Duncan Hothersall is editor of Labour Hame. He says it’s time to knock on the head the idea of a Labour/SNP deal in UK government.
There has been some unsustainable two-timing in Scottish politics for a while now.
The SNP are heading for May on twin tracks that can never logically meet. First, they say the Labour Party is the same as the Tories. Then, they say they want to support a Labour government against the Tories.
Which of these notions they choose to promote at any given time depends on what argument they are making. But both of the SNP’s incompatible positions are wrong.
Labour finds it relatively easy to counteract the first line – assuming folk are prepared to listen. The fact is that Labour’s economic plan requires a only small fraction of the cuts in public spending that the Tories have set out.
Labour is committed to redistribution, through the mansion tax, the reinstatement of the higher rate of income tax, and the additional tax on bankers’ bonuses. But Labour is also committed to economic growth as the route to cutting the deficit, not further public spending cuts.
Ideologically Labour is miles away from the Tories’ small-state mindset. The SNP’s suggestion that Labour are the same as the Tories is simply false.
But what of the second suggestion? Could a minority Labour government work with SNP MPs? Could Labour and the SNP form a coalition? Whose interests would be served if it were possible?
The SNP’s latest tagline, “Vote SNP get Scotland”, is designed to back up the idea that this election is about ensuring Scotland’s interests are represented at Westminster. But in fact every UK election ensures that, because it is the job of every elected MP, from whatever party, to represent the interests of their constituents.
The point of a UK election is that those MPs are chosen both to represent the constituencies which send them to Westminster, and to try to form, alongside MPs from across the UK, a united government to act in the best interests of the whole UK.
But the SNP always has been, and remains, a party whose single objective is the splitting up of the United Kingdom. This makes them almost uniquely ill-qualified to participate in a UK government. You don’t put people who want to destroy something in charge of it.
What seals the deal, for me, is an examination of what would likely happen in the mooted scenario of a Labour government propped up by the SNP. The realpolitik of the situation would be inbuilt instability, thanks to the SNP’s proven commitment to driving wedges between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The SNP would play to the gallery on every vote. It would be impossible to take the sort of hard collective decisions that are necessary for stable government. Every opportunity for grievance would be grasped. The team would be constantly undermined by the agenda of separatism.
And the real outcome would be a government unable to govern, which would be forced to go to the country again in another election, probably within 12 months. And let’s be clear: the likely electoral beneficiaries of a failed Labour-led government are, without question, the Tories.
The SNP are not interested in helping to create a stable government for the UK. Their agenda is in fact to deliver the opposite. It is time to make that clear. Labour should rule out entering into government relying on the support of the SNP.
We must, of course, redouble our efforts to deliver a Labour majority in May to get the Tories out and to help deliver the radical agenda set out by Ed Miliband on fair pay, fair tax and better opportunities.
But we must make clear that, if we fall short, we will not seek to form a government with a party whose sole aim is the breaking up of the country. There can be no deal with the SNP.