Margaret Beckett reports on reasons for Labour’s defeat

Dame Margaret Beckett a former deputy and acting leader of the Labour Party has reported her findings on the reasons behind Labour’s loss of the election in 2015. We need to understand this dispassionately, alongside the reasons for our great losses, some of which will overlap.

Firstly, five reasons that Beckett doubts.

As the new leadership plan for 2020, they should approach with caution a number of theories for our defeat that sound plausible but need to be nuanced and substantiated:

“We had the wrong policies.” In fact our individual polices polled well, the issue was the difficulty in creating a cohesive, consistent narrative and communicating this clearly and simply

“We were out of tune with the public on deficit reduction.” While trust on the economy and blame for the deficit were major factors, BES analysis suggests that the majority of people thought that the cuts were going too far and preferred higher taxes to further cuts as the route to deficit reduction

“We were too left wing.” This is not a simple discussion. Many of our most “left wing” polices were the most popular. These were the kind of policies the public expected from Labour. An analysis by BES suggests that some of those who supported us would have been less likely to had they seen us as less left wing. Both the SNP and Greens gained votes in this election and arguably they were seen as to the left of Labour. However, we did fail to convert voters in demographic groups who are traditionally seen as in the centre, we lost voters to UKIP, failed to win back Liberal Democrat voters in sufficient numbers in the right places, and lost a small number of voters to the Tories.

“We were too anti-business.” We are, of course, wholehearted supporters of a strong and responsible private sector. As in previous elections, the Tories worked hard to mobilise their big business supporters to attack us. And when people are insecure about jobs and wages, such propaganda fosters uncertainty.

However, polls showed a wish, from voters, for us to be tougher on big business, and policies that were unpopular with many senior business people, such as the energy price freeze and the Mansion Tax, were popular with voters. Moreover, we had a strong and positive agenda for small and medium-sized businesses.

“We were seen as anti–aspiration.” Few thought this was the case specifically. However we need to be clearer that we are concerned for the prosperity of all and have a clearly articulated strategy for growth.

In general, we believe that these commonly held reasons for defeat should be treated with caution and require deeper analysis. Often they were contributory factors to the broader narrative rather than necessarily significant reasons in their own right.

I have fewer doubts. These are all valid criticisms though none are fatal. The same voters might be against spending cuts and against tax rises. The mood music of complaining bitterly about every cut suggests an inability to make tough choices when necessary, and that will concern even voters willing to have higher taxes and fewer cuts. Trust in New Labour on the economy was very much built on a convincing showing of spending restraint.

So what are the reasons according to Beckett:

We have consistently heard four reasons for our defeat both from pollsters and from those on the doorstep:

  • Failure to shake off the myth that we were responsible for the financial crash and therefore failure to build trust in the economy
  • Inability to deal with the issues of “connection” and, in particular, failing to convince on benefits and immigration
  • Despite his surge in 2015, Ed Miliband still wasn’t judged to be as strong a leader as David Cameron
  • The fear of the SNP “propping up” a minority Labour government

Of these, the effect of the SNP threat is the most disputed. The Tories played heavily on it at the end of the campaign. The evidence is unclear. Some analysis suggests there was no clear late switching. However, it was heard consistently on the doorstep that this scaremongering raised concerns. It may have reinforced the views of those who had already decided not to vote Labour, and, if so, may have had a decisive impact in a small number of constituencies.

Taking these one at a time, Labour can feel hard done by taking all the blame for the financial crash, but their outrage over this clouds a point where they were nailed-on-guilty. Because Labour claimed the moral high ground over every spending cut, it was necessary to point out that there being less money to spend was a consequence of what happened on their watch.

On “benefits and immigration” I am reminded of the “Britain is more left wing than you think” story resurfacing in the Independent this week, that I debunked last year. Choose your leading questions carefully!

On perceptions of Ed Miliband as a strong leader, this is bang to rights. He was torn left and right on having a clear position on the economy and deficit, and sticking to it. He wasn’t New Labour and he wasn’t Old Labour. What was he?

