Bon Accord

We’re back…after a week in the Perthshire hills we return to the Watershed Election. Did I miss much?

I saw glimpses of those leaders’ coconut shies of which we probably need one or maybe two, fully spaced out from campaign start and then again towards the end, but really, haven’t we had enough of the same fairground fun? They have now dominated the coverage and haven’t left the public much endeared to the political leaderships of our country, I fear.

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Jim Murphy caught my eye as the domineering candidate – skeletal, tall, shouty, starey-eyed and talking over everyone as if nothing had progressed from his student politics days when the bully, contemptuous of others, usually prevailed, his mob baying from the floor. I suspect his energy is cheering for the remaining Labour loyalists who just need someone to stick it to the Nats but utterly useless for winning back the disaffected – a point rather confirmed by the opinion polls which placed his performance below that of Ruth Davidson.

Intrigued by Ms Ruth, who could be said to be growing into the job – in all senses. Not to be unkind, I hope, she has changed shape somewhat which detracts from gawky kid image she started out with by making her look more mature – an Annabel mini me – and she does look comfortable ‘in her self’ as they say. I’m still not sure what Scottish Conservatism is though, or even if such a thing exists, and this feels like a good time to redefine what the membership is voting for – before they die off completely. Do they accept every single Osborne cut? Do they prefer jobs without a living wage, security, normal hours, or holidays and pensions? Would they like their own job to be like that? When would they be content for the UK to use its nuclear weapons independently? Why have they lost the support of small business. Why would I vote for them?

On the other hand, I thought Nicola was business-like and competent and conspicuously small amid it all. She is blessed with an appeal that disarms and draws you figuratively to her side allowing her to be both doe-eyed in retreat and firey in attack and still command your support. It’s an odd phenomenon which can lead to the viewer rather accepting what she says without scrutiny simply because she says it, and is, therefore potentially dangerous. (The contrast is with Murphy, who couldn’t hand me a cheque without my doubting his sincerity.)

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When I see those photos of her almost submerged among a throng, or relaxed playing with a child and realise this working class woman, who made it to university without any of the privileges we expect of Westminster leadership, is now First Minister of Scotland, my country, I want to burst with pride. She’s what I want my own girls to become. She is living, breathing proof of what anyone in our country can achieve – and why it’s important that we remove all the blocks of class, prejudice, money and inertia to let everyone else follow her…

And, damningly, that’s exactly what Labour believes too, or at least used to. I haven’t a moment’s doubt that Labour voters have the example of Nicola Sturgeon in their mind (or someone they know just like her) when they think of the Scotland they desire. It’s just that their party has decided society can’t afford to pay for it – cuts in public spending, for the seventh year in a row (and confirmed by Ed Balls this morning), are needed as well as charging kids a mortgage just to get a degree. This neo liberal miserablism is crushing low-paid families, creating a malleable workforce stripped of rights and minus work/life balance. Curiously, it doesn’t seem to have curtailed the comforts of the well-off.

It is worth remembering that as we divide for voting purposes into different tribes, the aspiration of most Scots is similar and, notwithstanding those affiliations, is made explicit in the SNP’s offer to support a Labour government. Indeed, I suspect the SNP objectives of moderate extra spending and cancelling Trident’s replacement, are much closer to Scottish Labour instincts than are those of the bombastic Mr Balls. And, whether he likes it or not, it seems clear the same Ed Balls will indeed only have a career as Chancellor so long as he accepts those SNP votes in parliament. However the mechanics work, Nationalists will effectively be part of the British government (unless there is a late Tory surge) working together with the – until now – hated Labour Party.

SNP folk might like to dismiss that idea and take solace that they will instead be holding Miliband’s feet to the fire but both the Opposition and the media will view it entirely differently…it will be portrayed as the Labour/SNP government working against the interests of Britain. To work effectively this unholy alliance will require corridor confabs and back-of-the-hand agreements and, however strident he sounds today, the understanding that Miliband must deliver for Scotland. The SNP will be working with Labour. Read that again and contrast it with the Red Tories and the 45 and the remember the fury that may of us reserve uniquely for Labour and its leadership. From around the middle of May we – the Scottish Nationalists – will be effectively in government with sworn opponents Labour. They will be our new chums. (Do try and smile nice.)

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I believe that once the unease and acrimony dies away into a pattern of behaviour at Westminster, a working relationship will emerge, one that makes our current war of words obsolete. It will still be justifiable to point up differences but much more difficult to decry Labour as somehow against the interests of Scots. The same will apply to Labour rhetoric against the SNP – the instant counter is a question: So why are you working with them at Westminster?

