Really? He’d rather not lead the country than deal with progressive allies? He’d let Cameron back in for five years before reaching even a loose arrangement with nationalists? Really? Is that what Labour folk are voting for…
My first reaction is brutal – he’s not fit to lead. Miliband has retreated step by step from the Tory and media battering until he has threatened to leave the people in the hands of the barbarians. He hasn’t the vision and rational thought to see the SNP position for what it is…a hand held out to another left-of-centre party to create a stable government. And in return for what? Essentially, the delivery of the Smith proposals which Labour is already committed to. Forget Trident, it’s a red herring. The SNP will vote against renewal but the rest of the House will vote Yes and it’s settled.
Miliband has crumbled into the very position the Tory strategists prepared for him because it makes it much less likely he can cement a government. He has made voting Labour a truly risky business now because he will need allies but he won’t reach out to the those very allies and instead prepares for a five-year nightmare of daily negotiations (which will take place anyway) and regular defeats.
Imagine, after five years of a pillaging, people-crushing government, rejecting help from the like-minded support you need to save the dignity of women, the disabled and the low paid who vote for you. This could be an historic failure. Miliband could already have written his political obituary. Is there no solidarity any more in which common interest is recognised and other differences set aside in a broader interest, a wider cause? Labour seem to lack any fraternal bone in their body, preferring to work with the other Unionists against Scotland and with the Establishment against Nationalists. The first message is: We want to wield all power ourselves. We do not share. We have the copyright on control.
There is in this, of course, the fabled wriggle room. Miliband never did need an actual deal with the SNP and, if the cards fall as we suspect, he will still be dependent on them so that whatever denials he makes now, he will be taunted mercilessly as the puppet of the SNP, something he would have avoided by taking a principled position as leader of progressive front government with SNP, Plaid and Greens. He will rely on his whips every night explaining how the SNP will vote and what needs to be amended to win their support – a dispiriting and exhausting process which, in reality, hands even more power to the Nationalists than a loose arrangement of confidence and supply. I also fear that the undemocratic side of our capitalist system – the markets – won’t much like a Labour government fighting for its life every day with each vote uncertain.
Ah, but the SNP can’t afford to vote against Ed, you say. Well I think that horse has bolted. This relies on the Labour myth of 1979 that the SNP ushered in Thatcher. Wrong. It was also an aeon ago before the modern SNP had built its social democratic credentials and laid the foundations for the mass movement of today…before Holyrood, before consistent electoral successes and before government. If the Scots see Labour failing to deliver – the reason the SNP voted against Callaghan – they are much more likely today to punish Miliband for betraying us. The strength of the movement would much better survive the shock. In fact, the ghost of 1979 should hover over Labour as a reminder that if you do let down the SNP, they have the guts to destroy you.
The Labour line in Scotland manufactured to fit the Miliband announcement, is that voting SNP won’t save you from the Tories. Momentous mounds of manure…Even if Labour retained every single seat they won in 2010 – all 41 – it would still leave them short of the magical 326 based on yesterday’s Sky poll putting Labour on 271 and the Tories on 282. Allowing that a sustained week of repetition of the message may convince some Labour waverers to stay true, the Miliband approach might make a marginal difference in some seats but my own suspicion is that the riposte is more powerful – You’d rather have the Tories than the SNP – just like in Better Together? Have you learned nothing?
There is an escape route for Labour and that is the defenestration of Ed after the vote. I can’t imagine the more intelligent and radical MPs will be happy to reject five years of stable government and built-in majority with a left-leaning tug on the tiller from the SNP. This is their chance and they’ll want to take it even if it means changing leader rapidly. It’s not as if Ed has been a flash of inspiration they can’t live without. If they’d got the right leader in the first place, they would have been streets ahead by now. But that’s Labour’s problem.
The underlying message of all this to me as a Scottish Nationalist is that my country isn’t wanted. Even when half the population are backing the SNP, we are treated as pariahs. No party will touch us. We are toxic in Westminster. Every one of the major Unionist groupings has told us that a constitutional party of social democrats in Scotland – one that is so respectable that the Prime Minister signs the Edinburgh Agreement with them – doesn’t belong in the power structures of Britain. And you can see where I am going…the deeper realisation is that the day of independence draws ever nearer as layer after layer of British state apparatus rejects us and declares us outsiders not worthy of influence in government. We are truly another country and the more SNP people we elect, the more scared and irrational they get. At the very time the SNP has accepted referendum defeat and offers to help a Unionist party, they spit on us. Scots are finally getting the message.by