Labour faces a ‘monstering’ in the polls

Is Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket?

The message from Lord Aschcroft’s latest poll of voters is clear, say Gillian Bowditch and Jason Allardyce in The Sunday Times. “Labour in Scotland is being monstered by the nationalists.” Labour majorities of 20,000 are set to be “wiped out” and the Scottish National Party (SNP) is “on course” to take 56 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies.

Labour, which currently has 41 seats, would be left with just one, as would the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. On current evidence, and due to the way our electoral system works, this means that the SNP could return 30-50 MPs on just 3%-4% of the vote, making it the third-largest party at Westminster, while Ukip is likely to return 4-6 MPs on 12% of the vote, says Robert Ford in The Observer.

The Ashcroft scenario “sparked hysteria” in England, says John Mullin in The Independent on Sunday. The Tories unveiled a poster showing a miniature Ed Miliband in the jacket pocket of a giant Alex Salmond (pictured), who is standing as an MP in May.

As the third-largest party, the SNP would be a “kingmaker negotiating from real strength, and with a resolute focus on Scotland”. It could “eviscerate” Scottish Labour, only to “prop up Ed Miliband at the Westminster it affects to despise”.

Its price? Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and first minister, wants an extra £180bn in UK spending. She is also still insisting on full fiscal autonomy for Scotland (ie, full control of raising and spending taxes), says The Times, even though the figures don’t look good.

In 2013-2014, Scots paid £400 more in tax per head than the UK as a whole, but also received £1,200 more in revenue. How that gap is to be closed will be a “test of the SNP’s competence and a major factor in the election campaign”.

English antipathy to Scotland’s politics could also be “a big issue”, says Matthew Parris in The Times. The Union died last year during the Scottish referendum campaign as a result of David Cameron’s scare tactics and the “biliousness” of the SNP’s campaign. This isn’t a “passionate antagonism”, or a “kind of racism”,but a “hardening of the heart”.

When English voters say, “Why don’t they just sod off then, if that’s what they want?” they really mean it now. The poster has forced Miliband to confirm that there will be no coalition with the SNP, says Steve Richards in The Independent. However, insisting that there will be “no SNP ministers and no coalition” will not rule out further speculation about other arrangements with the SNP.

This makes me “despair”. The truth is that all the leaderships will have tentative plans, but none knows exactly what they will do after the election. Speculation is a pointless distraction from the leaders and their policies. Labour might well need to work with the SNP in Westminster.

But for now Miliband needs to convey to Scottish voters that “support for the SNP will lead to a Cameron government, not a Lab/SNP coalition”.

Red Ed’s Soviet kitchen cooks up a storm

Last week, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine posed for BBC cameras in a forlorn kitchen, having a cup of tea. It prompting Sarah Vine to wonder in the Daily Mail why owners of a £2m-plus townhouse had a kitchen reminiscent of a “Communist-era housing block in Minsk”.

Jenni Russell, a journalist and friend of the Milibands, sprang to their defence, revealing that the “kitchenette” was just for “tea and quick snacks”; their proper kitchen was in the basement. “Kitchengate” was born.

Now, says Eleanor Mills in The Sunday Times, Miliband stands accused of being “prolier than thou”. Whatever the facts – Miliband insists the BBC asked for the shot – and however trivial it seems, it matters. Only around 0.7% of UK houses have two kitchens, making Miliband a member of the “dreaded, out-of-touch, top 1%”.

Given the endless stories about the Camerons’ kitchen when Samantha was photographed in hers, Miliband and his team “should have seen this coming”. His image problems are becoming “destructive to his electoral chances”.

Miliband has simply fallen into the “same trap left-wing commentators routinely find themselves in”, says Frances Ryan in The New Statesman. “Be honest about your wealth and you’re a privileged hypocrite. Hide it and you’re a liar.” But it’s not privilege that matters, but what one does with it.

Pretending our leaders are largely anything but advantaged insults the public and “castigating” individuals is unconstructive. “Inequality, poverty and skewed life chances matter. It would be a start to elect someone who cares they exist.”

I “couldn’t care less” whether Miliband has one kitchen, two, or a “Soviet-era style kitchen collective”, and most voters probably don’t care either, says Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph. What I do care about is the rules of engagement for MPs’ spouses and families. It was Miliband’s decision to “insert his family into the election campaign”.

There is no public interest case, nor much appetite, for pictures of Miliband’s washing machine. But if politicians choose to “blur the lines between their public and private lives”, on their heads be it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *