Monday, March 17, 2008

A Conservative/SNP Pact in Westminster is no Longer a Fantasy

Alex Salmond is fast developing a reputation as a political colossus. North of the border he's single-handedly masterminded the defeat of the Labour Party and rubbed their noses into the dirt. The Scottish Labour Party is in turmoil. They have a leader whose popularity (if that's the right word) is 75 points behind Alex Salmond, and after nearly a year in power, the SNP is becoming more popular by the month. Yesterday's MRUK Cello poll for the Scottish Sunday Times showed the SNP with a healthy 8 point lead over Labour and six points up on the previous poll. If the Scottish elections were re-run now the SNP would be on 57 seats and Labour on 44.

The SNP has now extracted from the YouGov poll in the Sunday Times (the one showing the Tories 16 points ahead) data which shows that for a Westminster election the SNP is 7 points ahead of Labour and 19 points up on the 2005 General Election. This would give them 27 seats and give Labour a heart attack. It would also mean that the SNP become key players in a hung Parliament, giving the Conservatives a second option for coalition partners.

This would have been unthinkable even a year ago, yet in Scotland there is a growing respect between the SNP and the Conservatives, and this is being reflected in Westminster too. There is growing friendly banter between leading Tories and the SNP's small but perfectly formed band of Westminster MPs.

The SNP no longer regards the Tories as the devil incarnate, but any formal coalition is currently still an impossibility under the SNP constitution, I believe. Certain elements of the SNP believe this to be outdated, but a formal move to amend the constitution would be highly unlikely.

So what short term implications does all this have? Firstly, Labour will make no headway north of the border unless the hapless Wendy Alexander is ditched. Secondly, Gordon Brown's refusal to 'do business' with Alex Salmond is playing right into the SNP's hands. They have become the voice of sweet reason, while Brown looks bitter and twisted. No change there then.

If there were shares in Alex Salmond you'd be buying them now. As a Labour MP said to me today: "There's only one way to stop Alec Salmond in his tracks and that's assassination". He was joking. I think.

44 comments:

stuart said...

Interesting piece, Iain. We don't hear enough about Scottish politics south of the border so that thanks for this.

A day rarely goes by without stories about how Gordon's personality is damaging his party's electoral chances.

Yesterday it was Powell's revelation about GB not speaking to him (the PM's chief of staff) for a decade.

PSJ said...

I understand the SNP want a referendum on independence. Is that something Tories can't support? Polls show that Scotland would vote against it at the moment. And if Scotland did so it would kill the issue for a decade at least. Nobody really wants to do this, but it'd be worth it to have a Tory government in London.

Anonymous said...

The closure program of post offices has started in Scotland Iain. It has had an effect, people know who to blame. It is seen as an attack on the vulnerable in society who might not be so fit or have the transport to travel the extra distance to the next nearest post office. In the small town where I live over 200 marched to try and save the local post office - they and the hundreds who wrote to protest were ignored.
They are now all anti-labour activists and they want revenge!
Jusy one small part of the picture but a significant one.

Tory Dipper said...

If the SNP gain 10 MSPs, and Labour lose 2, are you predicting that the Tories will lose 8 seats in Edinburgh? Puts a slightly different spin on your fantasy (wet dream might be more appropriate).

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Tories 16 points ahead. SNP suges ahead in Scotland. So what?

er ... that is to say ...

So weak.

Anonymous said...

Unofficial SNP/Conservative coalition got the SNP budget through the Scottish parliament recently, against the Lab/ Lib no-hopers and fence-sitters.
Many policies in common, and main difference is attitude to "The Union". If only the Scottish Tories would press for more powers for the Scottish Parliament and oppose the Gordon Brown wish-washy "review" of the constitutional situation (Translation: do nothing), they could help finish off Labour in Scotland (including a big reduction in Labour's Westminster seats) to the advantage of their colleagues in England.
Dave, give Annabel a call.

