Sunday, 15 March 2015

Labour Should Say No Deals With Anyone

Labour should say immediately and clearly - “There will be no deals with anyone before or after the election.” Labour is under pressure from the Tories to rule out a deal with the SNP, because they believe such calls put Labour in a bind. If Labour does rule out such a deal, the Tories believe, then it will do them damage in Scotland, because the SNP will use it to accuse Labour of not caring about Scotland. Moreover, the Tories believe that if Labour does rule out such a deal, it will make it impossible for them to form a government after the election, in the event of a hung Parliament. If Labour rules out such a deal, with the SNP, the Tories would then move on to demand they rule out a deal with the Greens, Sinn Fein and so on. On the other hand, if Labour does not rule out a deal, it means that every media interview will be taken up with wasted time of Labour spokespeople being asked about the possibility of such deals, it will mean the Tories will use the uncertainty to claim, as their poster does, that Labour would be in the pocket of the SNP.

In fact, none of these provide the Tories with the leverage they believe they have. Firstly, to avoid further obfuscation, rather than just ruling out a deal with the SNP, Labour should make clear that there will be no deals with anyone. In that case, the SNP can hardly say that such a position is because Labour does not care about Scotland. On the contrary, the reason Labour should rule out a deal with the SNP, is precisely because Labour DOES care about Scottish workers just as much as English, Welsh or Irish workers. In fact, it would be good if it could be claimed that Labour cares as much about French, German and any other nationality of worker too. Labour should be able to say that it is not an interest in abstract geographical areas that matters, but the interests of workers wherever they live.

Moreover, Labour can show that it has more concern for Scottish workers than do the tartan Tories of the SNP, already. Given the collapse of oil prices, and the need of Scotland to go cap in hand to the British government, for a bail-out of the North Sea oil companies, Scottish workers should be glad that Labour and other socialists opposed Scottish independence, which would have left Scottish workers picking up a huge tab, for the bailout of the North Sea oil capitalists, that the SNP wants to provide, as part of their nationalist agenda. Labour's message to Scottish workers should be clear, vote for us not the tartan Tories of the SNP. Its not whether Labour agrees to a deal with the SNP or not that does Labour damage, but the failure of Labour to provide a clear alternative to the Tories, whichever national flag they wrap themselves in. In fact, the best way of labour avoiding being in a minority after the election, is to put forward a clear set of policies to meet the needs of workers, in contrast to the austerity policies of the Tories. That is the lesson Labour should be learning from Syriza and from Podemos.

In fact, as I've set out previously, there is absolutely no reason for Labour to offer any kind of deal to the SNP, because it is the latter that is actually in a cleft stick. The SNP would have a choice, either vote to sustain a minority Labour government, or be held responsible for putting the Tories back in government. If they were seen to be responsible for the Tories getting back into government by whatever means, the SNP would be dead in Scotland, so why would Labour offer them anything for providing the support they will have to give anyway?

If Labour makes that absolutely clear now, there is, in fact, no reason for anyone in Scotland to vote SNP, unless they are Tories.

That undermines one plank of the Tories strategy. But, even were that not the case, even were the SNP stupid enough to commit suicide by refusing to vote for a minority Labour government. The Tories strategy only has any sting, if its based on Labour being desperate to get into office at any cost, just as were the Liberals and Tories at the last election. Unfortunately, bourgeois parties and politicians do tend to see the world in those terms, but even bourgeois parties can sometimes see the logic in not taking office for short term gain, if it means suffering longer term damage. That is especially the case with the introduction of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

There would be every reason for Labour to refuse any such deals with minor parties, in order to take up a position of extreme opposition to a weak, minority Tory government that itself continually had to rely on the votes of minor parties to get anything through. Such a government would not last long. It would be held responsible for the ensuing chaos and economic weakness, creating precisely the conditions required for Labour to win a majority at the ensuing election.

Labour politicians, when asked, as they always are by the media, about deals with the SNP, Greens etc. always reply by saying that they are aiming for a majority, but the answer always appears, and is evasive, because, as things currently stand, the most likely outcome will not be a Labour majority, so the question still stands, of what you will do if you are just the largest party. The best way of Labour actually becoming the largest party after the election is to state clearly now, that it will make no deals, before during or after the election, with anyone. Labour will aim for a majority, but if it is only the largest party it will seek to act as a minority government, making no concessions in return for parliamentary votes. Whoever, votes against it, or fails to support it, would then have to answer to their supporters for opening up the possibility or eventuality of a return of the Tories.

If Labour really does want to be the majority party at the next election, it should focus on putting forward clear alternative policies to the conservative policies of the Tories, based on nationalism and austerity. Labour needs to put forward a forward looking vision of hope, based upon internationalism and an end to austerity, that links up to other social-democratic forces like Syriza and Podemos, across Europe.

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