of blue. As mentioned before, even mining towns in Yorkshire and Wales, once hit the hardest by Thatcher, are now Tory seats, and the language of the party’s supporters is already transforming into something resembling an English nationalist party, with figures like Tommy Robinson openly supporting the party and even joining its membership. The Tory party is taking on a more nationalistic, jingoist, Britain First rhetoric rather than the traditional and bland pro business and small c conserative slogans they tended to advocate for. With new found working class support the Tories find themselves in the unique position of competing with the Brexit Party for votes that were once securely Labour. What changes this might force the party through is uncertain, but with as big a personality as Boris in the PM chair the role of Prime Minister is increasingly taking on a more presidential shape and image.

While the mainland has had significant upsets Northern Ireland is not any less interesting, with the nation set to join Scotland as another country of the union in which separatist parties are gaining ground. For the first time in history Sinn Fein has won the seat of North Belfast, and in another first shock Unionist MPs are now outnumbered by Republicans. With the SNP in Scotland and the DUP losing in Northern Ireland, it seems the Tory victory in England and Wales might have come with the cost of a disunited United Kingdom.

 

Labours results have been nothing short of devastating. There are a myriad of factors contributing to this- I do not believe the blame lies solely at Corbyn’s feet, or with his socialist policies. He had been leader in 2017 with similar positions and saw an increase in voter share larger than Brown or Milliband, who were firmly to the right of Corbyn’s labour. Two factors were different this election, the first being Brexit. Labour conceded ground to the centrist, middle class part of their voter base to argue for a second referendum, and here we see their downfall. Corbyn himself had embraced the leave vote the day after the referendum but quickly took a party position of trying to reconcile the working class leaver and middle class remainers within the voter base and Labour found itself pulled apart by two opposing forces, resulting in hamstrung fence sitting about the biggest question of this election. Unable to reconcile these two diametrically opposed views Labour lost a big part of its voting share to the Tories. It’s clear that playing a middle ground, centrist position doesn’t work, evidenced doubly in how badly the Lib Dem’s fared, and that the centrist Labour defectors lost all of their seats.

Boris was mocked for constantly repeating “Get Brexit Done”, but this is what a large part of the electorate wanted to hear. Labour’s inability to provide a clear position was something the Tories could hammer into again and again.

The second major issue for Labour this elections was the media. Losing a lot of its subtlety the Murdock papers slammed Corbyn and McDonnel as if they were a red menace with Bolshivik loyalties and the BBC found itself ill equipped and unmotivated to counter these claims or give Labour a fair trial. We saw accusations of racism levelled at Corbyn, a man who had spent his life as an anti racist campaigner, at a time when the Tory government is supporting antisemetic governments like Hungary and Suadi Arabia, openly threatening traveler communities in its manifesto and has been caught deporting black citizens in the Windrush Scandal. This isn’t to say that The Labour Party doesn’t have a problem with antisemitism, or that Jeremy Corbyn has done enough to address the issue. But clearly the media have decided to hold Labour to a higher level of scrutiny, while the Conservative government have embraced racism and antisemitism as party policy.

Instead of holding to task the powers that be, various senior media figures were having daily meetings with the PM and trying to both sides issues on which the evidence clearly showed the Tories were in the wrong. It’s not a coincidence that Corbyn was the only leader this election whose approval rating went up the more people engaged with him or that Liverpool, a city that has banned Murdock propaganda, is the only city that remained firmly red. Boris meanwhile, found himself avoiding Andrew Neil and literally hiding from reporters in a fridge. You have to question the integrity of a media landscape where one man is acknowledged as the sole journalist that will hold leaders to task, and simply avoiding an interview with him means avoiding all significant scrutiny.

The years ahead for Labour will be difficult, and many within Scotland are already arguing that Scottish Labour should embrace independence, another issue which might split the party.

What does this mean for Ayrshire? The next few years are going to be difficult, Brexit looms over us all and Ayrshire stands to lose more than most. The SNP might have a mandate to pursue independence, or at least a second referendum, but there is no legal apparatus to push for this if the Prime Minister does not give his blessing – which Boris has repeatedly said he will not do. The rise of republicanism in Northern Ireland might not lead to separatism and a united Ireland, but could still lead to trouble in Ayrshire, as we have always been more involved in the politics of our Celtic brothers across the sea and have our own troubled history with sectarianism. Vital services might also be under threat soon, as the day after the election Damian Green, a Tory MP, openly said that the nation will need to move to an insurance based healthcare system. All the while climate change is creeping up on us, and the time we have left to do anything about it is slipping through our fingers. What stands before us is an era of uncertainty, unrest and austerity, one in which Ayrshire, while not at the centre of many of these issues stands to be one of the hardest hit regions in the UK, as it has been in the past by political and social turmoil.