Anonymous said...

The SNP have actually already revoked thier Tory policy at local government level. There is a great deal of detente between our two parties. So much so that I actually voted for them in May 2007!! (not on the list of course)

Anonymous said...

And another thing...

As you have postulated, that success for the SNP in Scotland against Labour gives promise of Conservative power at Westminster, why do right-wing newspapers continue to criticise everything the SNP does, often to the extent of allying themselves with the Labour Party? The Mail is too stupid to see the irony of this, but the Telegraph is probably the biggest culprit, led by Alan Cochrane whose visceral hatred of Alex Salmond and the SNP blinds him to the realitiy of the situation.

Adrian Yalland said...

But the Conservative party is a 'Unionist' party, and the ScotsNats is...er....not!

How can they co-exist in a Government when they have diametrically opposite views on the future of the UK.

Of course, if the Tory party were to change its constitution and become an English nationalist party, then the only issues would be that the ScotsNats are a socialist party, and that the Conservatives are....er....not!

The Lib Dems are a far more likely candidate for coaloition - but their members would rather drink the blood of their own dead before getting into Government with us!

So, best we just win on or own right and not worry about coalitions or compromise!

tartan tory said...

I wouldn't bet on it - although Alex might.

Wyrdtimes said...

Hands up who thinks the Tories will be working in in the interests of the English?

Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Well done Iain for giving the English some insight into what is really happening in Scotland. No way the SNP will have a pact with the Tories but may I suggest the benefits of a minority government.

M. Hristov said...

As you all know, I have been predicting this, in postings on this blog, for a long time. I’m glad that you no longer consider it a fantasy, Iain.

In fact, it makes very good strategic sense for the Conservative Party and the SNP to band together to destroy The Labour Party.

There are several precedents for coalitions between regional nationalist and national parties. The most recent being the Catalan separatists coalition with the socialists in Spain. There are also similar alliances in Canada.

However, there is an unfortunate British precedent. After the 1885 General Election Gladstone and his Liberal Party won the most seats but not an overall majority. He needed Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party and embraced Irish Home Rule. This split the Liberal Party and Joseph Chamberlain and several Liberal MPs left to join the Conservative Party, as Liberal Unionists. There was another election in 1886, the next year and Gladstone lost to Lord Salisbury’s Conservative Party and Joseph Chamberlain’s Liberal Unionists, who were now allied in what became the Conservative and Unionist Party.

The next election could lead to a hung Parliament and we could find Cameron embracing Alex Salmond and the SNP, just as Gladstone embraced Parnell and the Irish Nationalists.

The question is whether or not there would be a unionist revolt in the Conservative Party.

I suspect not. The Conservative Party is now primarily an English party. Also, Alex Salmond is certainly not as controversial as Parnell. Parnell had led the Irish Land League and had been imprisoned for it. Salmond’s aim is an independence referendum and not outright independence. Home Rule for Ireland would have, effectively, been independence, in all but name. Most importantly, Parnell’s aim, in agreeing to an alliance, was purely Irish Home Rule, not the destruction of the Conservative Party. Salmond’s aim must be the destruction of the Labour Party in Scotland, as it threatens independence and the power of the SNP. David Cameron‘s aim must be the permanent marginalisation of The Labour Party .The destruction of the Labour Party in Scotland, or crucially, its absorption, into an independent Scots body politic, would almost guarantee a Conservative Party majority in England for the foreseeable future. This is a very tempting prize for Cameron.

However, it does come at a price. An independent England would be far more like Austria than Germany. We could lose our international standing. I suspect that it would be England alone, as it would be difficult to resist Welsh demands for independence, if Scotland achieved it.

There are interesting times ahead.

