“Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can’t get friendly with a crocodile
Don’t be taken in by his welcome grin
He’s imagining how well you’d fit within his skin.”
Lord Ashcroft has recently commissioned some large polls which have the SNP doing cartwheels and the Scottish Labour MP’s staring into the abyss.
“Michael Anthony Ashcroft, Baron Ashcroft, KCMG PC (born 4 March 1946) is an international businessman and politician. He holds dual British and Belizean nationality, and is a belonger of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Ennobled as a life peer in 2000, he sits in the House of Lords on the Conservative benches. In the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK he was placed 37th with an estimated fortune of £1.1 billion (recent figure £1.4 bn). On 1 March 2010, after 10 years of holding his tax status as private, he revealed that he did not pay tax on his overseas earnings in the UK. He is a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.”
The data he’s published on the polls are here;-
The polls are unusual because they explore the intentions of voters at a constituency level. To date they’re the largest, most in-depth set of polls conducted in Scotland covering some 16 constituencies. The second set of polls he conducted drove the nail in even farther than the first leading to a prediction that SNP would take 56 of the 59 Scottish seats if the results were repeated across all of Scotland. The General Election isn’t one election like the referendum, it’s 650 little elections taking place all over the UK on the same day, so Ashcroft’s data is useful on the face of it.
The effect of those polls in SNP and Scottish Labour circles was profound.
However, that’s not the point.
Lord Ashcroft is an “uber” Tory. He’s held a couple of the loftiest positions in the Conservative Party; Deputy Chairman and Treasurer. So knowing as he does that the SNP would never do any deals with the Tories, why then would he, a big backer of his party both financially and personally, conduct and publish such polls that seem to favour the SNP?
At this moment the political landscape is in a complete state of flux. The Conservative Party have only one MP in Scotland. It is entirely possible that David Mundell the Tory MP will be unseated and leave the Tory party without any representation in Scotland.
The biggest subject discussed on political TV programmes seems to be “coalitions”. Keeping in mind that a coalition between UKIP and the Conservatives was being played with just a few months ago, now the discussion has moved on. The coalitions that seem to be in the main stream media “chatter” centre around what we Scots are and are not going to do.
Labour – SNP Coalition
A possible coalition between a minority Labour Government and the SNP has been talked about and various permutations discussed to include an issue by issue or “confidence and supply” informal arrangement. Apart from the fact that a formal coalition would be political suicide for both parties it would be a constant source of friction. The Tories are making a big noise asking Labour to ditch such an idea, even though they’d do a deal with UKIP or “Old Nick” (Clegg) if they thought it would help.
The Scottish Labour MP’s have asked Milliband to block such an idea because they think it is the threat of such a deal that’s causing their demise. However, in many cases it was the willingness to crawl into bed with the Tories in the referendum that tore up many a Labour membership card. Traditional Labour voters were dismayed at the behaviour of Labour during such a crucial time for Scotland and for many, Labour became just another toxic brand who will pay dearly at the ballot box just the same as the Conservative Party did after the reign of Maggie Thatcher.
Milliband may eventually bow to pressure but why bother? After all, it would only reduce his options after the General Election.
Tory – Labour Coalition
Many political commentators have been talking of a “Grand Coalition”, one where both Conservative and Labour team up to form the next government in coalition. This would allow the larger establishment parties to effectively bat away the effect of any political groups formed by the smaller parties. Such a coalition would certainly see an end to much of the traditional Labour support throughout the UK and for that reason it’s unlikely although not impossible. There are frightened people in both those parties and they may seize any solution that get’s them out of a bad situation in the short-term. It would however mark the end of any real form of democracy in the UK in a very undemocratic act by the two largest parties. The fall out would be seismic in every way.
Back door support in an informal arrangement would work (for them) much better. The larger of the two would enter Downing Street supported on an issue by issue basis by the other. It would be a “cloaked coalition” where both parties would gain and retain the power and more pointedly, keep that power out of the hands of others. With regard to some of the major commons votes over the last year, it does look as if this arrangement is already alive and kicking because Labour have voted in support of the Tories on a surprising number of issues, issues where we clearly know that a majority of Labour MP’s oppose the Tory position such as upgrading Trident. 70% of Labour MP’s want rid of Trident so why would they vote in support of such a thing?
SNP supporters are now looking at the possibility of major gains and where they were comfortable at the idea of returning 20 to 30 MP’s in the recent months, due to the Ashcroft polls, that level of comfort has grown beyond 40 or even 50 seats.
If the SNP concentrate purely on unseating Labour in Scotland, then in a few areas it’s possible that the Tories may “sneak in”. After all, if the population percentage that the Tories commanded at the last General Election in Scotland was similar to what it is now, and if we consider that it was only 50,000 votes less than the SNP who took 6 seats, it’s possible to see in those circumstances where a Tory majority would and could happen. Any gains by the Tories in Scotland would further weaken the Labour position in the UK if taken in conjunction with expected SNP gains.
To say that the coming weeks will be interesting is a bit of an understatement, and we may see things happen that are totally out of the blue and therefore not so easy to predict. Labour are a broken party North of the border and until the present leadership are washed away, it’s hard to see those voters who drifted away from Labour returning very soon.
Labour voters therefore have a choice to make in Scotland; if they want to see a “real” independent Labour Party emerge in Scotland, then a tactical vote for the SNP this time would make complete sense. Such an observation doesn’t take account of how palatable such a vote would be for some of them, however, it would get rid of all the old leadership in Scotland and open up the way for the formation of a truly independent Scottish Labour Party where they’d see a return to real socialist core values.
SNP supporters would do well to remember the old saying; “The man who pays the piper calls the tune”. They should realise that if one of your main opponents is producing polls that make them happy, they’d better watch out for a catch, especially given who and what that opponent is. Lord Ashcroft may have a hidden agenda and it isn’t about winning seats for the SNP.
Being the consummate business man and strategist he is, Lord Ashcroft’s intention isn’t to bolster the fortunes of the SNP, what he wants is to ensure that Labour are cast in the part of the junior partner in a Grand Westminster Boardroom. From that position, dealing with the smaller groups of shareholders (parties) and getting your policies pushed through becomes that much clearer and easier.