Here’s a wee test that might help clarify a thing or two for some folk.
Think of a marginal constituency in Scotland. You might want to choose a Labour held one like Edinburgh South, where both the Tories and SNP are challengers. Or you might prefer a borders constituency where it’s neck and neck between the Tories and SNP.
Now think of how you’ll feel when you hear the result. That’ll tell you what you want the result to be now. This might seem obvious, but that isn’t always how it is. Sometimes, we’re confused about what we want. Sometimes, we lie to ourselves. And sometimes, we just lie to others.
So if you’re a Tory and your hear that Labour has held Edinburgh South. You’ll be disappointed that the Tories haven’t won it, of course. But will you be relatively happy because at least the SNP didn’t win it? Or will you be fairly happy because the party which has just appointed a lifelong hard line communist to run the campaign in its leaders office (and it most definitely and spectacularly has) has taken the seat?
My instinct is that most Scottish Tories will think now they would welcome a Labour win in these circumstances on the basis that they don’t think it’ll affect a likely Tory landslide, and every lost seat to the SNP is a blow struck for unionism.
If you’re an SNP supporter, how will you feel if there’s a strong Tory challenge in Edinburgh South and voters rally around the incumbent enough to win him re-election? Disappointed that your man’s lost, of course. But happy or sad that a Labour person has been re-elected over a Tory one?
I think most SNP supporters across Scotland, if not necessarily in the specific constituency, will have their disappointment salved more by a win for an obvious social democrat than by a win for someone who’s pledged so support a Tory government entirely compromised of English politicians and whose centre of gravity is way off to the right.
And finally, for now, if you’re a Labour supporter. How will you feel if the Tories win a bunch of seats at the expense of the SNP?
My guess here is that most Labour folk will strongly dislike any rise of theTories, even if it hurts the SNP. A worrying number of Scottish Labour politicians, though, will be delighted to see right-wing Tories winning seats over SNP candidates who have a track record as social democrats. Most of the former will put social democracy first, yet a sizeable chunk of the latter will put unionism above social democracy even if that means a long-term right wing government made up of English Tory MPs with English imperatives informed by Nigel Farage.
There are other permutations, of course. Give ’em a go and let us know how you get on.
A final thought. It would be a weird, weird Labour supporter in England who chose the Tories over the SNP. That has big implications for the Labour Party’s position on an independence referendum after this general election.
The choice is simple in each case. And yours will help you to understand whether you put social democracy or the union first.