M. Hristov said...

Further to my previous post, perhaps Cameron will gamble that the Scots will not vote for independence, even if they get a referendum. This would be a dangerous gamble but a potentially a “no lose” situation. At the very least, the Labour Party would be ‘tied up’ for months fighting the independence referendum. This could potentially lead to major tensions, within the Labour Party, between the English members (Blairites) and the Scots leadership (Brownites), as the latter would be exclusively focussed on Scotland. It might even be a springboard for Cameron to obtain an overall majority in a quick second election. If the SNP won the referendum then that would be the end of Labour as an major English party. Yes, an SNP/ Conservative Party alliance makes very good sense unless you are a British Imperialist but then New Labour and the BBC have made sure that there are hardly any of those left. A fact that Gordon Brown seems to be bitterly regretting, to judge by his public pronouncements.

Anonymous said...

"why do right-wing newspapers continue to criticise everything the SNP does, often to the extent of allying themselves with the Labour Party?"

That gives the SNP and the Conservatives yet another thing in common these days. If you have not noticed, those two papers slag of the Tories all the time while allying themselves with the Labour party. The Tory bashing means that quite often the SNP gets off lightly with just the occasional dig.

skip said...

this is a good summary of salmond's leadership and opportunity for the tories.

the snp and scottish tories have found some common ground on more police, lower business rates, drugs. There's also been quite a lot of streamlining of the scottish government departments and some reduction and mergers of quango's. i think tories support this too.

If the scottish tories (who have adjusted well to deal-making) support the snp over some issues they will regain some confidence from the people - as opposed to the labour party which is badly led and doesnt know how to oppose. scottish labour cannot come to terms with being in opposition in scotland when it remains in power for the uk. the snp and the tories do not agree on europe or the constitution but when they work together over domestic policy and at local council level they can achieve some of their joint objectives and excluse the Labour party from its grip over scotland.

At Westminster things could be arranged to being benefits for both. a trade of snp support for some areas... if the tories were to legislate in favour of fiscal autonomy for scotland and control over broadcasting then the snp might provide the votes to pass the budget and so on. A 'confidence and supply' model (as used by scottish greens) would be better than a formal deal. It would mean both parties could have to negotiate over individual issues and tie neither party down if they disagree. The tories would still be free to earn support from lib dems, welsh nats, northern irish mps - whatever is preferable for an individual policy.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to vote SNP too, but unfortunately they don't put up candidates in Finchley.

Tizzy said...

Salmond is an opportunist chancer, capitalising on Brown's problems to great effect. I have to admire him as a politician; he has shoved it up the part of Gordon where the sun don't shine, time and time again.

Am I the only one to see the irony in a Salmond/Cameron wedding? Whatever works...

Ross said...

I get the impression that the Tories, SNP and Liberal Democrats essentially attract the same kind of support in Scotland so it probably isn't crazy.

Stonch said...

Of course the Tories would like to work with the SNP - they'd love an independent Scotland to become a reality, leaving them with a rump state they believe they could politically dominate.

Despairing said...

Minority government was the best thing that ever happened to Scotland, and while Labour and the Lib Dems floundered around wondering what had hit them, Annabel Goldie recognised the situation for what it was and recognised the direction that the Tories would have to go in order to have some say in the future of Scotland.

As an SNP voter, I can see Labour losing more seats not just to the SNP but also to a revived Conservative party in Scotland. Before last May I wouldn't have given Annabel Goldie the time of day, but her performances at First Minister's Questions and her interaction with Salmond are now the highlight of my political week!

tapestry said...

My sister is a left wing activist and she lives in Scotland. She called me to ask me what was happening to post offices in England, and was winding herself up about closures.

Maybe I should tell her I've moved to the Philippines!

Anonymous said...

I agree, Salmon is exactly right for the Tories. His signal characteristics are deviousness, a complete disregard for the facts, utter self-serving-ness at all times and contempt for the majority. Oh, and he is also fiercely anti-Trident and anti-nuclear power, both of which I understand would be aggressively pushed for by a Tory government. It's a wrap!!

asquith said...

