Tom Gordon: Indyref2’s ‘unsustainable’ blockade of Boris Johnson is here to stay

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PREMIUM

He’s an anxious MICHAEL Russell. “I’m not going to wait until my 102nd birthday to vote in another independence referendum,” the SNP constitutional secretary grumbled this week.

Like so many, the restless 67-year-old had been brought up by the prime minister.

Boris Johnson had waved off Indyref2 sometime in the 2050s on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Referendums are not especially fun activities in my experience in this county, they do not have a particularly unifying force in the national mood, they should only be once per lifetime,”Referendums in my experience in this county are not particularly fun events, they don’t have a particularly unifying force in the national mood, they should only be once in a generation,”

“We had a referendum [on remaining in Europe]in 1975 and we didn’t have another one until 2016. That seems like the right kind of gap.”

It really isn’t a new thread. It was used by Drifting Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw in the general election of 2019. “We’ve had 40 years between the two European referendums. That seems a good definition,” he said at the launch of the election platform for his party. While Alister Jack, the Scottish Minister, said a generation was at least 25 years old.

A typical knockabout is bickering. The Tories love to play up the 2014 “once-in-a-generation” hysteria of the SNP because it clearly irritates them. The SNP rants that Brexit implies that 2014 was a lifetime ago, and it seems fair to be seven years between votes.

But it is not especially insightful, since it is not Mr. Johnson’s generation that matters the most. I bet the life span of British prime ministers is a much more thrilling time period.

Downing Street’s inhabitants are not terribly long-lived. Of the 55, only nine have been in office for more than a decade and seven have been in office for less than a year.

If Mr. Johnson persisted for another five years, he would defeat David Cameron, his old competitor, and if he achieved seven, his hero, Sir Winston Churchill, would be overtaken. Ten years in office and, like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, he will be among the otherworldly endurers.

Yes, he might think, as he sits back in his chair with his desk under his feet, ten years will be a damn good run, with no awful referendums.

That takes us to the elections for Holyrood. Nicola Sturgeon wants it to be a referendum, with the pro-independence majority as a strong indication from the Scottish people that they want to see another constitutional vote.

As her opponents accuse her of neglecting the pandemic and economic crisis in favor of the SNP fixation, she may tamp down the rhetoric throughout the campaign, but if the votes go her way, the demand for Indyref2 will be easily and violently resurrected.

Will Mr. Johnson reject their request for an injunction under Section 30 again, giving Holyrood the power to stop him? Completely. Absolutely! Is he going to make it? Almost certainly.

Looking at his own political mortality, he could calculate that by the end of his tenure in Number 10, he might comfortably circumnavigate the SNP.

Grant and lose a referendum, and this is an ignominious departure and an infamy of politics. But play for time, dodge and weave, and he could be seen as a nimble and shrewd survivor by the history books.

It can depend on the relatively recent outcome of 2014, the precedent of the long period between referendums in the EU, and no compulsion to do otherwise.

For him, Indyref2 is a can that can be kicked, and he will. Let the Scottish issue be inherited by the next prime minister. He’ll be either the leader of the opposition, after all, or the colleague who’s stuck a knife in him.

The SNP says that it would be “untenable,” to block Indyref2, an assertion it has been making for nearly four years. To that I would say, define “untenable.”

The dictionary says ”unable to be sustained at the current level” or ”unable to be maintained or defended.” Something that cannot last.

On that basis, Mr. Johnson is untenable. Ms. Sturgeon is as well. In fact, we are all untenable. The big question is, how long are we going to have?

I would say Mr. Johnson can hold his position for quite a while. If it upsets the SNP, upsets Scotland, and costs the Scottish Tories at the ballot box, it’s all quite tolerable for the Prime Minister, given that the alternative is not to be Prime Minister.

What is not tolerable, as Ms. Sturgeon’s internal critics remind her, is relying on opponents to commit political suicide when it suits one.

The other argu

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