The general election 2015 has rounded the last bend and is heading down the final straight, with no clear winner in sight. Four days from now the UK electorate will go to the polls and deliver, if the numbers are to be believed, an unholy mess. Only one part of the country seems to know with clarity what it wants, and that’s “not Labour”.
The North British branch of the party has in truth been a political Easter egg for years – big and impressive-looking on the outside, but entirely hollow within – and this year it looks like the voters are finally going to shatter the shell and leave nothing but a small heap of fragments revealing just how little chocolate was ever there.
And the realisation has sent Labour completely out of its mind.
Above is a picture of the Conservative candidate for the East Renfrewshire seat, David Montgomery, campaigning yesterday at a stall in Clarkston shared with Scottish Labour regional manager Jim Murphy. (Who can be seen below at the same location a little later the same day.)
We’ve had unconfirmed reports of the same thing happening in other Scottish towns this weekend – open, unashamed public alliances between the two parties who swear blind that they’re mortal enemies and that each is the only hope of stopping the other forming the government.
It’s as if the referendum was this September, not eight months ago, and “Better Together” still lived. (An impression bolstered, of course, by the presence of so many of BT’s leading lights – to use the rhyming slang – at Scottish Labour HQ.) But it’s just one symptom of the demented, furious madness gripping the party that won 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats in 2010, and which could yet cost it the election.
Yesterday we highlighted the deception being practiced in Anas Sarwar’s seat, with a whole army of imaginary voters being concocted in order to send identical “personal” letters to residents of particular streets.
(We’re told by a source inside Labour, incidentally, that particular pressure is being put on the city’s Muslim and Asian community by Sarwar’s influential father Mohammad, a business kingpin who’s knocking doors and warning people not to kick out his son.)
We’re also seen another re-run of a classic “Better Together” tactic, with Jim Murphy sending frightened elderly voters a letter warning of dire consequences for their pensions should the SNP win.
More alarmingly, we’ve also seen a fake letter sent to a new SNP member purporting to be from the party, which starts plausibly before urging the recipient to vote Tory on the grounds that an SNP-Labour collaboration couldn’t work.
Despite that ostensible appeal the only logical source for the letter would be Labour supporters seeking to horrify new members who’d almost certainly have come from Labour, and send them back to the party.
That whoever sent it appears to have access to a database enabling them to target new SNP members is an especially sinister development.
It’s not just in Scotland that insanity has seized Labour. The Observer reports today that Ed Miliband plans to install a nine-foot stone monolith in the Rose Garden at 10 Downing Street if elected, with his key pledges (including the infamous “CONTROLS ON IMMIGRATION”) engraved on it, so that he can see it from his office.
(Combined with the Tories’ pledge to pass a law forbidding themselves from raising tax, thoughtful voters might well find themselves pondering why the two main parties have so little apparent belief in the honesty of their OWN promises that they need to either legally disqualify themselves from breaking them or build a ridiculous giant “Vowhenge” to keep themselves on the straight and narrow 24 hours a day.)
And the Labour website Labour Uncut has thrown caution to the wind and driven a coach and horses through every electoral law in the country by not only admitting that Labour has been illegally surveying and tallying postal votes, but then actually publishing the findings.
As far as we’re aware there’s still an ongoing police investigation in Scotland into several Unionist figures, including Scottish Labour’s chief of staff John McTernan and Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, breaking postal-vote laws in similar but lesser ways during the independence referendum.
But it seems not to have dissuaded Labour or Labour Uncut, either from stomping all over those laws even more flagrantly or from gloating about it in public. We can only hope, for the sake of public faith in the democratic process, that there’ll be a serious reckoning for all of them to come.
The litany of lunacy seems almost without end. The same John McTernan last night suddenly conducted a complete U-turn of the principle on which Scottish Labour has conducted its entire election campaign – “the biggest party forms the government” – as media outlets leaked that the Tories would declare themselves the winners should they get the most seats, and left-wing pundits denounced such a move in horrified terms as a “coup d’etat”.
Of course, should the Conservatives attempt such a “coup”, they’d be able to produce dozens, perhaps hundreds, of quotes from senior Labour MPs – almost all Scottish – explictly backing their right to do so in the clearest possible terms.
Mindbogglingly, this appears to be a scenario that didn’t occur to Labour as they frantically tried to cling onto their Scottish fiefdom. And the implacably strident manner in which the UK party has rejected the democratic right of nationalist parties in Scotland to participate in UK government (while working enthusiastically with an Irish nationalist party) has deepened the hole Ed Miliband has idiotically dug himself into.
In essence, Labour’s strategy has been to attempt to hold the entire UK hostage in order to secure the seats on the Westminster gravy train of a bunch of Scottish MPs who are ultimately irrelevant to its chances of forming the government. “Don’t you dare vote SNP, however much you want to, because it’ll let the Tories in and that’ll be your fault” has been the constant hammer.
Yet as noted in the Labour-supporting Sunday People today, success for the SNP in Scotland actually HELPS Labour overall, because the SNP will not only vote against the Tories but can capture Lib Dem seats which currently support David Cameron and which Labour would have no hope of taking.
Currently Scotland provides a net 35 anti-Tory MPs (47 Labour and SNP minus 12 Tory and Lib Dem). Even were the SNP to pull off a clean sweep, wiping Labour out totally, that number would rise to 59 anti-Tory MPs. That’s 24 extra anti-Tory votes in the Commons compared to Labour’s Scottish landslide of 2010.
In an election as tight as this, those 24 extra votes could easily make the difference between Labour getting in and the coalition managing to cling on. But in its demented, blind, tribal hatred of the Nats, Labour not only risks handing Cameron that 24-seat advantage, but also the moral right to form the government even should the arithmetic be against him, by using Labour’s own “biggest party” lie against it.
Astoundingly, some Labour campaigners have even been complicit in a tactical-voting movement that would give even MORE Scottish seats to the Tories and Lib Dems – 16 rather than 12, whichever variant of the hilarious “wheel” you choose to follow, and every one of them giving the Tories at least six seats to their current one.
(Were the wheel to succeed entirely in its aims, Scotland would provide a net figure of just 27 anti-Tory MPs rather than 59, increasing Cameron’s advantage to 32.)
This year’s may be the single most catastrophically stupid election campaign ever undertaken by Labour (or anyone) in the UK, eclipsing even the party’s infamous 1983 “longest suicide note in history”.
Faced with an inconceivably brutal Tory administration which has failed in the single goal – ending the deficit – which it used to justify its cruelty, and the near-certain total collapse of the Lib Dems, only the most staggering ineptitude could have cost Labour power this time. But having thrown away a double-digit lead from the mid-point of the coalition, Ed Miliband may yet snatch defeat from victory’s jaws.
If he does so, the blame will lie almost entirely with his Scottish lieutenants, whose unthinking bile has led him to the brink of a Tory trap laid by David Cameron the day after the referendum. Counter-intuitive though it seems, Miliband’s best hope by far of being the next Prime Minister now lies in the SNP winning as many seats as possible.