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In defense of David Cameron

Prime minister David Cameron resigned earlier this morning. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)
Prime minister David Cameron resigned earlier this morning. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)

Normally, when a politician — especially a president or a prime minister — resigns, he or she is met with effusive praise.United Kingdom Flag Icon

There’s the defeat. Then the stepping down. Then a deluge of pieces heralding the peaks as well as the valleys of the political career that’s just ended.

Not David Cameron, who stepped out of 10 Downing Street this morning to step down as British prime minister, a day after he narrowly lost a campaign to keep the United Kingdom inside the European Union. For Cameron, today’s political obituaries, so to speak, are absolutely brutalThe Independent called him the ‘worst prime minister in a hundred years.’

And that’s perhaps fair. He is, after all, the prime minister who managed to guide his country, accidentally, out of the European Union. His country (and, indeed all of Europe) now faces a period of massive uncertainty as a result.

The man who once hectored his party to stop ‘banging on about Europe’ has now been done in over Europe — just as the last two Conservative prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

He’ll leave behind a Scotland that wanted to stay inside the European Union by a margin of 62% to 38% and that will now have the moral and political capital to demand a fresh independence referendum to become an independent Scotland within the European Union. First minister Nicola Sturgeon, of course, knew this all along, and she wasted no time in making clear that a second vote is now her top priority.

He’ll also leave behind an awful mess as to the status of Northern Ireland, which also voted for Remain by a narrower margin. Its borders with the Republic of Ireland are now unclear, the republican Sinn Fein now wants a border poll on Irish unification and the Good Friday agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence might have to be amended.

He’ll leave behind an angry electorate in England, sharply divided by income, race, ethnicity and culture — if the divide between England Scotland looks insurmountable, so does the divide between London and the rest of England. Despite the warning signs, and the rise of Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Cameron failed to provide English voters with the devolution of regional power that voters enjoyed in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and even London.

Cameron showed, unlike Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, he was willing to accede to the wishes of Scottish nationalists and give them a say in their own self-determination. Given the corrosive nature of the eurosceptic populism within his own party and in UKIP, it wasn’t unreasonable that Cameron would force them to ‘put up or shut up’ with the first in-out vote on EU membership since 1975, when the European Union was just the European Economic Community.

On every measure, Cameron leaves behind a country more broken and more polarized than the one he inherited from Gordon Brown in May 2010. Continue reading In defense of David Cameron

Alan Johnson’s endorsement for Cooper may scramble Labour race


Alan Johnson, a former union official, former home secretary and one of the most highly regarded figures of the New Labour high guard has endorsed Yvette Cooper (pictured above) for the Labour leadership contest.United Kingdom Flag Icon

It’s been a surprising election, and the most beguiling twist of all has been the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn, the 66-year-old socialist, as the frontrunner among Labour rank-and-file. Polls consistently show that Corbyn has a wide lead over Cooper, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall for first preference votes. Corbyn has won the support of many unions across Great Britain, including Unite, the largest labour union backing the party.

Johnson, writing in The Guardian, argues that Cooper presents the best chance to unite Labour in the post-Miliband era — and he makes much of the argument that Labour, founded in part on the principle of full suffrage for women, has the chance to elect its first female leader: Continue reading Alan Johnson’s endorsement for Cooper may scramble Labour race

The rational case for supporting Corbyn’s Labour leadership


The entire political and media elite in Great Britain are today descending on Jeremy Corbyn (pictured above), the surprise frontrunner in the race to become the Labour Party’s next leader. United Kingdom Flag Icon

Today, for example, The Guardian‘s veteran political sage Michael White disqualifies Corbyn as, in essence, a socks-and-sandals hippie who would fail spectacularly:

I know there are good ideas in there, too, and that his lack of spin, his candour (sort of) and informality (etc) make a refreshing change from the timid incrementalism of the post-Blair Labour world. But running a party, let alone a government dealing with other governments, is a disciplined business. It’s got to hang together, which is not easy, as the Cameron government often shows…. Labour activists, the ones who do the hard work, are usually more leftwing than Labour voters, let alone floating voters. After 13 years of uneasy compromises in office, they want a leader who believes what they believe. If the price of the comfort blanket is permanent opposition, well, some would accept that too. Shame on them.

