Why a Labour/SNP coalition could spell the end of Labour as a major party

Robert Henderson

There is a better than sporting chance that Labour and the SNP could form a coalition after the coming General Election.  Polls suggest that Labour will lose the vast majority of the 41 seats they currently hold in Scotland with the SNP having between 30-40+ seats.  In addition, despite Labour’s dire present leadership,  the national UK polls persistently show the Tories with at best  a lead of  only a few points and now and then  behind Labour by the same margin, this at a time when the Tories  need a substantial lead  to gain a bare majority in the Commons because of the wide differences in constituency sizes, differences which favour Labour, viz:

“ if you leave the Liberal Democrat share of the vote unchanged then the Conservatives need a lead of 11 percentage points over Labour to win an overall majority, while the Labour party can achieve an overall majority with a lead of about 3 percentage points. Equally illustrative are the last two general election results – in 2005 Labour had a lead of 3 points over the Conservatives, and got a majority of over 60 seats; in 2010 the Conservatives had a lead of 7 points over Labour, but did not have an overall majority at all.” UK Polling Report Anthony Wells of YouGov

To this disadvantage can be added  the evidence that ballot rigging on a large scale is taking place in constituencies with large populations of Asians whose ancestry lies in the Indian subscontinent.  As these  Asian voters  are  much more likely to vote  Labour than for the Tories, this also  buttresses  Labour’s likely  2015 electoral performance.

All of this points to a hung House of Commons after 2015. The chances of the Tory Party forming another  coalition even if they are the largest party is much less than it was after the 2010 election.  There are 650 seats in the Commons.   After the 2010  election the Tories had 306, Labour 258 and the LibDems 57 seats.  This provided a clear opportunity  for the Tories to take a coalition partner which would create a government with a  working majority. This situation is unlikely to be repeated. The LibDems, polling 6% in the latest IpsosMori  poll, will almost certainly be reduced to something approaching insignificance , perhaps 20 seats or less. Even if they were willing to form another coalition with the Tories,  on the present polling figures  they would be  unlikely to have sufficient seats to form another working  majority Tory/LibDem  coalition. Note I say working majority. A bare majority  for a Tory/LibDem coalition would not last long even assuming  both parties were willing to agree to it, something which is unlikely as the Tory Parliamentary Party, including backbenchers,  has been promised a say in whether another coalition is formed.  With the possible exception of the Northern Irish UDP, who will probably have less than ten seats after the 2015 election,   no other Party would either be likely to form a coalition with the Tories,  or if they were willing to do so, have sufficient seats to make much of an addition to whatever seats the Tories get.

That leaves either  a Labour/SNP coalition or a rainbow coalition of Labour with partners drawn from the SNP, LibDems,  the various Ulster parties, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and Respect.   (Ukip have ruled out a coalition with any of the major parties.)

The temptation for Miliband  to make a coalition with the SNP  is great, but it would almost certainly deal the Labour a mortal blow and finish it as a major party within two Parliaments .   That is because Miliband would not only  have to deny  England English votes for English laws, but would be forced as a condition for SNP support  to give more and more powers to  all the devolved assemblies because it would be politically impossible to deny the Welsh and Northern Irish  extra powers if Scotland gets more. Such a coalition might also end up  increasing the gap between   the  Treasury pro-rata funding of  people in  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  and  the much lower figure in England.

As a consequence Labour would  rapidly be seen by the English as an anti-English party,  while the Tories would be forced to make a choice between tolerating the  injustice of the situation on the spurious grounds that they did not  want to have second class MPs in the Commons  (English MPs already are second class MPs because of  the devolved assemblies)  and becoming the Party of and for England.  In view of the growing English anger and the seeming impossibility of ever regaining  sufficient   representation in Scotland and Wales to be again a serious force there, the likelihood is that the Tories would become the de facto Party for England, even if they probably would  not openly  embrace the title.

