Labour and the Liberal Democrats recorded huge swings to take Selby and Ainsty, and Somerton and Frome from the Conservatives. That the Tories managed to hold Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, by a tiny margin of 495 votes, will be little compensation to Rishi Sunak. This was a night as black as any ever faced by the Tories. It was little better for the SNP.
By-election results must worry the SNP
Labour now has the wind in its sails. Winning energises political parties just as it does sports teams. Party managers become more confident, supporters happier to get out and graft and donors more easily parted from their cash. Crucially, winning helps persuade the unsure. The endorsement of Labour by the many thousands in Selby and Ainsty is a powerful force working on the floating voter. That result will not be lost on Scottish voters.
Nor will Labour have failed to notice that Uxbridge was held by the Tories because they successfully weaponised Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan’s latest, and deeply unpopular, extension to the city’s ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ). Labour in Scotland must see low hanging fruit of a similar type in SNP seats. Two of the most obvious are the reliability of ferry services and, of course, the saga of the two ships sitting in Port Glasgow, not yet ready for sea. In the Highlands, the A9 story may be irresistible. In Glasgow, the recently arrived low emissions zone is far from universally popular.
The Sunak government is tottering. It would not take much of a new scandal to see it off. Barring such an event, there’s a growing feeling that the general election will be in September or October 2024. So, the SNP has around a year to recover. It’s not long and the nights are fair drawing in.
Star performer Stephen Flynn
“Can I have more please”, ask the poor children of Britain. “More? More?” reply Starmer and Sunak, aghast at the very notion of feeding children
Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader at Westminster has become a star performer at prime minister’s questions (PMQs). He employs forensically sharp and short questions and usually with a barb of memorable wit. He was in fine form at the last PMQs before the Commons rises for the summer, spearing Sunak and Starmer on an issue that shames both front benches. The Labour leader had declared earlier in the week that Labour in government will keep the cap that stops child benefit payments to more than two children. Flynn said:
“Voters in Scotland are used to child poverty under the Tories, they almost expect it. But what they don’t expect is child poverty support from the Labour Party. If we look very closely right now, there is a shiver running along the Labour frontbench, looking for a spine.
“For children living in poverty in Scotland, Westminster offers them no real change, it offers them no real hope.”
A union of equals?
Apparently not. Unverified Twitter reports allege that Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House and potential successor to Sunak at the wheel of the Tory party, has expressed frustration with the UK’s devolved governments. It seems she holds them at least partly responsible for slowing up Brexit. “England will not tolerate any more interference from the rest of the UK”, she’s reported to have said at a meeting in her constituency. It was only a matter of time before the Tories added the Scots, Irish and Welsh to the long list of people and organisations they blame for lack of success in government.
We’ve already had the EU, Biden’s USA, France, immigrants, Church of England bishops, universities, the BBC and, in the latest bizarre twist, a very posh bank called Coutts. Before the general election is upon us, expect mince flavoured KitKats, flanges for rice puddings, mechanised bananas, elderly Fijian prop forwards, carpet tiles in blood orange and a man from Vatersay who collects Helen of Troy postcards to all be blamed by the Tories for the under-performance of the Tories.
Put out more Saltires
A survey in The National found that of 1,094 people asked in Scotland, 71% prefer to see the Saltire on produce from Scotland, rather than the union flag. There can be little doubt that some manufacturers, producers and supermarket groups have caved-in to post-Brexit political pressure to promote the union flag. It’s an insane move. The whole world loves and trusts produce from Scotland. It pays a premium price, not for British whisky, British salmon or British beef, but for Scotch whisky, Scottish salmon and Scottish beef. And the consumer is buying more than a bottle or pack. They are buying an idea of Scotland, its history, romance, allure and reputation as a land of hospitality.
Scots too know that the produce of their homeland is among the best on the planet. They want the best from Scotland’s farmers, fisher folk, food processors and rural communities. In buying Scottish produce they are supporting businesses and jobs in Scotland. Those businesses and employees pay their taxes to the Scottish and Westminster governments and their council tax to their local authorities.