And on the SNP – I am convinced this cost Labour and us many seats. Sheffield Hallam is an exception – with a large Tory vote to squeeze, we used the ‘SNP fear’ and it worked. I used it on the doorstep many times, and the Conservatives on the doorstep agreed, and turned out for us. And because it is something to fear, the tactic will probably work again in 2020, unless the Scottish people decide they’d like to exercise some control over who forms the UK government.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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58 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jan '16 - 4:47pm

    I have thought about the SNP problem resurfacing for Labour in 2020 too. It is very hard to know how to deal with it because Ed Miliband ruled out a coalition with the SNP and even said “he’d rather not be Prime Minister” and the attacks still seemed to stick.

    I’m not very impressed with what I’ve seen from Beckett’s report. If you dissolve the policies and the ideological spectrum of the manifesto from responsibility then it is close to blaming the whole thing on a funny bacon sandwich photo. Ed Miliband didn’t lose because he looked a bit less “macho” than Cameron.

  • “And on the SNP – I am convinced this cost Labour and us many seats. Sheffield Hallam is an exception – with a large Tory vote to squeeze, we used the ‘SNP fear’ and it worked. I used it on the doorstep many times”,

    Thanks a bundle, Joe. Just what we need to hear in Scotland.

    In fact, the Liberal Democrats in Scotland suffered greatly because of association with the Conservatives in the Coalition. We knew that from day one.. They also suffered because of the replacement of the previous Secretary of State who was regarded as head and shoulders more able than his successor as a negotiator with Salmond.

  • Labour followed an unconvincing narrative on the economy, being in denial about their role in creating a huge deficit and a structurally weak, highly indebted economy. Had we not gone into the recession with a 3% government deficit, by 2010 it would have been a more manageable 7%, not the 10% plus bequeathed to the Coalition. The task of reducing it would not have been either so urgent or so large. On top of that, the recession would have been shallower if the economy hadn’t been so dependent on household debt and an over expanded and under regulated financial services sector for growth.

    The threat of a weak Labour government propped up by the SNP was also a very real one and many people I spoke to on the doorstep mentioned it.

    The voters judged that things were starting to get better economically and they didn’t want a party that was still in denial about its dismal economic record back in government.

  • Labour grandee announces:

    “wasn’t our fault gov’ner”

    Quelle surprise

    as they say in Merthyr.

  • Mark Smulian 19th Jan '16 - 5:20pm

    At least Labour has published its report. I understand the equivalent Lib Dem one was released only to Federal Executive members on paper, which they were obliged to return at the end of their meeting, and has otherwise remained secret.

  • I went out in Hallam a couple of times and completely agree with Joe – Tory leaning voters were terrified of the SNP.

    I also went out in Cheadle and saw the exactly the same thing – but with previous Lib Dem voters. Having previously voted LibDem a Lab/Lib/SNP coalition terrified many of them (generally older voters in my experience), so they voted out the excellent Mark Hunter in their droves. Such a shame as they now have an absent MP in the form of Mary Robinson who barely visits her constituency,

    The question for me is – how do we stop this happening again in 2020?

  • gavin grant 19th Jan '16 - 5:53pm

    This election was similar to ’92 in the outcome being uncertain right up to the close of poll. In ’92 we were squeezed. Lib Dem inclined and undecided voters moved to a liked Tory leader in John Major rejecting Labour’s Neil Kinnock as not being up to the job of PM. This time the SNP element added to the Tory switch and our being tainted in the eyes of progressive voters, fairly or unfairly, also cost us dear. In 2020 Cameron will have gone. I suspect Corbyn will be viewed as unelectable just as Michael Foot was in ’83. The question is whether we can recover and be relevant as we did after ’79. Politics is very dynamic and fluid. We’ve no inevitable “right to recovery” nor have Labour. It is also right to say that we need to be more honest about our mistakes and the lessons we need to learn.

  • David Allen 19th Jan '16 - 6:01pm

    Labour are quite right to argue that Osborne’s deficit scare story was the “Big Lie” which the Tories used to steal the election. Sure, Labour were in power, and they made some mistakes. The Tories have absolutely no right to criticise, because they conspicuously failed to oppose “light-touch” regulation of the finance industry, and they also failed to oppose Labour’s small (and unimportant) overspending, prior to the crash.

