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A Labour SNP progressive alliance is the only way to kick out the Tories

New analysis shows Scotland's centre-left must ditch their civil war. 

The Fabian Society started 2017 with a wake-up call for Labour. Its research found the party has no chance of winning a general election on its own. Instead, the Fabian Society urged Labour to concentrate on a progressive alliance that could win enough seats to force out the Tories.

The call met with a fairly predictable response in Scotland, where Labour and SNP hatred runs deep. The animosity is more akin to the historic enmity between the two moderately conservative Irish parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael than anything that exists south of the Border.

The fact the Scottish parties are fighting over the same electorate further fuels the enmity. It is striking that voters in Scotland tend to fall into SNP/Labour and Conservative/Lib Dem polling groups without entering into the animosity felt by the party activists. Rather than considering the overlaps on most policy issues, activists have instead intensified the debate over the one where there is a big difference - the constitution. 

While the constitutional question has always existed, the independence referendum made it a priority. Ironically, the most virulent in the nationalist community are often former Labour members. For those who hoped for change through independence, the defeat was sore, not least because of Labour's collusion with the Tories.

For the No side, a victory in the referendum was followed by a beating by the SNP in many areas they viewed as their political territory. Many of the strongest supporters of independence were dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters. Labour paid a heavy price for its positioning, but the wounded leadership has responded by increasing its level of antipathy to the SNP.

As the battle on the centre left has escalated, the Tories have marched steadily on. They’ve usurped the Labour party as the opposition in Holyrood. However, SNP cannot rest on its laurels. It too will suffer as the rejuvenated Tories win back historic seats. That started in the Holyrood elections last year and will continue in the council elections of 2017.

The Tories' current success is limited. Even in 2016, the party enjoyed a lower vote share than that enjoyed by John Major in 1992, and given the longstanding antipathy to the party in Scotland, there is likely to be a natural ceiling on its vote share. A Tory surge will, however, give greater legitimacy to Tory policies in Westminster, and further harm the interests of the poor and vulnerable that both the SNP and Labour wish to protect. For this reason alone, they must heed the calls for a progressive alliance and agree a truce in this centre-left civil war. 

Moreover, the world has changed north of the Border, as elsewhere, post Brexit. Though the prospect of a second independence referendum has been floated by the First Minister, the complexities have increased. Factors that were critical in the first referendum, currency and the economy, seem even less favourable to the independence movement at present. New issues such as a hard border have also arisen.

The Brexit vote has also created new fractures. The 62 per cent Remain vote saw many No voters from middle-class areas rally to the Scottish government's call. Equally, though, voters in many peripheral and disadvantaged areas in Scotland acted no differently to those south of the border. Many of the strongest Yes areas also saw significant Leave votes predicated on voters' belief that immigration and the EU were to blame for their fate.

Meanwhile, the most incompetent UK government in living memory is allowed to sail steadily on, thanks to electoral problems looming for both SNP and Labour. As the Fabian analysis has shown, the latter party cannot win without a progressive alliance. Votes from the SNP block will be needed. It’s hard to see anything other than continued SNP dominance north of the border, though the challenge will be from the Tories. 

In Ireland, electoral necessity saw the historic civil war parties work together, albeit contest each other in elections. In Scotland, the time has come to do likewise. Remove the Tories, and alleviate the suffering for ordinary people. Then have either a multi-option referendum or enshrine the right of the Scottish Parliament to call one on independence. There is more that unites SNP and Labour than divides. Indulging in hatred simply harms both parties' chances of removing the Tories - on both sides of the border.


Kenny MacAskill is a former SNP MSP and was Cabinet Secretary for Justice between 2007 and 2014. He tweets @KennyMacAskill and is the author of The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice.

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times