Saturday, 14 December 2019

Elections and mandates

Within the space of a few minutes yesterday, the Tory Party Chair, James Cleverly – a man whose whole life seems to be dedicated to proving that nominative determinism is not a thing – managed to claim both that the Conservative Party (which won 56% of the seats on 43.6% of the vote) had a clear mandate for delivering Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and that the SNP (which won 81% of the seats in Scotland on 45% of the vote) had no mandate for a second referendum on independence because they didn’t win a majority of the votes.  A mandate is only a mandate when the Tories say so, apparently.
His assertion that the SNP did not have a majority of the popular vote has the merit of being true, but then the Tories didn’t win a majority of the popular vote in the UK as a whole either, a fact which he seems to think irrelevant.  The results overall show, yet again, that there is a problem with the voting system used for parliamentary elections in the UK, in that it does not ensure fair representation of the votes cast; winner takes all in a majoritarian system is not a good way of expressing the ‘will of the people’.  But to the extent that we accept that ‘them’s the rules’, those rules cannot morally be applied selectively.  The fact that they can be legally so applied highlights, yet again, another flaw in the UK’s constitution, namely the belief that parliament’s sovereignty stems from the monarch, not the people.
It seems inevitable that the Scottish government will now demand the power to hold a referendum, and that the PM will, initially at least, refuse it.  Legally, there can be no doubt that he can make that refusal absolute for the whole of his term in office, and perhaps he will, even if it becomes apparent over coming months that such a refusal is fuelling rather than suppressing the demand from Scotland.  That would, though, require him to actually believe in the perpetuation of the union, and there have been scant signs to date that he actually believes in anything other than that he should be PM.  I don’t know what the SNP will do in the face of the initial refusal - they have wisely avoided revealing their next steps to date, but I can’t believe that they will simply say “OK, your call, we’ll go away and forget it then”.  We do know that there is a general lack of concern among the members and supporters of the PM’s party about whether Scotland stays or goes, and if he starts to see a growing demand in Scotland; if Scotland starts to become the same sort of preoccupation which Brexit has been for the past three years; and getting rid of Scotland looks like something that will help to maintain his own grip on Englandandwales, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him changing course.  After all, it’s not as if changing course is unusual for him, is it?


dafis said...

That degree of flexibility is commonly associated with invertebrates but that is a matter of physiology while Cleverly's trait is about his logic, or lack of, and hence how his brain works. Now I suspect that he knows damn well that he is inconsistent but he relies on a wave of pro Boris hysteria to deny anything that doesn't fit their agreed narrative. Sooner rather than later they will hit an equally rigid objection. That may be the SNP and the "Scottish Question " or the EU and the small matter of the details of future terms of trade. What are the odds on new schisms appearing within this Tory wedge sooner rather than later ?

John Dixon said...

"What are the odds on new schisms appearing within this Tory wedge sooner rather than later ?" Quite. Especially when they find out that pledging to support his deal also implies a pledge to support no deal in 12 months' time...