We’ve never been all that convinced by the political strategy of parties angrily pointing out their rivals have supposedly broken their manifesto promises once in government. After all, since by definition the complaining party was very probably opposed to the policies in question, shouldn’t they be delighted if they haven’t been enacted?
(It’s different, of course, in the event of something like a referendum, where something that all of the parties concerned agree is good – staying in the EU, say, or protecting jobs in the civil service or the oil industry – is promised in return for a particular vote, but then swiftly trashed once that vote is won.)
It’s even weirder if the opposition was the REASON the policies didn’t get enacted. It’s incredibly bizarre to vote something down (as the Unionist parties did repeatedly to the SNP minority administration of 2007-11 when it brought its manifesto pledges forward), and then huff at the governing party for the fact that you outvoted them.
But today the Scottish Tories have found an intriguing new twist on the wheeze.
The Scottish Mail On Sunday and the Times both carry a story straight out of a Tory press release which alleges that the SNP have failed to carry out 51 of their manifesto commitments from the 2007 and 2011 elections.
The party doesn’t actually appear to have released the list anywhere, so we can’t verify it, and neither paper seems to have bothered to either. We’ve checked the Scottish Conservatives website and the Twitter feeds of the party, Ruth Davidson, Jackson Carlaw, Murdo Fraser, Adam Tomkins and John Lamont (the spokesman quoted in the articles) and they’re all concerned with more pressing matters of state.
But there are all sorts of pretty obviously weird things about the attack. The first two we’ve already covered above. The third is that whether the promises in the 2007 and 2011 manifestos were all kept and how much that matters is something that’s already been judged by the electorate – in the 2011 and 2016 elections respectively, both of which the SNP won in a landslide – so it’s hard to imagine what the Tories are hoping to achieve by raking over them again now.
Strangest of all, though, is seeing the Tories taking their tactical playbook from the one party in Scotland that you’d think absolutely nobody would want to emulate.
Scottish Labour campaigned in the 2011 Holyrood election on the back of a dossier alleging almost twice as many “broken SNP promises” in just four years as the Tories claim to have found in 10 years. The result was the first of the galactic-scale thrashings the voters of Scotland have handed the party on a regular basis ever since.
(The Tories assert that 29 promises from the 2007 manifesto were in fact broken, which logically means that since 2011 the SNP must have delivered 71 of the ones Labour were complaining about, which is pretty good going in anyone’s book.)
It’s not exactly a shock to see Scotland’s two main opposition parties acting like they’ve already merged, of course. It’s just that if one of them was going to crib its moves from the other one, you’d have thought it’d be the one that’s sinking like a stone that’d be desperately trying to copy the one that was on the up.