Time to rule out the impossible coalition

DH cropDuncan 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.

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106 thoughts on “Time to rule out the impossible coalition

  1. I’m confused about what you think the outcome of this refusal to deal with the SNP would be Duncan? Barring a political earthquake in the next 80 or so days, the polls continue to strongly suggest a hung parliament with both the Labour and Tory parties well short of a majority. Assuming Labour win more seats than the Tories, that the LDs lose around half their seats (as seems likely) and the SNP gain significantly from Labour (as also seems likely)….what are you suggesting?

    Absent a confidence & supply deal with the SNP, and assuming that Labour can’t patch up some other deal with minor parties other than the SNP (the Ulster Unionists….really? You’d go there?) it seems your only realistic alternative is a Grand Coalition with the Tories. Perhaps that’s what you’d REALLY like to see, but are just to afraid to say out loud? After all, we have evidence of some Labour folk already making that argument. Such is the visceral unthinking hatred of the SNP, they’d actually prefer to see a Tory/Lab Coalition than any form of co-operation with the hated nationalists. The ever charming Lord Moonie has already made the suggestion, before (naturally) blocking me on twitter for politely querying his stance.

    So if you aren’t suggesting a Grand Coalition, and a deal with the SNP has been ruled out, you’re left with hoping for a second election. Who do you think will benefit from that? Quite apart from it being rendered more difficult due to the fixed term parliament Act, isn’t it likely Labour would be punished by voters for failing to ensure stable government in a fit of pique at Scots for having the temerity to vote SNP?

    If Henri IV though Paris was worth a mass, I find it difficult to see circumstances where Ed Miliband will refuse to enter No. 10 because his party hates the SNP.

    1. Labour isn’t going to go into a grand coalition with the Tories. The idea is ludicrous.

      My point here is that a coalition, or a confidence and supply deal, between Labour and the SNP simply wouldn’t work. It would produce the opposite of stable government.

      If we rule it out well in advance of the election then that allows people to understand what we would do post-election, and make their electoral decisions on that basis.

      This isn’t about hating anyone. It’s about recognising what the SNP is: a party which seeks to destroy the United Kingdom. It would carry that agenda into government. It is untenable as a UK coalition partner.

      1. You missed the point completely Duncan. You’re arguing from a position that Labour will have choices if it doesn’t win enough seats to form an outright Government of its own.
        All the polls suggest a hung Parliament with the biggest block MPs apart from the big 2 being the SNP making them the only viable partners capable of forming a coalition unless Labour and the Conservatives do a deal to share Government with each other.
        Now I agree with your sentiment that it will be near on impossible for the SNP and Labour to work together in coalition which is why Andrews suggestion of a Lab Con pact has more merit.
        Labour has far more in common with the Conservatives than it has with the SNP that is simply a cold hard fact. But its a cold hard fact that is completely unpalatable to the people of Scotland which is why you cant entertain the idea publically.
        I truly see Labour getting into coalition with the Conservatives rather than trying to fight the SNP within a coalition on every issue and policy and that will be all the SNP needs to kick off another campaign for another Independence referendum.

        1. Your “cold hard fact” is nonsense. Why have the SNP ruled out a coalition with Tories but talked up working with Labour if the parties are the same? This deceit simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. You need to stop peddling it.

          1. Simply because of reality Duncan. If a UK Government is to be formed then all the indications are it has to be via Coalition. As the SNP are the most likely candidates to be the coalition partners they have to get into coalition with somebody if coalition is their intent. That leaves them the only choice of going in with the Conservative Tories or the Labour Tories because sadly the English electorate wont vote for the Green party.
            Its because of the English electorate that the choice is between 2 Tory parties. Not what anybody would call a union benefit from a Scottish perspective.
            Anyway Like I said I agree with your understanding that Labour and the SNP are incompatible for coalition which leaves the only other way to form a Government being a Lab Con pact.
            Something I believe is not unpalatable to people like yourself and many other NEW Labour acolytes its just going to be too difficult for you to sell the idea to the Scottish electorate hence your need to deny it completely.

          2. So you’re calling me a liar. I’ve made it abundantly clear that a Lab-Tory coalition is unpalatable to me. I find your suggestion that I’m lying about that unpleasant. Don’t do it.

            Anyone with any understanding of UK politics knows a Lab-Tory coalition in 2015 is impossible. Stop flailing about with nonsense arguments.

          3. “Anyone with any understanding of UK politics knows a Lab-Tory coalition in 2015 is impossible. Stop flailing about with nonsense arguments.”

            Yes because Labour regularly voted in opposition to Tory motions in Parliament over the last five years… oh wait.

      2. How could it destroy the United Kingdom? If the rUK carries on as the United Kingdom then it isn’t’ destroyed. Changed yes – smaller yes – destroyed no

      3. The SNP does not seek to “destroy” anything. It constructively seeks governance in Scotland by and for the people who live in Scotland. As a normal independent country Scotland will establish bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships with other states and groups as are found to be mutually advantageous. The SNP does not propose retaining the means of offensive destruction of other states (Trident, aircraft carriers etc). It is up to rUK to decide what form of governance suits them. If rUK wish to retain the Westminster cesspit and corrupt House of Lords, that is a matter for rUK. Look at what has happened these past 50 years – the tide of history is unstoppable and the United Kingdom is finished.

    2. Hi Andrew,

      I think you are either being deliberately obtuse or buying the donkey.
      Duncan’s article is not an analysis of likely outcomes, but an attempt to push the idea that the SNP only have a single aim, like it’s a single policy party. By portraying them as though they don’t consider the merit of other policies which might help Scotland, he hopes to persuade the reader to accept that premise, slip this idea into the subconscious and then place a big donkey of a conclusion for all to argue about.

  2. The idea of a Grand Coalition may be distasteful to you personally Duncan, but there is clear evidence of it being favoured by some in Labour, and interestingly your leadership haven’t specifically ruled it out either, have they? Who do you think people are more likely to believe, party activists like you or former MPs and members of the House of Lords like Lewis Moonie?

    It seems to me your plan is aimed more at frightening wavering Labour voters against voting SNP, than a principled attempt to promote stability. As the hapless Mr Clegg noted in 2010, you have to deal with the electoral cards the voters deal you. A minority Labour government with SNP support is quite feasible, but you’d simply rather rule it out altogether now on ideological grounds to try and bolster the Labour vote, than face the difficult decisions which would be required to compromise with the SNP.

    By advocating an “anyone but the SNP” it’s quite obvious that you and Labour if they are unwise enough to take your advice, will be promoting instability. They would be punished by the electorate for doing so if that policy resulted in a second General Election.

    1. Citing Lewis Moonie on this is like citing Dennis Canavan on Labour’s view of independence. The idea is ludicrous, and will not happen.

      I’m not trying to frighten anyone. I’m taking a dispassionate look at the reality of what a Labour SNP coalition would be, and saying it would not work. It simply would not work. I’m warning against instability, not arguing for it!

      The SNP wants to break up the UK. It would carry that agenda into the government of the UK. This is inescapable fact.

  3. “Then, they say they want to support a Labour government against the Tories.”

    When and where was this particular statement made and by whom?

    “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.”

    “Alistair Darling has conceded that if Labour is re-elected public spending cuts will be “tougher and deeper” than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher.”