There’s a lot of reason to believe that Labour’s top guns will pull out all the stops between now and September to prevent Corbyn’s once-improbable victory, from former prime minister Tony Blair and down through the ranks. Think about how Scottish independence so focused the energies of virtually the entire business and political class of Great Britain last September. If Corbyn still leads the pack by late August, you can imagine much fiercer attacks than anything Corbyn’s seen so far.

Nevertheless, Corbyn is still on the rise. After winning the endorsement of Labour’s largest union, Unite, he nabbed the support of Unison earlier this week, and he won the support of the Communication Workers Union today. For good measure, the CWU, in its endorsement, added that Corbyn was the effective antidote to the ‘Blairite virus.’ Ouch.

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RELATED: Handicapping the race to succeed Cameron as Tory leader

RELATED: Corbyn’s suprise rise in
Labour leadership race highlights chasm

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So what gives? If Ed Miliband, according to so many political professionals, lost the May 2015 general election because he veered too far left, how in the world (so the logic goes) will Corbyn manage by taking Labour far into the retreat of its 1980s thumb-sucking comfort zone? Continue reading The rational case for supporting Corbyn’s Labour leadership

Corbyn’s surprise rise in Labour leadership race highlights chasm

corbynPhoto credit to Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Within hours of the Labour Party’s unexpectedly severe loss in the UK general election, its leader Ed Miliband had already resigned and within days, Miliband and his family were Ibiza-bound, the first step in an awkward transition back to the backbenches. United Kingdom Flag Icon

It’s been a gloomy downfall for Ed, and critics have good reason to criticize his performance between 2010 and the May elections. But what the Labour leadership contest aptly demonstrates is that Miliband nailed one thing in his five years — bridging the gap between Labour’s two factions, its union-heavy left and metropolitan, pro-business right. Miliband did such a good job maintaining Labour unity for the past five years, in fact, that no one realized just how divided Labour’s two tribes have become.

Those divisions are becoming all too clear in the emerging battle to succeed Miliband, and the surprise leader in the race is Jeremy Corbyn, a reluctant leadership contender first elected in 1983 to the British parliament, who’s now drawing the greatest support.

With the support of Unite, the most muscular of the labor unions that back the UK’s chief center-left party, Corbyn has managed to capture the imagination of a wide swath of the Labour electorate — disaffected nationalists, anti-austerity youths and old-school socialists like Corbyn (pictured above) himself, who’s bucked his party’s leadership 534 times in a 32-year parliamentary career. He bitterly opposed prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to join the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, he opposes the Trident nuclear deterrent and he’s an unabashedly ‘retro’ socialist. He’s not entirely committed to opposing a ‘Brexit’ from the European Union in the planned 2017 referendum. Corbyn wants to re-nationalize the UK’s train system and energy networks, and he wants to reaffirm public control over the health system.

By way of example, Corbyn makes no apologies for firmly opposing the government’s bill last week that trims social welfare benefits. Interim Labour leader Harriet Harman instructed the party’s MPs to abstain — Corbyn and 47 other Labour MPs joined the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in voting against the legislation. It’s no exaggeration to say that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would embrace much of the 1970s and 1980s leftism that Blair worked so hard to expunge in the leadup to his 1997 landslide victory.

Corbyn’s rise is so stunning because he nearly missed the initial cut — he only barely achieved the 35 nominations from the party’s parliamentary caucus. He depended on support from legislators like Margaret Beckett, who believed that the far left deserved a voice in the campaign — if for no other reason than to show that the British far left is as weak in 2015 as in 2010 (when Diane Abbott placed last in the leadership contest) and 2007 (when John McDonnell failed to win enough nominations to advance against Gordon Brown, who won the leadership unopposed). Beckett, a former interim party leader and foreign secretary, now says she was a ‘moron’ to do so.

