One of the more predictable outcomes of the seven-person-slam leaders’ debate held last Thursday evening was that Nicola Sturgeon came out of it well. She’s a very good public speaker, few in England would have heard her speak, and best of all from her perspective, she’s in the party riding highest at the moment, all things considered.
On a related note, Ed Miliband’s pre-debate notes were found in his dressing room and have been subsequently leaked to the political media. Most of the talk regarding this story has centred on one phrase – “happy warrior” – something the notes make clear was a personal projection the Labour leader was to keep in mind throughout the televisual proceedings. But if you actually read more about what was found in these notes, something much more relevant than some trivial Axelrod-esque (or indeed, possibly genuine Axelrod) mentoring of minor humour value is to be discovered.
In the notes were four detailed attacks on the SNP. They are as follows:
“Your own plan for fiscal autonomy means £6bn more cuts in Scotland – that’s extending Tory austerity, not ending it.”
“I’m determined to fight those cuts as I am to fight David Cameron’s cuts. I’ll tell you Nicola, £6bn of SNP cuts feel exactly the same as £6bn of Tory cuts.”
“What you don’t tell people is that you used to oppose Nato – now you’re in favour of it. Nato is a nuclear alliance your position does not make any sense.”
“Your message is pretty odd Nicola. You say you would prefer a new Labour government but you are telling people to vote anyone but Labour. My message is very simple to get a Labour government vote for a Labour government.”
All of these are fantastic attack lines for Ed to direct towaards the leader of the SNP. Only problem is, as you may have already gathered, Miliband didn’t use any of them in the debate. In fact, he seemed to want to avoid Sturgeon all together. This is my one criticism of his performance in the debate, but it’s a pretty big one.
Have the Labour Party not yet caught on to what an existential threat they face in the Scottish National Party? They are set to wipe out your largest heartland, guys. Douglas Alexander is under threat to lose his seat, for God’s sake. Taking on Sturgeon probably should have been Miliband’s second highest priority (the first being to get the best of Cameron) on the night. Instead, he wasted time going after Clegg – no seats to be had against the Lib Dems that aren’t already pretty much in the bank – and Farage – who threatens Labour interests very little in the short term.
If the answer is, well, the SNP are willing to do a deal with Labour and only Labour, so no point in going after them too strongly, I should point out that the SNP have their reasons for this line of positioning. Yes, a big part of it is that the Tories are so toxic in Scotland, the Nats had to shore up their vote by ruling out any Tory deal’s possibility. But it’s also because they want to destroy the Labour Party in Scotland forever. And the Labour Party are sleepwalking into a situation in which they hand the SNP the axe, put their collective necks on the chopping block, and then help the beheading commence. All because they think it’s one, inevitable and two, won’t be that bad and will all be recoverable at some point in the future anyhow. It will, however, be much worse than they seem able to possibly imagine – unless they start doing something about it, now.