03 January 2015

How Easy Would It Be For Labour & The SNP To Do A Deal?

With the same boundaries as 2010 and a multitude of amateur psephologists on the internet, this May general election is looking like being the most analysed ever.

If most analysts are right we are heading for a very messy hung parliament with maybe 3 or 4 party co-operation needed to garner a majority.

Both Labour and the Tories could end up between 265 and 290 seats. With the Lib Dems likely to be reduced to twenty something seats, this would mean the big two having to look elsewhere to make up a majority.

Tories have been sounding out the Ulster Unionists and would make an offer to the SNP, though it would be political suicide for the SNP to accept.

UKIP are more obvious Tory supporters, but that would make a Tory/Lib Dem deal more difficult and the Tories are likely to need 3 or more parties to make a majority. There has even been one wild suggestion in the national press of a "grand coalition" of Labour and Tory.

But realistically, for me, the most obvious partnership would be Labour and the SNP.

The most likely scenario is a minority government with "confidence and supply" forthcoming from other agreeable parties.

Even with the fixed term parliament Act, the chances of this arrangement lasting anywhere near 5 years seems very slim to me.

As is tradition, the sitting PM, in this case David Cameron, will get the first chance to form a coalition, even if his party are not the largest in seats or votes. Obviously whichever party manages that will theoretically have the moral upper hand, though in practise it will make little difference.

If Cameron fails, the scene will be set for Labour and the SNP. The SNP will almost certainly be the third largest party in parliament. Unless something really dramatic happens to dent their huge lead over Labour in Scotland.

Labour are going to have to swallow their pride to make a deal with the SNP.

I don't see Miliband having a problem dealing with the SNP, but a lot of his backbenchers and cabinet colleagues will be seething.

Thankfully the most rightwing Labour MPs are in Scotland and most of those would have lost their seats in the bloodbath north of the border. Labour could easily find they have Scottish MPs down in the single figures.

The SNP say they want Trident out of Scotland and will push for more tax powers.

When it comes to nuclear power, Labour are still a very conservative party. This would be a difficult area for them to compromise on.

On tax powers, the Labour party were the ones dragging their feet even more than the Tories and Lib Dems in the recent Smith deal.

So, what would the SNP do if Labour refused to budge?

The SNP options would be limited. Labour would love to drive them into the Tories hands. Sadly I can see Labour being so bloody minded they were willing to see Cameron continue.

The big question is Miliband. I have hopes he would find a compromise. And his reluctant colleagues could be used to drive a hard bargain. The SNP would need something big though.

Miliband would do well to bind the SNP close and go for a long lasting deal, maybe even a coalition.

The Tories and UKIP are overflowing with hedge fund money and would love a second general election in October 2015 to bankrupt Labour and the other parties.

It is going to be difficult for Labour to accept the SNP, but the alternatives for Miliband would be resignation. The knives would quickly be out to get a blairite like Umunna installed.

Miliband is going to have to lay the law down with the rebels in his own party and accept real devolution to Scotland. And if he has any sense he will roll this devolution out to the rest of the UK as well, including the English regions.

So the answer to the question is, it isn't going to be easy to get a SNP backed Labour government. They fight each other as bitter rivals in Scotland and that sort of tribalism is hard to overcome (see Labour and the Greens in Brighton).

But the disappearance of Scottish Labour MPs as a large block in the parliamentary party and the pragmatism of Miliband and Sturgeon gives me real hope it will happen.

The consequences of letting Cameron and co continue on their wrecking mission would be unforgiveable. To keep Scotland, Labour will have to make a deal work. It could work to all social democrats advantage.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. What I'm dying to know is whether such a Labour, SNP-backed government would allow Scotland serious financial autonomy, by which I mean, including oil revenues. Is it crazy to imagine a 50-50 split of oil revenues between Holyrood and Westminster? As part, perhaps, of a comprehensive constitutional settlement that, apart from anything else, resolves the Westlothian question once and for all...