After spending the last couple of days being feted in Croatia, one of the not inconsiderable number of countries where politicians still see the Blair political machine as the best of recent times, I am now on the way to Scotland, where it is only fair to say Alex Salmond clearly has a pretty impressive machine of his own.
If the Lib Dems are the clear loser of yesterday’s elections and referendum, then the SNP in Scotland and Labour in Wales are the clear winners.
There is no point denying that Salmond’s turning around of a pretty sizeable poll deficit has a fair bit to do with his own appeal to Scots, a record they seem fairly happy with, but above all the fact he had the clearest strategy, and stuck to it. He is also one of the few politicians I know for whom a bit of swagger tends to play pretty well.
As to what it means for the future of the UK, it is too early to tell. But it was not that long ago that few among the political village could imagine the SNP winning one election, let alone two, the second better than the first. So those – and I include myself in this – who felt that Scots would never vote for independence can no longer be quite so sure. Momentum is an important factor in any long-term campaign and right now Salmond has it.
The fact that Labour did well in Wales suggests this was very much a success for Salmond and the SNP, rather than part of a bigger nationalist mood sweeping the UK. But a nationalist mood in Scotland is a threat to both Labour and Tory. David Cameron is looking more and more like the PM of England.
it does seem that as the Lib Dems lost support, a lot of their previous voters went to Labour in England and Wales, and to the Nats in Scotland.
Ed Miliband can be reasonably pleased with Labour’s performance in England and Wales. Cameron will be relieved that the predicted loss of hundreds and hundreds of seats did not happen. There are no such silver linings for Clegg who is taking the brunt of anger at the impact of Tory policies. That suits Cameron for now, but he has his work cut out in having to manage the politics of the coalition, and if that fractures, he will find people associating him much more with the downside of his reforms than has been the case up to now.