Sunday’s Scottish newspapers were full of reports that Annabel Goldie’s Scottish Conservatives might support a minority Labour administration after next year’s Holyrood elections. Scotland on Sunday reported the following:
"The Tories say they would support Labour on areas such as the reform of public services and on council tax, where there is agreement. Several Labour sources offered a warm response to the idea last night. One senior insider said the plan could evolve into a "unionist coalition" in opposition to the SNP and Greens, who themselves are in talks to work together after next May’s vote. Many Labour MSPs have already publicly supported the idea of a minority administration next year, in a bid to get rid of the Liberal Democrats."
‘Getting rid of the Liberal Democrats’ appears to be an increasing desire of Labour MSPs. In recent months relations between the coalition partners have deteriorated markedly. Different positions on nuclear power and the LibDems’ obsession with a local income tax have soured the Lib-Lab pact.
The Scottish Tories – keen to become a player in Scottish politics again – have floated the idea of being an alternative unionist partner to Labour if the Labour and LibDem MSPs divorce. There will be no formal Tory-Labour marriage. The talk is of Conservatives keeping a minority Labour administration in office in return for a new generation of nuclear power stations, council tax reform, more devolution of power to schools and reform of the financially mismanaged Scottish Enterprise.
Goldie must be particularly pleased with herself at the moment. At long
last, after months of apparent irrelevance to the Scottish political
scene, Scottish Conservatives are again making the news. Just like the
good old days, they’re even making the front page of the Sunday Post.
How did the leader of the Scottish Tories achieve this? What grand
media strategy was deployed, or what radical policy was revealed?
Well, there is no strategy and there are no new policies; all that’s
happened is she and her lieutenants have let it be known that if Labour
suffers a humiliating reverse at next year’s Scottish Parliament
elections, the Tories will ride to their rescue. To the amazement and
anger of Tories up and down the land, Jack McConnell can sleep easy at
night: he now has an insurance policy, a direct line to Annabel
Goldie…. After seven years of telling the electorate that Labour
would screw-up the public services while charging more for the
privilege, at the very moment when the public appears to be listening
and deserting Labour, Annabel Goldie decides that Mr McConnell is not
that bad after all."
Mr Monteith suggests that
the Tories may lose seats at the next Scottish elections but recent
by-election results point to modest Tory gains. Those gains may mean
that the Scottish Tories will be able to keep Labour in power. The
only other alternative is an SNP-Green-LibDem minority administration –
attempting to do deals with individual Labour and Tory MSPs on
individual items of legislation.
Earlier this week – thinking about Westminster politics – Tory members rejected a formal deal with any other party if no party has an overall majority in the next House of Commons.