Labour and the SNP – independence through the back door

Democracy
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Chris Valentine

A Scottish Deputy Prime Minister with a stranglehold over the United Kingdom is a very real prospect, as we count down the days until the election.

UK politics has traditionally enjoyed majority government. Our “first past the post” system is designed to make coalition government less likely, as it is difficult for minority parties to gain a foothold at Westminster. In order to get seats in the Commons, you need to win constituency elections, and in order to win constituency elections you need to get the most votes in a given constituency. If you are the Monster Raving Loony Party, whilst adding a curiously British bent to politics, you are there as a warm up act and not the main attraction: the possibility of getting enough votes, to win the seat outright, are slim to impossible. So, for decades, we have enjoyed stable single party government.

But this is changing.

Separatist influences are polarising power into the hands of parties who have regional interests at heart - which override the interests of the UK as a whole.

Our political landscape has traditionally been characterised by two or three parties representing the spectrum between left, centre and right (and even four parties with the emergence of UKIP). We now see the emergence of single issue representation such as the SNP.

Why? Because it is not so difficult for a Scottish nationalist candidate to defeat the mainstream parties in a Scottish constituency vote, when regional interests focus the mind of the electorate.

In fact, if you believe the polls, this is exactly what is about to happen. The predictions for the Labour Party north of the border are dire, with most pollsters predicting annihilation. As we know, the Tory Party has never really had a following in Scotland and has never had more than a handful of MPs.

Come the election then, the most likely outcome is that the Scottish Nationalist Party will control the majority of constituencies north of the border. The new SNP Members of Parliament will be highly polarised and intent on using their block vote to the exclusive advantage of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon has made no bones about this.

You might argue that this is no different to the Ulster Unionists, who have always operated at the margins and leveraged their votes to gain political advantage that outweighs their true political clout. This is true in theory. The difference this time is that there is a very real prospect that the Scots Nationalists could become king makers and secure real political leverage.

In an election where most pundits predict a hung parliament, it will be the smaller parties that define the shape of the next government.

No different to last time you might say. Well, it is actually. Whilst the Lib Democrats are a minority party who gave Cameron Number 10, the difference is that they are not a regional party. They generally represent the interests of all of the citizens of the UK. When they put Cameron in power they did so to further their own political ends - but those ends were honourable to the extent that they were not polarised towards a particular sector of society.

The difference with the SNP is that they do not give two hoots what happens south of the border. The only concern of Sturgeon and her team is how to extract maximum economic advantage for Scotland.

So what has Mr Miliband had to say about this? Has he ruled out a coalition with the SNP as being against the combined interests of the UK. He is keeping his powder dry, just as the outgoing Labour government tried desperately to construct a deal with the Lib Dems to preserve their minority position. Miliband appears to be giving real consideration to using the Scottish Nationalist vote as a lever to get into Number 10.

Now I am not anti-Scottish; I am just pro UK. What I also believe is that it cannot be in the interests of the greater UK community to operate the economy in any way that does not benefit all of its citizens equally. This will create tension and discontent and will certainly lead to the break-up of the UK as a political entity.

Can you imagine what concessions the SNP will demand to put Miliband into Downing Street given the chance? In their position, a half-skilled negotiator would have a field day, and make no mistake, Sturgeon and Salmond are not half skilled negotiators.

Each time Ed wanted to get legislation through he would have to run back cap in hand to the SNP and give away more of the family jewels to secure cooperation. What a terrible thought. Whilst Sturgeon and Salmond are no warriors they will have achieved more than William Wallace could ever have dreamed.