Wednesday 25 March 2015

Just keep digging

They say that the first law of holes is that, when you’re in one, you should stop digging.  Faced with the impending SNP landslide in Scotland in the coming election, both Miliband and Cameron seem not only to be ignoring that law, but digging with gusto to see which one of them can get himself into the deepest hole.
The statements being made by the SNP - that they would veto a minority Conservative Government, and expect to have a degree of influence over the budget in exchange for supporting a minority Labour Government  - may not be to the taste of either of the two main UK parties.  But they are an accurate reflection of the reality of the Westminster system, in which any government is expected to be able to command a majority in the House of Commons for a small number of key votes, including the Queen’s Speech and the budget.
There have been times in the not-so-distant past when the Conservatives have actually done very well in Scottish elections, but in the light of a string of poor performances in more recent years, they have been reduced to a rump.  Their tactics to date suggest that they’ve completely abandoned all hope of recovery, and don’t really mind if they get completely wiped out in Scotland.  Their cartoon of Miliband dancing to Salmond’s tune was obviously designed to appeal only to voters outside Scotland – given that the most popular choice amongst Scots for the next government seems to be an SNP-influenced Labour minority government, the cartoon can only have helped the SNP.
Their latest statement, that a decision by the SNP to vote against the Queen’s Speech of any minority Tory Government would be “trying to sabotage the democratic will of the British people”, can only be interpreted as confusing British with English, and treating the Scots as outsiders with no business involving themselves in UK politics.  Again, it will do more good than harm to the SNP.
Meanwhile, over on the Labour side, Miliband is doing no better.  Suggesting that a minority Labour government would attempt to behave as though it had a majority and dare anyone other than the Tories to vote against its policies may play well in those parts of England where they are trying to out-Tory the Tories, but seems calculated to frustrate any efforts by his Scottish branch manager to recover the situation in Scotland.
There’s a hint in what some commentators have suggested that the SNP are somehow ‘cheating’ by only standing in Scottish constituencies, so that their representation in Westminster will be out of proportion to their vote across the UK as a whole.  Whilst Miliband and Cameron haven’t quite said that, their current approach seems to suggest that they at least half-believe something similar.
All the polls could be wrong; there could still be a massive swing back to the Labour-Tory parties in the next few weeks, however unlikely it looks at present.  But somehow, I don’t think that merely repeating the same mantra time and again is likely to do other than harden the resolve of Scots to reject both of them.  There’s been a change of paradigm in Scotland since last September, and neither Miliband nor Cameron seem to be able to comprehend that or adapt to it.  Still, as long as they have their spades…

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