Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

SNP distortions, again

Judging by pageviews, my most widely read post ever was on Scottish independence, and its title was ‘Scotland and the SNP: Fooling yourselves and deceiving others’. I was extremely critical of the fiscal claims made by the SNP. I wrote

“There are many laudable reasons to campaign for Scottish independence. But how far should those who passionately want independence be prepared to go to achieve that goal? Should they, for example, deceive the Scottish people about the basic economics involved? That seems to be what is happening right now. The more I look at the numbers, the clearer it becomes that over the next five or ten years there would [be] more, not less, fiscal austerity under independence.”

That was half a year ago, and of course lower oil prices have only strengthened that view. But more recently it has been refreshing to hear Nicola Sturgeon make the case against UK austerity. So when I was asked by The Conversation to fact check this statement by her:

“In the last five years, austerity has undermined our public services, lowered the living standards of working people, pushed more children into poverty and held back economic growth.”

I was happy to provide a report which concluded:

“Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on the economic impact of austerity on the UK is correct, with no qualifications.”

Today the SNP put out a press release on the Conversation report. Unfortunately it contained the following comment from Stewart Hosie, Deputy Leader of the SNP and Treasury spokesperson:

''Professor Wren-Lewis reflects what many other experts and indeed members of the public know all too well - that Tory/Lib Dem austerity has done deep harm to the country's recovery from the Labour recession.”

Oh dear – ‘the Labour recession’. That would be the global financial crisis that originated with US subprime mortgages! Calling this the Labour recession is just stupid, and is something I would never say. It is very unfortunate (and I hope it is just a misfortunate) that Stewart Hosie appeared to suggest that I had said or implied that. Whatever the intention, it indicates that at least some in the SNP are still in the business of making highly misleading statements to advance their cause.

While on the subject of the SNP and this election, let me make one final point, just in case any prospective SNP voters read this. In the quite likely event that the Conservatives get more seats than Labour, but less seats than Labour and the SNP combined, in a situation where either side would need LibDem support Nick Clegg has made it clear he will talk to the Conservatives first. That will almost certainly lead to the current coalition government continuing. Clegg’s reasoning for doing this makes little sense, but the SNP cannot influence Clegg’s decision, and I suspect nor can his party even if they were minded to.

If that comes to pass, then every vote for the SNP rather than Labour that loses Labour seats becomes a vote to continue with the current government. That is not an opinion, but a factual statement. So, to be consistent with his own logic, I think Stewart Hosie would have to call this election result the SNP’s Tory-LibDem second term.


33 comments:

  1. Nice touch to call it Labour's recession when Salmond was cheer-leading for Fred Goodwin, and accusing regulators of being too tough on the banks.

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    1. If you can give me a reference to back up the last statement, I'd be very grateful!

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    2. I found this:
      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-16835023

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    3. Salmond told The Times in 2007: "“We are pledging a light-touch regulation suitable to a Scottish financial sector with its outstanding reputation for probity, as opposed to one like that in the UK, which absorbs huge amounts of management time in ‘gold-plated’ regulation.”

      http://www.ianfraser.org/yes-scotlands-claims-about-crisis-avoidance-ring-hollow/

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    4. And more cheers ...
      http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0043/00437389.pdf
      http://www.gov.scot/resource/doc/918/0085292.pdf

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    5. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2760109/How-Alex-Salmond-cheed-pal-Fred-Shred-ruined-Royal-Bank-Scotland.html

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  2. I think the statement "That will almost certainly lead to the current coalition government continuing" is exaggerated, unless it's heavily qualified by the preceding statement "in a situation where either side would need LibDem". If the LibDems are pivotal, then I agree the current coalition is likely to continue (but I am not certain). But I think the LibDems will not be pivotal, and I think it's possible that Con+LDem+Dup < 326. In this case, SNP votes would ensure that the current government fails to obtain the confidence of the Commons. In no case would I call any prediction of likely governing outcomes "a fact"

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    1. You are right, it is conditional, and I personally would very much hope that Lab get enough seats to avoid having to ask for LibDem support (not being a great fan of coalition macro policy, among other things). But in terms of what might happen, I have only the polls to go on, and the outcome I talk about seems more than possible given those.

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  3. Surprising slip in standards from the otherwise unswervingly dependable Simon Wren-Lewis... perhaps because of the personal interest here?

    'Labour' (that is Blair-then-Brown-New-Labour) was a culpable participant in causes of the recession following 2007/08. That Labour Administration was an enthusiastic torch carrier for the global neo-liberal evangelism that wrought the disaster. If Labour cannot fully admit and therefore begin to put to rest its culpability about this, the 'brand damage' will endure (rather like the Labour Party needing to openly disown the Blair era delusions, infatuation with Bush jnr USA and the consequent disastrous Iraq foray?).

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    1. I think that is a respectable point of view from those that warned of these dangers beforehand, as long as they make it clear that Labour were following what was pretty well a consensus view among the political and economic establishment. I think it is still pretty silly calling it Labour's recession - better to say something like neoliberalism's recession. However for a party like the Conservatives, who argued for less regulation, to call it Labour's recession is a distortion. From the comments above, this may also apply to the SNP.

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    2. What does allocating blame do other than score a rhetorical point? Better to understand the causes from a longish historical perspective maybe. Rather like the causes of the Great War?

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    3. Spin wins votes, unfortunately (see mediamacro)

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  4. It seems a bit over the top to hang all this on the phrase ‘the Labour recession’. Even if you discount New Labour's culpability, which I don't, it happened during their watch - perhaps that's all Stewart Hosie meant.

