General Election 2017

General election could be very bad for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP

BY Iain Martin | iainmartin1   /  7 March 2017

*Updated* on 18 April 2017, Theresa May announced a General Election will be held on 8 June 2017.

One more quick thought, further to my ramblings earlier on today about the advisability of Theresa May calling an early general election. The Prime Minister has ruled it out, which is what those in power always do until they change course and rather suddenly rule it in.

It is – I acknowledge -extremely unlikely that she will call a general election, because May is defined by her reputation for steady as she goes reliability and she knows it. If this call and the campaign went wrong it would be embarrassing and endanger the economy, the constitution and May’s unchallenged leadership.

There is one other reason that the Tory leadership should at least consider it, however. And that is because an early election could be very bad for the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon at precisely the moment when the device that my Times colleague Kenny Farquarson describes, magnificently, as the “SNP Grievance Machine” is malfunctioning. Into this monstrous creation the SNP pours grievances and complaints, observes Kenny, and out the other end comes votes for the SNP. Something is wrong, though. Brexit has not yet produced the surge for independence that was expected by Nat strategists such as Peter Murrell, Sturgeon’s husband and chief heid-bummer (chief executive) of the SNP.

Under 30% of Scots say they want a pre-Brexit independence referendum. And the economic case for independence is even worse now than it was in 2014 because of the collapse in the oil price.

The SNP would also be highly likely to go backwards in an early election. It hit the heights in the 2015 general election, taking all but one seat, and would struggle to do anything other than go backwards. Although the party’s machine is impressive, there would also be a core problem with the message. The army of activists and core SNP voters want a second referendum because they live for independence. Floating voters are less sure. And many other voters are downright scunnered with the SNP’s constitutional obsession, which masks the party’s abject failure in areas such as education and transport. After years of being driven to distraction by being forced to watch Nicola Sturgeon nightly complaining on the BBC Scotland news, complaining about everything, that latter group is pretty motivated to give the SNP grief.

Sturgeon would in the campaign be under pressure to campaign explicitly for a second referendum, which might go down well with her party and badly with a quite a few voters, considering the voters say they do not want it.

In such circumstances, in the event of an early poll, there must even be a concern that my old friend Angus Robertson MP, secretly the SNP’s real leader, in London, could lose his seat in Moray to the Tories. His majority in 2015 was a very healthy 9,065.

Alas, in the 2016 Holyrood elections, in which the SNP fell short of a majority at Holyrood, in the Scottish parliament version of the Moray seat (somewhat smaller than the Westminster version) the Tories surged. The SNP majority was a mere 2,875. Angus should be ok. But it could be close…

Elsewhere the Tories, led by the dynamic Ruth Davidson, could pick up three, four or five seats. And thanks to “neverendum” fatigue and Brexit annoyance even the Lib Dems are due an uptick, probably highly concentrated in areas where they were traditionally strong before the intervention of Nicholas Clegg.

Just a thought…