A key driver for Scots voting intentions is not Brexit, it is the Iraq war

Gordon Brown, writing in the Observer, is the latest in a long line of Remainiacs to try and blame a bad thing, in this case Scottish independence, on a WTO Brexit.

I can’t be certain if Gordon Brown simply does not understand what is going on in Scotland, or perhaps he is in denial, or is just stupid. Whichever it is, a reality check is now due. 

The truth is, a key driver for Scots voting intentions is not Brexit, it is the Iraq war. Previously unpublished polling lays bare the impact of Labour’s disastrous war in Iraq on both the Scottish Labour and the British political establishment. The poll was conducted by BMG Research with a sample of 1,041 Scottish voters aged 16 plus, between 31st March and 5thApril 2017.

The poll asked the question: “Thinking about past elections since the war (i.e. since 2003), did the decision to take military action in Iraq influence how you have voted since. Are you more likely, or less likely, to vote for the Labour party because of the Iraq War?”

Key Findings

  • Overall the poll shows that 32 percent of all Scottish voters said they were less likely to vote Labour because of the Iraq war, with 2 percent saying it made them more likely.
  • 41 percent of respondents said that the war was not a factor in their decision on how to vote while 10 percent had not voted since and 14 percent were not sure if the war was a factor.
  • For voters aged 16-24, 34 percent said they were less likely to vote Labour. Notably, just 21 percent said the war was not an important factor in deciding how to vote and 18 percent had not voted. 

The data for younger voters, who would have been infants at the time, is particularly notable. It seems the war has had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on Scottish Labour for years and possibly even decades to come.

Blair & Brown – The SNP’s Chief Recruiting Officers

In the 2007 Scottish parliamentary elections, Scottish Labour lost to the SNP by just one seat. In the 2015 General Election (GE), Labour held just a single seat in Scotland.

The 2015 GE polling data highlights the scale of the impact:

  • Almost 1 in 3 Scots, approx. 1,250,000, said they were less likely to vote Labour because of the war.
  • 47 percent of SNP voters, approx. 680,000, said that the war made them less likely to vote Labour. 
  • Of those that did not vote, 24 percent said they were less likely to vote Labour because of the war. These are all big, big numbers. 

The Iraqi war not only impacts which party Scots vote for, but also if voters stay at home. The Iraq war has been a disaster for Scottish Labour.

Iraq And Scottish Independence

The poll also looked at the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum. Overall, 44 percent of “Yes” voters said they were less likely to vote Labour compared with 28 percent of “No” voters who said they were less likely to vote Labour. This gives a spread of 16 percent between “Yes” and “No” voters, highlighting a bias of those unlikely to vote Labour because of the war to vote “Yes” – for Scottish independence. The Iraq war has boosted support for Scottish independence.

Iraq And Brexit

 In the 2016 EU referendum, 37 percent of “remain” voters said they were less likely to vote Labour compared with 31 percent of “leave” voters, giving a spread of 6 percent. The EU/Independence referendum cross-breaks, however, provides the most significant data. A full 51 percent of “Yes”/”remain” voters are less likely to vote Labour because of the war. Of those Scots that want to break-away from the UK but remain in the EU (which did not take part in the initial invasion), 51 percent are less likely to vote Labour because of the Iraq war.

The View From The Door Step

From doorstep conversations going as far back as 2004, I knew many Scots were not only unhappy with the Labour party, and were less likely to vote Labour as a consequence, but they were also unhappy with the British political establishment. Voters will consider various factors, including Iraq, before casting their vote. This is why I commissioned the poll, to get a national picture and what a sad picture it is. 

The Iraq war has caused voters to abandon Scottish Labour in droves in favour of the SNP. It has damaged our union, fuelled Scottish nationalism and increased support for the EU. How any politician could miss the “Iraq factor” in Scottish politics is beyond me. Yet, here we have a former Labour PM trying to blame it all on a WTO Brexit. Gordon Brown and Scottish Labour have been wandering the political wilderness for years. If this is their standard of debate, I would suggest that is the best place for them.

Regarding comments from former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Theresa May, it is understandable to an extent that they are not au fait with the nuances of Scottish politics. The leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson has also echoed these concerns. To explain how she is so out of touch is somewhat harder to explain away. Sadly, I feel they are nothing more than a cabal of pro-EU, anti-democracy extremists peddling a “project fear” message that the union is at risk in a do-or-die attempt to prevent a WTO Brexit.

Worst of all, I fear Tony Blair’s legacy will not be Iraq, but an independent Scotland because of Iraq.

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There is a world of support out there for Brexit Britain as you embrace self-governance

From my office in Los Angeles, nearly 5,500 miles from London, I watched with interest the Brexit vote in 2016. I listened to the media and the political elites and heard the polling numbers, but secretly held out one little glimmer of hope that perhaps those who spoke the loudest weren’t right. Was it possible that the people of the UK who were dismissed and underestimated, mocked and looked down upon, shamed and scared, could quietly pull off the impossible? Without well-funded coordination, but with collective faith in their fellow countrymen, they went to the ballot box and shocked their nation – and the world!

