Fleet Street’s famously partisan press has been as vitriolic in this election as any before it, with both sides seeking to belittle the opposition candidate (most egregiously in the afterglow of the television debates, of which more here).
It is no surprise that a journal nicknamed the Torygraph would back the blues, but more controversial has been the Indy’s muted support for the coalition government, in a move contrary to much of the paper’s coverage over the past five years:
“A hung parliament is certain this week. For all his talk of no deals with the SNP [Scottish National Party], [Labour leader Ed] Miliband is bound to rely on that party to get his legislative programme through. This would be a disaster for the country, unleashing justified fury in England at the decisive influence of MPs who – unlike this title – do not wish the Union to exist.
“If that were to be the case while Labour were the second biggest party either in terms of vote share, or seats – or both – how could Labour govern with authority? They could not. Any partnership between Labour and the SNP will harm Britain’s fragile democracy. For all its faults, another Lib-Con Coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence.”
The Indy, owned by Russian oligarch dynasty the Lebedevs, are generally regarded as papers of the Left. But the wealthy proprietorship of the paper has led some to speculate that the editor is being leant on, especially given Miliband’s pledge to increase taxes for the rich should he emerge as prime minister in the next few weeks.
Though the argument that the SNP poses a risk to the Union is not entirely wrong, the severing of Britain is more likely with a repeat of the Tory-Lib Dem government. Much of the SNP’s rhetoric is grounded in blue antipathy because such feeling is popular north of Hadrian’s Wall, and, as a recent piece for the New Statesman pointed out, after last year’s referendum of independence the party moved quickly to annex Labour supporters by capitalising on this.
Such a strategy has created a problem for the Nats. As the Indy points out, Miliband will have to rely on them to push forward his legislative programme (at least the leftwing portion). But because the Nats have built their support on anti-Tory feeling they will feel obliged to prop up Labour or be punished at the ballot box. At the same time Miliband would have to cleave to the leftish instincts of the SNP to deny them the opportunity of credible rebellion – granting disaffected Scots a voice in Westminster.
Compare this with the possibility of another Tory-led government involving more cuts to public spending, and it is clear what would be more likely to alienate those backing the SNP. There have been policies to like under the coalition and there are good reasons for voting for a repeat – but strengthening the Union is not among them.
Image – Scottish Saltire, WL Tarbert