    The crash was a global phenomenon. To blame it on one party in one country was a “Big Lie” by the Tories. Insofar as Labour deserve to be singled out at all, in international terms, Gordon Brown deserves to be singled out for praise, for leading the rescue of the global banking system.

    I know what the coalitionists are going to say. They will deny responsibility for the “Big Lie”, and claim that they are merely pointing out the self-evident truth that a party in power has to take some responsibility for what happens on its watch. Rubbish. Our coalitionists colluded with a “Big Lie” which was deliberately invented and propagated by the Tories. It is time we stopped doing so.

    It matters. Lynton Crosby wins elections by “throwing dead cats on the table”, by concocting false myths, by inventing scare stories. We won’t stop him scaring voters away – from us as well as Labour – until we confront what he does, disown it, and discredit the politics of fear and deception.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Jan '16 - 6:04pm

    Joe

    Clegg asked a former Conservative candidate to write to Tory voters, who were asked to lend their vote to the Lib Dems. Nowhere in the letter does it mention the SNP but does lean heavily on not allowing the Lbour candidate to win.

    This does raise something of a conundrum – is it ok to win at any cost or should there be a certain standard to a campaign?

  • 1…Most media outlets (including the BBC) were anti-Labour

    2…Most voters read only the political headlines….

    3…Most headlines were ‘scaremongering’ lies/half truths

    4…Far more headlines/importance were devoted to details of “eating a bacon sandwich” than asking details of “£13 billion in welfare cuts”..

  • @David Raw you are right to be upset at the awful destruction of the party in Scotland to save the skins of others during the Election. The truth is I doubt many in the party now are too troubled about Scot Lib Dem fortunes as they know its game over and come May when its 6th place up there they will care less. Sad but true.

  • Is it true that out equivalent report will not be seen?
    The last election surely boiled down to our leader looking discredited (unfairly, but the fees debacle had a bery long fuse), the SNP leader stealing the show (but only competing in about 8%of seats, albeit successfully), the Labour leader looking like a student union politician in training, and David Cameron looking like someone you could go for a meal with
    albeit perhaps in a very posh winebar. Incidentally, had the Greens been more coherent, both we and Labour might have leakes more votes to them?

  • Barry Snelson 19th Jan '16 - 8:03pm

    Interesting to me is that Margaret claims their policies ‘polled well’. Would these be the same polls that got the result entirely wrong?
    No one can look into the hearts of millions of voters (although Margaret and everyone on this blog – including me) will claim they can. My own blind assumptions are that Red Ed was not trusted to look after the economy and if the two Eds had come up with a cogent and convincing plan then much of the rest would be swallowed. It was all “Yes cuts, but not these cuts, different cuts”. And “We will make Amazon, Google and Starbucks cough up more tax (even though no one else has managed it yet)”.

  • Gavin and others
    We will not get anywhere until we decide to take the tabloids head on. And we will have to do it over a long period, with a determination that “the new politics” will win. People will listen to our truths if we ensure we are heard and not overwhelmed. We may not believe everything Jeremy Corbyn has to say, but we should very much be on the same side as him in arguing for the new politics, as we have over the years. In terms of Scotland, we should argue a more neutral position – it should be no part of any Lib Dem’s campaign to argue an anti-Scottish agenda (which I take yours to be, Joe). Leave the Tories to that.

  • A Social Liberal
    I am afraid your conundrum has been answered many times over by many campaigns, and generally in the way you implied would not be good!

  • Hear hear David Allen. Lib Dems not only colluded, but leading members of the party have repeatedly used the same language as the Tories in attacking Labour. This has eased off since not being in the coalition, but echoes of those unfounded attacks can be seen in the debate on this thread.

  • Labour lost because they could not propose anything concrete.

    * They made some weird noise about allowing the public sector to bid for rail contracts. Meaningless. Either you believe it should be nationalised or privatised. I’d imagine the old left wanted the former, with the bulk the latter, and thus came up with this silly compromise. I think rail nationalisation is fundamentally stupid in every possible way, and would prefer to see everything on the table to be outsourced globally, but it showed weakness and was wishy washy.