    “Labour would not reverse billions of pounds of spending cuts to the police, hospitals, armed forces and local councils, Ed Balls has confirmed.
    The savings include cutting £3.3billion from councils’ budgets, making £700million worth of cuts to the pay of members of the armed forces and shaving £400million off the NHS pay bill.”

    “ED Miliband will today admit he CANNOT promise to reverse George Osborne’s new £11.5billion cuts.
    The Labour leader will warn unions and party activists they have to accept the “hard reality” there is no money left.”

    Still not dealing with reality Duncan.

    “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”

    The mansion tax is hardly going to raise enough capital to allow wealth redistribution in any significant way at all.
    So why not reinstate the 10p tax rate and actually help the poorest and most vulnerable?
    Whats the point of taxing bankers bonuses instead of regulating them? Why not simply stop bankers bonuses being paid when banks fail to generate profit for their shareholders?

    “But Labour is also committed to economic growth as the route to cutting the deficit, not further public spending cuts.”

    Ed Balls and Alistair Darling say you’re bare face lying Duncan.

    “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.”

    Apart from the fact that both support Austerity, War, Nuclear proliferation, Nuclear energy over renewable, Tuition fees, Means testing, Welfare cuts, The Union, Privatisation etc. Then there is the fact that both parties have the same party donors and funders.
    And the fact that both have been found wallowing within the same scandals and corruption. Cash for Honours Cash for questions expense fraud selling arms to despots etc
    I bet their members buy their suits from the same tailors as well.

    But at least their logos are coloured distinctly.

    “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?”

    I actually believe its not possible either Duncan. I simply cannot see how the SNP and Labour can compromise on every issue which is something both parties have to do within Coalition. The SNP are Social Democrats while Labour are Neo Conservative. It could never work.

    “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.”

    If that’s true then why do political parties employ party whips? Is it not to ensure MPs follow a Party line rather than vote for constituency? And as the Labour party line is Neo Conservative doesn’t it follow that the more Labour MPs returned the more Neo Conservative votes will go through the Lobbies?

    “The SNP would play to the gallery on every vote.”

    Labour speak for the SNP would put Scotlands interests first above any considerations the London run Labour party introduced.

    I had to stop reading at this point. Jesus Duncan you really should file this absolute mince under fantasy and fiction. As far as self delusion and self deceit go this has got to be in the top 5 ever written on this blog and that’s inclusive of the tin foil hat delusions of Peter Russell.

    1. What a confused garbled mess. Why are you quoting from Alistair Darling in 2010 and pretending he is talking about the next Labour government? If you bother to read what I said, you’ll find my observations on the difference between Labour and Tory public spending plans are backed up by, of all people, the IFS.

      1. But not by Labour grandees and the shadow chancellor of the Exchequer nor Ed Milliband himself.
        I notice you didn’t challenge my list of similarities between Labour and the Conservatives at least you show discretion on that point.

        1. Please assume that I think everything you say is utter garbage unless I say otherwise. Because as you have demonstrated time and again, it usually is.

          1. But allow me to give credit where credit is due. You could have blocked all of my posts but didn’t you allowed them to be displayed so kudos to you. It give me hope for the future of the Labour party I never had before.

  4. Hi Duncan,

    I take issue with one part of your analysis, which is your idea that what is wanted is a ‘stable government’. I suspect by ‘stable government’, you mean a government that can ram through unpopular policies (like the illegal invasion of Iraq) with impunity and without accountability. You’re way off the mark if you think this is what the electorate want. What people in the UK want, as the current polling makes perfectly clear, is an accountable government. One that can’t drive through austerity or the mass slaughter of Iraqi civilians without someone to keep them in check. Voters in Scotland are well aware that coalition/minority governments can be comfortably ‘stable’ enough to keep the lights on and pay peoples’ wages. But what they also have to be is accountable and responsive on an issue-by-issue basis. That’s what people want for GE15 and that’s what a significant SNP vote can deliver. Your ‘stable’ Labour government only, really, suits the Labour Party’s interests not the voters’. And it’s exactly this sort of naked self-Interest that is putting people off the idea of voting Labour in Scotland.

    1. No, by “stable government” I mean a government able to govern according to an agreed plan.

      Being in government in a devolved executive in Scotland – and indeed being in government in a council – are far more suited to loose confidence and supply support. UK government is not. Especially not when the party offering the supply is a party committed to ending the UK.

      My interest lies in getting good government for the people of the UK. The SNP’s does not.

      1. Duncan what you fail to acknowledge is the fact that the interests of Scotland Wales and NI cannot be served within the Westminster Parliament as long as it is predominated by English serving MPs who’s duty is to serve English only constituencies. There is no way to deliver good Government UK wide when the very nature of the UK Parliament is set up with an inherent unbalance of power and influence.
        Your interest lie in getting Government good or bad across the whole of the UK to the detriment of getting good Scottish Government specifically dealing with Scotland Scottish issues Scottish concerns and Scottish priorities.
        If the pro unionist parties don’t believe that the Westminster Parliament is unfit for purpose why do they all support the need to devolve power away from it?

        1. So you make clear that in my substantive point I am right – you are backing the SNP because you want to end UK government. SNP therefore cannot be part of UK government.

          My interest lies in getting good government for everyone in the UK as a result of a UK-wide election. We decide who’s best to govern Scotland *next* year.

          1. I make it clear that good Government cannot be delivered UK wide by anybody due to the inherent unbalanced nature of the internal power structure of the UK Parliament.
            Not many people disagree with that point as nearly everybody in the UK supports devolving power away from it including you.

          2. Your suggestion that support for devolution implies a belief that good government cannot be delivered in the UK is surreal. Support for devolution is based on the principle that power should be brought as close as possible to the people affected by it.

      2. No, by “stable government” I mean a government able to govern according to an agreed plan.

        Which does not require a single-party majority. This UK coalition government have, for example, governed according to an agreed plan.

        Being in government in a devolved executive in Scotland – and indeed being in government in a council – are far more suited to loose confidence and supply support. UK government is not.

        You’re going to have to do more than just fire off unsupported assertions. Why is the Scottish Government (Government, Duncan, it’s not been the ‘Scottish Executive for 8 years now, much though it may pain you to admit it.) suited to confidence and supply arrangements when the UK Government isn’t. In formulating a response, you might also want to take into account the numerous other European nations where broader coalitions are commonplace – some of which are well ahead of the UK on a range of indicators. What is it about the UK exactly that mandates, monolithic single-party rule? If you can’t come up with anything better than ‘Cos I said so’, I’ll have to assume that it is just the Labour party’s interests that you’re protecting.

        Especially not when the party offering the supply is a party committed to ending the UK. My interest lies in getting good government for the people of the UK. The SNP’s does not.

        As Nicola Sturgeon has made clear – there is much that an SNP block can offer, like a proper debate about the future of Trident, that wider citizens’ interests in the UK might support – just not narrow political party interests, who would rather such debate was strangled and not heard.

        1. Rather a confusing format here. I realise now that half your post is quotes from me, half is your response.

          I did not equate stability to single-party government. I agree that the Tories and the Lib Dems have governed to an agreed plan. I don;t think, for the reasons I have set out about the SNP’s core motivations, that Labour and the SNP could successfully do so.