In such a situation the Labour would find their vote in England diminishing.  At the General Election after the 2015 they would probably suffer significant losses in England. At the same time they would not get any credit in Scotland and Wales for giving more devolved powers to those home countries. Rather, the message  to Scots and Welsh electors would be elect even more SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs and you will get further  favours from the Westminster Government because  there will be more nationalist MPs to influence  Westminster Governments either by selling their support for a coalition with Labour or to deny the Tories office.    SNP support will be made even firmer and  Labour support in Wales is likely to suffer the fate the same fate as it has in  Scotland  and move en masse to the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru.

This would leave Labour almost entirely dependent on England for its representation, an England which they would be incensing throughout their period of coalition government by refusing English vote for English laws and pandering to Scotland, Wales and Northern  Ireland. The probable  consequence of that would  be much diminished Labour support in England at the  General Election after  the one in 2015 (2020 unless the fixed term for parliaments is abolished) . That  is likely to  be the end of Labour as a major party because the total  Commons seats outside England  are only 117. Even if all were willing to support a coalition government to keep the Tories out of office (a wildly improbable proposition),  Labour would need around 233 English seats to give such a coalition a working majority  and 209 seats for a majority of one.  A Labour Party which had  greatly antagonised the English, as a coalition dependent on non-English seat MPs would inevitably do, is unlikely to be able to muster anywhere near 200 English seats let alone enough for a working majority (In the 2010 election Labour only managed 191 English seats).

What applies to a Labour/SNP coalition would also generally apply to a rainbow coalition.  The only significant differences would be  (1) a larger  number of parties in a  coalition  makes for a less durable and coherent  government  and (2) more parties which put up candidates in English seats would become toxic for much of the English electorate.

On balance the result of  anti-English coalitions – let  us call them what they would be – should improve the chances for the devolution settlement being adjusted to give England  a mainstream political voice, through English votes for English laws at first , then  moving to the creation of an English Parliament.   But there is a fly in the ointment. The danger for England is that if Labour did form a coalition with the SNP  or a rainbow coalition,   they would do what they could to reduce the power and scope of the Westminster Parliament  in the next Parliament.  Labour and the LibDems  have already signalled that their solution to the constitutional imbalance between England and the rest of the UK  caused by devolution  is some form of ill-defined Heath-Robinson devolution to cities and regions in England. All of the likely members of a rainbow coalition would be happy to go along with that general type of policy.

Such a policy would be simply a ploy to Balkanise England and emasculate her  politically.  For example, suppose a Labour/SNP coalition forced regional assemblies onto England. Although the English have shown themselves to be averse to such assemblies by roundly voting down the proposal for such an assembly in the North East of England in 2004 with  78%  against  the proposal,  it would be perfectly possible and legal  for  a Labour/SNP   government to create regional assemblies by a vote in the Commons and the Lords. Once established such assemblies would not be easy to get rid of because new political classes would be created which had the democratic credibility of being elected.  Moreover, if  there has been several years before the 2020 General Election of the new structures functioning with less and less being done at Westminster, the importance in the public eye of a General Election may be substantially reduced.

A strong government with a good majority could abolish such devolved structures , but the sad truth is that the political elite in England is, regardless of party,  are opposed to an English Parliament and would, even while burbling on about English votes for English laws, be more than happy to see the devolution for England issue fudged.  Because of this it is essential that politicians of  whatever party who wish to see England treated equitably, whether from principle or simply because they can see the dangers for their own party in ignoring English interests, speak out against anything which will leave England politically emasculated.

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10 Responses to Why a Labour/SNP coalition could spell the end of Labour as a major party

  1. Peter Brown says:

    Come back Guido, all is forgiven

  2. To use the scare term “balkanisation” for what could be a federal UK is a bit disingenuous since the term refers to the total secession of a countries constituent parts as happened in Yugoslavia. And who can say that was a bad thing? If the English regions are given their own regional governments (of approx 5 million people in each) it is highly unlikely to lead to any of them wanting to secede from the union so England will not be balkanised. More equality in population size might even keep Scotland, Wales, and NI in the union as they will be less inclined to see “England” as dominating the union. As I have said before, 55 million (and rising) people under one centralised “English parliament” is way far too many for good transparent governance. There is ample evidence in Europe that small political units work much better than large ones because people feel they have more of a voice, which they certainly don’t under the present system especially with the absurdly unfair and undemocratic FPTP system where only those who live in marginal constituencies really have any influence.