That’s because Corbyn, according to some polls, now holds a lead in the fight for Labour’s future. A July 17-21 YouGov/Times poll shows Corbyn leading with 43% of the vote — just 26% back shadow health secretary Andy Burnham (who held a series of ministerial profiles between 2007 and 2010), 20% back shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper (and the wife of former shadow chancellor Ed Balls and a former chief secretary to the treasury) and 11% back Liz Kendall, a shadow minister for care and older people first elected in 2010.

More alarming to the party establishment, when the choices are whittled down to the two leading candidates, Corbyn leads Burnham by a margin of 47% to 53%.

Ballots will not even be sent to Labour members until August 14, and the voting will continue through September 10 — there’s a lot of time left in the race, and it’s not clear Corbyn can sustain enthusiasm in the face of what will assuredly be a massive opposition to a Corbyn leadership.

But how, exactly, did a 66-year-old socialist become the pacesetter in Labour’s leadership contest?

Part of his rise is attributable to simple arithmetic.

Continue reading Corbyn’s surprise rise in Labour leadership race highlights chasm

No matter who wins in the UK, deficit reduction will be the top goal


Photo credit to AFP / Carl Court.

The one thing that both the Conservatives and Labour agree on in the 2015 election is that deficit reduction will be a priority for the United Kingdom’s next government.United Kingdom Flag Icon

To that end, when you put aside the sideshow of the proposed European Union referendum, the red lines and pledges about the National Health Service, and the vagaries of coalition politics with Scottish nationalists or Northern Irish unionists, the central question of the British general election is how to bring the budget deficit down from around 5% of GDP today to 3% or less by the end of the next government’s scheduled term in 2020.

No matter who wins today’s election, though, the next British government will prioritize deficit reduction. Though Labour leader Ed Miliband and prime minister David Cameron have very different visions for how to accomplish that, that they both agree on this goal is notable for two reasons. First, it puts Miliband and Cameron in agreement in a way that former prime minister Gordon Brown and Cameron never were in the 2010 election. Second, it means that Miliband has largely agreed to wage the 2015 campaign on Cameron’s own territory. Miliband conceded, long before the general election campaign even began, the central premise of Cameron’s 2010 campaign and subsequent government.  Continue reading No matter who wins in the UK, deficit reduction will be the top goal

Labour victory could bring Kinnock into heart of British government


Twenty-three years ago, Neil Kinnock was expected to defeat a tired Conservative Party, reeling after three full terms in government that barely seemed capable of limping into its fourth.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Instead, Tory prime minister John Major won the 1992 election, against all expectations, thwarting Kinnock’s second chance at restoring Labour to government. Kinnock stepped aside as leader, and his role in Labour’s revitalization was quickly marginalized with the election of Tony Blair as Labour leader in 1994 and Blair’s landslide ‘New Labour’ victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

But when Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, lost the 2010 election, the ‘New Labour’ label had become tired and somewhat toxic. Moderate voters blamed Brown for the excesses of the financial crisis and, more fundamentally, opposed Blair’s involvement in the US invasion of Iraq and the growth of what critics called a widening police state across Great Britain. Moreover, progressives and the labour union activists that had historically been at the heart of Labour wanted a new approach that recovered some of the social democratic populism with which Labour was once synonymous.

It was no shock, then, when Neil Kinnock emerged as a leading adviser to the lesser-known Ed Miliband in his attempt to win the Labour leadership crown in 2010.

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RELATED: Would David Miliband be doing better than Ed?

RELATED: Blair role virtually non-existent as UK campaign heats up

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Miliband, of course, famously succeeded, defeating his own brother, former foreign minister David Miliband, on the strength of his support from labour unions and activist groups, which represented one of three equal constituencies in the Labour leadership contest (Ed lost the other two among Westminster MPs and among regular Labour party members).

From the start of the Ed Miliband era, then, Kinnock has been a close informal adviser and mentor to the young Labour leader, marking something of a rehabilitation for a former Labour leader who himself came just shy of becoming prime minister. Kinnock’s daughter-in-law is Danish Social Democratic Party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt, since October 2011 the prime minister of Denmark. Her husband, Stephen Kinnock, is widely favored to win election to the House of Commons this week as a Labour MP for the Welsh constituency of Aberavon.

