After the Scottish referendum had been lost by the nationalists on September 18th of last year, you would never have thought that sitting here in early March of 2015, the SNP would be the only party in Britain that had any right to feel truly good about itself. How did this happen?
I should hasten to add that the SNP aren’t the only party that does feel good about itself, but we’ll get to that.
Let’s start with Labour. After a bad 2014 autumn conference and declining poll numbers, the party that thought it would inherit government this time round has remembered, too late, that getting into power in Britain is a little trickier than that. And that’s before we mention Scotland. Different factions are clearly plotting their post-Ed trajectories in a less than subtle fashion.
The Tories are keeping their usual general election discipline, but you can feel it all bulging at the seams: civil war commences May 8th, whether the Tories are still in government or not.
The Lib Dems feel they can hold on at a constituency level, but we’re still looking at anything less than a loss of half the party’s seats as being a good night. Not the stuff dreams are made of, let’s be honest.
The Greens are living in a dream world, as any anecdote from this week’s Green Party conference in Liverpool would aptly demonstrate. “When Natalie took over as leader, I knew she’d be good. I just didn’t know how good,” Lucas said completely straight-faced. She will be lucky to keep her seat. If she does, it will almost certainly be the only Green one in Westminster.
If the Greens are inhabiting a fantasy land, UKIP are in Jonestown, ready to drink the Kool-Aid and board the Mothership. They seemed convinced they will end up with an MP count in double digits; some think it will be in treble digits. It will be one of the mini-stories of May 7th as to whether the Greens or UKIP will do worse under the weight of expectation. I’ll spoil this one for you all: it will be UKIP, by a canter.
Even Plaid Cymru are set to lose seats. How did it get to this? Why all of the political parties are in the dumps?
Except one, of course: the SNP are at best looking to take almost all of the Scottish seats in Westminster; at worst, at least treble their House of Commons representation. It will be a good night for the Nats no matter what.
If I had to put my finger on why it is that Sturgeon’s army is the only bunch with cause to be cheery, it’s because they have pulled off that elusive trick so vital to modern politics – that of being in power and in opposition at the same time. This is only available to them through the vagaries of Scottish politics, the weird boundaries of the current devolution agreements.
Otherwise, absolutely every party in Britain would be in a bad place. That, more than anything, should convince us that something needs to be done to help give politics a kick in the arse. Where the foot comes from in this analogy, I like everyone else remain unsure.