Thursday, 18 June 2015

England vs. Scotland

What to do, eh?

Today the Scottish Assembly voted unanimously to extend voting in local and Scottish Parliamentary elections to 16 and 17 year olds; coincidentally today a cross-party mandate to extend voting in the (eventually) upcoming Euro referendum to 16 and 17 year olds was roundly defeated in the Commons.

Allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the Scottish independence referendum proved a success, I think, and certainly gave the lie to the assertion that young people aren't interested in engaging with politics - the turnout amongst this age group was upwards of 80%. OK, special case with high turnout all round but still, if 16 and 17 year olds can work, marry, join the armed forces etc. then why can't they vote?

I know this is becoming a bit of a theme, but England and Scotland seem to be moving politically in opposite directions (very generally) and since the outcome of the independence referendum, this process is without a doubt speeding up. Scotland is passing laws that can be generally described as "socially progressive" while England is passing laws that can generally be described in the opposite terms.

At the risk of becoming a conspiracy nut (I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory, but I don't believe most of them), I'd venture to say that this scenario has been engineered deliberately.

Prior to the Scottish Independence referendum, there was lots and lots of talk about how it might affect Scotland and the knock-on effects for the other nations (rUK as they came to be known) and was there enough oil and what if the oil price drops and ah! but there's more than just oil and ah! but but this is just based on supposition and forecasting and what if this happens etc. etc. Probably far too much talk really. But it certainly got a lot of Scottish people who wouldn't normally have even a passing interest in politics discussing what can be very complex economic and social issues. I would venture to say that the Scottish electorate is far more engaged and far better-informed than that of the rest of the UK at the moment.

Now, if I was David Cameron (or any other Tory leader since about 1970) I'd be desperate to ditch Scotland on purely electoral grounds. It would get rid of (at the time) about 40 Labour MPs at the cost of 1 Tory MP; how could he not want that? It's not as though he has a sense of social responsibility or anything, it's about WINNING.

But instead of that, Labour joined together with the Tories (and by extension, the Lib Dems) in the "Better Together" campaign to combat the SNP.

Why? I still can't figure it out. To anyone with a passing interest in politics, it makes no sense. The logical sides in the Scottish yes/no debate should have been SNP & Conservatives vs. Labour and everyone else. I can't believe that Labour were naive enough to buy Cameron's rhetoric about the Tories genuinely being behind the union (although it's certainly true that - as a Unionist Party - they must pretend to be). They must have been fucking furious that the Conservatives got involved, full stop.

I'm no prophet or seer but it was completely obvious to me that this would kill Labour in Scotland in the forthcoming General Election (it would have also killed the Lib Dems, but they'd committed electoral suicide in all areas four years' prior anyway by joining up with the Tories in a blatant short-term power-grab). Lo and behold, a year later, the SNP take 56 of 59 seats running on a broadly centre-left platform, while Labour lose 40 seats, retaining only 1.

Meanwhile, in England, the Tories, running on a broadly centre-right platform, are cleaning up in the old Lib Dem constituencies (no surprises there), virtually taking the entire South of England up to Stoke. London and the North of England, meanwhile, remain largely resistant to Tory charms and follow a voting profile more similar to that of Scotland (except there's no SNP to vote for).

Oh, I don't know where I'm going with this. Often I start things thinking that I have a point in mind but in the process of trying to get to the point, I forget what the point is.

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