As extraordinary as it may appear, an article in the Financial Times last week noted that Britain PLC’s biggest nightmare would be a General Election result in which Labour joined forces with the Scottish Nationalists.
The prospect of Labour and an anti-business faction of left-leaning Scottish nationalists could ransack corporates and derail Britain’s fragile recovery.
Hence, followers of the Scottish cult comedy Rab C Nesbitt will spot the play on words of a 1977 political cooperation, the Lib-Lab Pact. A Rab-Lab pact could well be the result. But it is far more likely to be a full-blown coalition.
According to the latest opinion polls, the Scottish National Party is enjoying a major sympathy vote following the close defeat of its proposal for an Independent Scotland last September. Unlike in the 2010 Westminster election when the SNP won just six seats, it is believed in 2015 the SNP could scoop at least 40 seats, wiping out Labour MPs in Scotland.
The SNP can be expected to be vocal and demand more than to prop up a Labour government, whatever Labour leader Ed Miliband today says about refusing to any deal – pact or coalition – with the SNP.
The 2010 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition may be the first formal coalition since World War Two, but there have been several pacts to keep governments steady since 1945.
The only “official” one was the 1977 Lib-Lab Pact, when a handful of Liberal Party MPs voted to protect Labour in no confidence votes. But after a thin Conservatives majority under John Major in 1992, his party too had to count on Ulster Unionists support after 1996 when the majority fell to just one seat. Again a handful of Official Ulster Unionists saved the government.
But at 40 seats or more, the SNP could be a force to be reckoned with, and will want to guarantee certain concessions promised by the Westminster elite last year as the electorate in the referendum voted to keep the status quo.
The UK election in May is widely expected to throw up an uncertain result. The most uncertain in a century, said Goldman Sachs researchers recently. No political party is likely to have an absolute majority and a minority government would be unhealthy as the UK digs out of a major economic crisis. Furthermore, while not impossible, the chances of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats staying on for a second term is slim. But who the Conservatives or Labour will choose to be partners with is even more intriguing.
Conservatives and Welsh and Scottish nationalists? Conservatives and Ulster Unionists? Or the same minorities’ parties with Labour rather than the Conservatives?
I remarked with the word in the first sentence of today’s blog “extraodinary” because there could potentially be a bigger threat than the SNP supporting Labour or formally becoming socialist bedfellows of Labour in a coalition.
Bigger threat to Europe?
What about not a left-fairly left government, but a right-very right one? Specifically, the Conservatives joining forces with the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage. Sure, premier David Cameron denies being keen on any deal with UKIP, just as much as Labour’s Ed Miliband has vowed not to team up with the SNP.
But it is all fighting talk ahead of an election in May. Once the votes are counted and the only way for a major political party to form a government is by doing a deal with a much smaller political party, suddenly the rhetoric vanishes and the meetings begin. It is never wise to vow anything in politics lest it has to be reversed later and shows poor political vision, judgement and conviction.
But the idea of the Conservatives, who have promised a 2017 “in-out” referendum on the European Union in which Cameron hopes Britain does not pull out of Europe, teaming up with UKIP that wants Britain out of Brussels, is an interesting and potentially even more damaging prospect for UK business.
How quickly people forget – including British businessmen – that former premier Margaret Thatcher, while distrusting of the EU bureaucracy nevertheless supported the cause of Britain signing up to the EU’s single European market. It was vital for growth and business and enlarging that marketplace by slashing internal redtape was the best way. And it still is.
So imagine the surprise that businesses don’t see the loss of European interests and markets as a “nightmare”.
— Business fears SNP-Labour ‘nightmare’ – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/05174470-d474-11e4-8be8-00144feab7de.html