Jo Swinson: Tories preferred SNP MPs to Liberal Democrats

The most successful parties in the UK at the moment are the Conservatives and the SNP, parties which are supposedly totally opposed in terms of values but who seem to be fuelling each others’ gains.

We know that Alex Salmond helped give oxygen to the Tories’ increasingly incredible and hyperbolic claims during the general election by hinting at demands he’d make of Ed Miliband. We know that the Tories spent a small fortune in seats they couldn’t win in Scotland in a strategy that could only have had the effect of ensuring that the SNP won.

There is a school of thought in this party that puts our atrocious result down to the Tory’s scaremongering about the SNP and Labour in coalition. Others say that this is a smokescreen and that actually our poor messaging was at fault. Actually, I think both were pretty strong factors and I think that we legitimised what the Tories were doing by running scared of it rather than calling it out for the nonsense it was.

The Herald reports Jo Swinson’s comments about the impact of the Tory campaign in her seat and others:

In recent weeks both the Scottish LibDem and Scottish Labour leaders have suggested they would allow their MPs and MSPs to campaign for a Yes vote in a second referendum.

But Ms Swinson said that the Conservatives were “quite content with having an SNP MP rather than a Lib Dem MP”.

After the independence referendum polls showed that her main opponent in her East Dunbartonshire seat was the SNP, she said.

She added: “The Conservatives (eventually) came fourth in East Dunbartonshire, with 9 per cent of the vote.

“They were never going to win in East Dunbartonshire. And they knew that.

“But they spent large amounts of money, buying full-page advertisements in magazines that went to every house in half the constituency, having bar charts suggesting that they were the only ones that could beat the SNP.”

She added: “I think they there is an interesting question mark about the wider Conservative strategy.

In (the party) being quite content with having an SNP MP, in some cases, elected in preference over a Liberal Democrat MP.

“And there were certainly other seats in Scotland where they did the same thing.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • David Evans 4th Oct '15 - 9:25am

    Our atrocious result was down to Nick making a total mess of being in government despite being repeatedly offered advice from those in Local government who had made coalition work, and MPs who didn’t have the courage to get rid of him when it became clear he was leading us to disaster. Sadly those who say “History will look kindly on us” are only trying to cover up their failings.

    Until we accept this and its implications we will continue to decline. Just look at Thursday’s by election results.

  • Simon Horner 4th Oct '15 - 9:37am

    The Conservatives did the same here in North-East Fife. They opened an office in Cupar, were very visible on the streets, apparently did extensive telephone canvassing and put out a lot of literature featuring a bar chart (based on national figures) to “show” they were the main challengers.
    When I was canvassing, I witnessed the effect of the bar chart among wavering voters who believed the Tory claim. We ended up beating them by almost two to one – and there was never the slightest chance that they would come second here. The effect of their huge effort was simply to boost the SNP majority.

  • Nick Collins 4th Oct '15 - 9:58am

    Tories using misleading bar charts! I wonder where they got that idea?

  • So in the seats where we are on 9% (or more likely 3%) do we prefer Tory MPs or SNP ones?

  • I agree . I think an SNP win was desirable for the Conservative’s because it helped to discredit the Lib Dems and Labour. The wider problem with the Lib Dem campaign was a failure to understand that the Conservatives were the main opposition in a lot of seats and so it seemed focused on maintaining the coalition into the next parliament which meant the messaging was too close.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Oct '15 - 3:42pm

    “There is a school of thought in this party that puts our atrocious result down to the Tory’s scaremongering about the SNP and Labour in coalition. Others say that this is a smokescreen and that actually our poor messaging was at fault.”

    Neither set of thoughts could have involved much schooling.

    Although both issues will have affected things at the fringe, the main issue was that most voters in most constituencies had decided long since that their overall experience or interpretation of the Lib Dems in Coalition was not one which permitted them to support even the most marvellous of ministers or constituency MPs with their votes in May. Trying to vaguely ‘message’ or ‘massage’your way out of this, especially with the Tories’ ‘SNP threat’ playing as an alternate clear and strong message would be like trying to speed up a car by breaking the plastic cover and pushing the speedometer.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Oct '15 - 9:59pm

    The tories have said that they were overdrawn by £28 million when DC became leader, raised £250 million from donors, and from what DC said today 4/10/2015, are almost in surplus.

  • Jane Ann Liston 5th Oct '15 - 10:48am

    Simon is quite right – they cleverly used the Scotland-wide state of the parties to imply that we were down to 4% in North East Fife. Utter nonsense, as we got 30%, and the Tories at 14% got their worst result here for some time. Although, some folk were taken in, I don’t think they will be again, and happily it will be the same stats-mangling candidate. standing for Holyrood.

    This shows that the Tory strategy was to get rid of diligent LibDems and gamble that there wouldn’t be another referendum before 2020, when at the GE they would present themselves as the only way to ‘save’ the Union. It also shows that they consider a LibDem MP more difficult to fight than an SNP one.

  • But there are some interesting parallels between the Tories and the SNP, for example:
    (1) both pretty authoritarian;
    (b) both seeking the break-up of the UK (the SNP explicitly, and the Tories seem to be acting in a way that fuels the desire for independence in Scotland);
    (c) both struggling to see the bigger picture (of the EU for the Tories and of the UK for the SNP), where LibDems seem to have an instinct for the international perspective.

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