Promoting your rivals

SNP badge and Lib Dem rosette Image copyright other

Just back from a brief bout of contented leave. On return, I fingered idly through the intriguing blend of leaflets and letters littering my hall carpet.

To those solicitous souls who feel I should insure my life, thanks for the concern. Truly touching but misdirected.

To the eager companies who were keen to explain how much I would save by purchasing their products, I have some sad news. I suspect there may, unfortunately, be another method by which I could save even more. It also has the merits of simplicity.

These decisions took relatively little time. However, I paid more attention to the pair of party political pamphlets among the debris.

Both were, understandably, focused upon the forthcoming UK general election. Each was founded upon the premise that the SNP might do rather well in said contest.

Sprightly nags

One was from the SNP. One was from the Liberal Democrats. Of the two, the Lib Dems were notably more effusive about the SNP's prospects.

The Lib Dem leaflet was promoting the prospects of a sitting MP, a UK government minister. It featured the customary promises, mingled with happy, smiling countenances. These need not concern us here (not that I have any rooted objection to political offers. Nor indeed evident facial contentment).

My attention was more drawn to the suggestion that the constituency in question was a "two horse race". To emphasise this, there was a graphic of two sprightly nags, each with a jockey on board; one in Lib Dem yellow, the other in SNP…..well, you've got the concept by now.

Image copyright PA
Image copyright Reuters

The accompanying text included the following: "Latest polls show a surge in SNP support which suggests they could win 50 of Scotland's 59 MPs."

Just why would a party of UK government posit overwhelming success in Scotland for one of its rivals? For three reasons, perhaps.

One, the SNP would appear, from a range of polls, to be presenting a credible challenge. Their rivals, in short, are scared. Two, the Lib Dems are seeking to reassemble the No vote from the referendum. They are seeking to scare pro-Union voters about the prospects of an SNP advance, linking it to concomitant advance for the cause of independence. The leaflet delivered to my home is explicit about that point.

Three, in this particular case, the Lib Dems are attempting to aggregate the pro-Union vote and deliver it to their candidate. It is an attempt thereby to squeeze their erstwhile comrades in Better Together.

Each of these points would apply, in differing degree and with different nuances, to Labour and the Conservatives. They are similarly worried by the SNP advance, they want to resurrect the numbers which delivered victory for the Union and they want, in individual seats, to suggest that their party is best placed to counter the SNP.

Legitimate tactics

To be clear, these are legitimate tactics for political parties to pursue. In multi-party politics, it is vital to get yourself in the race in the first place in order to have a chance of victory. An aspiring candidate needs, firstly, to get a hearing at all.

And the SNP leaflet? It argues that strength for the SNP at Westminster equates to a stronger voice for Scotland. It makes that case regardless of the incumbency at Downing Street, arguing: "Whatever the outcome in May only one party is stronger for Scotland, the SNP."

Here in sum we have core elements to the forthcoming contest. Isn't politics fascinating?

PS: I'll have to give that Lib Dem leaflet another glance later to find the references to coalition with the Conservatives. No doubt they are in there somewhere.

PPS: United now have three games in a row against Celtic. Two in cup contests, one in the league. Celtic, an offer. You take the league win. We'll have the cup victories.