Miliband will regret his words on the SNP

As a minority government, Labour would need to reach out to the SNP on a vote-by-vote basis


Ed Miliband will today make an impassioned plea to those traditionally Labour voters in Scotland who polls suggest are preparing to vote SNP next week.

Calling on such voters not to ‘gamble with the SNP’, he will argue that change can only be guaranteed with a Labour government.

Miliband will make the speech at a rally in Glasgow later today as the culmination of a three nation tour of England, Wales and Scotland.

Calling on traditional Labour voters to remember that ‘throughout history, it is Labour values that have changed Scotland’, he will say:

“Nationalism never built a school. It never lifted people out of poverty. It never created a welfare state that healed the sick and protected our most vulnerable.

“It is Labour values, Labour ideas and the determination of people across Scotland that have built this country to what it is today.”

He will also appeal to traditionally Labour voters not to abandon the party that their ancestors staunchly supported in the past. He will say:

“Imagine all the people you know who have built Labour in Scotland.

“Your grandparents who fought for their rights in the shipyards and mines across this country. Your mums and dads, many of whom delivered leaflets for Labour or knocked on doors.”

Evoking the memory of Labour’s great leaders from Scotland, he will continue:

“From Kier Hardie to Jennie Lee. John Smith to Donald Dewar. What would they want today?

“We could be on the verge of electing a Labour government. They would want to be part of it. They would want to be part of building the better future. To be part of booking the removal vans that will roll up outside Downing Street next Friday.

“So let’s come together and get the Labour Government that Scotland needs to kick the Tories out on Thursday.”

Miliband’s plea with voters in Scotland will come following his appearance on Question Time last night, when he said he would under no circumstances do a deal with the SNP:

“If it meant that we weren’t going to be in government not doing a coalition, not doing a deal, then so be it.

“I’m 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.”

Such a statement raises the stakes still further in the battle for Scotland, highlighting for all to see the game of brinkmanship now engulfing the SNP and Labour.

In the red corner is Labour, arguing that a vote for anything other than Labour north of the border will simply open the door to Conservative rule.

Then there’s Nicola Sturgeon who, on BBC Scotland’s election programme last night, accused Ed Miliband of preferring a Conservative government over a deal with the SNP.

However clear Miliband’s pronouncements may have seemed, the reality is that he has failed to accept what everyone knows. Even as a minority government, faced with a Conservative and Lib Dem opposition unlikely to want to make life easy for Labour, he will need to reach out to SNP MPs on a vote by vote basis.

In other words, rather than a grand deal immediately following the election, Labour will need to negotiate deals day in and day out, with backbenchers being worn down by late night votes and all sorts of procedural obscurities that the opposition would use to make life difficult.

And let’s not forget, having run as a minority government between 2007 and 2011, the SNP know all too well how to exert influence over such governments. Whatever Labour might say, as Alex Salmond rightly argued on the Andrew Marr programme last month:

“If you hold the balance, you hold the power.”

How this will all play out next week is impossible to tell. What we do know however, is that all polls out this week looking at the state of play in Scotland have the SNP on 5 per cent or more of the vote. Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon remains head and shoulders above all other political leaders as the person Scots most trust to stand up for and protect the Scottish national interest.

In a bleak assessment of Labour’s prospects, the Herald’s editorial today concludes:

“It is getting late to turn the tide now, but Labour won 15 constituency seats at the last Scottish parliament election so anything approaching that would be a blessed relief from the near-wipe-out which as of now seems more likely.”

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

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