For the first time since the 2019 general election, in which Boris Johnson, the Brexit implementer, has been called to the polls in England, Scotland and Wales. Last May, during the disastrous first wave of Covid, all local and regional elections in the UK were canceled. The election now formed, along with the new one, will make Thursday’s election one of the largest in many decades.
The British media called it “Super Thursday”. The approximately 5,000 city and county councils across England and seven regional mayors (the so-called “mayors”) must be re-elected. In London, the largest municipality in Western Europe, new elections are scheduled for City Council and London Mayor. The result of this first nationwide mood test since Brexit and the start of the pandemic, is waiting impatiently.
Khan was in London before being reelected
There is hardly any change in London itself. Labor Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first leading Muslim on the Thames, knows he is perfectly safe in a relatively small, ethnically diverse, and largely pro-European city. By contrast, in the north of England, where Johnson’s conservative party has penetrated deep into the old Labor Party’s ancestral home under the banner of Brexit, bitter power struggles are emerging in many places.
Sir Kerr Starmer, who moved to the Labor Party summit in April of last year, had a hard time against the Conservative Party – he must fear that even the “red” constituency in Hartlepool in northeast England, in which Westminster was before – the election is underway. Now he will lose. On the one hand, no one really knows how popular Boris Johnson is currently and what that means for his party. Recently, BoJo found himself at the top thanks to his government’s successful vaccination policy. But in the past few weeks, a number of personal scandals have hit him. “For people who don’t like Boris very much, that might be the deciding factor,” a nervous minister told the London Times.
Determine the course in Scotland
The main concern of the kingdom today is of course the stubborn Scots who are electing a new parliament for their “nation”. Scottish Prime Minister Nicolas Sturgeon, president of the Scottish National Party (SNP), declared this election “the most important in the history of Scotland”. If they reach a majority in the Edinburgh Parliament, Sturgeon interprets this as a mandate for voters to call a new referendum on Scottish independence. She said that such a referendum should take place after that “in the first half” of the corresponding five-year period.
In fact, the chances of the SCN chairperson obtaining her “mandate” are not bad. Even if the Scottish National Party narrowly failed to gain an absolute majority, Sturgeon could count on the Scottish Green Party, which, like the Scottish National Party, is calling for Scottish independence and will present itself as a junior partner to force a plebiscite.
At the last minute, only Sturgeon’s absolute predecessor Alex Salmond and his new party “Alba” brought a little math uncertainty. Salmond, claiming to be the “real” fighter for independence, has vowed to compel sturgeon to act immediately and, if necessary, to unilaterally declare Scottish independence upon entering Parliament. On the other hand, the SPN chairwoman wants to take her time with her referendum – so as not to alienate hesitant voters. She said that the top priority will remain fighting the epidemic for the next few months.
Nicola Sturgeon has no illusions that her re-election – her “mandate” – would be the license for a new referendum. The then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron approved the first referendum on independence of this century, the 2014 referendum. But Boris Johnson categorically ruled out “Enddrive 2,” a second referendum.
If you stick to this hard line, there will be a real constitutional struggle, and the courts may have the last word. If a referendum was allowed, the result could not be expected today. According to recent polls, exactly 50 percent of Scots want an independent Scotland. The other 50 percent don’t want that.
The will for independence grows
Meanwhile, experts are turning their sights on Little Wales, which now also serves its Parliamentary Assembly, Senedd. In Wales, which is more closely related to England than to Scotland, for historical reasons, the will to independence was not that strong at all. To the complete surprise of London’s top politicians, a survey in March found that 39 percent of all “principality” citizens can now imagine a farewell (or “Hwyl fawr”) to the UK. Six years ago, it was only 3 percent.
For now, that won’t push the little Independence Party Blade Cymru to a position like his SNP “big sister” in Scotland. But even the ruling Labor Party in Wales can count on a coalition partner after the election. Blade Cimru has made the issue of secession from London a major demand of her election program.