As the election approaches this week, Kinnock has been as much of a hindrance as a help to Miliband — just as Kinnock did, Miliband struggles to project a convincing image that he will be an effective prime minister. The comparison has not been to Miliband’s advantage. Over the weekend, Miliband unveiled an eight-foot stone monolith carved with key Labour pledges. The stunt was met with wide derision from social media and elsewhere — one Telegraph columnist called it Miliband’s ‘Kinnock moment.’

Continue reading Labour victory could bring Kinnock into heart of British government

Would David Miliband be doing better than Ed?


Earlier this month, former British foreign secretary David Miliband penned a letter to the editor for The New York Times.United Kingdom Flag Icon

It had nothing to do with the United Kingdom’s general election on May 7, but instead implored the international community to place greater emphasis on the humanitarian and poverty crises in  Afghanistan’s post-occupation rebuilding efforts.

Back in December 2010, however, Miliband had hoped that he would be hitting his stride this month to bring the Labour Party back to power. Instead, he’s the chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, a New-York based NGO, after narrowly losing the Labour leadership to his brother, Ed Miliband.

There were many reasons for David Miliband’s loss: the skepticism of labour unions and the party’s leftists that he would perpetuate the centrist tone of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ platform; the resentment that he never stepped up between 2007 and 2010 to challenge then-prime minister Gordon Brown for the leadership, which  may have helped the party to avoid losing power; and the desire to turn the page from the Blair-Brown civil war that increasingly consumed Labour in its third term of government.

After his narrow loss, David never joined his brother’s shadow cabinet and, in April 2013, he left his seat in the British House of Commons to take on the IRC leadership position.

Meanwhile, back in Westminster, Ed Miliband has been Labour Party leader for nearly five years — now much longer than Brown, who had coveted the leadership from his fateful decision in 1994 to support Blair instead of challenging him. From afar, brother David is fully supportive, and there’s a feeling that he left politics altogether out of sense that his lingering presence loomed darkly over Ed Miliband’s leadership.

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RELATED: It’s too late for Labour to boot Ed Miliband as leader

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It’s been one of the best weeks yet for Ed Miliband. For the first time, British bookies believe that it’s more likely that Miliband will emerge as prime minister after the election, not the incumbent, David Cameron. A teenage girl caused a viral sensation on Twitter when she proudly proclaimed her #milifandom for the prime ministerial hopeful. Though Miliband’s Labour never reclaimed the 10-point advantage that it enjoyed at the nadir of the current Conservative-led government’s tenure, it narrowly leads most seat predictions in a race where no one party seems capable of achieving a majority. But there are still two weeks to go, and it’s worth remembering the #Cleggmania that swept Great Britain during the prior 2010 campaign. There’s a lot of time left for the electorate to shift in either direction.

British politics is full of what-if prime ministers. John Profumo. Denis Healey. Michael Heseltine. Neil Kinnock. John Smith. Kenneth Clarke. Michael Portillo. But none of them resonate quite like David Miliband, whose own younger brother outmaneuvered him to the leadership crown that he almost certainly expected would fall to him.

With the Liberal Democrats subdued after joining Cameron in government for the past five years, it seems unlikely that anyone will command the 326-majority in the House of Commons without the support of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), which is forecast to win almost all of Scotland’s 59 constituencies. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear, nonetheless, that she’ll back a broad left-wing government under Miliband and under no circumstances a renewed Tory mandate.

In two weeks’ time, unless the campaign drastically changes, Ed Miliband will be the newest resident of 10 Downing Street. It would be to his credit to coax his older brother back into politics to finish the work he began as foreign minister — it’s not difficult or unprecedented to arrange a by-election in a safe constituency.

Yet there’s still a nagging feeling about Ed Miliband’s leadership. Forget that, so many years ago, it was David Miliband who narrowly won more votes than Ed among the parliamentary Labour caucus and among party voters (Ed narrowly defeated David with stronger support among unions and interest groups that comprised the third group of voters in the tripartite electorate in 2010’s contest). Notwithstanding what the bookies say, Cameron still gets higher marks than Miliband in personal approval ratings, though that gap has narrowed throughout the race. The sudden #milifandom moment aside, Miliband remains in the eyes of many British voters a geeky technocrat with none of the showmanship of Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown’s  sense of history nor John Major’s happy-warrior statesmanship.

