Sunday, 16 November 2014

Balance of power

The SNP conference is over, the old leader stepped down and the new leader in place.  From the livestream, we saw a picture of a buoyant, energised party, full of confidence and ready to do whatever it takes to gain Scotland's independence.

Nicola Sturgeon gave her first speech as leader, in which she stated that the SNP would never enter a coalition with the Tories and set out some conditions for supporting a Labour government, such as granting new powers to Holyrood, a rethink on austerity and not placing a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.

Now here comes the bucket of cold water. There are a number of flaws in this rosy scenario.

One of the SNP's stated aims is to electorally obliterate the Labour party in Scotland in May.  The polls are currently suggesting that this is feasible.  However, the logical extension of this would be why would Labour in London agree to some sort of loose arrangement for support of a minority government with the SNP, if the SNP were the cause of Labour having very few seats in Scotland?  It wouldn't play well with their supporters.

Another factor in play is that the polls at UK level put the SNP and LibDems on very similar percentages.  If these translated into seats, it may well be the LibDems who are being courted again, not the SNP.

I've been participating in a number of online comment threads about the SNP conference over the last two days, and there is a distinct but detectable resentment of the Scots for (a) not shutting up about independence and for talking about another referendum and (b) possibly having power over the English by enabling Labour to push through unpopular legislation.

The first part is an interesting one, and I might explore that in another post, since it's kind of off-topic for this one.

The second part is easily disproved, as the SNP do not vote on England-only legislation out of principle.  This doesn't appear to be well-known south of the border and maybe the SNP should make more of this.  However, this would lead to something of a dilemma for a minority Labour government, as it wouldn't be able to pass legislation on things like health or education without garnering support from elsewhere, and if it can do that, why would it need the SNP?

As for not supporting a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde, I suspect that Labour would be able to garner support from the Tories on that one, as they both appear to need to retain the 'punching above our weight' status thing.  And if that happened, they would also vote to keep them anywhere they pleased.  Since Trident is already on the Clyde, and both parties are keen on austerity, it's highly unlikely they'd spend the money to build another facility for the new ones.

As a member of the SNP, I like the idea of our party having some power at Westminster, of being able to 'hold their feet to the fire'.  However, if we're going to do this, we need to be realistic.  There's a real danger at the moment of the party members becoming complacent, when we really need to fight the next election as if we were bottom of the polls.

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