Define "the interests of the English". I'm English, and I've got more in common with someone in a block of flats, who has a shit job, in Glasgow than I have with some tit who works in the City and lives in Surrey, Hampshire, etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

He's slippery - he's devious - he's self-serving - he's ideal!

Anonymous said...

Wyrdtimes said...

"Hands up who thinks the Tories will be working in in the interests of the English?

Anyone?"

Nah, working in the interests of themselves and their foreign rich friends. Just like nulab.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I think Salmond has shown the Tories how to run a party. He is clear in his objective and is not afraid to attack Labour and he has shown what can be done.
Cameron should try and do the same rather than his weak line against Labour.
Cameronn has a lead in the polls thanks to Labours problems not his success.
If cameron does not do more street fighting the lead will slip away if Labour does not have more problems.
Salmon has battled for what he has achieved and has jumped on Labour evry time they have a problem, but most importantly of all he is giving the Scottish people what they want.

simon said...

I was one of the Tories up here who advocated from the start that the Party SHOULD support an SNP administration. I would have preferred a coalition; but a firm pledge not to vote against SNP in a 'vote of confidence'(unless something goes seriously wrong) would have sufficed. I see the Libbies have been more constructive up here over the past 2 weeks. Nothing to do with the fact they are losing support (like their partners-Labour); and i suspect all their agressive bluff toward SNP at Holyrood has backfired in internal polling. If DC gets into Downing Street giving Holyrood MORE power and diminishing the Scots MP quota(i advocate 20 MP's elected under PR) is a must.

Anonymous said...

As Simon Hoggart said [or quoted] about Alex Salmond, 'A man pleased enough with himself to drink his own bathwater'..

Baskerville said...

I've said this before, but it's worth repeating, I hope.
The more seats the SNP win, the easier it is for Cameron to establish a working majority.
The reason? Because the SNP will not vote on English only matters. So Health, Education and Social Services immediately become manageable even if Cameron does not have an overall majority.

Patrick said...

We live in a rob Peter to pay Paul society. Peter tends not to live in the north of England or Scotland.

I have no desire to see a full and final independence for Scotland - but I'd be very happy to see a federal approach with an English Parliament and to let Scotland take full control of domestic issues including local income tax.

Westminster should only govern UK federal level policy such as defence, foreign policy etc. All the key spending ministries should be fully devolved. If one couintry in the federation wanted to spend more than a set base level per head they would have to raise tax locally to fund it.

The SNP would get 90% of what they're after and Peter would finally get a break.

Of course there's fertile ground between the Tories and the SNP. No wonder Salmond supports an English Parliament - and no discussion of politics and Scotalnd can ever get away from the need to resolve the West Lothian question.

Man in a Shed said...

We should offer a referendum on Independence. ( How could the SNP refuse ? )

We should also offer an English Parliament and create a federal UK.

Daniel said...

In fact Iain, you are wrong on one part.

The SNP is apparently in discussion to allow them to enter into a coalition with the Tories. SNP councillors can enter into alliance with the Conservatives at council level, but no higher.

It would be a smart move by Dave and Alex.

machiavelli said...

Shouldn't you report that to the police...?

Evil of Dron said...

"Alex Salmond is fast developing a reputation as a political colossus"

Ooooh! I love it when you talk dirty

Anonymous said...

As an SNP member I would suspect that if the polls were correct come the next election the SNP would not back any particular party but vote on an issue to issue basis pretty much the way they are having to do as a minority Govt.

I would doubt that there would be a coalition between the SNP and any party officially or otherwise.

However, the poll is a warning shot to Brown who must by now realise that Wendy is doing such a bad job she is actually now harming his chances of being re-elected. The problem he is got is there is no-one of decent quality to replace her.

As for Tory Tipper the poll for the Scottish Parliament when it is calculated shows that the SNP would gain nine seats, Labour lose three, Lib Dems lose four, Tories lose one and the Greens to lose one.