He may become prime minister after May 7, but not because of a groundswell of support among the British electorate for an Ed Miliband premiership. It’s too soon to tell if a Labour minority government propped up by the SNP will prove a poisoned chalice. Throughout the campaign, it’s been Sturgeon, not Miliband, savaging the budget cuts of the Tory/Lib Dem government of the past five years. Miliband, instead, curiously focused his campaign’s efforts on more funding for the National Health Service  — it’s not an entirely original basis for a center-left platform. After all, the NHS survived the market-happy years of the Thatcher government, and it will survive the ever-so-gentle austerity of a second Cameron term.

But it’s tantalizing to wonder whether David Miliband, had he defeated his brother for the leadership in 2010, would have pushed Labour into striking distance of a majority government. Certainly, even today, he has more gravitas and charisma than anyone else on Labour’s front benches. That includes his brother, but it also includes other potential leaders, including shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, the pugnacious Brownite shadow chancellor Ed Balls (Cooper’s husband) and health secretary Andy Burnham.

If there’s a turn in the polls, and Cameron ekes out reelection, David Miliband would stand a good shot of winning the leadership against Balls, Cooper, Burnham or just about anyone in Labour today.

Even if Brits are starting to warm to geeky younger brother Ed as a potential prime minister, it’s taken more than four years for him to get to this point. A year ago, the British press was savaging him for not knowing how to eat a proper bacon sandwich, and as recently as last autumn, Labour sources were musing openly about replacing him as leader.

David Miliband would have instantly become prime-minister-in-waiting from the first day of his leadership, and he would have done so with the warm-hearted support of Blair and the only living generation of Labour officials who have held power, officials who have only begrudgingly supported Ed Miliband. It’s not outrageous to believe that David Miliband would have been such a compelling opposition leader that he could have pressured the Cameron-led government into a no-confidence vote, toppling the coalition before the end of its five-year term.

You can’t prove a negative, of course, so we’ll never know. But it’s not difficult to imagine that the #milifandom would have started earlier with much more fanfare had the other brother won.

Miliband shifts Labour’s focus from austerity to health care


If it wasn’t already clear, Ed Miliband’s final conference speech before next May’s general election indicated that he intends to wage his campaign on the basis of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service — and not a full-scale attack on the ‘austerity’ anti-deficit policies of David Cameron’s coalition government.United Kingdom Flag Icon

It’s hard to believe that Miliband has now been the leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party one year longer than former  prime minister Gordon Brown was, especially after the bravura performance that Brown delivered for the ‘Better Together’ campaign, which may have swayed enough Scottish voters to reject independence in the surprisingly close referendum.

When he won the leadership in September 2010, upsetting his opponent and brother, former foreign minister David Miliband, it was a shock. While Labour’s MPs and the party faithful narrowly preferred David, unions and other affiliated Labour groups gave Ed just enough of an edge to narrowly defeat the more seasoned Miliband, who promptly left frontline politics and moved to New York.

In the past four years, Ed Miliband has benefitted from the polling lead that Labour has consistently held against the Conservatives, who have been mired in unpopular decisions to slash the national budget after years of more permissive spending under Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair, for whom Brown served as chancellor of the exchequer.

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RELATED: Why England needs a series of regional parliaments

RELATED: What to make of Cameron’s ‘night of the long knives’

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In the first year of Tory-led government, the British economy grew by 1.7% — sluggish in absolute terms, but vigorous by what would follow. In 2012, British GDP fell to 0.3% before rebounding last year to 1.7% and a forecasted growth rate of 3.2% in 2014.

