Throughout this election campaign, like in 2015, there has been a lot of talk of the chaos that would ensue from a Labour government backed by the SNP in Parliament. This fear-mongering has usually emanated from the Conservative Party, who seek to secure their majority among the certain class of English person who has never really been keen on Labour or the Scots.
The peak of this was a Conservative poster from the 2015 campaign, which depicted Ed Miliband standing outside No.10 Downing Street, flanked on either side by Alex Salmond and Gerry Adams. Such a poster could well act as proof that the Conservatives assume every voter is an idiot and will readily accept that Sinn Féin, who do not take their seats in Westminster (and only have four seats anyway), would take up cabinet positions so as to bring about a Miliband premiership.
Anyone with a working knowledge of the last century of British history will know that a nationalist party being the third largest in the House of Commons, or even holding the balance of power after an election, has a strong historical precedent. It seems there are still some people with enough historical knowledge to know this as, after the SNP regional landslide at the election ‘some were amused to discover that a bust of Charles Stewart Parnell had been situated in their whips’ office’.
From 1885 to 1918, the third largest party by an average of around seventy-five seats was the Irish Parliamentary Party, which was led by Parnell until his death in 1891.
In 1918 the Irish Party lost its position in Parliament. Sinn Féin, refused to take its seats in Westminster and instead interpreted its victory to be a mandate to establish Dàil Eireann in Dublin as the parliament of the Irish Republic, which had been declared in 1916. This started the War of Independence, three years of which led to the partition of the country and the establishment of the Irish Free State, known as the Republic of Ireland, as well as the statlet of Northern Ireland which, as it does today, remained in the United Kingdom.
However, it should also be noted that the circumstances which existed in 1918 do not exist today. No matter how badly the Brexit negotiations may go, it does not seem likely that in four years time Europe as we know it will have disintegrated into war. It is equally unlikely that the response from Nicola Sturgeon to the denial to hold a second independence referendum will be to form an open military organisation called the Scottish Volunteers whilst Alex Salmond heads a secret revolutionary organisation called the Scottish Republican Brotherhood.
Though the fact remains that the full name of the party led by Theresa May is the Conservative and Unionist Party - a party which campaigned with gusto under the banner of ‘Better Together’ during the Scottish referendum. Yet, when made to consider the notion that the party which has a mandate from the Scottish people should engage with the Westminster system, they are repulsed. This seems somewhat hypocritical for anyone who calls themselves a unionist. It would be foolish to ignore the fact that the UK is a political union between four distinct nations (or three distinct nations and a bit of another), and thus the politics of Westminster are going to reflect that in some way or another.
More articles by this commentator