Labour and Libs would gain at regional (5 and 3 respectively) but would lose at constituency level (8 and seven respectively) while the Tories and Greens would lose one regional each. Not great but I think the Tories would live with that.

Anonymous said...

Man in a shed - I agree that UK should be federal, but that isn't what the SNP want - they want an independent Scotland in Europe.

All very sad really as the Tories used to stand for a united kingdom, but alas, when perceived self-interest is to have fewer Labour MPs in the H-of-C (most come after all from Scotland) they they suddenly become in favour of what is basically a narrow, nationalistic and racist agenda of anti-Englishness in Scotland. That not even a majority in Scotland actually support. The SNP will get their way through trickery, defeatism and inertia amongst those who oppose such an outcome.

neil craig said...

The SNP won the election on the promise to make our make our economy grow at something closer to the 7% Ireland has been managing. They said they would do this by cutting corporation taxes.

This was somewhat simplistic & for many members of the party, perhaps including Salmond, their hearts aren't really in the free market decisions that would be needed to achieve such growth. This is why their achievement in government, while respectable, has not lived up to the hype.

The Scottish Tories chose the less controversial road of promising not to do anything much but to be nice.

That the SNP won so spectacularly by effectively outflanking the Tories in going for growth by free market means should be a lesson to the Westminster Tories (or indeed Nick Clegg or even Brown should they have the gumption to take it).

wrinkled weasel said...

Well, after the way DC treated Annabel Goldie, what can you expect? Like me, Alex Salmond is not averse to a bit of Lavender and proper china. As the excellent Brian Taylor says in his piece "Everyone loves Auntie Annabel", last October..

"Just what is it with Alex Salmond and Annabel Goldie? Again, at First Minister’s Questions today, he replied to Ms Goldie not with a bang but a simper"

BTW A lot of popular moves up here have contributed to an overall feeling that the SNP are doing well..Fifers giggle with glee every time they cross the Forth for free. It aint rocket science.

Anonymous said...

I understand the sample for the Scottish aspects of this UK survey was 200 people - a fair bit of room for error I'd say

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

The best outcome would surely be one whereby both England and Scotland withdraw from the United Kingdom, leaving Wales and Ulster as legacy members both of it and of the EU. Scotland would then apply to reattach itself to the EU welfare tit, while England would not.

The joy of John Major's having been proven right in 1997 ("24 hours to save the Union") is just too delicious. Why would Conservatives want to save the Union, when to do so is to save Labour?

Barring Broon dying in a bizarre rocking-horse incident, I reckon the next Labour Prime Minister is probably sitting his GCSEs this summer. To get elected PM of England in 2038, he will have to take the remnants of the Labour Party on a journey that ends rather to the right of where Margaret Thatcher was in 1990.

Newmania said...

The price of SNP cooperation would be an even better deal for Scotland than they get already.I cannot see how tis helps the English and only the despicable behaviour of the Labour Party in Scotland makes this bizarre idea plausible.

Bet you we pay their share of the National debt

Will said...

The problem, Iain, is that in December the SNP National Council re-affirmed its opposition to a parliamentary deal with the Tories, so sorry, no dice.

However, in the event of a hung parliament, we could do a lot worse than follow the example of your own MSPs, who follow a line of 'constructive opposition'. They vote with the Government where the two parties agree, they discuss the issue and gain concessions where they do not but there is room for consensus, and they oppose the Government where there is not. They have wielded their Parliamentary power very effectively, are a force to be reckoned with and an example to follow.

So when your on party has established a good way forward, the SNP would be nuts to go into Coalition. With anyone.

Anonymous said...

The Tories and SNP need to join forces to destroy Labour completely. It is in the interests of their Parties and the nation. I found an interesting video here...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9ACJujjwRM

Which shows why Brown is absolutely unfit to lead the United Kingdom. This psychologically flawed deviant has to be kicked out of office, along with his cronies.

The revolution begins here, with Goldie and Salmond working together...