    • William Gruff says:

      I’m very surprised to see that people are still trotting out this rubbish, which is itself disingenuous rather than the term ‘balkanisation’. There’s a certain sort of arrogant half-wit who argues, from a position of assumed intellectual and moral superiority that is entirely bogus, that England must be denied the sort of national self-determination allowed in an ever stronger form to Scotland, Wales and that bit of Ireland that really should be cast adrift, simply to maintain a ‘union’ that brings the country nothing but disadvantage. Why must England be carved up into five-million sized chunks (chunks that are the same size as Scotland by some odd coincidence) in defiance of the clear will of the people of England, and why am I not surprised that you believe FPtP to be ‘undemocratic’ (presumably you’d replace it with some form of ‘PR’, which is demonstrably undemocratic to anyone with more than half a brain)?

      Are you one of those who asserts that counting in tens is far more ‘rational’ than measuring things with a king’s arm?

      • “why must England…”

        Please don’t put words into my mouth – I never said MUST – I am simply wishing to promote a debate – a debate which has never been held since, as I said, 55 million people under one centralised govt does not augur well for efficient and transparent governance. Imagine the uproar if Obama were to suggest the USA have only 6 states of 55 million each..! Not saying the USA system is the ideal. but its better than what we have.

        “in defiance of the clear will…” Tallk about being disingenuous..! You cannot say that it is the “clear will” when the issue has NEVER been discussed, excepting the very half-hearted “proposal” for the NE to have its own assembly. And why only them?

        5 million is not an “odd co-incidence” – its happens to approximate the population of the old Saxon kingdoms and other traditional regions to which most Englishmen in their heart of hearts still feel loyalty to and an affinity for…viz…

        Northumbria
        Lancastria
        Yorkshire (very strong identity, why they even have their own tea..!)
        West Mercia (West Midlands)
        East Mercia (East Midlands)
        East Anglia (approx 3 million or about the same as Wales)
        Wessex
        South East (as yet un-named, but perhaps “Home Counties”?)
        London (obviously an exception to the 5 million “rule”)

        “‘PR’, which is demonstrably undemocratic to anyone with more than half a brain?”

        Its obvious why FPTP is undemocratic – it effectively means that people who live in marginal constituencies have about 100x the voting strength of those who live in “safe” constituencies. Can you imagine the squeals of righteous indignation if someone were to propose that some people (e.g., whole brains like you) get 100 votes and half-brains only 1…!! Well thats the system we’ve got except it tends to be the half-brains who have the 100 votes. (myself excepted since I refuse to vote in this farcical system)

        Anyway since I only have a “half-brain” I shall leave it to a whole brain like YOU to explain why PR is “demonstrably undemocratic”?

        BTW – “Gruff by name, gruff by nature” would be an appropriate by-line for you.

    • YOU ARE A COMPLETE PRICK…ENGLAND IS A COUNTRY AND WILL ALWAYS BE A COUNTRY…WE NEED A MORE AGGRESSIVE PRO ENGLISH PARTY TO KEEP ON ABOUT THE INEQUALITIES OF THIS SO CALLED UNION…I COULD NOT GIVE A FIG WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CELTIC FRINGE…LET THEM RAISE THEIR OWN TAXES…BUT BY GOD DO NOT GIVE THEM 1 PENNY OF ENGLISH TAXES..REGARDLESS OF THEIR SUFFERING..AND MAKE SURE NONE SEEP THROUGH THE BORDER…NO RIGHTS OF ENTRY TO THE NEW ANTI ENGLISH FOREIGNERS..GOT IT

  3. David Brown says:

    preparing for civil war or Greece still economic collapse here is a very sinister legislation being put through now and avaliable for missuse by which every anti- English party holds the balance of power, http://www.john-maloney.blogspot.com./2015/02/warmonger.html

  4. jazz606 says:

    Upon Regionalisation England as a political entity would cease to exist, which of course is the whole point of it.
    Regionalisation should only be under the aegis of an English Parliament. Regionalisation prior to the formation of such a parliament would be disastrous for all Englishmen be they from Yorkshire, Cornwall, Northumberland, Essex or anywhere else.

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