This election is turning into a tale of two splits: a split on the Right between the Conservatives and Ukip and a split on the Left between Labour and the Scottish Nationalists.
Ukip has eaten into the Tory vote and to some extent Labour’s support among the white working class in the north of England. The challenge for David Cameron over the remaining three weeks of the campaign is to win back those Conservative defectors. But the task facing Ed Miliband is just as great as he confronts the SNP surge north of the border.
The Labour message in Scotland is that a vote for the SNP is a vote for continuing Conservative occupation of Downing Street. But so far, Miliband’s warning has failed to have any traction, with the SNP set to seize most of his 41 seats in the country. Last night in the so-called “Challengers” TV debate, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon again sought to blunt the Labour counter-offensive by urging Miliband to work with her to lock the Tories out of Downing Street.
Sturgeon, who has emerged as one of the most effective if appallingly leftist figures of the campaign, knows that the Labour warning about the risks of voting SNP is potentially a great danger to her hopes of a Scottish landslide. So she is presenting herself as Ed’s ally in forming a popular anti-Tory front. Not for the first time, Miliband struggled to rebuff her advances, speaking of the profound differences between the two parties.
But are they so profound? True they disagree over the Union and over the replacement of Trident, but in many respects Miliband is merely trying to draw a moderate veneer over his irredeemably left-wing party. The core of the Labour Party is chafing at the thought of five more years of spending cuts and is only keeping quiet for fear of spooking Middle England and advertising its internal divisions.
Here lies one of Cameron’s few remaining opportunities to put Miliband on the back foot and lure Labour supporters in England into the Tory fold. The most likely outcome of the election is a fragile minority Labour government propped up by Sturgeon’s tartan hordes. In other words, we face the prospect of a seriously left-wing party governing in hock to a far left party dedicated to the break-up of the Union. It is scarcely surprising that the SNP is so extreme in its attitudes. Why would it contemplate behaving responsibly and working to eliminate the deficit when it believes that its ultimate goal of independence can best be achieved by making the UK virtually ungovernable?
Today’s Daily Telegraph rightly describes an alliance between Labour and the SNP as a “grotesque hybrid” that would be a calamity for the whole country. One could go further. A Labour-SNP alliance would confront us with a British version of Syriza, the far-left grouping that is busy ruining what is left of Greece. Add the mad-cap Greens and the equally batty Plaid Cymru to this explosive cocktail and the UK could wake up on May 8 to a new anti-austerity governing coalition dedicated to undoing much of the work of the past five years and with no interest in balancing the books by 2020 – Labour’s stated goal but one that would soon be torpedoed with this bunch of maniacs calling the shots.
Can the Conservatives rise to the challenge? Can Cameron and Co bring home to the country – especially the 85 per cent of it to be found in poor, downtrodden England – that Miilband and his Celtic militants would bleed us dry while moaning all the way to the bank? The PM has spoken of having a tiger in his tank. He is going to need an army of wild beasts to halt this leftist wrecking crew.
It should be recalled that the SNP lost the referendum last autumn, partly because Cameron and Miliband unveiled yet more concessions to buy off their demand to have their cake and eat it. It has proved a pyrrhic victory. The sense of grudge and grievance in Scotland, amounting to downright loathing of the English in some quarters, has clearly reached monumental proportions and is now threatening the prospect of any form of decent government down south.
This could turn very nasty. The English, making up 85 per cent of the population of the UK, will not take kindly to being dictated to by a bunch of unreconstructed Scottish socialists. Pretty soon, it won’t be the Scots demanding independence, it will be the English.