    * Immigration. I favour complete open borders. I am a liberal. However Labour played the UKIP-lite card here, and tried to pretend you could control immigration whilst staying in the EU. I support free movement and the EU, but UKIP are correct in that whilst we are in the EU we cannot secure our borders. Voters saw through Labour’s “tough on immigration” rhetoric. They should have made the positive case for free movement and immigration, rather than bending to base level nationalism in an again half hearted way.

    * Business. Labour had no coherent message again. Whilst Miliband was peddling soft left anti-corporate views, Ed Balls was trying to woo the City. It made no sense. Additionally the party appears all over the place on the TTIP, attempting to placate the hard left by slating essential ISDS whilst at the same time pretending to support the deal.

    * Trashing their own record in government. Miliband sought to trash the record of Mandelson and much of Blairism and what Brown did. The first time Labour has won 3 elections, and they disown their time in power. The Tories at least look back on Thatcher with pride. Labour seem at best embarrassed by Blair, and at worse hateful.

    * Rupert Murdoch. Miliband spent a ridiculous amount of time banging on about Murdoch. Irrelevant to the vast majority of the public, and he just sounded like the sort of conspiracy theorist who goes on about Goldman Sachs running the world.

    * Abuse of Nick Clegg. Labour spent more time abusing Nick Clegg than coming up with any alternative to the coalition. They treated Nick Clegg as a human punching bag which may have been funny to the leftists and a few UKIPPers, but was offensive to the rest of us.

    Fortunately Labour and UKIP are turning into extremist joke parties. The Lib Dems could be in a position if we woo enough of the Blairites over to form a proper Liberal alternative in the US Democrat mould to fight the Tories in 2020.

  • What struck me out of the report, was that we are blamed for collapsing and giving the Tories their majority!

    How careless of us. Must try harder next time.

    Labour indulged in demonising the Lib Dems for 5 years in coalition – remember that PPB about the shrinking Nick Clegg? This was tactically daft, as a LD collapse was always going to benefit the Tories and push them towards a majority. Being bashed night and day by Labour – even when we actually agreed with them on many issues – weakened our negotiating hand in coalition, and discredited us further.

    Had Labour concentrated all their fire on the Tories instead, with more discipline than they showed, the result may have been very different.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jan '16 - 9:51pm

    @Mark Smulian: FE has not yet discussed the full report. When it has been debated, I expect it to be published.

  • Mark Smulian 19th Jan '16 - 11:15pm

    @Caron Lindsey
    I suppose it depends what one means by ‘full’. A number for FE members have described the version of events concerning this report that I posted earlier.

  • the lib dem seats in Scotland were probably going to be lost since Labour lost many more. what needs to be looked at is the lib dem seats south of the border to go from 46 to 7 is not good.

    Labour could go two ways it can either continue with the madness of the corbyn mcdonell regime and end up out of government for many general elections or it can fire them out of the empty missile tubes of a vanguard sub and get a sensible leader.

    the conservatives should tear themselves apart over the EU referendum with the barking supporters getting annoyed with their MPs voting to stay in. with Dave retiring to spend more time with normal people a leadership campaign could leave them vulnerable.

  • Some months ago the Fabian Society published a series of essays by losing Labour candidates in marginal seats such as Thurrock and Southampton Itchen. The Beckett report doesn’t really add much to that document which in many ways speaks us much to us as it does to Labour with its authors trying desperately to believe that with a more coherent message on immigration, housing and the economy enough votes can be won by Labour (and by extension the LibDems) to form a government again. In the light of the seizure of the Labour Party by the Corbynistas the title of the Fabian document looks sadly prophetic – “Never Again!”

  • Stimpson:

    You hit the nail on the head so well in your analysis of Labour’s dismal performance in opposition (who needs a Becket report?), that I would welcome your insights into Lib Dem travails.

    It seems to me that while Labour in opposition were penalised for being unable to face up to their responsibilities and be seriously constructive, Liberal Democrats in government were penalised for precisely the opposite.

  • @ Joe Otten “Tim13, what do you mean anti-Scottish? I am anti-SNP obviously. I am also anti the English Democrats and that doesn’t make me anti-English”.

    Well, I’m sorry Joe, but that’s not how it will be interpreted north of the border. So far as your M.P. is concerned I have two observations.

