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

Like 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.

31 Responses to “Miliband will regret his words on the SNP”

  1. Richas

    How can you get this so wrong?

    Calling the SNP bluff is entirely the right thing to do. Salmond claims they “hold the balance” on a vote by vote basis – but they don’t. They need to find an issue where the SNP and the Tories are happy to vote together to defeat Labour. Please supply that list of issues where they might be able to deal – it is pretty short and better yet Labour can just say – go on then. Side with the Tories.

    They have no leverage and hold no “balance” – unlike potentially the Libs or the DUP.

  2. XerxesVargas

    I’ve been dismayed by Milliband on this. If Labour dont get a majority (and they won’t) then they have a duty to form a coalition if possible, because more than anything we need to keep the Tories out.

    This appeal to Scottish voters, “vote for us or get a Tory govt” is not going to work one whit and is depressingly cynical and patronising. He could have just said that in the event of working with the SNP he wouldn’t allow any reopening of the independence issue as its already been settled.

  3. Heather Hackett

    I was going to comment on this but since Scotland is so unimportant all I will say is that Labour should stop being backward looking and harping on about the history and realise that was then and this is now.After last night Keir Hardie must be birling in his grave.

  4. Peem Birrell

    Absolutely. Sturgeon should have been asked if she would vote with the Tories against a Labour Queen’s Speech. Of course she wouldn’t answer, as she never does.

  5. Jim Bennett

    I can give you some examples where Labour could be defeated by both the SNP and Tories vote against them:
    – Budget where Labour makes cuts but also increases borrowing: SNP oppose because they are opposed to cuts, Tories oppose because they’re opposed to more borrowing.
    – Welfare, where Labour plan to continue benefit cuts but not at the level the Tories would: SNP would oppose because they oppose any cuts but Tories would oppose because the cuts don’t go far enough.
    – Immigration where Labour continue asylum seeker detentions: SNP would oppose because they oppose detention but the Tories oppose because Labour may time limit detentions.
    What you also miss out is the fact that there are 40-50 likely Labour MPs who won’t support Labour’s continued austerity plans. They’re likely to make Labour’s life as a minority very difficult and the SNP will be actively speaking to them to build on this.
    Just saying that the SNP don’t have leverage is silly. Any sizeable chunk of MPs from opposition parties has leverage – even the Tories! Labour would actually have to deal with the Tories for some of there programme to offset attacks from the left in their own party as well as the SNP and other progressives.

  6. Jim Bennett

    Peem, I can state categorically that the SNP would support a Labour Queen’s Speech. However, because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, they could defeat every single element of that speech when there was a vote on each constituent element in the House and not topple the government. This means that the SNP (and any other minority party) would have significant leverage on a vote by vote basis.
    It’s the reality of minority government that deals have to be done. One simple example of this would be that, on current opinion polls, if the SNP simply sat on their hands, virtually all of Labour’s programme would be defeated. The SNP could easily say that they didn’t oppose Labour but Labour didn’t go far enough so they couldn’t actually vote positively for them.
    Minority Government is a delicate balancing exercise where the Governing party requires to talk actively to all other players.

  7. Jim Bennett

    I think this is an excellent analysis Ed. Thank you.

  8. Richas

    You vastly over estimate the rebel group of Lab MPs but you also miss that a minor defeat is not a big problem. Labour could take some on the chin and condemn Tory and Nat alike.

    Meanwhile following such a defeat sometimes Labour would compromise to the right and sometimes to the left on the next vote, so the position of leverage, of control is with Labour.

    On your welfare and immigration examples the SNP would be delivering cover. We did not want to do this but the SNP were unreasonable….if we had a majority it would be better. Political cover when we have to reduce the deficit is not a political threat it is an asset, we can blame BOTH the tories and the Nats for th unpalatable.

    Much like the SNP blame Westminster foir everything a Lab Minority could blame the SNP and the Tories – GREAT.

  9. Richas

    The SNP could defeat only measures where they get Tory support! The more often they do this the better as it exposes them to Scottish voters.

    All Westminster’s fault? Well turns out voting SNP gives the tories more power and voting SNP for Westminster sends them in to the lobbies with the tories?

    Minority government can be hard, it was last time the SNP brought down a Labour government but remember when they did that in 1979 they lost 9 of 11 seats!

