Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the UK?
A big day in UK politics. Here are some thoughts:
1) There are still results to come in, but it looks like Nicola Sturgeon will be able to put together a majority for a second independence referendum.
All the evidence suggests Scotland is split more or less down the middle on the issue now (compared to last time when Alex Salmond began a very long way behind), which gives her a fighting chance of achieving her lifelong dream.
It is too early to say for sure, but we might just be witnessing the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom.
2) It is hard to take seriously the idea Boris Johnson could reasonably deny Nicola Sturgeon her referendum.
It would make a mockery of the concept of democratic devolution and would likely drive waverers to her flag and make eventual independence more achievable.
3) There is nothing very surprising about what has happened in England.
The Tory government has spent billions upon billions of pounds keeping millions of ordinary working people in their jobs (as opposed to the bank bailouts in the last crisis). And they have rolled out an incredibly successful vaccine programme.
Yes, it’s true that there are more questions about their handling of the earlier stages of the pandemic, but it has been clear for a while that many people accepted it was a complicated issue and are more inclined to be grateful for the first two points right now than they are to be critical of the latter.
4) I don’t think people have formed much of a view about Sir Keir Starmer yet, so I would take with a pinch of salt many things said about Labour tonight.
Floating voters are much more likely to take a view when they are getting annoyed with the government and casting around for an alternative.
If he is not doing well at that point, it would be a different story.
5) That said, there is a lot of evidence that British politics has tilted quite far away from the traditional left/right axis.
In Scotland, as discussed, it currently oscillates around the constitutional question.
But in England, it appears to have shifted more along broader cultural lines - the woke/non-woke split, to put it simply – and this is going to give Labour an ongoing headache.
How do you appeal to younger, more progressive voters at the same time as attracting back the traditional working class supporters that you still very much need?
It is possible, of course, that the Tories may do things unpopular enough to assemble a coalition for you, but it clearly hasn’t happened yet.
The next election is still, however, a long way off.