Alex Massie

Children of Maggie

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I was going to say that Labour have gone negative but, actually, their campaign has, for any number of understandable reasons, been negative all along. Still, that reached a new low (or height) this evening with this advert, broadcast in Scotland only:

It's impressively dishonest on many levels, not least because any decisions taken on Scottish NHS or education funding will be made in Edinburgh, not by any Conservative government in London. True, the block grant could be squeezed but this is true regardless of who is in power in London or who's running Holyrood.

Indeed, one could make an argument that for any number of political and symbolic and Unionist reasons the Tories would be more, not less, reluctant than Labour to cut the Scottish budget even though, clearly, there'll be pressure from the grass-roots to do so.

Notice too that amidst this dystopian vision of some kind of Children of Maggie future there's no mention of the SNP. This is obviously deliberate and designed to a) annoy the Nationalists and b) reinforce the idea that a vote for the SNP is really a vote for the Tories. This, even though there are only a handful of Tory-Labour contests and though, viewed from a Unionist perspective, Labour should encourage tactical voting in favour of the Tories in seats such as Perth or Angus. (This Gerry Hassan piece gives a good overview of the campaign.)

The difficulty with that, of course, is that it would make a Cameron ministry more likely and make it harder for a putative Labour ministry in Edinburgh (post-2011) to claim the Tories had no legitimacy in Scotland. In other words, although Labour hates the Nats just as much as it does the Tories it's also trying to remind SNP voters in Perthshire and the Mearns that they cannot let the Tories in while also reminding SNP voters in Labour-held seats such as Ochil, Kilmarnock, Livingstone and Dundee West that voting SNP is really voting Conservative.

Hence this blunderbuss approach.

UPDATE: Joan McAlpine also makes a good point: the Tories enthusiasm for local democracy (which, with caveats, I share) does rather mean that the Tories should rethink their opposition to a referendum on independence. Heck, I've made this argument on plenty of occasions but Joan's right: Tory opposition still doesn't make much sense.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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