    The potential new minority gov let’s Labour play off the Tories and the SNP for both political cover and a majority. Trident, easy. Bedroom Tax, easy.

    In the handful of places where you imagine tory and SNP cooperation for completely opposed reasons, fine, the Min Gov picks a side and goes with that, blaming both – sweet 🙂

  10. AlanGiles

    Miliband has been badly advised. He has upset the Greens, the SNP and anybody and everybody else who might be able to help him and IF he has the most seats without a majority next Friday he has burnt his bridges.

  11. Keith M

    If the Scots back the SNP parties in the UK Parliament will have to work with them. Strong SNP representation equals a rejection of the English parties who will have no mandate from the scots.

  12. Jim Bennett

    Labour siding with the Tories to apply cuts in services and benefits would write them off in Scotland virtually permanently.
    Wouldn’t Labour be much better plumping for a stable left of centre progressive alliance?

  13. Richas

    No, you see the deficit has to come down and SNP fantasy rhetoric with FFA meaning more austerity in Scotland matters.

    If and when the SNP govern in Scotland and have all the Westminster seats we might just get people to review their record.

    You really think Labour governing and the SNP bringing them down by voting with the Tories helps the SNP?

    You Nats need to face the price of success, you are in government, you are about to have loads of MPs – now a “stable left of centre progressive alliance” means ditching fantasy economics. There will be pain taking £90bn off the deficit, that means a real left to protect the vulnerable not fantasy.

  14. Middenface McNulty

    Evoking the memory of Keir Hardie, really?
    The first item on Hardies very first manifesto was home rule for Scotland, Hardie would have physically thrown the acolytes of Tory Bliar from the party he helped establish.
    All Labour have to offer is the past, a past they have happily walked away from.
    I choose a future not a past.

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    So you’re saying your first response would have been violence against elected politicians. My my.

  16. Leon Wolfeson

    So he’s still doing better than your Tories.

  17. Leon Wolfeson

    So you’re saying the SNP will join the Tories on those matters, and be pilloried for it? Nonsense.

    They might abstain. Or try to.

  18. Leon Wolfeson

    Why on earth would Labour, a right wing party…

  19. Leon Wolfeson

    No, no left winger worth the name believes that austerity is remotely necessary.
    That’s a policy of your right, to use pain to very slowly reduce the deficit by slashing basic services and reducing GDP.

  20. AlanGiles

    You’re a loony Leon, you don’t need to keep proving it with your puerile one liners

  21. uglyfatbloke

    It was a rebel group of Labour MPs that screwed Callaghan in 1979.

  22. uglyfatbloke

    Well said. In fact even a proper conservative would agree. Austerity damages the prospects of every kind of business. It’s good for monetarists of course, which is why Osborne and Cameron like it, but I don’t begin to understand why Balls and Miliband support it.

  23. Richas

    As Blair delivered the Scottish parliament and further devolution delivered since just why would Keir Hardie dislike Nu Labour’s domestic record – devolution, minimum wage, tax credits, sure start, saving the NHS, expanding Higher Education so more from poorer backgrounds get to go, Sure Start and much more.

    As a pacifist clearly he would have problems with Iraq, Sierra Leone and more but domestically and on devolution? Nah.

  24. Richas

    for goodness sake, opposing “austerity” is not the same as thinking a 5% of GDP deficit is sustainable. Dealing with the deficit does matter – for lefties and more importantly for long term sustainability of public services and social security.

  25. Richas

    It was the 11 SNP votes, fortunately bringing down Labour cost 9 of them their job.

    Go on SNP – bring down a Labour minority government, vote with the tories. go for it.

  26. Leon Wolfeson

    Austerity is why the deficit is high, and more austerity will keep it high. And given the slashes, there won’t be anything substantial to save anyway, as you laugh your way to the bank.

  27. Leon Wolfeson

    Well, pretty simple, afaik, really.

    They’re neoliberals. Sadly.

  28. Leon Wolfeson

    “UR MAD JEW”

    Keep lashing out at other views, screaming that not believing your propaganda is to be mad.

  29. AlanGiles

    “Screaming” ???

    What an idiot you are

  30. Leon Wolfeson

    Facts make idiots, you spout.
    Right. Keep hating.

Leave a Reply