Issue 25

THE BENEFIT OF LOW EXPECTATIONS

By Andy Maciver, Director, Message Matters

It has happened. Boris Johnson has won the Conservative leadership contest and will become Prime Minister tomorrow.

If we can put to one side the fact that his colleagues at Westminster are on manoeuvres to bring him down in his first week in office, here in Scotland, expectations are, if anything, even lower.

The Scottish Tories are fearing, and in turn the SNP is hoping, that the second half of 2019 is punctuated with the failure to negotiate a new Brexit deal with Brussels; the pursuing of a ‘no deal’ or WTO Brexit; a failure to prioritise fixing the many woes of unionism throughout the UK; and the loss of a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons with a resultant general election wiping out most of the Scottish Tories’ 13 seats and handing them back to the SNP.

Perhaps this will be justified. It is quite possible that all of this will indeed come to fruition. But what if it doesn’t? What if we are being too pessimistic/optimistic (delete as per your political persuasion) to assume that Boris Johnson will not do so.

Take Brexit. The EU wants a deal - that is not denied by anyone. We should, therefore, not automatically assume that Johnson will not succeed in getting one. In reality, it is likely to look extremely similar to the deal agreed by Theresa May. However, with a new leader who is able to state that he is prepared to leave without a deal, with more credibility than his predecessor was, who is to say that he will not precipitate a shift in Brussels’ position on the Irish backstop?

And what about Scotland? Again, there is an assumption that this rich, southern Tory with a streak of English nationalism about him hates Scotland and will do what he can to shaft his northern foe. But while there is evidence for his patriotism towards England, there is no real evidence to any particular antipathy towards Scotland. And, in remarks released by Nicola Sturgeon at an informal Reform Scotland event marking the 20th anniversary of devolution, Johnson apparently suggested to her after the referendum that so-called ‘devo max’ might ‘buy them off’. What if he does? Frankly, it would give the SNP a massive headache by moving the constitutional settlement to the place which poll after poll shows people want it to be.

Now the presumption that his colleagues will bring him down by creating, or at least failing to offer support in, a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons. Perhaps, yes. But let’s look at the reasons why they might not. Given that we are now reaching the peak of the extraordinary anti-Semitism problem at the heart of the Labour party, will a Tory MP, when it comes to the crunch, risk putting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street? For that matter, will a moderate Labour MP risk it? And what Remainer wants a general election before Brexit is finalised, which could bring with it Nigel Farage and dozens of Brexit Party MPs?

The benefit of low expectations is that it’s almost impossible not to exceed them. Boris Johnson is in a better position in Scotland than we all might think.

By Andy Maciver, Director, Message Matters

Issue 25

Issue 25

NEW PRIME MINISTER, VAT, INTEGRATED CARE, CARBON CUTTING, SNP AND SCOTTISH TRANSPORT

CalMac's cutting carbon as part of new eco actions

This year we will pass a milestone in achieving one of our key targets in our bid to be the country’s greenest ferry company, cutting our carbon emissions by 5%.

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