          I do love it when folk get exercised about the use of the word “executive”. The UK government is an executive too. Government is divided into executive, legislative and judicial branches. It’s not a value judgement, and it’s not related to what the government chooses to call itself.

          Once again, I am not arguing that the only possible form of government for the UK is single-party rule. I am arguing that a Labour/SNP deal would not work.

          On your final point, if the SNP wishes to grow up and become a UK-wide party addressing UK-wide issues I would welcome it. The first thing they would need to do is start standing for election across the UK. While they actively choose not to engage with anywhere in the UK other than Scotland, they can claim no relevance to issues outside Scotland.

  5. I’m merely pointing out that you as an individual assuring us that a Labour/Tory Grand Coalition will never happen is objectively worth a lot less than the SNP leadership ruling out a deal with the Tories. Perhaps your views are more akin to those of the party leadership than Lord Moodie, perhaps not. It would be relatively easy for them to out the matter beyond doubt surely? Having done so, they would then have ruled out doing any deals with the only two parties which are likely to be in a position to provide a workable majority for a Labour minority government.

    I’m still struggling to see how this promotes stability, or is in any way less destabilising than coming to a principled deal with the SNP? Simply repeating “it won’t work” is the rhetorical equivalent of your twitter “NATS=BAD” schtick, and about as convincing. You can try and dress it up all you like as promoting stability by banishing the nasty SNP to the governmental wilderness, but you still haven’t answered how provoking a second General election promotes stability, or would be a vote winner for your party.

    1. Provoking a second general election is exactly what a deal with the SNP would do.

      We haven’t ruled out a deal with the BNP either. Think we need to? Stop being ridiculous.

      1. Demonstrably false. You’ve already accepted that the electoral arithmetic is overwhelmingly likely to make a Lab/SNP deal the only feasible way of producing a government with a stable majority. This is, presumably, why smarter minds than yours within the Labour leadership have signally failed to rule a deal with the SNP out, they KNOW they have no realistic alternative. If Labour try to govern without such a deal, they’ll be voted down, as would a Tory minority government, leading to a second General Election.

        No such GE will take place when Labour do a deal with the SNP, and agree to the SNP’s terms. It’s not as if they have other options, as the electorate will punish them severely for bringing about an early and unnecessary GE, which is unlikely to produce anything except a further reduction in Labour support.

        1. No, I haven’t. Don’t put words in my mouth, Andy. I said the maths is all fine. I’ve said a Labour SNP deal is NOT feasible. I’ve said it could NOT produce stable government.

          You and others regularly attempt to misrepresent me on Twitter. I will not allow you to do it here.

      2. “Provoking a second general election is exactly what a deal with the SNP would do”

        I fail to detect the logic in that statement? How can forming a Government automatically provoke a second General election? The automatic reaction from not forming a Government is what provokes a second election.

  6. OK Duncan. So no-one in Labour WANTS a deal with the SNP. Fine. To be fair, the SNP has already more or less ruled out formal coalition, so that’s not really an issue. What matters is whether a Labour government can survive a confidence motion, so let’s look at some options.

    The Tories are the largest party but due to a drastically reduced LibDem rump and an increase to the Green/Plaid/SNP bloc, even an alliance with UKIP and the DUP can’t quite get them into overall majority territory. What does Labour do – give confidence to a minority Tory government or talk to the Green/Plaid/SNP bloc?

    Alternatively, Labour is the largest party but can’t get an overall majority without the enlarged SNP/Plaid/Green group. Does it throw in the towel on May 8th on the basis that no deal with the wicked Nats is possible? Doesn’t that hand power to the Tories, even if THEY can’t command a majority either? Doesn’t that lead us to back to my first scenario?

    In actual fact, as you well know, even being the largest party is not all that important. In a more diverse parliament, it can be as much about who each party is against than what each is for. So let’s assume that the SNP will never support a Tory government (as they’ve explicitly stated on numerous occasions) and generously assume that Labour will never enter a Grand Coalition (which no-one has ever explicitly denied, even though there’s been a lot of kite-flying about it from various sources.) What happens then? Let’s say UKIP only pick up two or three seats and the Lib Dem vote falls off a cliff. In England then, it’s pretty much a straight fight between the Tories and Labour and it ends up pretty even, most likely with the Tories slightly ahead. Meanwhile in Scotland, the SNP picks up 30-40 seats from Labour. That’s an extra 30-40 anti-Tory votes to add to the English (and Welsh) Labour bloc. Is Ed Miliband really prepared to forfeit government of the UK just to rule out working alongside the SNP? Let’s say he does, banking on the Scots “coming home” to Labour in a second election. What if they don’t? What if, in fact, it boosts the SNP, with their voters feeling like they’re actually achieving something because they’re finally a factor in UK-wide politics?

    Let’s be honest – “Vote SNP, Get Tories” is a dishonest line to use. And it’s pretty dishonest to talk about needing to ensure “stable government” but saying that working with another party is impossible or unthinkable. If British politics is changing, then Labour needs to get used to it. This kind of negotiation happens everywhere there’s PR and a spread of parties. Britain is just coming into an era where the “minority” parties are starting to get enough traction to mess with the duopoly of current Westminster politics. It’s not the SNP’s job – nor even their voters’ job – to deal with the fall-out from that. It’s up to Labour and the Tories to get used to the idea that overall majorities and “strong government” may be a thing of the past.

    Murphy likes to say he’s not a unionist and it was only briefly, on that one issue, that his interests aligned with the Tories. If we take him at his word, is it so impossible to imagine co-operating with the SNP on protecting the NHS, increasing the minimum wage, ending the bedroom tax or any number of other broadly left-wing policies on which agreement might be struck?

    1. I don’t disagree with your maths. Where I disagree is with the idea that a Labour SNP deal is functional. I don’t think it can work. The SNP’s agenda would simply get in the way of effective government.

      1. So you agree with the maths, but continue to insist that an SNP/Lab deal can NEVER work, whilst presenting no evidence other than your “truthy” certainty that it MUST be the case. You aren’t in any position to say what the SNP’s agenda is, what the leadership of your party’s agenda will be post GE15 when faced with no workable majority without the SNP deal you hate so much, or what concessions both sides will be prepared to make.

        Continually asserting no deal is functional doesn’t make it the case. You still haven’t addressed the actual issue of what the reaction of voters will be to a Labour decision to provoke a second GE within months of May 2015.

          1. You keep saying it, but present no evidence and no coherent reason why it would be so. What can be asserted without evidence….

      2. There are a lot of issues with your “argument”. Not least the fact that it is not an argument at all but a bald assertion which simply gets more petulantly strident when it is challenged by rational arguments.

        Then there’s the silliness which, however amusing, cannot help but undermine your credibility. I laughed aloud at the bit about the SNP being on twin tracks that would never meet. A sharper mind would have hesitated to use such a metaphor realising that such a meeting of twin tracks suggests a train-wreck.

        But in the above comment we have what lies at the very heart of your inability to comment sensibly on Scottish politics. When you refer to “the SNP’s agenda” you are not actually talking about the perfectly reasonable democratic aims of the Scottish national Party. You are talking about an “SNP agenda” which is entirely a product of an imagination blighted by the fatal combination of mindless devotion to British Labour and intellect-crippling hatred of the SNP.

