In less than four months, we’ll go to the polls to vote Yes or No to the question:
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And today, the campaign period for the referendum officially begins.
But as I pointed out a few weeks ago (and Simon Jenkins pointed out yesterday) the SNP are not offering independence: they want major decisions for Scotland’s governance to be made at Westminster/in London. (It’s all in the White Paper: haven’t you read it?)
Everyone in Scotland is so focussed on the referendum that they’re forgetting the European elections on 22nd May. (And that’s worrying, because low turnout is how parties like UKIP get in.)
Illustrating this forgetfulness about the European elections, last night on Have I Got News For You an English comedian made a joke about “Methadone elections” and Susan Calman took audible offence because she’d forgotten about the EuroElections and thought he meant the independence referendum was methadone: but the English comedian had forgotten about the Scottish referendum – he was making a joke about the methadone of the European Parliament elections compared to the heroin smack of a General Election.
The next General Election for the UK will be on 7th May 2015. In Scotland, we’re all looking at 18th September 2014, but for the Westminster parties, the general election campaigning has already begun.
At the 2010 general election, the results were Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57: the LibDems dashed into a coalition with the Tories, and the hugely unpleasant mess that followed is still miring us up.
It’s fair to say that without the LibDem decision to join the Tory party and keep them in government (despite Tories not having won an election since 1992) – there likely would not have been a majority-SNP government in Holyrood: conceivably, if enough Scots had voted LibDem in 2011, there might not be an independence referendum this year.
You may think it’s a bit premature to dub Dunfermline “the last byelection” when there’s 11 months to go to the independence referendum and 73 MSPs on the wall. (Yes, there are 129 MSPs, but when a Regional MSP falls off the wall, he, she, or it is replaced by the next-senior name on the party list.)
Every time there is a Scottish byelection between now and next September, there will be the same drama. Only more so. And every time, the byelection will be dubbed “the last“, and deep significance found in the results.
The results were:
For about fifty years, until Nick Clegg agreed to a coalition with the Conservatives, probably most people would have agreed that LibDems or Liberals, the third party in UK politics, were “for” providing an alternative to Labour or the Conservatives: a party basically on the left in politics, but edging towards the centre. Sometimes letting Tories be elected on a minority of the vote, since left-wing voters split between Labour or the LibDems.
Since May 2010, Liberal Democrats have voted to support massive cuts to funding for public services, terrifying attacks on support for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, in favour of retroactive legislation on money due for unlawful workfare sanctions, and of course the privatisation of the NHS, and now are expected to vote for selling off the Post Office.
Support for the Liberal Democrats has crashed. To win back even half their seats in 2015, the LibDems will have to treat every maybe-winnable constituency as a by-election like Eastleigh – will have to recruit massive numbers of volunteers while their party is losing memberships. The current prediction is 23 LibDem MPs in Parliament after May 2015, while Labour should have a majority of over 100.
Chris Huhne in the Guardian yesterday:
First, none of this would have been possible without my own mistakes. I am no saint (but nor did I claim to be).
Chris Huhne was one of the Tory/LibDem Cabinet’s millionaires. He was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: he is now European manager of Zilkha Biomass Energy, a transition from government minister to employee in the same field that is now so familiar its corruption wouldn’t make the headlines – except that Huhne spent some time in between in court and in jail.
Besides his wealth from his pre-Parliament career as a City of London economist, Huhne owned seven houses: the one he officially lived in, in London: his official second home, in Eastleigh: and five more rental properties.
As revealed in the MP expenses scandal in 2009:
He owns his second home in his Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire outright but regularly claims for its renovation. In August 2006 he was reimbursed for a £5,066 builder’s invoice that included having two coats of “red rustic timber care” applied to garden items, and two coats of green preservative for fences. On another occasion Mr Huhne submitted a handyman’s bill for £77.31, covering odd jobs such as “replacing rope on swinging chair”. Continue reading