It then only takes a look at the diary to May 5, 2016, 12 months after the General Election, to see how things could change at Holyrood too. That’s the date of the Scottish election when the SNP will contest with Labour for power in Edinburgh. An deal in London will necessarily curtail the critical language between the parties in the Holyrood campaign and is another reason why Labour will feel the heat to deliver early for the Scots – failure to do so is bound to damage the party’s chances further and leave the SNP free to rack up another overall majority.

There has always been an alliance of interest between the SNP and Labour and many of the policy differences – independence apart – are either designed to dovetail with inappropriate English positions or are contrived differentiation.

We may be entering an era when acrimony gives way to rapprochement along the old fault line of our politics. The creation of a left-of-centre realignment based around Devo Max and shared interests both at Westminster and Holyrood could render redundant much of the antagonism that marks our debate. It may even be that, in redefining relationships and shedding the bitterness, in the longer term, a new coalition of interests about independence emerges. This kind of changed outlook will demand an altered approach and the generation of a new politics which looks for dialogue rather than damage and country before criticism. It may sound naïve today but with any deal in Westminster this is where we are headed and with compromise on both sides, the prize could be a Left Alliance and the end of auld sang…

 

 

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19 thoughts on “Bon Accord

  1. I have no problem with the SNP working with any of the establishment parties. Why? Because they’ve done it before and quite successfully. They know how to get things done in minority government and they always, but always have the public’s interest to the fore.

    So working with Labour in the UKs interests? I’d expect no less from our representatives to Westminster and I reckon they’ll do a good job. I also know what they’ll be looking to do for their own electorate in Scotland. Win the most and best concessions they can from such an arrangement and continue to forward the idea of an independent Scotland.

    I’m pretty clear on that, its the media in general who seem somewhat confused. 🙂

  2. Your views on Labour having to tone down the anti-SNP rhetoric kind of reinforces the view that the most likely outcome to the election will be an unofficial, behind closed doors, government of national unity between the unionist parties.

    Labour appear to dislike the Tories but it really is difficult to tell now after their cosy relationship in the referendum, their party members urging Labour voters to vote Tory to stop the SNP winning a particular seat (because voting SNP will help the Tories!?!) and Balls himself stating he wouldn’t change a single thing about the most recent budget.

    Whereas it’s as plain as the nose on your face that Labour have a rabid hatred of the SNP and I have difficulty seeing Labour get over that, although losing almost all of their Scottish accounting unit MPs may help.

    There has been plenty of talk in the media now about such a government of national unity, no doubt to gauge public opinion and soften up the voters to such an idea. In reality I can see a Labour minority government initially propped up in power by the SNP but getting most of their acts of parliament through with the negotiated help of the Tories e.g. Trident renewal, austerity budgets, NHS privatisation, etc.

    When Labour renege once again on promises for more powers for Scotland, as well as continuing neo-liberal right wing economic policies that the SNP are opposed to, the SNP will have no option left other than to try to vote the Labour government down. However this would require the support of the Tories who may not support a vote of no confidence if they’ve made a secret deal with Labour, and even if the Tories voted to bring down Labour, it would risk the Tories winning the election that would have to follow (why else hold a confidence vote if not to threaten to oust the ruling party?), thus stigmatising once again the SNP as the party that brought the Tories to power.

    After this election, Labour may well give up on Scotland and, like the Tories, will have nothing to lose by screwing Scotland over by refusing additional powers. They may even do it deliberately to try and force the SNP’s hand in a vote of no confidence since calling such a vote is a weapon that the SNP can’t really use without taking themselves out as well as Labour. You could even argue that it could lead to a resurrection of Labour in Scotland.

    The only thing the SNP can do is to sit back, allow Labour to f*ck up and abstain from votes of confidence if they break their promises, although even through abstaining, the SNP could still be accused of bringing the Tories back into power.

    • Someone else said on another forum that it was possible that if Labour tried making life difficult then the SNP could prolong them in Government by backing them in any confidence motions but abstain on issues which affected England only.

      They’d be “in office but not in power” to quote Norman Lamont. This would leave Labour with control over Scottish or UK matters only and the Tories in control of all purely English issues (EVEL anyone ?).

      Were Labour to act against Scotland’s interests or ally with the Tories on any UK issue e.g. Trident they could kiss Scotland goodbye at future elections.

      • Perhaps Labour will be kissing Scotland goodbye after the election anyway? Labour are currently campaigning on a pro-Trident stance so I don’t they’d see anything wrong with continuing with it when in power.

        You do highlight an interesting scenario but while the Tories may in effect end up ruling England, the majority of policies e.g. Trident, defence, welfare, taxation are currently set at the UK level and will continue to do so if they betray their vow as they’re threatening to do so.