        You cannot even see the real SNP, so completely obsessed are you with the ludicrous caricature conjured by blind prejudice.

        Were you able to see the reality through the debilitating myopia of your hatred, you would realise that the real “SNP agenda” is characterised above all by the healthy pragmatism which has allowed it to be a very effective administration. A government which, even after nearly eight years in power, still commands the support of by far the largest part of the electorate.

        The arrogance of your British nationalist fanaticism prevents you from realising the insult you do to those voters when you obstinately insist, not merely that they are wrong, but that they are so wrong as to be voting for a party with the kind of “agenda” that you imagine.

        There are obstacles to any kind of deal between the SNP and British Labour in May. But the SNP’s ability to work constructively with others is not among them. If such a deal proves impossible then it will be because of the dumb intransigence of British Labour politicians who share your warped attitude to the SNP.

  7. Your perspective is clearly not rational as you persist in stating the SNP’s goal is to destroy the United Kingdom. I reckon only a disaster with Trident could do that. What the SNP wish is to repeal the Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK. That isn’t destruction, except for someone who believes that democratic choices matter less than party political allegiance and an out of date (and bastardised) ideology. The United Kingdom could continue long after Scotland seceded, if this were the wish of the Scottish electorate, though with a smaller land mass and slightly smaller population.

    The SNP also has more than a single objective. If they were not interested in social stability, a fairer and more equitable society, and management of Scottish business interests, etc., do you really think they could have provided effective management over the Scottish economy over the past two terms they have been in office. Get real, and look forward to a future where minority parties in the UK will have a greater say in how the UK (or potentially rUK) functions (or not).

    1. The SNP has had a range of different policies over the years, some more successful and palatable to the electorate than others. Throughout, their sole objective has been independence for Scotland. Every policy has been created as a stepping stone to independence.

      A party with such an agenda could only be destructive if part of the government of the UK.

      1. Now that I can agree with completely. So how will Labour be able to form the next Government if it refuses to get into coalition with a large group of elected SNP MPs? What is the alternative?

  8. If a grand coalition is ludicrous, and I still have just enough faith in the Labour party to accept that it is, then you’re surely in a bind.

    a) Labour state they will not form a government with SNP support.
    b) After the election it’s arithmetically possible for a Lab/SNP majority.
    c) Labour refuse to govern with the SNP.
    d) David Cameron approaches the LibDems and they govern as a minority.

    Labour will be in the position of having been able to govern, but choosing not to and therefore allowing the Tories in. (That can’t be good for Labour can it?)

    Or are you assuming that Labour will govern as a minority, accepting support from the SNP without any formal deal?

    1. Well one element of my proposal is to inform the electorate of our position in advance of the vote, so they may adjust their vote appropriately.

      It was argued in 2010 that Labour were in a position to govern but chose not to. It would be as true in the scenario you outline.

      1. Ah, now we get to the truth! In the 10 days of May 2010 we know that the NuLab “bittereinders” who still controlled your party deliberately sabotaged the chances of a coalition with the LDs and minor parties, because they wouldn’t do what was demanded of them, chiefly to ditch Brown. So in spite of the fact more voters would probably have preferred such a rainbow coalition (even if it wasn’t that stable) to a ConDem alliance, Blaire and Brownite ultras preferred to consign us to the tender mercies of the ConDems than actually do the work, negotiate and compromise to at least TRY and form a progressive coalition.

        Where the 2015 scenario differs, is that unlike 2010 the Tories won’t have a viable alternative, so you are definitely provoking a second GE with every chance this would result in your party being punished by the voters. As a strategy it simply makes no sense, which is why your leadership is not going to follow your advice.

        1. The Tories are in government because they got the most seats. The Lib Dems recognised that the electorate would not hold with a party which had just been voted out of government being put back in by them. It was the Lib Dems’ decision, and they made it long before the election.

          You are just going to have to accept that we have differing views on the stability of a Labour-SNP deal.

          1. I have no issue accepting our views differ, the issue surely is your inability to provide any rational response to me or others who have asked here about why the minority Labour administration you favour is somehow a more stable outcome than a deal with the SNP. Without another party to give you a majority, any putative Labour administration would fall. Since the Tories won’t be able to form a government, a second GE would follow.

            The Tories are in government now not just because they are the largest single party; as has been pointed out elsewhere, the incumbent gets first shot at forming an administration – it was lack of political will from both Labour and the LDs that led to the ConDem coalition. No LDs, no Tory government.

            You won’t have that excuse this time.

        2. Unless of course Labour themselves believe they are compatible with the Con Tories and have no problems allowing them another 5 years in Government as the policy direction is more or less the same anyway. It has to be far more preferable from a Labour perspective to allowing the SNP anywhere near power in Westminster and the very real threat of another Indy ref or UDI.
          I truly believe the Labour party would sell out their own supporters to the Con Tories just to keep the SNP away from Westminster cabinet positions.

      2. I don’t think you can make that comparision. At no point in 2010 did Labour have a firm agreement from the LibDems that they would support them, and even if they had (if I remember correctly) they’d have needed support from other parties too.

        My scenario will be much more clear cut. All Ed Miliband needs to do is say is “I have the backing of the SNP” and Liz will hand him the keys to No10.

        I really don’t think he has a choice – the alternative is much worse.

        That’s not to say the SNP have him over a barrel. By ruling out working with the Tories the SNP have done what you want Labour to do. They’ve given away a post-election advantage in favour of a pre-election one.

        There are relatively few issues which the SNP disagree with Labour on but where Labour couldn’t count on Tory support to win any votes. (eg Trident). So really, Ed can rely on SNP support to keep him in office, without having to do anything much that the SNP would like him to.

        The main sacrifice he’ll be making is that for the next five years the media will refer to “the SNP-backed Labour Government”.

        1. Your scenario may or may not be accurate! There are many possible outcomes.

          My point remains that a Labour SNP deal would not survive. It is inherently unstable.

          1. Again true. But where does that leave a minority Labour party desperate to get the keys for number 10? Do they refuse power or do they concede to the SNP? Or do they do a deal with the Conservatives?

      3. When you say “our position”, are you claiming to speak for the actual British Labour Party; or the pretendy wee Scottish Labour Party; or just yourself and the voices in your head?

  9. I have yet to hear a Labour campaigner give a detailed answer to the question of what they will do if they are voted in as the largest party but without a majority. I understand from an electioneering perspective it’s bad form to concede that you might not achieve a majority, but when almost every poll points to this situation, there needs to be a more substantial response. More than one poll has pointed to a scenario where the SNP would be the only party that could deliver Labour a coalition with a majority – in that specific situation, what would Labour do? That’s the question. We know the SNP would be interested – that’s on the record. Labour continually deflecting this issue doesn’t help anyone, and only serves to increase uncertainty, and the threat of a second GE.
    So that’s it, simply. Not about policies, not about differences or common ground, not about electioneering – what would Labour do in that situation?

    1. Well that is precisely the issue on which I wrote my piece. My view is that a Labour/SNP coalition cannot work. It would therefore be folly to pursue it, and indeed it is my view that we should rule it out sooner rather than later.

      So I do not foresee a situation in which the SNP can deliver a majority through coalition, because such a coalition could not be formed.

