There is no doubt that many of the smaller parties contending this election want to end austerity. Most parties have some economic outline and figures about how they will pay for their policies (unless you’re the Conservative Party who just don’t want to admit that their plans may involve a tax hike)
The SNP, the third largest party in the UK, are one of the parties pushing to end austerity by imposing small increases in spending to public service. This promise is one of their main aims in the election and with a hung parliament looking ever more likely, with some polls suggesting an 87% chance of no clear winner, is an anti-austerity budget something that the SNP could achieve?
Blurred Party Lines
Whether the most staunch Labour Party supporter wants to admit it, the Labour Party have been ever creeping to the right on certain issues. Their policies on Europe, immigration, and public spending have become vastly different from the Labour Party of old. It is due to this, and the SNP may not want to hear it, that either way, austerity will pass. What’s more worrying from an SNP point of view is if they win the 40/50 seats that they are expected, they could be blamed for the austerity budget passing.
The latest YouGov poll puts Labour with 307 seats, the Conservatives on 261, Lib Dems with merely 14 seats and the SNP and Greens with 46 seats between them. With no party having an overall majority and UKIP and the Lib Dems ever-sliding down the polls, the reality for Labour is that the SNP may be the main party they work with in order to get a majority or to get the vast number of their policies passed. There has been suggestions that the SNP and Labour will not form a coalition but rather work on a case-by-case basis. While this may benefit the SNP in certain aspects of their manifesto such as the bedroom tax, it will not help them end austerity, and the reason is simple. Both Labour and the Conservatives will pass extreme austerity measures together, regardless of how much the smaller parties protest.
North of the border, Labour, and in particular Scottish Labour are considered by many to be dead in the water. Their siding with the Conservatives in the Scottish Referendum (and a masterful political maneuver from the Conservatives to praise Labour MPs in their victory speech) was the final nail in the coffin for many former Scottish Labour voters. Only 6% of the 45% who voted Yes in the referendum intend to vote Labour according to the Financial Times, with a subsequent study finding that the most likely people to vote SNP were long-term members of the SNP and former Labour voters.
The reason for this, in my opinion, is quite simple. What the Labour Party once stood for is gone.
To many people, the Labour Party and/or Scottish Labour are dead. Rather than take a strong stance on matters affecting the working class or the poorest of the poor, Labour are pandering to those undecided, EU sceptics who fear immigration. Labour are for austerity, they are for controlled immigration, for controlling and reforming a European system that treats the UK well and most astonishingly for Labour, they are against the working class. They are an unrecognisable force from what they once were and will vote for an austerity measure with the Conservatives support. Even if the SNP vote against the austerity measures, they will be once again unable to stop the Labour and Conservative bedfellows reuniting in bringing down the middle and lower class and further crippling public services with their deep cuts.
Unable to Prevent the Juggernaut of Austerity
The SNP is arguably setting themselves up for a political own goal. Every SNP MP could vote against the austerity budget four times and still be unable to stop the juggernaut of austerity that Labour and the Conservatives seem set to push. That is not me saying that a vote for the SNP is a waste. As the party I intend to vote for, I believe that the SNP will have Scotland’s best intentions at heart and will do everything in their power for Scotland. Sadly, in some cases their power will not be enough. With the austerity budgets undoubtedly passing, party spin from both the Conservatives and Labour can quickly try and paint the picture of the SNP failing in their promise to end austerity.
With Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and others stating that there will be cuts under Labour, but Jim Murphy stating the opposite they are clearly trying to pull the wool over the eyes of voters with even protective services likely to be damaged under their proposed cuts. It is argued by George Monbiot of The Guardian that Labour are having their agenda shaped by the Conservatives. In his article condemning their stance on austerity he says: “Labour’s 1983 manifesto is widely known as the longest suicide note in history. Its 2015 manifesto is the longest till receipt in history.”
You may sit, laugh and scoff at this post, but would you really put it past one of the mainstream parties to post a leaflet stating that the SNP failed to end austerity and failed to deliver one of their main promises? As someone living in a country that has seen just how low politicians can scoop to serve their selfish means and win at any cost I wouldn’t, yet it is a fall that the SNP are setting themselves up for.
SNP and Others: A Barometer?
The reality is that the SNP will be able to do a lot of good at Westminster, as will other small alternative parties such as Plaid Cymru and the Greens. However, in reality these parties can only hope to act as a barometer to the two main parties, and occasionally tow them in line. While I have no doubt that the SNP and others will get their wins in Westminster, it has to be argued that at times they are simply promising too much, but then again, don’t all parties?