The Labour party is in turmoil north of the border after senior MSPs angrily rejected suggestions of an anti-Tory pact with the SNP at Westminster. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale was joined by MSPs Jackie Baillie and James Kelly in a public show of defiance after the party’s new Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland refused to rule out a House of Commons coalition with the nationalists.
Dave Anderson, who replaced Ian Murray as the Shadow Scottish Secretary after the latter resigned during the ‘Corbyn Coup’, said a coalition with the SNP may be a price worth paying to keep the Tories out of power.
Anderson, who is the MP for Blaydon in the north east of England, was on a trip to Scotland when he was quizzed on a possible pact with SNP MPs.
He said: “It is far too early to even contemplate that but what I am not prepared to do on behalf of the Labour Party nationally is to rule that out completely.
“If that is the price that we have to pay to prevent another rabid right-wing Tory government then, I tell you what it is, we have got to at least think about it and discuss it.
“Three and a half years before a possible general election it is a conversation we don’t need to have.
“Obviously Scottish Labour would be the loudest voice in the room if and when we ever … have to contemplate coalition.”
The comments follow similar remarks Mr Anderson made in an interview he gave to The Herald newspaper where he said of an SNP coalition, “I would hope we don’t ever need one”, but added “If we get further down that line we may well have to consider it.”
However in what appears to be a sign of panic within Scottish Labour ranks, senior Labour MSPs posted tweets proclaiming their opposition to any deal with the SNP. Holyrood leader Kezia Dugdale, responding to a barb from Conservative counterpart Ruth Davidson, tweeted “Unlike the Tories in 07-11, Scottish Labour doesn’t support any deal with the SNP.”
Shortly afterwards, colleague Jackie Baillie tweeted: “No matter what you read, Scottish Labour does not support a UK gov deal with the SNP. The SNP want to break up the UK not make it better.”
MSP James Kelly followed, tweeting: “Scottish Labour will have no truck with general election deals with the SNP. We won’t give power to a party that wants to split the country.”
The tweets signal Scottish Labour’s increasing reliance on the hard-line Unionist vote for electoral survival. The recent Scottish elections saw the Scottish Conservatives out-manoeuvre their Unionist rival by adopting a hard pro-Union line during the campaign. Ruth Davidson relegated Kezia Dugdale into third place.
The split between Dugdale and Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary follows similar rifts within the party north of the border. Scottish Labour’s Deputy leader Alex Rowley recently signalled his backing for a second independence referendum – a stance that is at odds with that of leader Kezia Dugdale.
Rowley, along with several other Labour MSPs, also backs Jeremy Corbyn in the contest for the Labour leadership. Dugdale has called on Corbyn to step down.