      In the event that Labour is the largest party without a majority I would be looking for us to form a minority government.

      1. Surely then, given the polling, it is important both Labour and the Conservatives set out how they would intend to make a minority government work? We know it can work in Holyrood but have little evidence in recent political history of it working in Westminster.

  10. Basically, you’re willing to gamble that people will take your point and then tactically vote Labour in the hope that they give Labour enough seats to form a workable government alone. Important question though: what’s your plan B?

      1. Most amusing. I’m all for a bit of genuine levity in politics. It has to be balanced with substantive engagement with the issues though, rather than being used in place of it. Cards on the table, I’m currently planning to vote SNP. Means to and end. Labour are significantly closer to the Tories, ideologically, than I’d like. However, so are the SNP.

        I’m not the sort of dogmatist to insist that there are no differences at all between Labour and the Tories. My concern is what Labour will do if they cannot form a workable government alone. If you’re going to write an article like this, I can’t help but feel that you should take some sort of position on that. It is disturbingly reminiscent of Salmond’s obstinacy on the pound. I had hoped that you would hold yourself to the same standard you attempted to hold him to. Isn’t that fair?

        1. My Plan B is to win a majority. My Plan C would be to form a minority government.

          1. Thank for you for replying.

            Forgive me if I seem pedantic, but what’s Plan D? That’s an exhaustive list (which I appreciate) in the event that Labour can form a workable government alone. My question was specifically about the alternative if Labour, alone, cannot form a workable government though. At present, it looks as if the SNP might end up as kingmakers and you’ve already ruled out coalition. In practice, this is going to leave Labour in the position of having to negotiate a majority on just about every issue. If this involves relying on SNP votes with any sort of regularity, isn’t this de facto coalition anyway? If you disagree with any point of my analysis, do correct me.

          2. My answer is in two parts. The first is to make clear that in ruling out a deal with the SNP, Labour would be letting the electorate know in advance of the election what it would do in the event of a minority, and that would enable voters to make their decisions in the light of that information. If voters want a Labour government, they will need to vote Labour.

            The second part is to say I think your analysis isn’t far off. In the event that a stable government cannot be formed, parliament will need to dissolve itself (which itself would need a 2/3rds majority) and call another election. Better it does that at the start than after the SNP have had the chance to turn UK politics into the grievance hunt into which they turned Scottish politics.

  11. Spot on Duncan. There are further reasons why Labour should rule out a coalition as soon as possible, for example:

    (1) The SNP has shown itself to be an unreliable partner in its conduct since the independence referendum. The FM and then Deputy FM signed up to the Edinburgh Agreement, on which they have now reneged, by dismissing 18/9 as “a dry run” and refusing to accept the result as decisive by not ruling out a further referendum.

    (2) It would be an affront to democracy if the SNP were to be in government, as it only stands candidates in Scotland. It is therefore only accountable to 10% of UK voters: 90% of the electorate would be unable to vote for or against a governing party.

    1. You present a fine blend of dishonesty, silliness and hypocrisy such as we have come to expect from British nationalist fanatics.

      Your first point is totally dishonest. The Scottish Government has fully complied with its obligations under the Edinburgh Agreement. The fact that the SNP hasn’t ruled out another referendum is simply explained by the fact that they are in no position to do so. (A lesson that the obscenely arrogant Jim Murphy would do well to learn.)

      It is not for any politician or political party to say whether or not there will be another referendum. That is solely a matter for the people of Scotland.

      Your second point is extremely silly. Candidates returned as MPs stand in constituencies. Only the voters in those constituencies have a say in which candidate is returned. Therefore, the elected MP is only accountable to that relatively tiny portion of the electorate. No MP is accountable to anything like 10% of the electorate of the UK, never mind 90%.

      The hypocrisy is in British nationalists objecting to a supposed democratic deficit affecting the people of England when they are happy to ignore – or even promote – the very real democratic deficit which affects Scotland.

    2. That’s hilarious. (1) Elected Govt’s should no longer be able to hold referendums on which they may or may not be elected to hold in the future. Politics: Labour style!. (2) UK Govt should pass legislation to prevent ‘scurilous political parties’ that fail the BritNat test of suitability to Unionist – 2 party – Politics. All the mess with which you are vexed is directly as a result of The Labour Party. You wanted Scotland to remain, so we did, now deal with it. As for the 90% of the UK population that can’t vote SNP, maybe a political party tailored to their political leanings needs to rise up, maybe the Greens? Who knows, point is Labour is finished, about time in my view.

  12. That’s a deeply disingenuous response Peter, on a number of levels:

    1) The Edinburgh Agreement relates to the 2014 Referendum. No sane people on the Yes side have disputed the outcome, or failed to abide by it. We lost, and we;ve accepted that. There is nothing either inherent or suggestive of future precedent in the Edinburgh Agreement to suggest that losing the 2014 Referendum somehow makes campaigning for future referendums illegitimate. That’s not how democracy more broadly, or as it relates more specifically to referendums, works.

    I understand why many britnats want to close down the opportunities for future votes, and to claim that it is undemocratic to want another referendum, and that it should somehow be stopped for a generation, or a lifetime…even for ever. I’d suggest that is a fundamentally undemocratic viewpoint. The decision on when to call a referendum, and how often, rests with the people of Scotland, expressed via their parliament. It is not in the gift of Westminster. If you want to ensure no future referendums take place, the only way to do it is to ensure pro-independence parties are never in a position to call one. Looking at the polls recently, I’d say you have your work cut out?

    2) The SNP being able to call the shots at Westminster by holding the balance of power is a concomitant of being “Better Together” surely? Isn’t it profoundly un-democratic to try and exclude them simply because they only stand in Scotland? A century ago, Irish Nationalist MPs regularly held the balance of power at Westminster. I don’t think people at the time argued it was an affront to democracy (such as it was at the time!). Unionists can’t have their cake AND eat it. Either Scottish MPs are entitled to exert their influence at Westminster (whatever their party) or they aren’t. If you are trying to argue the latter, you need to come up with a coherent plan to enact “proper” home rule and potentially have a “union” parliament and separate parliaments for all four of the constituent units. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; you can’t excuse the fact that Scotland is regularly governed by governments it doesn’t vote for by referencing the spurious point that 90% of the electorate can’t vote for the SNP. Most britnat parties don’t stand in Northern Ireland, so by your logic that affront to democracy means what…?

  13. Actually, it was not “a Britnat” or whatever who used the phrases “once in a lifetime” and “once in a generation”. It was Salmond and Sturgeon, repeatedly and publicly. How could anyone regard them as trustworthy partners? And where in the Edinburgh Agreement does it say “this is a dry run”? Or is Alex Salmond not a “sane person”?

    How do you justify a party being in government that can only be accountable to 10% of the electorate? Your comparison with Scotland and election outcomes is wholly misplaced: the difference is that Scots have the opportunity to vote for Conservative (and UKIP) candidates – the fact that they do not do so very readily is a manifestation of accountability. In contrast people outwith Scotland cannot hold the SNP accountable and should not be expected to accept them as a party of government.

    On Northern Ireland btw I would like to see the SDLP invited to affiliate to the Labour Party. Which Northern Ireland Party would the SNP partner with? Just asking.