    1. It appears you were prepared to say or do anything to scratch votes together to keep him in parliament – which you did by the skin of your teeth – but he now doesn’t seem to interested any more given his attendance record.

    2. Your same M.P. didn’t have a clue about Scottish sensitivities and opinion when he defenestrated a very much respected Secretary of State for Scotland who had the measure of Salmond in the negotiations. It went down like a lead balloon in the Scottish media and public opinion. The successor didn’t exactly covered himself in glory.

    Don’t be too surprised if your ‘confession’ rattles on up here. It’s not a Scottish problem it’s an English problem fuelled by the same Murdoch/Rothermere/Desmond stable which says different things on either side of the border.

    To me – putting the issue of separatism on one side – in pure policy terms we ought to have a lot in common with the SNP who are seen to be the moderate competent social democratic opposition that we ought to have been in 2010.

  • Hear, hear to Mark Smulian.

  • David Geran 20th Jan '16 - 1:24pm

    It is a simple question with a complex answer; why did Labour lose the election? For most people in the Country who are naturally Liberal Conservatives or Conservative Liberals , Labour made the following mistakes:

    1. They talked down to the public. The majority of the public are educated and capable of multi-layered thinking. The idea that you can win using a string of sound-bite policies that originated in focus groups without any cohesive thread gave the impression of an opportunist party without the ability to deal with complex issues.

    2. Ed Milliband, for whatever reason, hid his true nature of being clearly left of centre and failed to define his policies to reflect his true beliefs. As a consequence he came across as disingenuous at best, and deceitful particularly when put on the spot in the debates.

    3. Labour were obviously not responsible for the global financial meltdown, but they were at the wheel of our economy. They either knew what risks were being taken by the finance houses and accepted the risk in return for huge tax income, or they were ignorant and therefore incompetent at their duty of over-sight. It was a terrible mistake by Labour to flip-flop between denial, then acceptance, back to denial of any culpability of the financial collapse.

    4. Finally, by aligning themselves with the Tories during the Scottish referendum they have permanently destroyed any trust in them as a socialist force North of the border.

  • Simon Banks 20th Jan '16 - 5:20pm

    I think she’s right that the failure was not so much on specific policies, as on being convincing overall. I felt all along that Miliband had failed to create a coherent theme or narrative, something people could easily identify with Labour when wondering what a Labour or Labour-led government would be like. The analysis is fairly shallow in the sense that it doesn’t ask any fundamental questions about Labour, but I’d have been surprised if it did.

    The Tory scare in 2020 will be Corbyn, or divided Labour can’t rule. The SNP scare wouldn’t work so well if Labour was running ahead of the Tories (or second time running, crying wolf repeatedly), but unless there’s another crash, I doubt if Labour will go into the election in the lead.

  • @ Mark Smulian,

    C4 News also reported earlier this week that the equivalent LD report has been kept secret. By whose authority was this done? And whatever happened to the professed belief in openness and transparency?

  • Margret Beckett says she doubts that “wrong policies” were the problem because the individual policies polled well and that the difficulty was “creating a cohesive, consistent narrative and communicating this clearly”.

    I think this goes to the heart of Labour’s difficulties. Individual policies can always be shaped by testing with focus groups and tweaking them until they score well. But that doesn’t add up to anything COHERENT when you put several policies together.

    The only way this can work is if you start off with a high level understanding of (a) how the economy works now and (b) how you think it could work better in future. The gap between the two defines what needs to change – and the answer is not necessarily what you might imagine and certainly not something you could ever get to with the help of a focus group. But get it right and you have a coherent alternative to TINA and that’s the most valuable prize by far – as Beckett sort of understands.

    Labour’s failure is that it long since lost the ‘big picture’ that propelled it to become a major party and can now only add details to someone else’s picture.

    Unfortunately, that’ also true of the Lib Dems.

  • Perceptions of the last election are still coloured by what people expected to happen as a result of the dodgy polls. Actually, while Labour had a bad result and the Lib Dems a catastrophic one, I think the more interesting and hard-to-answer question is why the Tories didn’t do better.

