End games

It has been a very negative campaign, with more scare tactics (notably about the SNP) than you’d get in a Hollywood horror film. But I thought it would be useful to summarise things, as I’m still something of a floating voter.

Tories v’s SNP v’s labour
The SNP we are told can’t be trusted as they will start trying to drive “an independence agenda”. Actually, the only time in the election campaign I’ve heard anyone in Scotland talking about independence was a labour supporter contemplating whether he made a mistake by voting no.

A point I made, during the independence referendum, was that whether you voted yes or no depended a lot on whether you felt that Westminster could be trusted to stay out of internal Scottish matters and that Scot’s would be entitled to fair representation in Westminster. Obviously the majority of Scot’s decided in September that the answer to this question was yes, by voting down independence.

However what these attacks on the SNP now amount to is labour and the Tories saying you can’t vote SNP cos Jock’s ain’t allowed in the cabinet :no:.

What the labour and Tories don’t seem to get is that the attacks on the SNP have had two consequences – More support to the SNP and they’ve done the SNP’s job for them creating a compelling case for independence. And while the SNP might not be talking about it now, no doubt once some sort of constitutional crisis emerges….such as a hung parliament and a 2nd election by Christmas because Miliband refused to work with the SNP….or Cameron’s EU referendum. Then no doubt the SNP be looking for independence again and this sort of anti-Scottish rhetoric is making it very easy for them.

Certainly one cannot blame the Effing Tories (to quote Cameron!) for talking up this issue. After all, they’re about as popular in Scotland right now as Edward Longshanks was. They’ve got nothing to lose by pandering to English bigotry and xenophobia. However what is more surprising is the fact that labour seems to have gone along with this, raising serious questions about their credibility.

Miliband could have easily defused this situation weeks ago by pointing out that its a bit rich Cameron making a song and dance about the SNP when he is almost certain to be dependant on support from a group of racist, nationalistic, homophobic and institutionally corrupt parties in the form of the DUP and UKIP, riven by infighting.

He could then go on to point out that, while both labour and the SNP are left wing, there are distinct differences in their ideology and unless the SNP were willing to make some pretty large concessions, starting with them not mentioning the “I” word for the next five years, its difficult too see how labour and the SNP could form any coalition. And of course, the only way the SNP could hold the UK to ransom would be if the Tories went along with them (e.g. is Cameron seriously suggesting he’d vote against a labour government on say Trident? or vote for another Independence poll? Just to score a few points against labour?).

And its not as if labour lack some quite good policies, increased NHS spending, rent controls and ditching right to buy, their EU policy etc. I’ve drawn attention too a number of these over the last few weeks myself. Instead however they decided to fight the campaign on the issue of what who they’ll not form a coalition with after the election. Miliband pitch is that he’s not Cameron nor Sturgeon…but that he’ll sooner see Cameron in power than so much as say hello to the SNP.

So remind, why exactly should I vote labour? :??:

Labour clearly panicked at the poll numbers showing a large drop in support for them in Scotland. And without pausing to consider the reasons why this has happened, which was due to them coming across as “Tory-lite” during the independence referendum, they laid into the SNP. And their tactic of SNP bashing has merely amounted to getting into a hole and keep digging until they meet some guy with a tail and horns. Unless labour do some sort of U-turn in the next few days, I think they are looking at total wipe out in Scotland, and deservedly so.

In the rest of the UK admittedly its a rather more stark choice between labour and a Tory party committed to more cuts, including almost certainly cuts to working tax credits, child benefits and pensions, more people dependant on food banks, etc. Plus a commitment to an EU referendum that could wreck the British economy (to the tune of £215 billion) and might break up the UK (assuming they’ve got the balls to go ahead with it of course!). And since we’re talking about, does anyone in England really like the sound of Deputy PM Nigel Farage….or Deputy PM Ian Paisley Jnr? 😳

Kingmakers and Kingslayers
As I’ve mentioned already, its possible that the Tories will need to rely on UKIP AND the DUP to get into government. Most of the UKIP seats will be taken from Tories (or lib dems) rather than labour, so its probably going to be impossible for the Tories to make up the numbers. That means roping in the DUP too and even then being left with a wafer thin majority (as in one or two seats).

Now while a Tory, UKIP and DUP coalition might seem like a match made in Hell Heaven, I’m not so sure. As I’ve highlighted before UKIP are in truth not really a right wing party, more a neo-national socialist party, wedded to many policies that are at odds with the core principles of the Tory party. And I’m not sure how keen the DUP will be on an EU vote, once they work out that that NI will get the raw end of the economic stick of the UK leave the EU. And that it will probably trigger a border poll and them possibly having to work out how to speak Gaelic!

