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

General election victory for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will result in a government further to the right than Margaret Thatcher’s, writes SNP candidate Tommy Sheppard.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 6:46 pm
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump (Picture: Peter Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images)

In normal times, I’d be talking about Edinburgh’s Christmas. But times are not normal.

Next Thursday’s general election is arguably the most important in my lifetime. The stakes have never been higher. Or the possible outcomes more diverse.

On the one hand, there is a very real prospect of the most right-wing UK government ever – and yes, I remember Thatcher. The people behind Boris Johnson will use Brexit to disconnect Britain from mainland Europe and realign it with the US.

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The intention will be to ‘liberate’ capital, allowing corporations to make profits by weakening government regulation. Nothing will be safe. Not workers’ rights, environmental standards nor consumer protection. And not the NHS.

People in this country didn’t vote for Brexit or Johnson or any of it. So, what should we do about it?

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Well, for starters, let’s try to stop it happening. Everywhere in the UK, I want people to vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the sitting Tory. And in every one of their 13 seats in Scotland, the main challenger is the SNP.

Almost any result other than a Tory majority will lead to re-thinking Brexit. With every opposition party pledging to give voters another say one way or another, a People’s Vote would be on the cards.

The SNP will play its part in locking Boris Johnson out of office and offering an escape from Brexit.

Progressive alliance

We will talk to anyone to try to put together a progressive alliance at Westminster which will lead to a change in direction in the UK.

We only have one requirement to get into the room, if those are the cards the electorate deal us. It’s not that others support Scottish independence, or even that they support another referendum. It’s simply that they respect the principle that the people who live in Scotland have the right to determine how they are governed. That means whether and when there’s another referendum should be a matter for the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster.

We had a debate on this very principle last year in the House of Commons and every other party paid lip service to the idea. So, I’m hoping that getting this agreed will be quite a small ask.

And once it is, the way is clear to having a constructive agreement on a programme for government of the UK which would offer a major change from the last decade. From tackling climate change to ending low pay, taxing fairly and investing in our public services, the SNP will bring a radical agenda to those discussions.

Peripheral region of Brexit Britain

But what if the Tories do win in the rest of the UK and Scotland is left once again with a right-wing government it has decisively rejected?

Well that is exactly why the SNP says this election is, first and foremost, about asserting Scotland’s right to choose. Every vote we get will be a vote for demanding that choice.

I have met so many people over the last five weeks who are not yet independence supporters but are very concerned about the Tories dragging us out of the EU to become the 51st state of the US. If that happens many would prefer we take political control of our own affairs. To become a modern independent European country rather than a peripheral region of Brexit Britain.

A big vote for the SNP on Thursday will make it harder for the Tories to deny people that choice. The only people who should decide the future of Scotland are those who live here. That’s true whether Johnson or Corbyn sits in Downing Street, whether Brexit happens or not. And we won’t let them forget it.

Tommy Sheppard is the SNP candidate for Edinburgh East.