Miliband's promise not to deal with the nationalists may have done more harm than good
The remarkable surge of support for the SNP has been one of the key issues of this election, especially for Labour. The Conservatives and the media that supports them have presented the Scottish nationalists as the main reason not to vote Labour – warning that a Labour government dependent on SNP support would lead to the break up of the Union.
However last week, during the final leaders’ debate, Ed Miliband completely ruled out any deal with the SNP, saying he would rather not be in power:
“I am not going to sacrifice the future of our country, the unity of our country, I’m not going to give in to SNP demands around Trident, around the deficit, or anything like that.
“I am not going to have a Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the SNP.”
But was this a wise move? The fact is that Labour will almost certainly not win a majority, and so will need SNP support at least on a vote-by-vote basis. U-turning on his promise once in power would not be a good start for Ed Miliband.
On the other hand, could Miliband’s last minute promise have turned more voters to Labour? ComRes polling suggests that in 50 key English marginals, three out of five voters are concerned about the influence the SNP could have over a minority government.
It’s a risky game to play. We wanted to find out what Left Foot Forward readers thought of Miliband’s decision, so we asked:
Was Ed Miliband right to rule out any formal deal with the SNP?
36 per cent of respondents said Yes, Labour should go it alone, even if that means a minority Labour government
43 per cent said No, Ed should keep open the possibility of a confidence and supply arrangement with the SNP
28 per cent said No, Ed should be open to a formal coalition with the SNP
(Click to enlarge)
So a small majority of you would rather not see Labour in a minority government, even if that means the risk of excessive SNP influence. The big question on this most uncertain of days seems to be: how big is that risk in reality? How would SNP influence actually manifest itself?
On certain issues, the two parties are fairly close. They both want to stay in Europe, for example; they have both promised more police on the streets and more apprenticeships for young people. They both promise less austerity (although the SNP want much higher public spending than Labour) and are committed to a free health service and an extension of offshore wind power.
The main areas in which the parties differ are Trident renewal (SNP want to scrap it) and, of course, Scotland’s continued membership of the United Kingdom. Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that the general election has no bearing on the likelihood of a second referendum but has refused to rule one out; she said something ‘material’ would have to change in terms of circumstances to bring forward a second referendum. Could a strong SNP voice in Westminster be that material change?
It seems that most LFF readers think that’s a risk worth taking to keep out another Tory government. By tomorrow morning, this could be the debate that decides who holds the keys to Downing Street.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.