Furthermore, there’s another curve ball we need to toss in here, Sinn Fein. There are 650 seats in the UK parliament, yet you may hear it banded around about how a party only needs 322 seats to get a majority….surely its 326 you may say? Well you see Sinn Fein don’t normally take their seats in Westminster for sectarian reasons of ideology I’m not going to go into right now. But needless to say if we ended up in a scenario where the DUP were pulling the strings in Westminster and committing to policies that were detrimental to Sinn Fein, its possible they could decide to take their seats, table a no confidence motion, and bring down the government. In essence Sinn Fein don’t get to be kingmakers, but they could become kingslayers.

Now you may say they’re unlikely to do that. But your missing the point – Sinn Fein don’t have to do jack, only threaten to do it and they can wring all sorts of concessions out of the Tories – such as the aforementioned border poll. Even if you believe the Daily Mail propaganda about the SNP, if there’s anything worse than that, it has to be the NI parties playing good cop, bad cop with Westminster and dragging Parliament in their sectarian disputes. After all, the whole point of devolution was to keep that sort of thing in Stormont!

I don’t agree with Nick
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg has spent the campaign no so much making promises, but trying very hard not to commit to doing anything. Everything seems to be up for grabs, even their cherished policy on Europe is far from certain. All to aware of the fact that his party made various outlandish promises before the last election, which they could not keep, he’s determined not to repeat that mistake. And in any event given that Clegg, Vince Cable and/or Danny “dire” Alexander could all be out of a job by Friday, its hardly a huge surprise that they’re being non-committal.

Of course this begs the question, what exactly is it that the lib dems stand for? :??: Their pitch seems to be that they’ll become the Frank Underwood of Westminster, quite happy to horse trade with one party or the other, selling their soul to the devil if necessary, all just to cling to power. Hardly inspiring is it?

I mean let us consider the scenario earlier. The Tories are the largest party, but even with the lib dems they don’t have enough votes to form a majority. Are we to believe, given that Nick Clegg has ruled out working with the SNP and has stated that the largest party should rule, that he would then prop up a minority Tory/UKIP government, rather than work with labour and the SNP? Would he be happy being part of a minority Tory government dependant on UKIP and/or DUP votes to cling to power?

So again, the best thing that can happen to the lib dems is for them to take a pounding. This should serve as a valuable lesson to them and future smaller parties of what happens when you make idle promises in a campaign and then renege on them once in office.

The new lib dems
Of course the fall from grace of the lib dems does leave the SNP in the position of becoming the third party and the likely coalition partners holding the balance of power. However such a position comes with a price, just ask Nick Clegg! In short, can the SNP deliver?

For example take ending austerity. While they could do that in Scotland, assuming Devo Max goes ahead (which of course becomes more likely with a strong SNP showing in Westminster), but that would probably mean putting up taxes in Scotland to compensate. And while I don’t mind paying a bit more for good public services, I’m not sure how crowd pleasing a policy that will be. Also there’s only so far the tax rates north and south of the border can drift before it starts to cause economic problems for Scotland.

An ultimately the danger for the SNP with Devo Max is that having talked the talk, they’ll now have to walk the walk and prove they can govern with the full range of powers it allows them. Of course if it all goes tits up, they’ll have wholly undermined any case for independence for generations to come.

Then there’s Trident. An obvious horse trade would be that the SNP either abstain or vote for it, on condition its moved out of Scotland. However, that’s simply not a possibility for anyone who knows the SNP. So the likely consequences are, regardless of who is in No 10 this time next week, there will still be nuclear subs on the Clyde for some time to come.

I’m not trying to talk anyone out of voting SNP, I’m just making the point that voting SNP will mean voting for five years of becoming “those bastards in London” and not just for Christmas. And backing Miliband could have consequences if labour do badly in government as its often the coalition partner who gets a shafting in such situations….again, just ask Nick Clegg!

Technical groups
The smaller parties have seen some coverage in this election, however this hasn’t always been a good thing. The Green’s took a roasting at the start, largely because they tried to copy the other parties in making various promises which they couldn’t possibly keep.

Okay, the big parties are doing that too, but the whole point of such parties isn’t to get a majority and go into government. Its either to become a minority partner in government, in return for getting a few policies passed, or pressuring other parties into adopting your policies. So perhaps some of these parties are missing the point.

Also there is likely to be an important decision for the smaller parties to consider – Whether they should form a “technical group”. In many European parliaments, with lots of smaller parties, the smaller parties or independents will often group together to increase their lobbying power and present a more united front. Syriza in Greece for example, has its origins in just such a grouping.

These arrangements amplifies the power of these smaller parties greatly, particularly if the margins between the major parties are tight. While Miliband could waste an evening talking Caroline Lucas into backing him gets him one vote, talking to a technical group of largely left wing parties could get him 10-20 votes, probably enough to swing a key vote.

Of course the obvious downside is that those who live in glass houses can’t throw rocks (as UKIP are also about to discover I suspect). If the smaller parties support the government, not necessarily on every issue, but in general, they could take some flak come the next election. But on the other hand, if they don’t intend to contribute anything, why vote for them?

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