Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The SNP tail wags the Tory dog

During the election campaign, David Cameron and the Tories made great play of how Ed Miliband would be in the pocket of the SNP if he became Prime Minister.

How the tables have now turned.

We are only 2 months into the new Tory (majority let us not forget) government and already there are two occasions when the SNP have forced the government into an embarrassing climb down.

First it was on the subject of the Human Rights Act and how they were supposedly going to repeal it. The SNP raised (perfectly valid) objections about how the plan would strike at the heart of the Scottish devolution settlement. The Tories under pressure from the SNP (and also some of its own more enlightened backbenchers) withdrew their proposals and they did not feature at all in the recent Queen's Speech.

Fast-forward to today and we see another embarrassing withdrawal of a piece of legislation by the government this time on fox-hunting. This time there is absolutely no doubt as to who has forced the withdrawal. It is Nicola Sturgeon who, admittedly opportunistically and brazenly has stated that her 56 MPs will vote against any repeal of the hunting ban. And at a stroke the government had no choice but to stop a vote they now knew they would lose from happening at all.

The truth is that any minority or wafer thin majority government was always going to be at risk of having to tailor or withdraw legislation in the face of a block vote of 56 well disciplined nationalist Scottish MPs determined to make their mark at Westminster. Ed Miliband's protestations that he would not do any deals with the SNP rang hollow because it was obvious he would at the very least have to take their views into account in order to get legislation through. Cameron promised that the solution to this was to give him a majority. But that was a hopelessly naive reading of the situation (which deep down he must have known) and would only have worked with a much larger majority which was never going to be feasible.

All it takes is a handful of Tories to rebel on any government measure (and MPs are now more rebellious than they have ever been) and we will continue to see the SNP tail wagging the Tory dog.

I'm not sure how Cameron goes about explaining this away after all his unrealistic pre-election promises.

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