The Prime Minister has given a speech in Edinburgh this week in which he outlined what’s going in Scotland with Labour and the Nats as he sees it:
“The SNP and Labour are halfway up the aisle together already. They’ve picked out the wedding list. They’ve booked the honeymoon, probably in North Korea. They’ve set up the joint account – unlimited overdraft, obviously.”
Fine, let’s get this out of the way first: it was a pretty bold line, which you have to appreciate. I’m sure it went down well with the Scottish Tories in attendance.
The Guardian described it as an attack on both Labour and the SNP, and the political media as a whole seems to have taken this angle on it, but I wholeheartedly disagree – if the Scottish Nationalists could put words in Cameron’s to say about them, they’d pick something exactly along the lines of what he said in Edinburgh. This is because it cements the idea in Scottish voters minds that if you vote SNP, you’ll get the best of both worlds: a non-Tory led government in which the SNP play a major role. Look, even David Cameron says so, goes the logic.
Cameron must be well aware that what he’s saying helps the SNP. It is classic David Cameron, in fact: short term, it makes a Labour majority less likely, so go for it. Long term, you’re hastening the break up of the Union, a break up that Cameron supposedly dreads. Or does he think that referenda are in anyway decisive in closing down an issue? The latter explanation would explain a lot.
“A vote for the SNP is a vote for Labour in government.’
Again, perfect SNP messaging, out of the mouth of the Tory prime minister. Fine, perhaps he’s trying to get right leaning SNP voters to plump for the Tories, but ultimately that isn’t the ultimate goal of his Edinburgh speech. It’s like the Bloomberg, EU referendum pledge Cameron delivered in January 2013 – say what you need to in order to get through whatever’s happening now, then deal with the consequences later. Consequences like the Union splitting apart. Or the Conservative party splitting apart for that matter, if we’re talking about the EU referendum pledge.
But the strangest thing about Cameron’s Edinburgh speech is that it manages to achieve something I would have thought previously impossible: it made me feel genuinely sorry for Scottish Labour, and also made me think that perhaps the only way the Union remains in one piece is if they manage to resist the SNP completely. This is probably just another one of the unintended effects of Cameron’s speech.