March 10, 2015 by Paul Goldsmith
What does 30 years of having little more to say to an electorate than “We’re not Thatcher, vote for us” get you? The SNP in your seats.
I found it difficult watching the rather braying, arrogant insistence by the SNP Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf on Question Time that the SNP would decide ‘on a case by case’ basis whether to support the policies of a Labour-led government “as long as they meet our wish to be part of a progressive-led majority”. That included in this still was the unilateral disarmament that would be any attempt to move Trident showed that, put simply, the SNP have little interest in being part of any successful government at Westminster in May, and negotiating with it will be possibly worse that attempting a successful play-date with a spoilt only child.
Yet we are in this position because we have got what we deserved. Our First-Past-the-Post election system has imposed a Conservative government on a Scotland that hasn’t voted for one for 30 years, so if it imposes a government involving the SNP on Londoners who didn’t even have the chance to vote for them – that’s life I guess.
The party most at fault for this is the Labour party. They spent far too long assuming that Scottish Labour was, in the words of their ex-leader Johann Lamont, just a “branch office” of the Labour party, despite the Scottish people having different needs. So Scottish Labour wasn’t able to operate independently in any way, and had to slavishly follow New Labour to the centre. It is no surprise then that by 2007 the SNP were leaders of a minority government and by 2011 they had a majority. They simply slipped easily in to the left of Labour (in most areas, not corporation tax – oh no, companies can get as rich as they want in SNP Scotland), and made hay.
So now we have a Lord Ashcroft poll suggesting that the SNP could win up to 56 seats in Scotland. Even Gordon Brown’s safest as safe can be Kircaldy and Fife seat could go. There seems little Jim Murphy, the new leader of Scottish Labour, can do about it. The SNP will see this as a second referendum on independence and will feel they have a mandate then to break up the union from inside Westminster.
SNP have pulled off the trick of being outsider protest party in Westminster whilst being the party of majority government in Scotland. The Scottish people seem to have realised that even if they don’t want independence, the only way to get a government at Westminster that doesn’t treat Scotland like a scientific experiment in austerity is to vote SNP.
Kezia Dugdale, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, trotted out the usual stuff on Question Time that a vote for SNP is a vote for David Cameron to be in Downing Street, and she is partly right, given that it will mean the Conservatives have the most seats in May. But if the polls are right they won’t have enough to form a coalition with the Lib Dems nor everyone else and Labour and SNP may be the ones left able to form some kind of deal.
Yousaf, parroting his leader Nicola Sturgeon, said that they would not be supporting a Labour government still committed to austerity. That could prove problematic. In fact, forming a coalition or deal at all with the SNP as they are currently could prove problematic for Labour. Remember, this is a party that thought they could tell a currency union that it has to have them in it and is completely reliant for their policies on oil revenues that have recently halved. Realism doesn’t exist at Holyrood.
As a member of the audience said, “a vote for the SNP isn’t a vote for David Cameron, it is a vote for Scotland”. Trying to run the UK when you have to make a deal with a party who have little care about 90% of its population will be very difficult.
I’m beginning to wonder, if I were Ed Miliband, or whoever leads Labour should this SNP-induced meltdown do for him, should just not do any deal with the SNP, sit back and let David Cameron’s Conservatives try to rule the country with 56 SNP MPs at Westminster. Whatever happens, it will certainly shake things up.