General election: Why Boris Johnson will be worse than Margaret Thatcher if he wins – Tommy Sheppard

The worst outcome of the election will be a right-wing Boris Johnson government pushing ahead with his version of Brexit, says Tommy Sheppard.

Friday, 8th November 2019, 6:00 am
A Tory majority will push through Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Picture: AFP/Getty
A Tory majority will push through Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Picture: AFP/Getty

And so, we’re off. Let’s not pretend otherwise – an election two weeks before Christmas is far from ideal. ­Understandably people’s thoughts will be anywhere other than politics. And for the campaigners... let’s just say I’ve got my first cold already.

This election is both necessary and inevitable. It is happening because the Westminster parliament is in crisis – unable to resolve the biggest political debate in the modern history of the United Kingdom. I don’t know if the next parliament can move on from Brexit – but I do know that this one cannot.

People say this will be the Brexit election. Maybe. Maybe not.

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Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East

The main Westminster parties all have a different prescription. Interestingly, none of them have a policy on which every member of the party can agree, such is the schism that Brexit has caused in traditional politics. This may mean more shifting allegiances than ever.

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So, what’s on offer? The worst outcome (other opinions are available) is a majority Tory ­government.

Following the recent purge of the one-nation Tories, this would undoubtedly be the most illiberal right-wing administration in living memory – and, yes, I do remember Thatcher.

No-deal danger

A Tory majority will push through Boris Johnson’s terrible Brexit deal. A deal so bad, it makes Theresa May’s efforts look enlightened in comparison.

This deal will pave the way for the erosion of workers’ rights, consumer protection and environmental standards. It also sets up a no-deal outcome by the end of next year.

It is true that parliament did vote for Johnson’s Brexit Bill at second reading, but only in order to seriously change it in committee. When parliament rejected the rushed timetable the Government proposed and refused to rubberstamp Johnson’s plans, he promptly threw his toys out of the pram.

This hard-right Tory offer will be upsetting for many life-long Conservatives, plenty of whom will be looking elsewhere, especially in Scotland.

Labour retains its Janus-like stance on Brexit. True, it is now committed to a further popular vote but to the chagrin of most Labour supporters the leadership refuse to say what they would campaign for in that referendum.

SNP to declare independence?

For me the Liberal Democrats have the strangest position. I had thought when I first heard that they would stop Brexit by revoking article 50 that they were being mis-represented.

We should revoke article 50, but only to reset the timetable and to allow the matter being put back to the people. I really do have a democratic problem in saying that a majority in parliament, commanding perhaps less than 40 per cent of the vote can simply overturn the 2016 referendum.

I think that would provoke violence on the streets and see the remaining respect for Westminster evaporate.

Imagine if we suggested that a majority in the Scottish parliament could simply ignore the 2014 Scottish referendum result and declare independence ­anyway. Yeah, that would work!

Then there’s the SNP. Every one of us that is elected will lock Boris Johnston out of government. In a hung parliament, we will work constructively to see an alternative government in power if those are the cards the electorate deal us.

We will, as we have done for three-and-a-half years, vote to stop Brexit and let the people of the UK change their mind in a people’s vote.

But more than that, we will ask people to support the right to choose an alternative path.

A majority in Scotland now favour the country becoming an independent European nation if the only alternative to stay as a region of Brexit Britain, according to a recent Lord Ashcroft poll.

The question is who gets to decide. The Scottish parliament wants to ­consult people again next year on how we should be governed. Boris Johnson wants to stop that. Whose side are you on? That’s the central question on 12 December.

Tommy Sheppard is the SNP candidate for Edinburgh East.