Labour and the SNP – There shouldn’t be a formal coalition

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago for the Badger. I’ll also give it a home here.

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‘Should Labour form a coalition with the SNP?’

It is of no surprise that in-between the comment editor’s elicitation on this topic and before I started writing that Ed Miliband has announced that a deal with the Scottish nationalists will “not happen”, claiming there are “big differences” between Labour and the SNP.

There are big differences. Labour would probably find themselves uncomfortable bedfellows alongside their Scottish foe. Though we all know post-election, if Miliband doesn’t find Labour with a majority he’ll probably be scrambling around desperately for ways to prop up a minority government or trying to form some sort of coalition. Who knows what will happen then, but it shouldn’t be a coalition.

I find the question “should Labour form a coalition with the SNP?” somewhat holds the presumption that the SNP would want to follow the Lib Dem’s example, by desperately clawing their way into a coalition by rolling back over some of their pre-election promises and enter a coalition alongside Labour with open arms. If this was a student newspaper in Scotland I’m sure the question would read: “Should the SNP form a coalition with Labour?” Perhaps an easy dissension around semantics, but nonetheless, important in framing what should be an easily surmountable quandary for the party leaders.

Labour and the SNP should not enter a coalition on the fact that they don’t have much in common. At Least the Lib Dems had their ‘Orange Book’ faction of pro-marketeers to help fill-up spaces in the coalition cabinet and drive through five years of Conservative led government.

There’s a reason the, albeit tiny, possibility of a “grand coalition” between Labour and the Conservatives has been bandied around by some lords, politicians and the media to fend off a ‘constitutional crisis’ brought about by the SNP. Both parties offer a trite perspective on politics and simply spin a difference between ‘centre-right’ and ‘centre-left’ that you’d be hard pushed to slit a cigarette paper through at times.

For Labour to find themselves in a position where they could govern with the SNP would necessitate changes they seem incapable or unwilling to implement. They’d have to find meaning again in being a party of labour, rid themselves of any left-over Blairites and start to offer some truly progressive policies. It would also require tackling some of the major longstanding problems in British politics, challenges that would disseminate far beyond Westminster. Issues such as House of Lords reform, the West Lothian Question and a settlement that would placate the nationalists while keeping the union together. Half-hearted quasi-federalism will only cause continued dissent and disillusion: for too long has the arrogance of the Westminster elite over Britain’s hinterlands gone on.

Labour should be propped up on a confidence and supply basis only. The difference between the two parties as they stand is almost irreconcilable. In any case, failure by the SNP to extract any meaningful concessions in such a deal would find themselves aligning with what is already becoming a toxic brand in Scotland, and for what? To appease homeowners in the Southeast about the ‘union’?

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