    1. Whether a “here today, gone tomorrow” politician uses the phrase “once in a lifetime” or “once in a generation” is up to them; doubtless it was for oratorical effect, but it signifies nothing with respect to how often or when referendums are appropriate. Obviously you have an ideological axe to grind with respect to the SNP. I have no particular axe to grind for the SNP, but I’d certainly trust Salmond and Sturgeon before I would Murphy, Lamont, Miliband or anyone else in Labour. You were the one who brought the concept of “dry run” into the debate; again, whether the SNP specifically referred to the 2014 vote as such is neither here nor there. It happens to be true, though few of us would have imagined that would be the case on 19/09. Why that should make them untrustworthy, I honestly don’t know; it seems a peculiarly britnat fixation not shared by the majority of Scots who seem fairly sanguine or supportive of further referendums.

      Your point about the SNP not being a legitimate partner in a coalition government because non-Scottish voters can’t hold them to account is asinine. That’s the nature of our system and of parliamentary democracy. Are you seriously suggesting that any coalition which depended on Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish MPs would be illegitimate? I doubt many in the Labour leadership would concur, and it certainly wasn’t the outlook in former times; after all, haven’t we endured years of britnat bleating about the SNP failing to support Callaghan’s minority government in 1979?

      As for the SDLP I can see no reason for them wanting to shackle themselves to a corpse. If they wanted to be associated with a progressive social democratic movement it would hardly look to New Labour. Which NI parties the SNP would associate with I have no idea not being an SNP member. I imagine the SDLP and Alliance parties would be top of the list, with some possibly supporting links with Sinn Fein..although since they don’t take their Westminster seats it doesn’t really help with respect to promoting a non-Tory majority.

      1. Good grief Andy that is contemptible. So assurances given by the Yes side during the ref were just for oratorical effect? Imagine if the purveyors of The Vow had said that! You and your ilk would have been apoplectic. With this you’ve removed any credibility from your argument, and have made yourself a hypocrite. Shameful.

        1. What assurances? Only the electorate can assure when and if a constitutional referendum will take place or not but apart from that a promise to hold referendums once in a generation means we can hold at least 4 at any given time as there are at least 4 generations alive and kicking at any given time.

        2. William Hague said that’s EXACTLY what The Vow was – campaign rhetoric, not government policy.

        3. I didn’t hear any ‘assurances’ that it ‘would’ be a once in a generation event. I heard warnings that it could be.

    2. First off it has never been up to Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon to determine when and if referendums should be held on the constitution or not that choice belongs to the people of Scotland who will determine when and if referendums are held by voting or not for parties who include holding referendums within their manifestos.

      “How do you justify a party being in government that can only be accountable to 10% of the electorate?”

      How will you justify denying the SNP a coalition place in Government if they are elected by the Westminster FPTP system as the largest group outside of the big two? You would deny the democratic process of election because it doesn’t suit your own personal choices? That’s despotism. Are you a despot Peter?

    3. Alex Salmond also made it clear that, when he said that he considered an independence to be a “once in a generation” thing, he was giving his personal opinion. As should have been obvious anyway since he did not have the authority to rule out another referendum on any time-scale.

      Had you been more honest you might also have acknowledged that Salmond further clarified his remarks by stating that he was referring to a “political generation”, citing the period between the 1979 and 1997 referendums as an example.

  14. Please point me to those assurances?! I’m not aware of any, and wouldn’t accept them even if someone in the Yes campaign tried to make them, still less if it was from the SNP rather than the Yes campaign more generally. I’ve been entirely consistent, on here and other sites. Only the Scottish people can decide when and how often referendums are appropriate, as they did by giving the SNP a mandate for the 2014 referendum. A politician saying it was a “once in a generation chance” doesn’t somehow over-ride the democratic will of the people, or their right of self determination.

    I know many britnats are desperate to stop another referendum for as long as possible, and some openly advocate banning them altogether. Such anti-democrats need to be faced down.

  15. Sensible article, though my first thought was it was maybe unnecessary as it was mostly self evident. Turns out from the replies (and other musings on twitter etc) that it may not be. So, having previously argued that Labour shouldn’t rule out the (in fact impossible) deal with the SNP, I now agree entirely with Duncan on this one.

  16. No-one is saying that MPs from regional parties in the UK Parliament should not hold the balance of power or vote with whatever national party they like. The point I am making – as was Duncan in starting the discussion – is that they should not be in a coalition government, like holding Cabinet or Ministerial Office.

    And as I say, the SNP is not to be trusted as a coalition partner in any circumstances. It is not only because of it has reneged on the EA. Its record in cross-party co-operation is a picture of duplicity, having been in partnership with the Tories and now taking every opportunity to disparage their supporters who kept them in office for 4 years.

    Furthermore, the whole discussion begs the question why a party dedicated to the destruction of a state would want to assist in its governance and eventual success. It is far more logical to expect the SNP to wish to see the UK fail.

    1. Nobody, least of all the SNP has suggested they would be in coalition; they have specifically ruled out any deal with the Tories, and have said that whilst coalition with Labour was unlikely, a confidence & supply arrangements was possible. Your assertion that the SNP is not to be trusted is just tendentious optical tribalism.

      I imagine the SNP would argue that they are prepared to do a deal with Labour for 2 main reasons; firstly to gain concessions with respect to enacting true home rule/ devomax to ensure the Vow & Vow 2 are not simply abandoned in face of little Englander opposition and debates about EVEL, secondly because on balance it would be more in the interests of Scottish (and rUK) voters to see a minority Labour administration in power for 5 years than a minority Tory one.

      The flaw with the approach you and Duncan are proposing is that no Labour or Tory minority administration trying to govern without at least the tacit approval of the SNP can survive. This would therefore entail two-thirds of parliament voting for a second GE (which would mean both Lab & Tories voting for it), and having to justify that to the electorate.

      I hardly think that is likely to increase your vote share or number of seats in the “new” parliament, do you? The % of people voting for the 2 major parties has been declining for a while; such a contempt for the voters will simply increase that trend.

    2. “No-one is saying that MPs from regional parties in the UK Parliament should not hold the balance of power or vote with whatever national party they like. The point I am making – as was Duncan in starting the discussion – is that they should not be in a coalition government, like holding Cabinet or Ministerial Office.”

      So what you’re basically saying is only UK wide political parties should be allowed to form Governments within the Westminster Parliament knowing full well that any and all UK wide political parties will HAVE to be totally and absolutely DOMINATED by English constituency MPs thereby OFFICIALLY giving over to the idea that the “UK” Parliament can only ever be Governed by English constituency MPs for England in practice as well as unofficially in practice?
      And you’re only saying this now because you fear for the first time in your life a Scottish political party has a chance of gaining enough influence within Westminster to actually influence Westminster policy direction in favour of Scotland and not a small section of England?
      Can you explain to me how this will benefit the Scottish electorate and why it would be a vote winner for Labour if they officially endorsed this idea and promoted it throughout Scotland?

  17. So hypothetically, Labour would rather enable a Tory/UKIP/DUP/LibDem government than do ANY sort of deal with the SNP/Plaid/Green bloc? That might play well south of the border, where “putting the Jocks in their place” seems to be political flavour of the month for many, but what do you suppose that does to Labour’s electability in Scotland? Unwilling to co-operate, unwilling to recognise the electoral will of the Scottish people, determined to impose a government of colonial powers on Scotland against all our intentions? That’s gonna look pretty terrible…

  18. It is very telling that Andrew Ellis has chosen to intervene in this discussion. If he rejects the first part its central premise – that there is the possibility of a coalition (the second is that this should be resisted) – all he needs to to do is say that.