It’s a win win for Scotland, but a lose lose if the consumer can’t see the Saltire on the pack. It’s time businesses that have dropped the Saltire in favour of the union flag think again. It’s more profitable and better business to keep Scottish goods visually Scottish. The Saltire has financial value as well as emotional value. Reinstating the Saltire will do no harm to the union flag. Put profits before nationalism and return the Saltire to the best from Scotland.
The SNP needs to get on the phone to Byline Scotland’s newest writing star
There were many reasons to be energised by the arrival last week of Callum Cox to the stable of Bylines Scotland writers. Two of the most important are that he’s young and he’s a scientist. These are attributes Scottish political journalism badly needs and should welcome. Cox, originally from West Lothian, is a physicist. Not surprisingly, he thinks logically. That facility brought him to the conclusion that the campaign for Scottish independence should be as much fought in England as in Scotland.
If you have yet to read Cox’s article, please do so. He writes crisply, analytically, and refreshingly well. He’s nearing completion of a PhD in particle astrophysics. Cox is young, intellectually smart, politically engaged, articulate and Scottish. But he fears the UK offers less of a secure and rewarding future than many other nations. We have a Tory Brexit brain drain. Neither Scotland nor the UK can afford to lose people of Callum’s abilities. Come on SNP, you have Westminster seats that need premier league candidates. Please give Callum a call.
Floating hell arrives at Portland
The Bibby Stockholm was towed into the Dorset town of Portland. It will accommodate up to 500 male asylum seekers, or illegal immigrants as Tory law now makes them. In the hulk’s wake came the end of the UK’s global reputation for compassion, decency and for staunchly upholding international law. Let’s not be mealy-mouthed about the Bibby Stockholm. Its primary purpose is public relations. The strategy aims to whip up as much antipathy as possible towards the wretched of the earth, thus garnering votes in a desperate Tory attempt not to record a whitewash at the general election. It also seeks to get the message to potential asylum seekers not to waste their time aiming for Britain.
In Portland, community leaders said the Home Office had not consulted anyone locally. The town first heard of the barge from press reports. Port owners in Edinburgh and Liverpool refused docking facilities to two other hotel barges scheduled to take asylum seekers.
Philippa Whitford heading into retirement
The Westminster parliamentary constituency of Central Ayrshire will lose the SNP’s Dr Philippa Whitford as its MP, when the general election comes. The former surgeon is retiring. Her appearances as a panelist on the BBC’s Politics Live programme have been marked by her command of her brief and her air of quiet authority. She demonstrated that the politics of well-informed, measured and respectful debate is not only still alive but has significant advantages over the blustering, patronising, attack dog approach of people like Alister Jack, Jacob Rees Mogg and Nigel Farage.
The man trying to break the bank
Talking of whom, Farage complains he has been chucked out of the poshest of posh banks, Coutts. He’s furious and gunning for the bank’s top management. A memo, allegedly leaked from Coutts, says Farage is a reputational risk to the bank. In dropping the poor chap from its customer list they have deprived wee Nigel of membership of the most establishment bank in the land. It’s where King Charles III keeps his dosh, as did his mother. Farage was offered banking facilities at NatWest, owner of Coutts. About 11 million people bank with NatWest. Is Nigel too up himself to bank alongside ordinary citizens?
Farage’s spin was always to try to position himself as just an ordinary bloke. Nothing fancy about me, touted the public school educated former City trader. If he’s so ordinary, where did he get enough money to qualify for a Coutts account in the first place? What’s the odds that the really upsetting aspect of the kerfuffle is not that Farage has lost access to high calibre private banking but that he’s been reduced to the ranks. He thinks of himself as officer class. He’s been socially embarrassed, pushed to the wrong side of the tracks. How that must hurt.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Oscar Wilde
We need your help!
The press in our country is dominated by billionaire-owned media, many offshore and avoiding paying tax. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs.
If you believe in what we do, please consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette from as little as £2 a month🙏