The Star Wars effect – how Miliband’s tactical gamble may win him the election
Ed Miliband rolled his dice last night on national television and hardened his opposition to the notion of a post-election deal with the SNP, claiming he was “not going to have a Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the SNP”.
The implication was he would rather see the Conservatives in power than be influenced by the Scottish Nationalists. In this one statement he effectively took Jim Murphy out the back and put him out of his misery.
But looking at the latest opinion polls, some might say it is an act of mercy. For the first time in modern history, an election is being fought on two fronts, one which Labour has already lost, and another in which it is fighting neck-and-neck.
And as ‘Blue Labour’ architect Lord Glasman told Holyrood, Labour doesn’t need Scotland to win.
UK General Elections are a numbers game. I imagine Miliband looked at the two versions of the Sun newspaper yesterday. The English copy led with the Conservatives most consistent line of the election campaign: that he was weak enough to let the SNP (also known as Scotland to the paper) dictate policy, while the Scottish version backed the SNP (also known as Scotland to the paper) with a spread showing them all as heroes from Star Wars.
What Miliband has done, effectively, is to sacrifice Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran et al to the Ewoks, and “focused all firepower on that Star Destroyer”. In other words, he has conceded Scotland to the SNP for the time being in order to pull ahead in the rest of the UK.
Because while the Conservatives have played the SNP bogeyman card throughout the campaign, they have failed to pull ahead of Labour, and Miliband has just killed their argument. But what he didn’t rule out, specifically, was a vote-by-vote backing, which Nicola Sturgeon has said she favours anyway.
Does anyone really think this man would throw away an opportunity of a Labour government because he wouldn’t get a formal deal? The SNP may have won Scotland, but by pledging they would not deal with the Conservatives, they diminished their bargaining position, and Miliband is exploiting it.
What next? If Labour become the largest party they will present a Queen’s speech which the SNP will be under pressure to back for fear of being the ones to let the Tories in. Then, on a vote to vote basis, the SNP will be under pressure to back the type of progressive reforms which could gradually win Labour back support in Scotland.
A huge gamble then, but drastic times call for drastic measures. We have a week to go to see if the force is strong with this one.