Obviously the SNP Would Rather a Tory Government in London. Wouldn’t They?
That Alistair Carmichael’s position as MP is on shaky ground, will not be news to many. We all know he lied, we all know what he did was wrong, and we all know (despite the convenient protestations of some) that he should step down. But bubbling away in the background is a pernicious little subplot which Carmichael’s apologists still cling to, that cornerstone of tabloid hackery, the lasting legacy of any good smear campaign: no smoke without fire.
For those who’ve been living on the Moon for the past few months: Alistair Carmichael authorised the “leak” of a memo, whilst he was still Scottish secretary, which falsely quoted Nicola Sturgeon telling the French ambassador that she would prefer a Tory government at the election. Carmichael denied this during the election campaign but was later found out to have lied, prompting widespread calls for his resignation. Indeed, even a prominent member of Scottish Labour’s front bench told me last week that they could see no option but for him to resign.
A number of journalists, and an unnervingly high proportion of the Labour Party (namely one high profile Lord), have lined up to defend the former Scottish Secretary on the grounds that “we all know that the SNP would secretly prefer a Tory government though, don’t we?”. This oft repeated chestnut has become so firmly embedded in our political discourse, that it’s almost accepted as fact.
Even as you read this, you’re probably thinking “come on though, a Tory government would obviously put the SNP in holyrood at a tactical advantage”. But that is to view the situation through a very narrow media narrative which is based on two falsehoods: firstly, that the SNP’s sole objective is to sow division through whatever tactical means available to them; and secondly, that the Labour Party is the left wing force it once was.
I appreciate there are those who genuinely believe that the SNP are a purely malevolent organisation, but that’s patently not so. To write off half the country as suggestible, gullible fools does Scotland as a whole, a disservice, regardless of your own political leanings. Just because you might disagree with a party’s politics, you have to assume that its cheerleaders are there for the right reasons; each of us, after all, genuinely believes that ours is the best route to a fairer society.
There is no question that the Labour Party in Scotland’s hatred of the SNP far surpasses their hatred of the Tories, and for those outwith the political bubble, this can seem quite confusing. After all, they’re both left-of-centre politically, and if you take independence out of the equation, there’s not really a great deal of difference between them. The explanation though, is quite simple… The ranks of the SNP membership, it’s councillors, it’s MSPs, it’s MPs, are packed with disaffected Labour Party members, and that, is really the crux of it all.
The assumption that the SNP stand, tactically, to gain most out of a Tory Government at Westminster, relies on us all having very short memories. The assertion flies in the face of reality, and is painfully typical of the Labour party’s ongoing refusal to understand what is happening in Scotland.
The SNP made their first breakthrough at Holyrood in 2007, three whole years before David Cameron entered Downing Street, and a full decade into a Labour government. It was not Tory austerity that first made Alex Salmond First Minister, it was a widespread disaffection with the Labour Party; the culmination of Blairism and the continuation of the economics of Margaret Thatcher, the war in Iraq and increased attacks on civil liberties. More than anything though, it was the illegal invasion of Iraq. It would probably be safe to say, that had Iraq not happened, the Labour Party would still be in power in both Holyrood and Westminster.
Pundits who claim that “we all know that Nicola Sturgeon would really prefer a Tory government”, would do well to read their Scottish political history further back than the last 5 years. The SNP’s surge in popularity has happened for two reasons:
Certainly, the coming together of the post referendum Yes movement has played a huge part, but the political “tsunami” witnessed at the General Election was about more than that. It’s representative of a widespread dissatisfaction, indeed a total despair at the other parties, and as long as the SNP’s opponents continue to paint this as some two dimensional reaction to David Cameron, they will continue to be confounded at the rise and rise, and rise of the SNP.