As the economy has improved, it means that it might not be enough for Miliband to attack Cameron and the current chancellor, George Osborne, for inflicting greater damage on the economy by cutting spending in a time of low economic growth. While it may be true that Osborne’s budget cuts didn’t necessarily promote growth, it’s unavoidable fact that the United Kingdom is now growing faster than the rest of the European Union, which emerged from the 2008-09 global financial crisis and the 2010-12 eurozone debt crisis to face a growing deflation threat today. Italy, which has struggled to enact reforms under its energetic new prime minister Matteo Renzi, recently entered a triple-dip recession.

Polls, meanwhile, show an increasingly tight race. Labour’s once dominant lead is shrinking, in the most recent September 18-19 YouGov/Sunday Times poll to just 4%. If the election were held today, Labour would edge out the Tories by a margin of 36% to 32%, with the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) winning 16% and the junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, just 7%. That could result in any number of outcomes, including a Labour minority government, a Conservative minority government, or the continuation of the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition.

That goes a long way in explaining why Miliband is increasingly shifting from an anti-austerity message to a campaign that places greater funding for an increasingly burdened National Health Service (NHS) at the heart of his bid to defeat Cameron in eight months’ time. Continue reading Miliband shifts Labour’s focus from austerity to health care

Scottish referendum results: winners and losers


The results are in, and Scotland did not vote yesterday to become a sovereign, independent country.scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Scottish residents — and all British citizens — will wake up today to find that, however narrowly, the United Kingdom will remain as united today as it was yesterday, from a formal standpoint.

With all 32 local councils reporting, the ‘Yes’ camp has won 1.618 million votes (44.7% of the vote) against 2.002 million votes (55.3% of the vote) in favor of remaining within the British union, capping a 19-month campaign that resulted in a staggering 84.6% turnout in Thursday’s vote.

Moreover, ‘Yes’ won four councils, including Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city:

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 9.59.08 AM

But the close call has shaken the fundamental constitutional structure of the United Kingdom, and Scotland’s vote will now dominate the political agenda in the final eight months before the entire country votes in a general election next May, for better or worse.

So who comes out of the referendum’s marathon campaign looking better? Who comes out of the campaign bruised? Here’s Suffragio‘s tally of the winners and losers, following what must be one of the most historic elections of the 2010s in one of the world’s oldest democracies.

The Winners

1. Scottish nationalism 


The nationalists lost Thursday’s referendum. So why are they still ‘winners’ in a political sense? Continue reading Scottish referendum results: winners and losers

Who is Nicola Sturgeon? Meet the star of the SNP’s rising generation.


If there’s one person who will benefit no matter how Scotland votes in its too-close-to-call independence referendum on September 18, it is deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has taken a high-profile role leading the ‘Yes’ campaign that supports Scottish independence.scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

When Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) became first minister in May 2007, just eight years after Scotland’s initial elections for its local parliament in Holyrood, Sturgeon became his deputy, and she has served as the deputy leader of the SNP since 2004.

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RELATED: How an independent Scotland could enter the EU

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If Salmond suffers a defeat in next week’s referendum, the 44-year-old Sturgeon, a popular figure in Scotland, might soon replace the 59-year old Salmond in government. Some SNP deputies are already arguing that, if the ‘Yes’ camp doesn’t win next Thursday, Salmond should resign and allow Sturgeon to become first minister, in much the same way that Tories in Westminster are arguing that British prime minister David Cameron would have to step down if the ‘Yes’ campaign wins.

With polls now showing that the ‘Yes’ campaign has essentially caught up with the ‘No’ campaign, a close defeat may yet be a victory for Salmond. As in Québec in 1980, a narrow loss wouldn’t foreclose another possible vote in a decade’s time. But it might be difficult, after losing Scotland’s best chance at independence, for Salmond to lead the SNP into a campaign for a third consecutive term in the next elections, which must be held before 2016. Moreover, another term as first minister is a letdown from the much headier notion of becoming sovereign Scotland’s first prime minister.

On the other hand, if the ‘Yes’ camp pulls off the victory that just a week ago seemed out of its grasp, Sturgeon would almost certainly rise to deputy prime minister in an independent Scotland, just as much the heir apparent to Salmond then as now. As women flock toward independence, according to many polls, Sturgeon may be the ‘Yes’ campaign’s secret weapon.