    They had every advantage: untainted by sole power for 18 years; facing an opposition not long out of a lengthy period of office, tailed by a financial crash; Labour saddled with a leader generally reckoned to be unelectable; Labour’s meltdown in Scotland; the collapse of the Lib Dems. With all those things in their favour, they ought to have done a lot better than a 12 seat majority with 37% of the vote, which is why I think those already confidently predicting the 2020 result might as well take up astrology. The electorate was split more or less in thirds in 2015: 36.9% for the Tories, 30.4% for Labour, 32.7% for everybody else. Our politics is still in chaos and pretty much anything can happen in 2020 – except, I have to say, a major Lib Dem revival.

  • @Joe otten

    “…..the SNP politically has much more in common with the Conservatives than it does with Corbyn’s Labour.”

    Hello from Scotland where I am an English SNP (currently) voter who in my time has also voted Labour, SDP, Green and even, but not often,Lib Dem ( in Scottish local elections).

    Your comment is very depressing if it truly reflects your views and those of LDs more widely south and north of the Border.

    Firstly it is difficult to know how a party which proposed in its 2015 UK manifesto a modest reflationary fiscal policy, advocated the reintroduction of the 50p tax rate and other progressive tax raising measures, is pro EU and immigration, advocated the scrapping of the “Bedroom Tax” ,opposed to the scrapping of the Human Rights Act, proposed the abolition of the House of Lords and the introduction of proportional representation for Westminster elections, and moving further towards Home Rule for Scotland can be described as closer to the Conservative Party than to Labour!

    Secondly your reference to “chauvinism about the malign effects of the English” as somehow truly characteristic of the SNP and it supporters is so very wide of the mark that it is almost difficult to accept that you really believe that if you have any deep interest in UK politics. However, it does as an Englishman in Scotland does raise concern in my mind about exactly how LDs in England are playing the anti SNP card.

    If the LDs in Scotland want to encourage core supporters and occasional fringe supporters like me to vote for you again in Scotland you really need to have a more informed and less casually dismissive, and yes English chauvinist, approach to doing so.

  • @ Andy Allen You’re quite right. Casting Nicola as the big bad bogie girl in the leafy suburbs was obviously a sincerely held article of faith. She has made a few mistakes (see Willie’s comments) but on the whole charitable folk think she could have been worse. When my wife visits Bournemouth, she was constantly being approached by folk last May saying they wish they had a Nicola.

    But don’t take much notice of him, Andy. If anybody’s got more in common with the conservatives it’s the deficit cutting small ‘l’ liberals who I thought had died out in 1898 with Gladstone…. with occasional twitchings from John Morley until 1914….. and very nearly made the Lib Dems die out with their austerity antics between 2010-15.

    It’s an evidence based fact that the electorate rejected Orangism everywhere in 2015 – especially in one place where a close second (165 behind in 2010) dropped 11,000 votes (41% to 9%) and fourth place.

    I take back any suggestion of cynical scare mongering on the doorstep, Joe. What worries me is that you actually believe it. I don’t suppose you were around when David Steel supported Jim Callaghan in the late 1970’s and then skilfully distance himself. It did us no harm at all in 1983.

  • David we are in danger of digressing, but on

    “I take back any suggestion of cynical scare mongering on the doorstep, Joe. What worries me is that you actually believe it.”

    Thankyou, I suppose.

    But if I actually believed that a Labour government with SNP support would have been a good thing, I would have voted Labour. It should be no surprise that a member of a party other than Labour or the SNP is against that outcome. You should be worried if it were otherwise.

    And I repeat, it is true that the Conservative Party’s supporters’ best chance to avoid this in Sheffield Hallam was to vote Lib Dem. You should be worried if I didn’t believe something that was true.

    Where exactly is my error here? Or ought I believe something untrue, in order to signal virtue perhaps?

  • @joeotten

    “There’s something odd isn’t there……”

    Not really when you have made a point of saying that you exploited fears of the SNP on the campaign trail.

    “The SNP government could go tax-and-spend already with the powers that it has……”

    Actually it couldn’t with its current very limited income tax and borrowing powers. Nor does the citing of a single taxation policy in a now defunct White Paper prove your point. But in any case you seem conflicted on this. On the one hand you say that you exploited Tory fears of a left wing SNP propping up a Labour government while.on the other saying that actually the SNP are closer to the Tories than Labour. And then you say that all English voters would be worried by a solely Scottish based party participating in the UK Government regardless it seems of its actual policies. All a bit odd really at face value.

