Britain’s New Political Force Isn’t UKIP – It’s the SNP

As I write this Douglas Carswell hasn’t yet been elected in Clacton but he will be. He will be UKIP’s second MP (Bob Spink was the first) but first elected MP. But Clacton is a special case; Carswell has a big personal following. I have no time for him whatever and I can only help he has the integrity his friends claim he does. If that is true, he will not remain silent in a party that is racist, sexist and allows the condoning of child abuse, blaming the victims. We’ll see.

The real UKIP test comes in Rochester and Strood, where my friend Mark Reckless defected without the same personal following. I will always like Mark, having known him since we were at the same Oxford college together at the same time (OK OK he’s younger) and ran together on the same slate in the Union (roofing materials cough). But I fear Mark has made the mistake of his life. He is an able barrister and he has been a leading light on the best Select Committee in Parliament at the moment, the Home Affairs Select Committee. But UKIP help Labour and prevent the chance of any EU Referendum at all. I am so sorry that Mark was deceived into going with Farage, and I both hope, fear and believe he will lose his seat. I hope it politically because Ed Miliband must not be helped into power by UKIP voters – there will be no EU referendum and it will be  total disaster. I believe it because I can read the polls and the mood, I think (it’ll be close for sure), and I fear it, because ukip are a party without loyalty or principles. When Mark loses they will blame him, cast aspersions on his work as an MP, toss him to the wind and move on without looking back like they do to any candidate who gets in Nigel’s way.

But enough of Labour’s little helpers. Let’s look north, where I think the unnoticed revolution is going on. And it’s not purple – it’s plaid. In fact, it’s tartan.

The Scottish Referendum seems like yesterday north of the border and for us in rUK too it was the election of the year. Few nights will ever be as emotional. And yet a London-centric media has taken its eye off the Glasweigan ball. That’s a mistake.

The SNP have packed on tens of thousands of new members – that’s actual paying members who have gone so far as to sign up – imagine the latent support behind these numbers. I read somewhere that it might be a hundred thousand. Labour is in trouble in its Scottish heartlands. Real trouble, not just Holyrood trouble where they are used to getting their arses kicked, but Westminster trouble. John Curtice said they might pick up as many as 26 seats. I think they may also lose one or two to the Tories and LibDems – yes, you heard me correctly. Passions for YES and NO raged immensely, and where the SNP hold Westminster seats in areas that were strongly NO they are vulnerable. Ruth Davidson took back some of her ‘Tartan Tory’ mantle from the so-called Tartan Tories. There’s a long way to go to detoxify the Conservatives in Scotland but she gained wide respect in the IndyRef.

But let’s develop the idea of the SNP storming the Westminster elections. Every seat they gain will be a one for one loss to Labour.  Labour down 26 and the SNP up 26, for a max gain of 32 seats. That would give the SNP parity with the LibDems.

Semi-jokingly I suggested future SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as Deputy PM under Cameron. There was a lot of kicking the football around on Twitter from SNP members, but let me develop the idea.

I am NOT suggesting that the SNP go into coalition with the Conservatives – it would be toxic for both parties north of the border. Ruth Davidson needs those Unionist votes to start rebuilding in SNP WM areas. And SNP are banned from propping up the Tories, their left-wing support wouldn’t like it.

But I AM suggesting a scenario where Sturgeon can demand a DEAL with an rUK Conservative majority – after all the Referendum itself happened because Alec Salmond and David Cameron made a binding deal. A deal isn’t a coalition and the SNP wouldn’t need to prop up the Tories in this scenario – because devo-max and English votes for English laws would have meant that the SNP was “mainly governing” Scotland via Holyrood, and in rUK, the Tories would no longer need any Scottish votes (or even be able to use them) – on devolved matters for Eng Wales and NI. Cameron would still need other parties like the DUP and probably even the LibDems for comfort, but Sturgeon’s SNP would not be involved.

Scenario goes like this – Tories largest party, no majority. SNP offer a deal whereby Sturgeon becomes Deputy PM as being able to command the second party of United Kingdom government, with or without a WM seat of her own. She need not have one, and she can always take a peerage if she likes, a nice Scottish peerage obviously :). Sturgeon and Cameron horse-trade over devo-max and the financial settlement for Scotland in exchange for immediate, first-order-of-business “English votes for English laws” legislation. EVEL has been long planned by the Tories and has been in the last three Tory manifestos. This constitutional deal done, Sturgeon repairs to Scotland to govern. Ruth Davidson opposes her now on tax, spend and policy as well as Unionism (because we assume the SNP will still aim for full independence).

South of the border Cameron governs with a coalition but one where the Tories can set more favorable terms.

In defence and foreign affairs, areas that all agree would remain United Kingdom competencies, Sturgeon would have the right to be consulted first, to have SNP seats in the ministries and the SNP would have a direct voice at the global table, as the LibDems do now. I cannot frankly imagine that the SNP view would be more left-wing than the LibDem view on either area of policy. In this area, Cameron would have to seek to have Scotland on board respecting the SNP’s primacy in the country.

That, then, is my vision of a revolutionary government – not a coalition, no propping up needed – a government that represented a deal between independent actors, even political opponents, to make constitutional changes that the SNP and Conservatives both believe in for Scotland and also for England.

