Labour needs to start talking to the SNP

Ed Miliband will need the votes of Scottish MPs if a Labour-led government is to work


The constant stream of polling data about the coming election, often contradictory, will have become bewildering to some.

Against this background however, figures buried away in ComRes’s most recent data compiled for the Daily Mail contain some worrying findings for Labour.

Let’s start from the basis that, without some miraculous change, no party will get an overall majority at the next election.

Labour still have every reason to believe that they could at least be the largest single party in the Commons, giving them an opportunity to seek to form a government first. Under such circumstances Labour will need an agreement, either as a formal coalition or so called ‘confidence and supply’ on a vote by vote basis.

Looking at the polls, a partnership with the Lib Dems could still leave Ed Miliband short of a majority of votes in the Commons. Whatever the rhetoric therefore, the SNP remain probably the only viable and realistic proposition in town. Little wonder that Labour List has urged the party to start talking with the Scottish Nationalists.

However, comments by Nicola Sturgeon that the SNP would be prepared to end the party’s self-imposed ban on voting on English issues have proved a double edged sword.

For a Labour-led government to work, Ed Miliband will surely need the votes of Scottish MPs in one form or another, in order to pass much legislation that will have no bearing whatsoever on Scottish constituencies.

ComRes’s polling however has clearly indicated that whilst voters would be prepared to see the SNP in Government, they are not in the mood for Scottish MPs voting on English only issues.

57 per cent of those questioned agreed that the SNP should be able to join a UK-wide coalition government if that was needed. 55 per cent however argued that if that happened, SNP MPs should not be allowed to vote on matters that do not affect Scotland.

Whilst it might sound like a fringe issue, it is a problem that Labour strategists now need to confront head on, since it goes right to the heart of issues of their legitimacy in the eyes of voters.

The problem is just one of many documented by Simon Heffer in the current edition of the New Statesman, in which he outlines the mess that is likely to result after May, whatever the outcome of the votes.

Perhaps the best thing all the parties could be doing right now is be putting money aside in preparation for a second election, although that will depend on whether the Fixed Term Parliament Act would enable that to happen.

Right now, the only party that will be raising a smile will be the SNP.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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