And as panic rises on the streets of London, we have the BBC reporting chaos on the streets of Glasgow. Once again, Jim Murphy’s cynical attempts to orchestrate and stage manage an ‘incident’ have yielded the result that he was looking for, with the certainty of a flying egg. You can see his complicity in the broad grin as he faces the opponent shouting in his face: that is exactly the money-shot’ that he was looking for…although his smugness might be a trifle close to the surface.
It is a depressingly familiar story from the Referendum experience: faux outrage emitted by the unionist press at the slightest scrap that can be used against campaigners for more autonomy for Scotland, while doggedly blind eyes are turned to regular attacks by unionists on those same supporters. Double page spreads that Nicola Sturgeon cut the hair from her sister’s Cindy doll, Neil Hay for Edinburgh South three years ago linked to an article on the spoof BBC Scotlandshire website and commented sympathetically on an academic report looking at the abilities of some pensioners to vote, when it was being disputed that 16 and 17 year olds should have the franchise for the Referendum. In contrast we have the barely reported assaults on ‘Yes’ supporters and ignored death threats to prominent members of the Scottish Government. One aspect fits the official narrative, the other doesn’t, so is blanked.
The frenzy mounts as polling day approaches, with counter claims rendering the air incoherent – Cameron makes a speech in a London market and is heckled by someone for anti-Scottish racism; Miliband has a spinal tap moment with his ‘EdStone’ as a cenotaph memorial to his chances of a majority government; Kezia Dugdale reveals on ‘Good Morning Scotland’ that she has no clue what Ed’s 6 policies are on the ‘Milistone’; in a clear attempt to get a sympathy vote at the last minute, leaked rumours of discussions emerge about making Labour in Scotland completely independent (lol) from London; Labour discusses moves to cut the Barnet formula, which Labour swore to protect in the event of a ‘No’ vote – but I guess it was ‘in the event of a ‘No’ vote – AND provided you kept voting for us alone’ (they should be clearer in their gun-to-the-head politics…); David Cameron announces that “Behind the economy are real issues, such as lifting children out of poverty”. I couldn’t help but read that with a tone as though he had recently discovered this to his great personal surprise – although I suspect that I was actually supposed to read it as the birth statement of all new cuddly Dave (vote for him – he IS friendly, after all!), when it appeared in the Independent on Sunday; Gordon Brown hoarsely proclaims that ‘Yes’ voters should vote Labour if they “want real change” – because, of course, that is what they got under you as Prime Minister, isn’t it, Gordon? I confess that I am relieved to see that he finally appears to be running out of steam, energy and voice and perhaps this will be the last ‘shock intervention’ from the ex-politician in this particular campaign.
Miliband left the ‘Question Time’ stage of his political misstep, where he publicly refused any sort of relationship with the SNP – thus opening himself to the accusation that he would rather let the Conservatives back in for 5 years, than take the controlling role himself. This opened up the End of Days situation of Labour’s arch SNP hater (and former pro-independence armed struggle psychopath) Brian Wilson criticising Miliband for ruling out any sort of deal with the SNP that he loathes (but wouldn’t a Conservative-run government be preferable to you anyway, Brian?). Miliband’s reasons for refusing such a deal were wonderfully hypocritical, and based on everyone forgetting how many constituent countries there are in the UK: Ed won’t do any deal wait Plaid Cymru or the SNP, because they want to break up the UK. But…Labour has a ‘sister party’ in Northern Ireland – the SDLP – whose electoral aim is the unification of Ireland…and, just to be clear, that is unification OUTside of the UK, not in. What does this ‘sister party’ relationship mean – shared birthdays, exchanging lipstick, joint visits to MacDonalds and taking turns on the swing at the playpark together? No…it actually means that Labour will not put candidates up in Northern Ireland’s 18 seats, even when the head of the Labour Party there asked to do so last spring. Funny how Labour are selective about that ‘breaking up Britain’ business’…perhaps it is only because there are only 3 SDLP Westminster MPs, so not exactly representing a mandate for change across all of that region’s constituencies? Maybe that is why Labour were never so vocal about refusing to work with the SNP when there were only 6-11 of their MPs in Scotland…
But even more than the rationale for Miliband’s justification of his decisions, the consequences of his rejection of the SNP are even more surprising. As noted by the Labour-supporting Sunday People a few days back, “Ms Sturgeon is likely to muster more anti-Tory MPs in Scotland than Labour ever could.” Actually, there is some justification for this, as the SNP have the potential to take LibDem (pro-Tory) seats that Labour never could, even before Labour were mortally weakened by the Referendum. The maths works out like this – 1 Conservative plus 11 LibDem pro-Tory MPs against 41 Labour plus 6 SNP anti-Tory MPs, gives a net 35 anti-Tory MPs from Scotland in 2010. If the SNP manage to increase their take of MPs, then it will not only be Labour, but LibDem seats that will fall – remember, for each Labour seat that falls to the SNP, there is no net change in the pro/anti-Tory numbers – but there is for each LibDem that goes. So potentially, by removing 12 proTory MPs and replacing them with antiTory MPs, there is a net 24 vote shift against the coalition continuing. You would think that would be welcomed by a Labour prime minister in waiting, wouldn’t you?
Labour’s leadership has retreated in the face of the Conservative-orchestrated right wing press, to a position that would make them a lame duck government, seen to be weakly backtracking on their commitments if they subsequently do any deal with the SNP, even although it is Cameron who should look the weaker, in failing to win a majority twice running. One can understand that Labour would lose a double-digit lead as the incumbency effect starts to kick in close to the date of the election, one can also understand the loud noises of nonsense made by both Cameron and Miliband as they proclaim that they are looking to win, even though everyone knows that that ship has sailed for both of them long ago. But the systematic erosion by Miliband of his potential post-vote allies has been an act of madness and weakness, giving away ground and positions of strength under elementary intimidation from the press. Perhaps Miliband thinks he looks stronger to shut out all prospects of a deal – he looks more like a fool to have gone as far as he has, especially as those who were espousing a fear that he would do a deal with the SNP, now do not even believe him when he has categorically ruled it out. He has capitulated on his position – to no advantage whatsoever.
The ‘EdStone’, intended for the Rose Garden at Downing Street (although apparently there would be a whole swathe of planning permissions required to install it there) may yet prove to be both his ‘spinal tap’ moment, and his political obituary by Friday morning.
“Right now our political cup is running over. Let us hold it with a steady hand and get this done for the country.” (Alex Salmond, 5/5/2015)