    “If I have got the wrong idea about the SNP’s attitude to the English…”

    Well actually i think if you are casually throwing around accusations of anti English chauvinism the burden of proof relies on you. I know you will fail to do so as the SNP is clearly not anti English. One of the low points of the 2015 campaign was the Tory pickpocket poster campaign but it seems that you were happy to turn that to your local advantage.

    “But the SNP, on principle, is surely there to serve Scotland exclusively – to subvert the principle of the UK government considering all citizens equally. We would be mad not to resist.”

    Well no it’s not while Scotland is part of the UK. As I said the SNP had a programme.for the 2015 UK GE which was focused on improving the UK and was actually lacking any crude pork barrel politics other than pushing further on Home Rule which of course we are led to believe is what the Lib Dems believe in as well. Contrast that with the DUP which made clear that the price of its support for a Tory minority government would be £1.5bn. But it seems that only the prospect of Scotland exerting influence in the UK is worrying to Lib Dems.

    Anyway your comments have been very helpful in revealing the Lib Dem mindset.

  • @David raw

    Thanks. It’s a great shame to see this line of argument The Scottish Lib Dems could have played a blinder in Scotland during the referendum exerting real pressure to move towards their Home Rule objective and possibly offsetting their collaboration with the Tories in the Coalition. But this exchange has revealed a whole different strand to the LDs and their view of Scotland and its place in the Union.

  • @joeotten

    ” can you explain why the Scottish government can’t raise taxes? ”

    Until this year the sole power which the SG has had is to vary the basic rate of income tax which not surprisingly no SG has opted to use as it is such a blunt regressive instrument. This year the SG could vary all the rates by the same amount which while is still blunt and regressive is still fairly useless especially as new tax powers may come into force next year if the Scotland Bill is enacted.

    “But I must say I reject and I am offended by your line “the prospect of Scotland exerting influence”. ”

    Well.that seeped through your previous comment. My reading of you is that you are happy to have Scottish unionist MPs as they can be trusted to toe the Britnat line and know their place. A more assertive Scottish presence is unwelcome.

    ” The bizarre thing is that the SNP’s mandate in Westminster is to be in opposition. ”

    Well the SNP’s mandate is to represent their constituents and to act on the basis of the 2015 Manifesto. The SNP did not rule out coalition other than with the Tories if the electoral arithmetic turned out that way but said they considered Supply and Confidence more likely. It was the other Unionist parties which made it clear that if Scotland voted for the SNP they would not work with the SNP. And that is your view as you have made clear in your comments. I find it quite remarkable that Lib Dems,who say they support PR and by extension presumably the more flexible government arrangements which are likely to result , should argue that voters in Scotland can only expect to influence or participate in UK government if they support approved Unionist parties! Better together?

    I was more inclined to a devo max solution for the medium term but your party and the other unionist parties denied people like me the chance to vote for that. Having watched the disgraceful Better Together campaign and also concluded that Westminster and the UK is really unreformable and that England and Scotland are on divergent paths my view as an Englishman in Scotland is that independence is the least worst option.

  • John Mitchell 22nd Jan '16 - 8:29pm

    @Joe Otten
    ‘What I am struggling with is this idea that there is something different and wrong with being against the SNP, that does not apply to someone who is against the Labour Party or the Tory Party.’

    I don’t get this either. Apparently some SNP supporters take criticism of their party personally and in a particular survey were most likely to be offended at criticism of their party. Surely the job of any opposition is to challenge the government? As within the referendum and the buzzword being ‘scaremongering’ to bat back criticism of SNP plans, now Scottish Government supporters seem to label critics as ‘SNP bad merchants’ with nothing else to say. Much like at the time of the independence referendum campaign as a rebuttal that doesn’t answer the original question, it merely deflects it.

    @Andy Allan
    ‘independence is the least worst option.’

    I don’t know how you can reasonably say that with all that has happened since the referendum and particularly economically. Rejecting independence has saved Scotland from even more austerity. That would not have been a the ‘least worst’ outcome for me or families up and down the country who are already being hit with cuts from Westminster and Holyrood already.