        And the only retribution the SNP can enact is to call for a vote of no confidence…

        • Perhaps, however they could also put down amendments or abstain.

          In any case having a Labour government dependent upon, and happy to have, Tory support to get legislation through which is inimical to Scotland will go down like a rat sandwich here.

          Keep them twisting in the wind long enough and they’ll show their true colours – then it’s R.I.P “Scottish” (sic) Labour.

  3. If it comes about, I see no issue about SNP working with Labour in Westminster, to get the very best they can for Scotland.
    It would n’t change my vote or view for Holyrood. A majority in Holyrood, along with Greens, is still essential to me.
    What is done in Westminster can be undone, to some extent, so a solid domestic vote would be required to stop anyone working against Scotland at Holyrood.
    Labour at Holyrood is still the branch assistant managers of Westminster Labour. We might have displaced Westminster MPs looking for places in Holyrood, that wouldn’t be good.

  4. To answer your own question:” What exactly do the Scottish Tories stand for”.

    Very simple answer. Everything you and normal people in Scotland don’t stand for or, agree with.

    With regards to the hung parliament, and horse trading. It’s all being geared up for a unionist alliance coalition. The mood music is, stop the SNP at all costs. Same as the referendum. Stop Scotland at all costs!

    The biggest party Labour or Tory, will form the government. The lesser will prop up the greater, to stop the SNP.

    Ultimately this will hasten independence as Scotland will have a democratic defecit. In other words Scotland will no longer be represented at Westminster and the SNP will call on their mandate to hold a binding referendum.

    There was a lot of talk about Milliband not giving permission. That’s for Holyrood, not Westminster. Majorty Scottish MP’s can call a referendum ,without Westminsters pemission. They have the power to do so.

    • Derek, Sadly I think the Tories are going to get a significant number of votes from UKIP at the last minute, and this could well be enough to see them over 40 per cent. In regards to an Labour-SNP arrangement then we have been here before. The SNP quietly supported the Labour administration of 1974-1979. They only voted against Callaghan in the vote of confidence in 1979 because Labour completely fucked up the devolution referendum.

      It would be almost certainly be a confidence and supply arrangement, and the SNP would not have any ministers in office at Westminster. As long as the SNP get significantly more powers for Holyrood, then I am perfectly fine with that arrangement. As I said at the start of my post, I expect the Tories to do a deal with UKIP, in which they would have to deliver a referendum on withdrawing from the EU. If you add up Tory and UKIP support in the polls it reaches the 45 per cent level. I would much prefer to see a Labour-SNP administration.

    • Big Jock,

      Something you said reverberated with me:

      The biggest party Labour or Tory, will form the government. The lesser will prop up the greater, to stop the SNP.

      And as you go on to say, that will ultimately mean the end of the UK.

      I agree. We are currently creeping over the line of an outright majority of votes cast for this election in the only part of the country where we can. It seems that contrary to pre referendum rhetoric, they really don’t want us, unless as cannon fodder.

      It will be interesting to see whether a confidence and supply arrangement between Red and Blue Tories will give this ricketty old state the push it needs to agree to a mutual separation in the interests of both parties. I expect that both sets of Tories would really like to see the back of us ,the feeling of course being mutual. Obviously, I speak only for myself, but it would allow the two parties in England to triangulate themselves till the cows come home and nary a skelf between them. We all know that that is what they really, really want, don’t we? We were marginalised before the referendum, it seems to me that we are more marginalised now.

      • They would dearly like another Scottish Clearance, replacing the thinking voters with sheep, but can you imagine how poor the rUK will be without all the natural resources of Scotland propping up their larcenous policies and troughing habits. How come Osborne was not squealing at the fall in oil prices? How come our bombing raids in Iraq against ISIS are not causing cuts in other departments. They are stealing so much from Scotland that they could clear the deficit tomorrow and pay off the National Debt, and still be able to finance all services (including of course their own expenses). Why dont they? Because their banker school chums then would miss out on their bonuses which are financed by the interest payments!

  5. Labour looks almost certain to ‘loose’ its Scottish Branch Office, but gain conditional support of the SNP block. Ironically a separate, left leaning, Scottish Party that Scottish Labour pretended to be, but never were.

    Talk of deals leads to an interesting observation on FFA (ie. control of everything apart from Defence and Foreign Affairs). If we were to gain FFA what is everyone expecting to happen with Trident renewal when Westminster retains Defence? Surely this is exactly the same scenario as when Labour may need to rely on Tory votes to pass this one item, as they know the SNP will not support it.