In times like these communities need to come together and support one another. Join your union at work; if you don’t have one this is the time to make one. Talk to your neighbours, friends and family and be sure to support the vulnerable. If you are so inclined, go out and protest, make sure people know how you feel about what’s happening. Go to your local food bank to see what you can do to help out. With the Tories in power all we can expect for the most disenfranchised in our society is more of the same neglect and disdain. A better world is possible, but it’s up to us to make it happen, together.

The General Election.

The 12th December General Election is less than a week away, and with it comes the possibility of seeing the Tories ousted before they can cause any more irreparable damage to our society. In England and Wales, the choice is clear. In Scotland, the choice between the SNP and Labour is, for many people, more difficult- the decision will centre around two major points of political conflict. The handling of Brexit and the future of Scottish independence, issues which have divided the country for years now.

While the SNP will no doubt redouble their efforts towards a second referendum should they retain their seats, they will never be able to secure that second referendum if the Conservatives remain in power. If that were possible, there would have been a second referendum by now. Additionally, they stand no chance of being able to meaningfully handle the Brexit negotiations, even if the whole of Scotland was to vote for them. This increases the risk of the conservatives returning to power to enact their harmful Brexit deal that will have a negative effect on the working class all across these Isles.

It also bears remembering that the SNP have proved themselves to be, time and again, a centrist party, pandering to trendy progressive ideals while doing very little in support of the Scottish working class, possessing no real vision for a genuinely progressive society beyond Scottish independence. With the drop in Labour turnout in 2017, the SNP have continued to turn away from more progressive policies. Their 2017 manifesto included proposed reforms to Thatcherite union laws and support of the Gender Recognition Act, both of which have been dropped this time around.
The SNPs continued refusal to enact real change is evidenced in their 2019 manifesto, where they make nebulous proclamations that they

“will consider proposals to ensure fairer pay by ensuring that the balance of salaries of all employees within a company or organisation are considered when senior pay packs are decided.”

Improving pay and working conditions for workers is not a primary concern for the SNP, and the vagueness of this statement and others like it within the manifesto show that. Labour are the only party attempting to represent the voice of the British working class, who have more in common with each other across national boundaries than with the managerial and upper classes of their own respective countries. By contrast their manifesto speaks to the evident need for drastic and urgent change. There is still work to be done- in a number of areas Labour don’t go far enough- but a vote for the SNP does nothing to shift the conversation towards meaningful change, and will only weaken Labours position against the Tories.

Labour will have a difficult time winning back support after the numerous failures in previous Scottish Labour campaigns to speak to and galvanise the Scottish electorate, which ultimately resulted in mass losses in trust and position to the then rising SNP. This does mean, however, that it wasn’t Labour who failed to prevent the resurgence of the Conservatives in Scotland.

The prospect of a strong Labour government so threatens the establishment that the likes of the BBC have found it almost impossible to disguise their inherent bias; from editing out crowds laughing at the idea of Boris Johnson being trustworthy to showing 3 year old footage of him at the cenotaph to cover for yet another blunder, the blatant manipulation has been staggering. Corbyn himself has been put through the ringer more violently than any other recent Labour figure, meaning his Labour party- which has at last remembered its own history- stands a fighting chance of dismantling the hegemony which sees 6 people own as much wealth in the UK as the bottom 13 million.

While we at the ACU support independence and fully understand the organic political support behind the cause for a better say in how our wee country is run, we believe now is the time to show solidarity with workers across the UK. That means not abandoning them to suffer under a callous Tory premiership. Democracy is best served by the dismantling of large structures of governance and power, but an independent Scotland would nevertheless benefit from a neighbouring Labour government. The desire to vote SNP as a means of sending a message to Westminster is understandable but would in fact likely delay or discount the very possibility of a second referendum should the Tories maintain power. While it seems likely that Labour will be forced to seek a coalition with the SNP- the price of which, Sturgeon has been clear, is a second referendum- this isn’t actually preferable to what is being tabled by Scottish Labour. A second referendum will come- we can trust the tenacity of the SNP in that regard, and we will have another chance to show support for it come the Scottish elections. But right now, the best use of your vote is to get rid of the Conservatives while at the same time shifting the conversation on domestic policy dramatically in a better direction.

Vote Labour!