It is time things were a bit more boring.
Since the beginning of 2015, British politics have been a state of some chaos. We have had a referendum, three General Elections, five Prime Ministers and no less than eight Chancellors of the Exchequer. Oh, and we have also had a pandemic. And a proper war in Europe.
And through quite a lot of that time people have been worried. Not always the same people. In the run up to the Referendum people worried they might lose their right to live in the UK. Then others worried that such was the state of the Tory Party, Jeremy Corbyn might become Prime Minister with all that would mean for our Jewish population. Then they worried that leaving the EU with no sort of deal at all would wreck the economy. Then they worried they were going to die or, even if they survived, they would lose their livelihoods as a result of lockdown. Then. just as they'd started to worry about the cost of living, they were distracted by worrying about the possible collapse of their pension fund. Then, when that latter threat receded, they went back to worrying about the cost of living, not least whether they could afford to heat their homes through the Winter ahead. And then finally, to top it all, they found themselves worrying that there might be a nuclear war.
So boring, for a while, would be good. And, despite his ludicrous false first step over Braverman. I think Sunak will, in a good way, be quite boring. And Sir Keir will bore back, promising a Labour alternative that can also be trusted to be reassuringly boring. Now, while I'm for that Labour Government as soon as possible, I'm realistic enough to think the Tories would be mad to go the Country before the Autumn of 2024. The problem for the Tories then is, just as John Major, our last boring but competent Prime Minister. could never quite get over Black Wednesday, I suspect Rishi will never get over the 44 days of Truss. A Party daft enough to do that once could not be trusted never to do so again, at least until a respectable period of time had passed.
Anyway, I don't normally write about UK politics and I'm not really writing about that here. For there has been another aspect to the chaos of the last seven years that has caused some fear. That, such was the state of UK politics, a crucial number of middle ground voters might conclude that an Independent Scotland could hardly be worse. Now my point here is not to knock that belief down but rather to acknowledge its existence as a concern.
The SNP leadership were sufficiently realistic to accept in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum that they couldn't immediately credibly demand another go. But a fair number of their rank and file were not. The Women for Independence group was not wound up for a single day, nor were any number of "Yes" Groups throughout the Country. The All Under One Banner organisation, charged with demanding a re-run referendum was actually set up in October 2014!
Now to square this circle, Sturgeon's 2016 Holyrood Manifesto found a form of words. A SNP run Scottish Government would not seek a second referendum unless there was a material change in circumstance, such as a vote to leave the EU in the then forthcoming EU Referendum.
This was an easy pledge to make. It bought off the marchers with the illusion of a possible second referendum yet, in May 2016, proceeded on the assumption that there was not the remotest prospect we would actually vote to leave the EU. Everybody in the SNP could be happy. Insofar as they are ever happy.
And yet we did then vote to leave the EU. And Sturgeon had hung herself on a hook she has been wriggling on ever since.
However, she has been helped by wider events. If it was inconceivable that we would leave the EU; inconceivable that Jeremy Corbyn might nearly become Prime Minister; inconceivable that Boris Johnson would actually become Prime Minister, let alone Liz Truss, and yet all these things happened, why then was it so inconceivable that there be a second independence referendum within ten years of the first?
The answer to that question now is boring. Because the answer to that question is boring.
We are now set for an attritional two years of UK politics. Labour will argue the coming austerity is because the Tories have mismanaged the economy. The Tories will argue that they have learned from their own mistakes and that a Labour Government inevitably means more tax (heavy emphasis) and spend(thrifery).
The point is that nationalist politics will be irrelevant to this, For the age of chaos is over. When the Supreme Court delivers its inevitable ruling next month, any lingering mirage of a referendum next October will disappear. And, given that, we are then left with either the option of a second s.30 consent (inconceivable from UK Governments of either stripe) or a de facto referendum when the UK goes to the polls in 2024. "It doesn't matter to us if it is a Labour or Tory Government, we are voting in a de facto referendum instead," Good luck with that SNP. No. I really mean that.
This has been an odd period in Scottish politics. But it is about to be bored to death.