Yesterday, Scottish Labour launched their 2015 General Election campaign with some big talk, mostly aimed at heading off the expected SNP landslide which could rob them of most of their traditional Scottish heartland.
The problem is, that everything they said was totally wrong headed…
Firstly, the banner pledge to employ 1000 more NHS nurses in Scotland than anything the SNP pledge.
On the face of it, promising more nurses is a good thing, but by tagging their target number of nurses to ‘whatever the SNP’ pledge is a clearly desperate attempt at one-upmanship in search of a positive headline (‘Labour are more committed to the NHS than the Nats’ or something like that) without actually looking at things like how many nurses we need or how they will be paid for.
Actually, they did say it would be paid by the ‘mansion tax’ which will largely only draw funds from the south east of England and probably won’t make all that much money anyways. Great way to tie two half-assed ideas together…
In any case, all of this is moot because, as Labour gleefully spent the whole referendum campaign pointing out… healthcare is devolved.
Under the recommendations of the Smith Commission, increased spending on one side of the border will be matched by funds made available on the other side, so if UK Labour win power in May and use their mansion tax to fund 11’000 more nurses across England & Wales, the extra funds to do the same in Scotland will be under the control of the SNP administration in Holyrood (and does anyone expect Labour to end up as the biggest party in Edinburgh next year?)
In effect, Labour’s banner pledge for the General Election is a poorly thought out attempt to seem more left wing than the SNP despite the fact that it’s essentially un-costed (making all the Conservatives’ jibes about Labour’s irresponsibility come true) and they can’t even follow through on it, even if they win.
Secondly, Labour’s repeated assertion that every SNP vote makes a Conservative government in May more likely is contemptible on every level.
I’ve talked at length about how promoting tactical voting is a corrupt and unhelpful practice but aside from that, it’s been shown that SNP success has little to no bearing on the ‘winner’ of a general election.
The SNP won 7 & 11 MPs in the two 1974 elections which returned Labour governments, then 2/3 for the duration of the Thatcher/Major Conservative governments. Since then, they have returned 5/6 MPs throughout Tony Blair’s Labour victories and David Cameron’s Conservative minority in 2010.
Of course, the projected 40%+ vote for the SNP would return them more like 40 MPs, with Labour sustaining significant losses (up to 30 seats) in the process, which would be a bit of a disaster under normal conditions, although it seems that Labour are polling well enough in England that even this scenario leaves them only a handful of seats short of a majority, giving them a choice of coalition partners.
In short, Labour are trying to stymie the SNP to preserve a majority, not to defeat the Conservatives, which seems more than likely unless the Tories mount an incredible resurgence south of the border.
Furthermore, Labour’s attempt to tie what is essentially an English tax (the Mansion tax) to increased spending in Scotland is a great way to lose votes in England, where they currently lead the polls! Exactly the kind of policy which could well lose them the lead in this election!
Basically, if we end up with a David Cameron led government in May, it will be because Labour lost England this year, not because they lost Scotland… because they did that last year.
Lastly, the sniped attacks at the newly launched free school meals for all Scottish children in Primary 1-3 on the basis that the universal nature of the initiative would see ‘the wealthiest families in Scotland rubbing their hands’ are so counter-productive it defies belief.
Firstly, universalism works, in this case because it removes the stigma of free school meals for ‘poor kids’ and ensures that an entire age bracket of Scottish kids has the opportunity of at least one warm, balanced meal a day. There is no possible world where this is a bad thing.
Secondly, surely the ‘wealthiest families in Scotland’ don’t send their children to state schools, or if they do they probably come home at lunchtime to avoid catching Ebola from the riff-raff.
In short, Scottish Labour’s grand General Election launch showcased promises they can’t keep at this election, attacked their rivals with false assertions and attempted to drag down an undeniably good policy in the name of pithiness.
So much for the party of social justice with a plan for Scotland’s future. More like a desperate bunch of career politicians attempting to score points against a rival who has stolen their high ground in every meaningful way.
Even though it’s comical, it’s quite sad because a sick, flailing Labour party is not good for the health of British or Scottish politics.