    Nick Clegg has been equivocal about whether he would go into coalition with Labour or the Tories. There have been dark mutterings about "never again" from some LibDem candidates.

    Admission: I am an SNP supporter (and an interested reader of your blog).

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    1. If you had previously written a post criticising Clegg for saying Labour 'crashed the economy', and then someone implied you had effectively said the same thing, I think you might be a little annoyed. No one says 'Labour's recession' just because it happened on their watch - they want to imply something more.



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  5. Clegg cannot garuntee Lib Dem support. Any deal must pass a party conference first (like the previous deal).

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  6. I genuinely don't understand this logic that voting SNP helps the Tories. So let's simplify this. Let's assume a Scottish seat that will either go to Labour or to the SNP, and therefore voting for party X meaningfully increases the change of party X getting the seat.

    Surely the total size of the Labour+SNP bloc is what matters, not the details of its composition. Are the Lib Dems saying they would work with Labour, but not SNP+Labour?

    As far as I can see, as a relatively unbiased Irishman living on the European mainland, every change of seat from Labour to SNP actually makes the Tories lives more difficult, as the SNP have clearly said they'll vote against a Tory government, while Labour are apparently being a bit vague on this.

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    1. http://news.sky.com/story/1465770/clegg-questions-legitimacy-of-snp-in-government

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    2. Thanks for the link. This seems to be the important line:

      "He [Clegg] said he was ruling out a deal with either the SNP or UKIP."

      With all this ruling out, it's hard to see any combination that works. Except maybe Labour+Tory. But if we also rule that out as madness, then there aren't many combinations remaining.

      When people talk about Labour+SNP, do they actually imagine SNP leaders taking seats in the cabinet? That seems like a strange image to an outsider like me. So maybe Labour (with maybe the LibDems) as a minority government, with some external support from the SNP?

      Although I guess Scottish Labour won't like that. They don't want to set a precedent that "voting SNP is basically the same as voting Labour, except with the bonus of more forcefully representing Scotland."

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    3. If the Conservatives are the largest party because of Labour Scottish losses and Cons + Lib Dems is enough to get over 323, then loss of Scottish seats will have cost Labour the election.

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  7. What is often forgotten is that the SNP surge is likely to take around 10 seats off the Lib Dems so it's slightly misleading to say a vote for the SNP is a vote for the coalition...

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    1. I have no problem with the SNP taking seats from the LibDems, but that is clearly not what I was talking about.

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  8. SNP+Labour will still outnumber Tory+LibDem according to the current polls.

    What the Lib-Dems say they will do, and what actually happens after an election are two different things.
    That is a factual statement.

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    1. I just make the best judgment I can given the evidence. Poll result highly uncertain - just ask any pollster. Chances of LibDem party overruling Clegg decisions - pretty slim. Lab loses seats to SNP and Lab+SNP have majority, maybe marginal better Lab gov from SNP perspective. Lab loses seats to SNP and Lab+SNP do not have majority, Con+LibDem government pretty likely.

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    2. If you are going on probabilities, then Nick Clegg is just as likely to continue the current coalition with the Tories, even if they end up with less seats than Labour in a hung parliament. Perhaps along with the DUP.

      Cameron will always get first chance to form a government as the incumbent PM.
      Personal relationships have been built up, and LibDem credibility is on the line regarding seeing through the choices they made.

      Labour would be wise to focus their resources on England, because they are pretty much guaranteed SNP support, but not LibDem support.

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  9. Labour is died in Scotland and thank God for that! Labour has ruined Scotland and the north of England forgetting us as safe seats Im for one very happy with events hahaaha

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  10. Since we're on the subject of distortions, surely the "Global Financial Crisis" is a prime example? Outside Europe and the US it was little more than a blip.

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    1. It was more severe in Japan in terms of negative GDP growth than anywhere else because of their already-weak and export-oriented economy. GDP fell by an annualised rate of 12%, the Nikkei fell 40% which was more than the FTSE100 or the Dow Jones.

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  11. Have you read Episode 12: Severe Amnesia by John Lanchester 22 April 2015 on the LRB blog, which reminds people or informs for them for first time that the SNP and Tories were in alliance in Holyrood 2007-2011?

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    1. Not an alliance. Some deals were done, on police numbers for example, but there was no formal arrangement. Deals were done with all parties as the SNP had only 47 of the 139 seats. Margo MacDonald as an Independent, got some additional money for Edinburgh in one budget.

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  12. I think any deal between Labour and the Lib Dems with Clegg and Alexander in charge is highly unlikely. The Orange Bookers will not give up their neoliberalism easily. So the Lib Dem strategy after the election is likely to be highly dependent on individual results (will Clegg and/or Alexander lose their seats?) and internal Lib Dem machinations.

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  13. It is a mistake to think the balance between Lab -SNP matters only in regard to whether Lab or Con are the largest party in the House of Commons. If the SNP gets enough seats to deprive Labour of a majority it will prevent progress across the UK on a number of issues. SNP have no commitment to abolishing Employment Tribunal fees for example. Zero hours contracts is another. Labour are committed to making them illegal in some circumstances - all the SNP are committed to is a consultation with business and unions looking for agreement . No prizes for guessing which option the Con Dems will weigh in behind there...
    http://www.unionsforscottishlabour.org/blog/tackling-zero-hour-contracts-labour-deliver-snp-dont

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