Vote Labour, get Tory.
This is a situation that rankles with many an average, nominally politically disinterested Scot. It is an aspect of the United Kingdom’s democratic deficit that could shape the decision of several percentiles of undecided.
The coalition is slowly dying, it was never a marriage made in heaven and chances are it will not even reach the stage of enduring until the next election.
The arguments over the Lord’s reform go some way to highlight the hidden fractures within the coalition. Menzies Campbell made it clear over the weekend that the Tories better bend on the issue, or their boundary changes will not see the light of day.
In response to his and various other comments from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Conservative response has been, to say the least, vitriolic. Adam Afriyie who was amongst the milder of the Conservative rebels, limited his statements to enjoying the visions arising for a new Tory manifesto saw his more placid stance offset by the likes of Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee, who called into question the potential future life of the coalition. Additionally, Tory backbenchers have gone as far as to tweet hostile warnings to the Liberal Democrats about the failure to support their boundary reforms. Stewart Jackson tweeted, “Memo to bolshy Lib Dems: Break deal on boundary changes and you’ll be out of government. That vote has consequences too.”
Consider the Conservative statement on Lords reform, that “it’s hardly the public’s priority” when its need has been self evident for over a century to ensure a properly functioning democracy. We are effectively being told the public’s priority isn’t a functional democracy, and the furore isn’t even over achieving that. If full Lords reform was a four course dinner, what the Liberal Democrats propose is just the appetiser, and then the Tory counter proposal limits us to the cherry on the top of the sundae. Ridiculous, however, should we expect anything else from an establishment which historically demonstrates that protecting its own is the primary reason for its existence?
The issues which are creating serious fractures in the underlying structure of the coalition relationship have prompted some on both sides to call for a re-negotiation of the fundamentals behind the agreement, even as the Lib-Dem’s have ordered work on a new accord for a next term of office to be suspended.
These problems and more have required both Cameron and Clegg to step from the shadows and declare that the coalition is here to stay. At best, this is papering over the cracks on a sandcastle as they watch the tide progress on its inexorable march. The only thing that will hold this coalition together, the glue behind the wallpaper, is the thought of electoral oblivion. The knowledge that as the polls currently stand they will, for Tories at least, be whisked from power for an electoral cycle and for the LibDems it might just herald political Armageddon.
However, with the real power simply oscillating between the Tories and Labour party, each safe and secure in the knowledge that it represents one face of the establishment’s coin, then these perceived political enemies can come together in near absolute amity to preserve the establishment. This then begs the question; what will transpire within Westminster’s murky halls on the day that independence shows a significant upturn in the polls.
It is not only possible, but probable that as the independence debate inches towards the day of polling in Autumn 2014 that the predicted (by many nationalists) dramatic rise in support as the day nears, we will see either a real or manufactured discontinuity of purpose in London.
In other words, in response to this upsurge in polling data, we should expect that if rumours of change in the UK government through a fractured coalition and threats of resulting market turmoil do not stop the predicted nationalist juggernaut, then at the last instant there will be a terminal rupture within the coalition leading to a UK wide GE right before the referendum.
Can there be any doubt that if it is perceived by the Westminster parties that a Labour government would hold the UK together and a Conservative one will not, that there would be no attempt at power transfer within Westminster? Expect this scenario to provide an opportune moment for the coalition to discover it is in a marriage containing irreconcilable differences, and to simply opt for a no-fault divorce.
It is entirely conceivable that the coin will be flipped and once again a Labour government will be elected. It will carry out the policies of the previous coalition almost to the letter while stating it is approaching power with desires for social projects to help the poor and underprivileged, i.e. business as usual.
In view of Westminster’s previous record in the decades leading up to this event, any significant London driven constitutional change is exceedingly unlikely. It can therefore be seen that one half of the establishment will stand ready to be perceived as sacrificing itself on a spurious unrelated event, such as boundary changes or Lords reform, rather than the reality of Scotland’s vote.
Meanwhile, the media will continue to propagate the myth that the parties actually have different policies. Everything possible will be done by all associated with it to protect the umbrella establishment that is the amorphous, tentacle-clad British state, to which each individual entrenched within London’s political scene owe their place at the trough.
We can anticipate as the crisis of the day becomes self evident and that the end of the UK as Westminster knows it is seen to be approaching, there will be many private, undocumented backroom meetings.
We should not stand by in slack jawed shock if the last or first act of the outgoing or incoming administrations at Westminster is to pass an emergency act, or at least attempt to do so, to prevent the Scots poll in such a (manufactured) “period of uncertainty”. They will seek to buy extra months to reverse the course of political opinion in Scotland by proclamation that our northern nation is no longer Tory ruled.
If any doubt, this we need only look to independence opinion polls. During the last sustained period of Tory devastation at Westminster, independence surged in the polls to over 50%, it fell again under Labour. London must gamble that the pattern will repeat, as the alternative may be bankruptcy or bail-out should the markets lose confidence in a Bank of England/Westminster establishment that’s already embroiled in controversy.
None of these issues should shock us, and only two items are really open to question if the nationalists are correct. That truth and facts will prevail with Scotland’s electorate, and that these can be effectively disseminated to create the swings anticipated, then it all comes down to Holyrood’s response to Westminster’s actions.
We can be certain that as austerity bites and information is dispersed, the independence vote will increase, after that everything is on the table.
The only other answer we need will be resolved by the political actions in Westminster at that time; does London really give a toss about Scotland.