    Instead, he uses the discussion as springboard for his delusional and tribal anti-Labour obsessions.

    1. Peter do you actually believe that there are normal people anywhere in the world who would actually want to get into a coalition with the kind of ludicrous ideals and despotic haverings you promote?
      Do you never wonder why Labour doesn’t officially follow or support your ideas and thoughts?
      Do you not recognise yourself as a fanatic extremist way out in the wilderness?

    2. Why is it “telling”? I’m genuinely interested in motivations behind Duncan’s premise and in engaging with Labour people to see how much support this has, particularly whether it will resonate within the Labour leadership. I do obviously disagree with the first part of Duncan’s premise, as I think a Lab/SNP deal (not a coalition) is quite possible, and indeed is preferable to the other alternatives.

      The second part, that a potential deal should be resisted by Labour as impossible is one I find quite strange. Like others here and elsewhere I don’t understand the rationale that would see Labour with only 2 alternatives: to try and govern as a minority and hope they didn’t get voted down (which is inherently unlikely) or to give up and let the Tories try to govern, which also won’t work because they can’t command a majority either without the SNP.

      What you are (deliberately?) missing of course is that polls show that a Lab/SNP deal is the outcome that the largest % of Scots voters want. They don’t want a Labour majority government, and it looks like they will get their wish.

      Whether people find my comments delusional and tribal anti-Labour obsession I will leave to them to judge. From your contributions here and elsewhere, I wouldn’t say you’re exactly an objective commentator Peter? You seem to disapprove of me having a “springboard” to debate the issues; I’d suggest that says more about your tribal instincts than mine,

  19. Here’s a scenario that no one on either side has talked about so allow me to play devil’s advocate. What about a Lab/Lib formal deal that would still only hold a minority in the parliament but would be difficult to vote down unless the SNP joined forces with the Tories, which I guess is a difficult position to put them in. Could this scenario effectively isolate the SNP bloc and therefore reduce the effective number of seats required to form a stable government?

    1. Why would a Lab/Lib formal deal (I assume you mean coalition like the current Con/Lib one?) be any better than just a Lab minority government trying to manage on its own? Unless polls change significantly in the next 80 days, the SNP will be the only party with enough MPs to provide either Labour or the Tories with a majority, whether formal or informal.

      We know the SNP won’t do a deal with the Tories, and Duncan, Peter et al are now insisting Labour should rule out any deal with the SNP in an attempt to increase the Labour vote by scaring people as was tried during the indyref.

      The LDs are going to be lucky to have half the number of MPs they do now post GE, probably less. Given 270-80 seats for Lab & Tories, it still leaves any coalition with the LDs short of a majority by around 20 seats or more.

      The most likely outcome if Labour reject an SNP deal is a short period of minority govt (whether Labour or Tory) followed by its collapse and an early GE. Who are the voters likely to blame for this scenario? (Hint: it won’t be the SNP!).

      1. Andrew, I think you are either being deliberately obtuse or buying the donkey. Duncan’s article is not an analysis of likely outcomes, but an attempt to push the idea that the SNP only have a single aim, like it’s a single policy party. By portraying them as though they don’t consider the merit of other policies which might help Scotland, he hopes to persuade the reader to accept that premise, slip this idea into the subconscious and then place a big donkey of a conclusion for all to argue about.

      2. Well I’m thinking of a scenario whereby Labour have say 5-10 more seats than Tories and a Lib Dem coalition brings them to a 30-40 seat lead but still short of a formal majority as you suggest because you have the SNP/Plaid/Green block sitting on 40 odd too.

        If Labour went it alone then they could be voted down by Tories plus Libs and a split of the rest. If they had the Lib Dems in toe (perhaps having bargained for another shot at electoral reform) then the only conceivable way to be voted down is if the progressive alliance gets in bed with the Tories/UKIP and vote together but that would be pretty unpalatable for both groups followings so I can’t see why you wouldn’t have the makings of a minority coalition that could survive without an election re-run.

        1. Obviously things can still change in 80 days, but if polls stay roughly where they are, I don’t see the LDs being much help to anyone, or the other minor parties. I doubt many New Labour diehards regard doing deals with the LDs as much better than doing a deal with the SNP! The arithmetic so far suggests the SNP being the only bloc able to deliver a majority, whether formal or informal.

          From an SNP point of view, all they have to do is set out their stall and make clear what their red lines are. Then if either Lab or Tories refuse to make a deal, the opprobrium falls on them for precipitating an early election. At present I don’t see that having a significantly better outcome for either – altho’ it may cause a further erosion of their joint support and increase in people voting for the minor parties?

          Single party minority or minority coalition administrations are possible, just not easy. Remember 2010 – a rainbow coalition of Lab/LD/Nats/SDLP/Green would have been close to the magic number, but was widely derided (especially by New Labour ultras) as unworkable and unstable. It would be even more the case where Lab/LD or Con/LD were 20 or so seats short.

    1. It might help if you said who that was addressed to? I think its quite evident who the fanatical extremists are in this debate; not people like me who would prefer a minority Lab administration propped up by the SNP, which had made good on promises to introduce home rule, electoral reform and the abandonment of Trident. If that makes me a fanatical extremist in your eyes, then so be it. However I’m not the one advocating a refusal to cut a deal with the SNP leading to a minority Tory administration, quickly followed by a second GE in which the electorate will rightly punish the parties which precipitated the vote.

      By the way…any news on whether your leadership will be ruling out a coalition or deal with the Tories yet? I think we all deserve to know, don’t we?

  20. “Every opportunity for grievance would be grasped”

    Dear Duncan,

    There is plenty to be grieved for in the United Kingdom, and indeed Scotland, I’d like to think Labour might start fighting for people in poverty pay, workfare and scandalous NHS issues when people are old and too weak to defend themselves. I cringe when the quote accompanied by good SNP polling is “it’ll be good for the Tories, nothing more”. How embarrassing. If there are policies, say them for goodness sake.

    I’d like to think in 100 years time many of these issues will be no more as many of the shocking treatments of ordinary working people were fought for a hundred years ago. Labour were part of that. They did get angry and they did grieve. Surely, there’s nothing to be ashamed in that? There’s more to be gained from that attitude than “stable government”…whatever that is. That’s Conservative talk. Politics seems now mostly for the elite and Labour are the elite. Just seems like the wee rich kids whose parents have a wee bit more of a heart than the others might plump for Labour…but essentially, let’s keep things the way they are. Labour have got comfortable, and wee politics students playing wee power games appears to be all they’re worth. Many may laugh at the radical nature of what many SNP voters, perhaps less so the party itself, dream of for their country and their people but it’s a darn better thing to dream about than a “stable government” that is, quite frankly if it’s Labour or the Tories, at the margin of differences.

