Labour has had its nose put out of joint by the new SNP MPs’ disregard for parliamentary convention and electing to sit where they like – in this case the benches traditionally occupied by the official opposition party. As if it didn’t have enough to be worrying about with a humiliating general election defeat, Labour MPs have been kicking up a storm because other people are sitting in their seats. You would think that after the last election Labour would be used to others taking their seats, but no. On Monday it was a rookie mistake that landed a handful of SNP bottoms on the seats Labour felt was rightfully its, but as soon as they threw their little tantrum the response of the SNP members was to rub their faces in it and launch an outright invasion of the Labour benches all the way into the middle of the floor. Yes, members of the Westminster parliament can be this petty.
This otherwise less-than-noteworthy prank has brought into sharper focus the position that the whole of Scotland has in Westminster. For all of its fighting talk before the election the Scottish Labour Party was completely wiped off the face of the Scottish political landscape – managing to secure only a single seat in the whole country. As we all know the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives managed to scrape a single seat apiece; leaving the SNP with the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Westminster seats. Such a landslide for National Party might be impressive up here in Scotland, but in the south of England it has barely gotten a mention on the BBC, and even with control of an entire nation the SNP still cannot form the official opposition to the government.
We have always known the maths of our national exclusion from real power at Westminster, but now for the first time in centuries – with the map of the so-called United Kingdom divided by blue in the south and yellow in the north – we have been given a clearer visual of the domination of Scotland’s will by an English parliamentary agenda. Right now what we are seeing is that to all intents and purposes the Kingdom of Scotland has been subsumed by its southern neighbour.
So what’s with all this carry on with our MPs winding up the Labour Party by taking their precious cushions across the floor from David Cameron? It can and will be seen as many things. It was a group of newbies having a wee bit of fun with a Labour Party which rightly deserves to be treated with outright contempt. It might also be viewed as a sign of the confidence within the ranks of the SNP’s Team 56. Why shouldn’t they be confident? They have gone to take up seats at the heart of British power as the unquestioned, democratically elected voice of the people of Scotland. This alone, not to mention the almost 308 years of political and social exclusion, gives our SNP MPs the right to sit wherever they goddamn please. Let self-entitled snobs see what it is like to have a bunch of foreigners come and occupy what’s yours for a change.
Mischief in serious places is never ever just about the craic. Something else is going on – even if those involved in it haven’t all processed it yet. Team 56 just don’t respect it. They don’t respect any of it. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to suggest that they don’t respect the democracy and the people they have been elected to represent in the lion’s den. Their comments on social media over the past week have given the game away. Some have called the formalities “frustrating rituals,” and they have described the coldness with which they were given an induction into the Commons.
All of these hijinks with the seats are a humorous show of contempt and a very funny display of restlessness, and in time we are going to watch this mature into open revolt in the House. Didn’t we all know that this was why we put them there in the first place? At this point in time it is anyone’s guess as to what shape this revolt will take, but we can safely say that none of it will be by accident. Something deep in the psyché of Scotland, and therefore in the psyché of Team 56, tells us that we aren’t going to be in Westminster for much longer. So they have decided to make the most of what time they have. It will all make for very interesting politics.
Jason Michael, Ayrshire