We All Love Nicola – But Do We Want A Relationship?

by Ray_North on April 22, 2015

Unknown-2Ok, so we all love Nicola Sturgeon – she has, without doubt, been the stand-out politician of this general election, and when I say that I really wish that there was a chance that she could end up as a Prime Minister of the UK, I mean it.

And, yes, we are all seduced by much of what the SNP stands for – after all, what is not to like: anti-austerity, anti-trident, pro-public services, pro-Europe, they’re young brave and vibrant – it ticks all my boxes and, again, if there was someone standing in Wrexham on that ticket with the leadership of Sturgeon, then my wavering and floating days would be over.

The Tories get the SNP thing as well. Albeit in a different way.

The last couple of weeks have seen the Tories hammering the SNP – indeed John Major’s wide-eyed ranting yesterday made me think of his own comment of hearing the flap of white coats as he tried to paint the SNP as a ‘clear and present danger.’ Of course they know what they’re doing those wily old Tories, they know that attacking the SNP will increase the SNP vote in Scotland at the expense of Labour, whilst simultaneously bolstering the frightened old conservatives in the South who have no experience of life in Scotland beyond The Krankies and Andy Stewart and who may have been considering voting UKIP until the ungodly spectre of Nicola Sturgeon appeared from the mists of the North.

It’s all bollocks of course, indeed what’s more, it’s the type of unsubtle, negative, misinformation that has led to so many voters wanting to have nothing to do with the democratic process.

But, saying that, those on the left should be wary of the prospect of an SNP Labour coalition – it is not as simple as thinking, how lovely, the nice progressives from the North will coalesce with the nice progressives from the South and we will all live happily forever – there are profound issues at stake here, and Labour will be right to treat them very carefully.

When the Lib-Dems agreed to go into coalition with the Tories, I had various conversations with Lib-Dems in which they argued forcefully and credibly, that coalition was a mark of a pluralist democracy and we can’t pick and choose who we go into government with – they had a point, but I argued that if a junior party goes into government with an ideologically driven party whose ideology it doesn’t support, then, with the best will in the world, the junior party will end up simply as a conduit by which the major party is allowed to pursue its own particular agenda. I think I’ve been proved right about that.

We shouldn’t forget that, for all intense and purpose, the SNP is an ideologically driven party, it has as its central purpose the desire to see Scotland independent of the rest of the UK; in Westminster, its members will by definition work to bring that about – now without going into the merits of Scottish independence (as you all know, we were split on these pages on that issue), the Labour Party does not share that aspiration. If Labour wants to form a government with the SNP as coalition partners, then it may be forced to change its views on Scottish independence by at least granting another referendum on the issue which has massive implications, especially as the break up of the UK is not what this election is about, or it must seek an agreement from the SNP that that issue will not be part of any coalition agreement – which I’m not sure Sturgeon et al. will be happy to concede.

Even by entering a bill by bill agreement with the SNP there are likely to be problems, especially if the numbers are close – the SNP will be trying to ensure that any public policy or Bill of Parliament is good for Scotland, and I don’t blame them for that, but, Westminster is a UK Parliament, and as a Welshman, I would hate to see region pitted against region. This is what John Major was saying yesterday, and when you peer beneath his histrionics I’m afraid that he does have a point.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I wish the SNP well, and I will welcome every single one of their MPs to Parliament as they will bring a strong progressive element to the House of Commons that is not currently provided by Labour, however, if I were Labour, then at the moment I would, in the first instance, be on the phone to the likes of Tim Farron, Vince Cable and Simon Hughes from the Lib-Dems, to try to ensure that in the event of a hung parliament, it is the Lib-Dems not the SNP who are involved in a coalition, and second, if that doesn’t work, I’d be knocking together a very, very carefully crafted coalition agreement with the SNP that ensures that Ed Miliband’s Red Tartan Government doesn’t spend the next five years either preparing for, or facilitating an independent Scotland.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bobby West April 22, 2015 at 10:30 am

Ray – I agree that despite all the failings of the Lib Dems over the last 5 years Labour should be first looking to them and courting the individuals you’ve listed, among others. For a start, there won’t and can’t be a Labour-SNP Coalition as such, so that is not an option and therefore reliance on SNP alone will be a quite difficult and vulnerable more informal arrangement. Even if the LD MPs don’t give Labour a working majority, which is the most likely scenario, they should still seek to tie them into the government and then between them deliver a progressive agenda that the SNP won’t politically be able to bring down. I am not hopeful that the current LD leadership will go for this but do believe the post-election LD parliamentary party will have significant numbers that will want to look at this option.

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George_East April 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

I really can’t see the current Lib Dem leadership entertaining it (or at least not on terms that Labour could possibly swallow). If Clegg and Alexander both lose their seats I think the dynamic changes. It will be difficult for the party to ignore Farron (as probable next leader) then.

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