    The head of a banking institution’s hourly pay went from 4,145.00 pounds per hour to over 6000.00 pounds per hour in the last year. The ordinary working woman in the Branch office went from 10.17 to 10.57 after what’s termed outstanding performance. Neither are me, by the way ahah! but i make the point. The Tories and Labour allowed this to happen over many years. Granted the SNP are not powerful enough to stop this. Granted some even in the SNP would actively encourage it; but the many hundreds of thousands of voters that are, perhaps naively, are looking for something different. Labour have lost their way. I find it incredible anyone with a brain and a heart can genuinely feel they are the answer. It’s just more of the same. A few crumbs, nothing radical.

    We should be idealistic, there’s nothing much to be lost from it. I don’t mean to assume you have neither a brain nor a heart personally; i’m sure you’re a nice person in the flesh; this is merely a difference of opinon but one I feel strongly about. I’m just lost for words that anyone can genuinely get excited about Labour. It’s just so sad.


  21. “the SNP always has been, and remains, a party whose single objective is the splitting up of the United Kingdom”

    I think you’ll find they want to LEAVE the UK. England, Wales and NI can carry on with the UK if it wishes after Scotland has left.

    You seem to have totally missed everything the SNP have been saying since November though. Namely that they would give votes to support a Labour minority (no “Impossible Coalition”) in exchange for 3 things:

    1. Abandoning austerity
    2. Abandoning trident renewal
    3. Delivering home rule/devomax/near federalism/the vow/the vow+/the vow 2 return of the vow for Scotland

    While SNP haven’t ruled out a future referendum (saying that it’s up to the people of Scotland to decide if/when they have another) and we haven’t yet seen the SNP’s 2015 manifesto, you surely must be able to acknowledge that it is incredibly unlikely, short of some cataclysmic political earthquake, that indyref 2 is on the cards within the next 5 years.

    So seen as the people of Scotland have voted to remain within the UK, the MP’s they elect should have every right to exert their influence at Westminster, and if in a position to do so have every right to be a part of a ruling government. To win the referendum to keep Scotland in the UK, and then be able to stop Scottish MP’s from operating within the UK government is absolute definition of having your cake and eating it. You can have one or the other, you CAN’T have both!

    And for all this noise you’re making about a party that wants to leave the UK having a place in UK government, I’d be interested to know if you made similar protests to UKIP winning the European elections?
    (I have a problem with UKIP acting as MEP’s myself, but it’s more because of their refusal to actually turn up and do any work within the EU!)

    1. “(I have a problem with UKIP acting as MEP’s myself, but it’s more because of their refusal to actually turn up and do any work within the EU!)”


      I have a problem with SNP acting as MPs myself, but it’s more because of their refusal to actually turn up and vote within Westminster.

  22. Well said.

    What would happen if the SNP voted down a minority Labour government? Would they risk giving the Tories the keys to Downing St again? I really do doubt it.

    1. Given the Fixed Term Parliament Act, if a minority Labour administration falls because the SNP failed to support it (presumably because Labour had refused the SNPs demands, or tabled legislation the SNP didn’t support) then the Tories would get a chance to form a minority govt or coalition. If that also failed, the FTP Act requires a 2/3rds majority in p’ment to call a new GE.

      Sadly for Labour (and the Tories) this is a win/win situation for the SNP. The voters are likely to punish the 2 major parties for provoking an early election. English voters can rail against the SNP all they like, but Scots are hardly likely to vote against the SNP for standing up for them at Westminster.

      What Duncan and those who agree with him won’t admit, is that a Labour refusal to deal with the SNP will be (and will be recognised as) the reason Labour lose power, whether to a short lived Tory administration or to a further election.

      1. Thanks for confirming yet again Andy why a deal with the SNP is doomed. You are backing up my argument 100%. The SNP is only interested in driving wedges. It will take every opportunity to undermine the UK. Thanks for confirming I’m right.

        1. No the SNP is only interested in behaving like a Scottish political party. A party which is Scottish in its outlook and ideology. Labour on the other hand want to be a UK political party with a UK outlook and ideology.
          And there lies the rub because the UK is not a cohesive nor singular National boundary. It is a divisive uneven unbalanced and top heavy International boundary.
          This impacts badly on trying to implement policy UK wide. In order for the Westminster Parliament to act and behave democratically it has to at least try to service the majority to the detriment of the minority. That is Democracy and how Democracy works therefore Scotland as a minority block concern cannot best be served within a Parliament that has to by Democratic nature ignore it in favour of the Majority.
          The Majority block concern of course being England.
          I use the National demographic as the boundaries of my examples because by treaty that is how the UK is bound so its appropriate to spell it out that way.
          So the conclusion is obvious. If you outlook and consideration is Scottish and not UK then you need to support Scotland and not the UK.

  23. The SNP don’t want to destroy the Union, they want to leave it. By your reasoning it would mean we couldn’t have a UK EU President if the Conservatives do indeed want out or shouldn’t have any anti-EU MEPs. There’s a big difference between wanting out of something and wanting to destroy something. Also helping to fix some of the reasons you want to leave something can’t really be a bad thing either.

  24. ScotLab understandably find the prospect of coalition with the Scottish Nationalists distasteful, they after all largely competing for the same voters as broadly centre left parties. If the polls are correct however, the parliamentary Scottish Labour Party will be reduced to a rump of perhaps a dozen MPs and will be in a significantly weakened bargaining position. I suspect the Labour Party in England will be more sanguine when it comes to negotiating a possible agreement with the Scottish Nationalists.

  25. I think Dunc has a point here, but i think his terminology is a tad flawed
    you claim that the snp’s aim of breaking up the uk makes coalition untenable

    but the snp manifesto will claim that this ge isnt a rerun of the ref, it will be the 3rd question, devo max, ffa, everything but defense and foriegn affairs

    you can argue that this is the thin edge of the wedge Dunc, but that isnt the point

    the point is, that any deal with the snp, regardless of what you call it, (coalition, gentlemans agreement etc), would involve labour giving into the snp’s manifesto promises. each point conceded by labour would in effect be increasing the number of issues in the HOC that the snp dont vote on!!. the snp dont vote on english only bills, conceding to the snp would only increase the number of issues that the snp dont vote on. basically, would the labour party give in to the snp’s demands in exchange for the snp basically to foxtrot oscar out of the HOC and leave labour with an over all majority on 90% of the issues in westminster? bear in mind, if the snp hold the balance of power, it is they who will decide whether or not there is a ref on the eu. your article gives the impression that if confronted by such a senario, ed and co will be nothing more than “men who stare at goats”

  26. Interesting counterpoint to Your view in the Guardian:


    Seems the Labour leadership is not about to narrow their options by taking your advice, any more than they are about to rule out a Grand Coalition with the Tories. It’s also illuminating that the Guardian piece quotes Labour activists as saying that Murphy admits in private you will lose seats to the SNP, whilst in public saying the opposite. This kind of self delusion is exactly what turns voters off, as is Curran’s refusal to answer the direct question 3 times in favour of the platitude that Labour are aiming to have a majority.

    Of course, little better can be expected from politicians, but the fact that Labour activists and voters parrot the same line just makes them look ridiculous.

  27. This is my first visit to Labour Hame: I actually thought “Hame” was a typo or parody. I thought nobody could be that condescending to use Hame rather than Home.
    Anyway just for the record, didnt SNP rule out a coalition with Labour some time ago?
    And finally how does it feel to see your beloved Labour in Scotland being wiped out?

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