The bottom line is that Sturgeon is the favorite to become, within the decade, either Scotland’s next first minister (within the existing UK system) or its second prime minister as an independent country.

In light of all of the questions — including Scotland’s currency and EU membership — that would be settled in its first chaotic years as an independent nation-state, Scotland’s future leadership is one of the key variables in whether it would become viable as a new state.

So what exactly would Sturgeon bring in the way of political skill and states(wo)manship?

Continue reading Who is Nicola Sturgeon? Meet the star of the SNP’s rising generation.

If Scotland votes for independence, will David Cameron resign?


It was another Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillian, who explained in just five short words how governments can crumble with such spectacular suddenness:scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Events, my dear boy, events.

Today, his Tory successor, British prime minister, David Cameron faces one of the biggest events of the history of his country — the possible disintegration of the British union, as the chances of a Scottish vote in favor of independence in 10 days rise dramatically.

As polls show that the campaign has rapidly narrowed (the ‘No’ campaign had a 20-point lead just last month), and with handful of polls now showing that the ‘Yes’ campaign has taken a narrow lead just days before the September 18 referendum, Cameron now suddenly faces the prospect that he’ll be the prime minister on whose watch Great Britain simply dissolved.

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RELATED: Why would an independent Scotland
even want to keep the pound?

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It was Cameron, after all, who agreed with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond last year to hold a referendum, and it was Cameron who demanded a straight in/out vote — no third option for ‘devolution max’ or a federalized version of the United Kingdom.

So if Cameron loses Scotland, must Cameron go?

Victory for the independence camp would cause nearly as great a political earthquake in the rest of the United Kingdom as in Scotland. It would leave rest of the United Kingdom — England, Wales and Northern Ireland — to pick up the pieces of what was once a global superpower. All three major parties, including the center-left Labour Party and the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, fully opposed independence. So a ‘Yes’ victory would be a repudiation, from Scotland at least, of the entire political mainstream.

Cameron’s position, in particular, would be especially vulnerable as the prime minister who allowed the great British union to fall apart.

Continue reading If Scotland votes for independence, will David Cameron resign?

Momentum shifts in favor of Scottish independence

Gordon-Brown-3228133-1You know the unionist campaign against Scottish independence may be flagging when its strategists believe that its secret weapon is…  former British prime minister Gordon Brown:scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) for Shetland, says Mr Darling and Better Together have done well at providing an intellectual case for remaining in the UK, but have failed to connect with crucial sections of the electorate such as traditional Labour voters. Mr Scott wants major Labour figures in Scotland such as former prime minister Gordon Brown and former UK minister John Reid to take a greater role in shoring up “soft Labour” support for the union.

What’s clear is that the ‘Yes, Scotland’ campaign in favor of independence is gaining momentum, while the ‘Better Together’ campaign is losing steam.

Panelbase poll conducted between April 27 and May 4 shows that the ‘No’ side would win 46% of the vote and the ‘Yes’ side would win 41% of the vote, with 14% undecided. Though Panelbase has typically shown a stronger ‘Yes’ vote than other polls, its findings are consistent with other surveys over the past month. While ‘No’ continues to lead ‘Yes,’ sometimes by double-digit margins, there’s no escaping that the polls are tightening.

That’s causing some alarm within both government and opposition circles. Though British prime minister David Cameron almost certainly believed that most Scottish voters wouldn’t support independence when he agreed to the terms of the referendum with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond last May, his governing Conservative Party must now face the prospect of a too-close-to-call referendum in Scotland just eight months before the wider UK general election in May 2015.

If Scotland votes ‘yes,’ or even comes close to endorsing independence, some senior Tories are already wondering if Cameron will have to resign — after 307 years of union with  England, he’ll be the prime minister who ‘lost’ Scotland.

With the Scottish Labour Party largely leading the charge against independence, what will it say about the generation of national Labour leadership, including includes Scottish-born prime minister Tony Blair, that delivered devolution  Scotland in 1997?

More fundamentally, however, why, so suddenly, does the ‘Yes’ campaign — once deemed hopeless — now seem like it has a chance? Continue reading Momentum shifts in favor of Scottish independence