World For Brexit has now been established to support the 17.4 million people in the UK who voted to Leave the EU in a free and fair referendum. There was a two-year plan in place to facilitate that yet, three years later, they are no closer to exiting than they were then. It is a terrible betrayal of democracy and should not be allowed to happen – especially there. The appetite for Leaving is only increasing, not decreasing, and many who weren’t in favour of Leaving originally are now at the point where they just want to “get on with it” and implement a full exit. It seems like a reasonable expectation. The voters want what they voted for. Still. And who can blame them?

The Leavers won a fair democratic process. The loser’s consent is not required in order to move forward with the winning side’s ideas. And furthermore, contrary to the opinion of some on the Remain side, just because the vote was 52% to 48%, it doesn’t mean that consensus – or even compromise – is required. That’s not how the democratic process works.

The talking points of those in the Remain camp are primarily based on fear and negativity. They highlight all that is perceived to be wrong with Brexit and generate anxiety along every step of the process. Their narrative is so toxic – as if Leave was a vote against something.

In truth, Leave was a vote for something. Actually a vote for everything. Brexit was a vote of confidence. It was an expression of strength. A belief that the UK could – and should – stand alone as a strong, successful, independent and sovereign nation capable of ruling itself. A vote for a country that is ready to lead, not follow.

The UK is one of the longest-standing democracies in the world and has championed democracy all over the globe. The vote to Leave the European Union was the largest democratic mandate there has ever been in British history. How can the vote of the people be so ignored? The world shows outrage when other countries like Venezuela, Cuba or Iran face political suppression, yet are ignoring it now with the UK vote.

Of course, the UK has not been part of the EU for hundreds of years – only since the mid-1970s. Most UK voters still have first-hand knowledge of being an independent, sovereign nation. Implementing Brexit is not a deviation from democracy, it’s an affirmation of democracy and a return to it. What is a deviation from normalcy is the surrender of allegiance to an unelected body of commissioners over which the governed have no power. Why would anyone subject themselves to people who are appointed, not elected – and to people who can’t be voted out if those they represent are unhappy with their leadership?

Some say that the EU provides stability. The news I hear out of Europe involves rioting on the streets of France and an approval rating of 27% for Macron. Merkel is barely holding her own government together in Germany, a previous powerhouse, and Portugal and Greece and other EU member nations constantly need financial bailouts. It seems to me that the UK is the stabilising force for the EU – not the other way around.

The doom-mongers say Leaving will create economic ruin. If you look at a map of the world, you will see that the EU comprises a relatively small section of land. Once the UK breaks free from the EU chokehold on their economy, the world becomes open to trade with, negotiate with and establish bilateral relationships with. And with no more need to ask permission from Big Brother Brussels to do so. The thought of that should be freeing, not frightening.

Like the Leavers, I believe that a country which is free and prosperous and proud and industrious should not be limited or constrained by its European neighbours, but should embrace the limitless potential that will come globally once again from independence and self-governance.

Thank you, brave Brexiteers, for inspiring us with your boldness in 2016. We hope the support of World For Brexit will embolden you now.

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We need a more democratic Conservative Party to support Boris Johnson in delivering Brexit

The next three months are the most critical our country has faced for many decades. Since we voted to leave the EU on 23rd June 2016 with a clear mandate from the British people, we have made little progress towards the exit, other than triggering Article 50, which set us on a two-year negotiating deadline. We have now missed two deadlines and we cannot afford as a country to miss a third – and neither can the Conservative Party.

Let us be in no doubt: the two finalists in the Conservative leadership election achieved their places by promising to leave the EU with or without a deal. Boris Johnson won with an overwhelming 66% of the vote because he, over and above Jeremy Hunt, gave the certainty that we would leave on Hallowe’en. This is what Conservative Party members voted for, as did Conservative MPs – with over half of them backing Boris in the final round.

Add to this the fact that the House of Commons voted to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU with a massive majority of 384. Boris Johnson therefore has a clear message: not only do the British people want to leave the EU, but the Conservative Party, if he is forced, are prepared to back him to leave with no deal on 31st October.

Boris is ramping up ‘no deal’ preparations to help mitigate any problems and send a clear message. We should be in no doubt that Boris has a far tougher job than he would have done in the summer of 2016. Since then we have squandered a parliamentary majority, allowed the EU to put us on the back foot, offered to pay £39 billion (erroneously believing the EU would be honourable in return) and by taking ‘no deal’ off the table have shown that we did not want to leave without the EU’s permission.

This has all allowed the hardcore euro-fanatics to find a new voice wrapped up in calls variously for a second referendum and to take No Deal off the table and follow a policy of damage limitation; so rather than the UK leaving we would stay semi-detached, but still with the European Court of Justice holding sway. The election of Boris Johnson has changed all this. Conservative MPs and party members have spoken and they have said, either we leave with a deal that honours the referendum or with a clean break. 

