The alternatively worded referendum is, of course, one of several options open to Nicola Sturgeon should Theresa May persist in her anti-democratic defiance of the Scottish Parliament’s will. As the First Minister considers these options she will naturally have to take account of the legal position. But this is politics. And it will be political factors which determine how events unfold.
The pertinent question here is, not whether this or that option is legal, but whether Theresa May is sufficiently afraid of any alternative to give in on the matter of a section 30 order. This, in turn, depends on May’s perspective and her ability to assess the way things are likely play out under different scenarios. And this is where it gets complicated.
Is Theresa May actually capable of the kind of political calculation that the situation calls for? This seems to be in serious doubt. For example, she seemed to genuinely believe that the ‘parallel negotiations’ she wanted with the EU were a realistic possibility. There is little to indicate that she had anticipated, and planned for, the rebuff that others realised was inevitable. She seems to be absolutely convinced of her own power to demand and command. And she appears totally oblivious to the implications of that imagined power failing.
In politics, as in every other aspect of life, there are rules – written and unwritten. Why do we have rules? Essentially, it’s to make people’s behaviour more predictable. Our unnaturally large and massively complex society simply wouldn’t be viable if we all had to spend our days constantly trying to figure out what the people around us were going to do in every situation. So we have rules that allow us to know, with a fair degree of confidence, how anybody will act in a range of commonly occurring circumstances. Whether we’re talking about statutes or protocols or etiquette, it’s all about easing social interactions by establishing familiar patterns of behaviour.
Theresa May is breaking all the rules. Or she’s ignorant of the rules. Or she thinks they don’t apply to her. Or she supposes she can make up her own rules. Or some permutation of all these. This makes her unpredictable. This makes her dangerous.
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