To say it’s been a tumultuous time in politics of late would be something of an understatement. A few weeks on from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the UK Government remains in turmoil. The Prime Minister has resigned, and the main opposition party are busy posturing, and squabbling amongst themselves. They can’t even agree on who should lead their own party, never mind hold the Government to account!
In stark contrast, the stateswoman-like approach adopted by Nicola Sturgeon since the result has been a calm and collected one, typified by her message to EU citizens that, “You remain welcome here. Scotland is your home and your contribution is valued”.
In an attempt to fill the leadership vacuum at Westminster, the Conservatives announced at the end of June that five candidates had put themselves forward for the soon-to-be-vacant leader’s position, with Theresa May and Michael Gove emerging as the early front-runners. A supposed advocate of the Remain campaign during the referendum (although notable only due to her absence), the former was arguably the party’s conciliatory candidate, and saw off a short-lived challenge from Andrea Leadsom, the Minister of State for Energy, in the eventual head-to-head. May will be announced as the new Prime Minister on Wednesday, and her first job will be to try and unite the party, and heal the ructions that the toxic referendum campaign inflicted. Rest assured, this will be no easy task!
In the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union we have seen market volatility and a crash in consumer confidence unparalleled in the modern era. The pound has slumped markedly against the dollar, and consumers are ditching plans to buy homes and being more reserved in making large purchases. We are certainly in uncharted waters.
Moreover, questions have even begun to emerge around the legitimacy of the Brexit process, with some experts citing the referendum result as a two-all draw amongst home nations, and highlighting that the decisions of Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain should essentially be considered as a veto to Britain’s exit. Others would almost certainly challenge this idea on the basis that a refusal to respect the wishes of the UK electorate would be a disaster for democracy. The very fact that these questions are being considered only serves to underline the nature of the times in which we find ourselves. What has crystallised however, is that the Conservative Government – who called this referendum – have no contingency plan, and one never existed.
For Labour, this opportunity should have been seen as an open goal; a chance to take the Tories to task over what has been a woefully incompetent response to the referendum result. Instead, we have internal wrangling. We have a Parliamentary Labour Party who have demonstrated that they no longer hold confidence in their leader, and a leader who is clinging on to his post for dear life, consoled by mutterings that he still commands the affections of the wider party membership – although this support, according to some, appears to be cooling.
The situation bears all the hallmarks of a messy divorce. Indeed, Corbyn’s attempts to secure a place on the ballot in any leadership election may ultimately end up in front of a judge, given the ambiguity surrounding party rules. It is therefore difficult to see how Labour can emerge, intact, from this fracas. It is the electorate, however, who will ultimately suffer most for their haplessness.
At present, the SNP are undoubtedly providing the strongest, and most consistent opposition to the Conservatives at Westminster. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain a part of the European Union, and the First Minister has made it clear that she will do everything in her power to make sure that wish is realised.