We voted ‘to take back control’ and that meant for British democracy to be sovereign – not, as some Remoaners declare, that Westminster is now sovereign. They are behaving as anti-democratically as Brussels does. Parliament is there at the behest of the people and it is not for Parliament to ignore the people and decide they have made a mistake. Parliamentarians’ responsibility is to enact what we voted for. Nick Clegg would surely agree on this point, since it’s the reason in 2010 he knew he had to do a deal with the Conservatives as the largest party, rather than Gordon Brown’s Labour.

Why am I writing this? Because the Conservative Party owns Brexit and we need to deliver it, not a watered-down version which does not allow us to fully benefit from breaking free, but one where we can do trade deals with other countries and be free from the yoke of Brussels. If we do not, not only will we not be forgiven, but if the Remainer arguments of a second referendum or revocation take hold, our country’s future is of further integration to the EU, possibly joining the disastrous euro, a common army and certain decline in the world along with the rest of the protectionist, backward-looking, non-democratic European state.

With this in mind, it is therefore the duty of those of us who are Conservative Party members to ensure the Prime Minister has the tools to carry out his mandate. This is why we need to democratise the party, make it transparent and accountable to the members, so it is in a position to support Boris Johnson over the difficult next three months and beyond. Currently we have committees operating within the party that are not clearly accountable; crucially, a Candidates’ Committee and team that is opaque at best; a central membership system that has serious flaws; and a voluntary party that does not have the mechanisms to talk to each other in any meaningful way.

The voluntary party – the actual beating heart of the party – needs to hold our MPs to account and ensure they support Boris through this momentous exit from the EU. Local Conservative Associations need to be supported in doing this, not obstructed. This is why I am currently standing to be Vice President of the National Conservative Convention, on a platform of party democracy, accountability, transparency and empowerment of the Associations and members.

Our politicians need to be accountable to the activists who go out week after week, raise the funds, stuff envelopes and devote so much of their spare time to getting them elected to Parliament. We cannot be ignored, we need to have a platform and our views need to be listened to.

To stand up for Brexit and our mandate, I had to bring three motions to the National Convention. It was hard work and unheard of. If I am elected Vice President, I will ensure I demand the voluntary party has the tools it needs and deserves. I will drive through the reforms needed. We will work together as a party to deliver our instructions from the British people and our party members. My voice is your voice.

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Some more friendly advice from me for Boris Johnson

The next few weeks will see an outpouring of advice for Boris Johnson. All the commentators who’ve spent the last few weeks denouncing him as a walking disaster, womaniser and serial liar will rush to tell him to redeem himself by doing what they want.

Which makes me, as someone impartially opposed to his politics, who found him good fun and a chance for a new start in our deadlocked nation, feel justified in offering my more friendly advice. Britain’s only human politician who finds himself in a deep hole deserves it.

A new Prime Minister will have a short honeymoon before the carping commentariat get back to grinding their axes. Anyone is better than Theresa, and it will be nice to have a human in charge instead of a badly-programmed robot. The Conservative Party will rally round with its usual mixture of loyalty and and grovelling servility. The electorate will like a new start out of a deadlock which frustrates them.

So use that happy period – the only one you’ll get now that misery has become the national mood – to make a real new start and rally the people. They’re fed up with bickering deadlock and the long rearguard action of the recalcitrant Remainers. They can’t see why nothing has been done about their vote to Leave.

A new Prime Minister and a new Government can’t be doomed to pushing Theresa’s deal for a fourth time. It’s dead, deceased, and inoperable. So it’s right to demand a new negotiation from the EU which they’ll probably refuse, saying Theresa’s is as far as they’ll go. That puts them on the wrong foot.

React by doing the old Macmillan trick: announce the end of austerity, more borrowing and turn the spigots on to boost the economy. Then call an early election. That makes it shit or bust, but the lesson of Gordon Brown is that it’s better than struggling on with no majority and no mandate. A government with a majority of two can’t carry on. You have no alternative.

The Remainers are wrong footed and (for the moment at least) Labour is in a mess which can’t be cleared up quickly. A leader determined on Brexit can undercut Farage’s party, while the Lib Dems are still tainted by the Coalition and their support for the euro. The excitement would delay the onslaught of carping which builds as the honeymoon ends.

Denounce the intransigence of the EU. Show that “No Deal” would be its fault, ask for the nation’s backing for a fair deal, wave the patriotic banner, bash Corbyn and Boris can win. Then go back to the EU with new proposals which should include a promise never to impose a customs border in Northern Ireland, leaving them free to incur the odium if they want to.

Add in a dollop of criticism of the damage agricultural protectionism does to developing countries, a promise of full rights to EU migrants who can support themselves and whatever covert trade deals we’ve been able to arrange against EU rules. Don’t threaten overtly not to pay Theresa’s ransom money – that will only unite them; just keep it covert, indicating that we’ve got to be prosperous to pay up.

That’s a high-risk strategy. But Boris is a risk-taker and what’s the alternative? Only humiliating rejection by a stultifying EU, a long, whimpering failure as the country slumps back into bickering decline and a fun Prime Minister turns pathetic.
Photocredit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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