  • @Joe Otten
    “The bizarre thing is that the SNP’s mandate in Westminster is to be in opposition. Coalition was ruled out. At least your Labour, Tory and Lib Dem candidates for parliament were trying to form governments. The SNP wanted less influence than that.”

    You have misremembered. Andy is entirely correct – it wasn’t the SNP who ruled out coalition, it was all three of the mainstream UK parties. Effectively, all three did indeed say to Scottish voters: “vote SNP and there is no possibility whatsoever that you will vote for a partner in the next government”.

  • OK point taken on coalition.

    I still argue that voting SNP for Westminster is more about showing moral support for the SNP and independence rather than seeking influence in the Westminster government. The perception in England, fairly or unfairly, is that a government involving the SNP would be beholden to special pleading all the time. And as “anti-austerity” lost the argument and Ed Milliband dithered on it, the offer to help Ed be bold (in borrowing more money) quite naturally frightened a lot of horses.

    It is a tragedy of First Past the Post that if you are successful you weaken those parties closer to you to the benefit of your nemeses. There is little enough room for a third party of the centre, and we are crushed by this force if we are perceived (wrongly of course) to be too close to either of the others.

    The SNP is fatal for Labour. Right now, this is a great public service because Labour are unusually wrong-headed at the moment. And it is perfectly honourable to be fatal to Labour at any time. But we should all admit that it is fatal.

  • @joeotten

    Worth remembering that in Scotland the only completely FPTP electoral system we now have is for Westminster elections and the LDs are also being crushed in Scotland in all the other elections with a variety of PR or more proportional systems.

  • @joeotten

    “I don’t think Scotland wants this and I’m asking nicely if you’ll please do your bit in stopping it.”

    Well the history of post war elections shows quite clearly that apart from a couple of short lived exceptions Scotland gets the UK government which England votes for. So you can ask as nicely as you want but Scotland knows that how it votes is rarely decisive and that at the moment the single largest group of Scottish voters think it is better to vote for the SNP. If England doesn’t want a Tory government it needs to sort itself out.

    By the way Income tax is neither inherently regressive or progressive other than how it is structured and implemented but you knew that!

  • Peter Watson 24th Jan '16 - 4:53pm

    @Andy Allen “Scotland gets the UK government which England votes for .. Scotland knows that how it votes is rarely decisive”
    From the outside, it seemed that the SNP+Labour coalition scare story that was stirred up by the Conservatives and Lib Dems south of the border was implying that Scottish voters should be denied any influence in Westminster, with even Joe Otten appearing to mobilise English Tories in Sheffield to neutralise Scottish voters. Sadly, Lib Dems had more to lose in Scotland than the Conservatives by giving that impression.

  • @joeotten

    Sorry I meant to say that ‘re keeping the Tories out of power,Scotland returned 58 non Tories out of 59 MPs. What more does the rest of the UK need?

  • @peterwatson

    Yes it was a miscalculation as far as Scotland is concern d and doesn’t seem to have been strikingly successful in England. I feel the LDs played a potentially good hand in the independence referendum badly as well.

  • Andy, this is where we started. The prospect of a large number of SNP MPs – 56 as it turned out, frightened a lot of horses in England into voting Conservative. You can add 2015 to your list of occasions when the Scottish vote was decisive in influencing the overall result. By returning a party that is a strategic threat to Labour and not to the Tories.

    I’m not clear from your comments whether you just don’t care about this as an outcome, or whether you just think it is somebody else’s problem to sort out.

  • @ Joe Otten, “The prospect of a large number of SNP MPs – 56 as it turned out, frightened a lot of horses in England into voting Conservative.”

    What this particular horse is frightened of in Scotland is permanent Tory rule in London based on England in London with an impotent Labour Party and extinct Liberal Democrats.

    I voted No in the Referendum,….. but if Cameron’s daft referendum game implodes and the English domestic vote exits the EEC this year… then a number of us may well be tempted to vote Yes next time as the only way of remaining in Europe and even more important escaping permanent Tory rule.

    I just wish some people in the Lib Dems would get it into their heads that the traditional enemy of liberalism is conservatism.

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