Labour is the enemy of the SNP when it comes to devo-max or any version of devo-max. The more autonomy Labour allows in Scotland, the greater the demand in England for English votes, which deprives Mili of his Scottish block vote. It says much for Labour’s weakness in England that Ed Miliband thinks he can’t govern England, Wales and Northern Ireland without the votes of Scots MPs on matters that will never affect their constituents. Put another way, Miliband doesn’t want to introduce laws for England he knows English voters will approve of.

Fair play to the 45, they have no objection to English voters getting our own devolution. The SNP don’t vote on English only laws unless it will affect Scotland – that’s to be decided in the initial horse-trading before EVEL passes. Sturgeon would be a conquering heroine in Scotland with the prestige of deputy PM of the UK and the delivery of the best possible deal for Scotland. Rather than ‘propping up’ Cameron or any coalition, she’d follow SNP creed of leaving the sassenachs to sort themselves out. And Labour’s offer to Scotland of tiny changes while chopping England up into already-rejected-in-a-referendum “regional assemblies” would get the contempt it deserved – north and south of the border.

WhoKip? The SNP is the real story this year – and they didn’t quit and go home when they lost that vote. Trust me, the 45 are just warming up.

8 comments

  1. g4rve · October 10, 2014

    The general thrust of your article is worth exploring, but there are a few details which I don’t think are workable.

    Firstly, there’s no chance of Nicola taking a peerage, but there’s no need either. Angus Robertson will be a very able representative for her at Westminster and within any overall UK governmental body which might be needed to give a Tory UK government a majority for laws and actions at an overall UK level.

    Secondly, enabling a Conservative government at Westminster is a potentially suicidal act by the SNP. It could make the election to Holyrood in 2016 extremely difficult for them, with constant, justifiable criticism from Labour in Scotland.

    So to do so is very, very risky, and to be tempted into it would require very, very large rewards. The bare minimum that the SNP could accept to countenance such an arrangement is Devo Max, and to be clear that’s REAL Devo Max, not the type slyly suggested by Gordon Brown and nodded upon by the three party leaders in their vow.

    Real Devo Max implies the devolution of everything which can be devolved. Everything. Oil revenues, all taxation, power over elections, possibly even immigration. It implies a reverse Barnett formula, where Scotland gets all the taxation funding and then sends a block grant to Westminster to pay for defence and foreign affairs.

    It’s a fundamental restructuring of the UK.

    And in the end, it’ll depend upon the electoral arithmetic. It’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where both David Cameron and Ed Miliband are in a position to govern if the SNP support them. The horsetrading in that case will put Nick Clegg’s ‘exquisite torture’ in the shade.

    • Louise Mensch · October 10, 2014

      The amount of money would be a key element in the horsetrading; and immigration is one area I cannot see devolving. Think about it – as Scotland even under devomax would be in the UK, her immigration policy if laxer would affect the other three countries too. But yes, a serious deal. I don’t think Salmond suffered from dealing with Cameron over the referendum. Also, if the SNP are truly making a case for either independence or devomax, it does absolutely depend on their recognizing the right of the English equally to govern themselves. They may not like the Tories but if the English and Welsh elect Tory majorities that has to be respected (for devolved matters). I think one nationalist called it “parity of esteem” to me and it has to work both ways.

      • g4rve · October 11, 2014

        Without getting into it too deeply, Scotland has very different immigration needs to the south and east of England – our population is aging and has been stagnant over the last 50 years unlike almost any western country. Some powers over student visas and the rights of UK citizens to bring their non-EU spouses here would help that if rules about residence could be set. Or alternatively it might also help if the Westminster government was required to gain the agreement of the devolved administrations before changing immigration rules.

        As you know, the SNP have a longstanding rule that they don’t vote on English only matters. Because of this we have the odd situation that the SNP are already the strongest supporters of English self-determination in the UK. It’s the other parties you need to convince.

  2. goggzilla · October 10, 2014

    Sexism within UKIP? Do you mean because they actually consider that current legislation on anonymity for rape trial defendants is contrary to human rights law? Oh on a brighter note Ched Evans to be freed next week.

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  4. Dair Allan (@dair_allan) · October 10, 2014

    Your raising a point far more relevant to the debate than the London based media has really woken up to. The likelihood of the SNP being king-makers after 2015 is something that is being keenly welcomed by the Yes movement, indeed the Greens and Socialists are very close to offering electoral support for SNP candidates in the 2015 election. The actual breadth of the Yes movement still doesn’t seem to be appreciated by the London based media, indeed they still only equate Yes = SNP.

    There isn’t the danger of being seen as “in bed with the Tories” given the current engagement of Scotland with politics. Effectively using Supply and Confidence to get EVEL through in exchange for full Devo Max is the current goal of almost every person in the Yes movement and those people realistically expect that to be most easily achieved with agreement with the Conservatives.

    But there is also more that could be achieved, the SNP can use their influence and power to gain compromises which pave the way to full independence, the fight has not ended and the dream is not dead. Worked cleverly the SNP could require Federal debt agreement as part of a Devo Max settlement. They could even use their position to make a formal request to the EU to answer the question on post separation status which Westminster refused to do before the referendum and the SNP could not ask for as a “regional” government.

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  6. The Vole · December 13, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Orkney Vole and commented:
    The Mole was farily chuffed to see this article about his heroine – she is fully in favour or our consevation and may have views on your taxidermy/
    .

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