  6. The SNP’s relationship with ScoLab is toxic – UK Labour, not so much (especially after the UK leaders’ debate). If there’s a wipe-out, ScoLab no longer has a dog in the WM fight. If Ed has sense, he’ll embark without delay on a ‘new constitutional settlement’ with a view to abolishing the Lords, giving Scotland FFA, Wales more powers, an English parliament…..and he’ll still be able to get Trident & other stuff through with Tory support. It’s the only (even if temporary) way to save the union, and if the SNP has to take the heat for supporting some unpopular policies until we get FFA, so be it – the game is worth the candle, especially since the SNP can go into 2016 saying they will be the only party capable of administering FFA responsibly (since they have thought about it and the others haven’t).

    • Kininvie, I agree – we are in strange yet familiar times. The SNP can deal with the British Labour Party and vice verse. They can’t with Scottish Labour. But wee ginger dug’s tide is getting higher 🙂

    • Heidstaethefire

      You’re probably right about he branch office being dugless. It would seem also after Balls, Milliband and Umunna administering a kicking to Murph, that U.K. labour have written off any chance they had here. I wonder if this will affect the level of campaign funding from labour to Scotland?

  7. Muttley – I suppose the big difference is that this time the SNP will be representing the whole of Scotland. They will have much more power to block and force decisions unlike 74.

    If it’s Tory/UKIP. Two things will happen. Labour will blame the SNP in Scotland and cry in their beer. Then shortly afterwords they will disband in Scotland.

    The SNP will try to cause as much trouble as possible and then go into Holyrood with a mandate for a referendum, and they will win hands down.

  8. Derek – interesting as ever and I’d love to think you are correct but I’m afraid my reaction (and I’m not a cynic) is: Dream on – Labour have gone too far and become too embittered and blinkered to recognise, let alone act in, in the interests of the electorate and form a workable positive alliance with the SNP in the circumstances you outline. At best they will have to be forced by arithmetic and survival to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing something approaching the decent thing…

  9. Seems to me that there is a chance that Labour will split after this election. Scottish labour includes a great many people who are closer to the SNP than to Westminster labour, in terms of policy. They have stuck with a labour party which bears no relation to their values for a variety of reasons: a traditional socialist objection to “nationalism”; loyalty to party which is akin to “my mother drunk or sober”; tribalism; a belief that the neoliberal drift is temporary; and on and on. But it is increasingly clear to many of these people that the party has left them for good. Some of the visceral hatred of the SNP is down to shame: they see a lot of what they should be and in their hearts they know that the TINA is a lie and that they have betrayed their purpose. They seem to have believed it was necessary, but when the SNP are riding to high it is perfectly obvious it was not. That is hard to live with, I presume.

    Many labour supporters in rUK are the same: they, too, are shamed by what they have wrought, and they too believed (with rather more justification, probably) that there was no help for it. They have had less chance to see that a left wing party can do well, for none has arisen in England. But with more exposure to the SNP they will realise. When left wing alternatives are presented without fudge many people feel a sense of relief that the unexamined premises which underpin the whole debate in the UK are challenged in public: it articulates their own gut feeling. It is nice to have a voice in politics as we well know: and the left in rUK will find that out as well after decades of the “spiral of silence”

    Those social democratic and socialist people inside labour may well decide to bite the bullet and form a new party – don’t know what they can call themselves – maybe “old labour” 😉 – and new labour can admit they are tories or they can face extinction along with the lib dems: we really don’t need three tory parties, do we?

    If that were to happen it would be good for politics everywhere in the UK. It would mean that the SNP would have a real opposition in Scotland as well. Who knows, maybe even the scottish tories would re-emerge, for their party left them long long ago.

    Could be good, don’t you think?

  10. I’m seeing a lot of speculation that the Tories are in line to do a Lazarus act rather similar to 1997. UKIP defectors being a large part of that, but also Miliband’s general geekiness and positioning as Tory-lite. If you’re going to have a Tory government anyway, thinks Mr and Miss Middle England, why not vote for the real thing?

    Not a pleasant thought, but they could be right.

  11. nicola and co need to watch scottish/uk like a hawk. dont trust them whatsoever. if fact more of a threat or comparable with the tories, who at least show their true colours/policies for us to reject as heresay…scottish labour hopefully are a spent force though can never take that for granted, theyve ruled the roost for so long its hard to imagine them being completely in meltdown…until the life support machine bleeps no more they could do a lazarus and come back to haunt us…milliband and balls have no intention of giving scotia more of its demands, ffa and trident removal, so pls snp be careful of dealing with these craven creatures who will only back stab in retaliation for losing their fiefdom. i remain very sceptical on any benefits we can extract from these rogues…

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