March 2008: Sir Menzies Campbell And Gordon Brown’s Secret Talks On Pact To Deny SNP The Right To Govern Scotland
Brown held two secret meetings with Sir Menzies Campbell during the 2007 Scottish election campaign in an attempt to forge a new Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition and keep the SNP out of power.
Brown, the then Chancellor tried to get the agreement of the former Lib Dem leader for an anti-SNP coalition – even though neither had the authority to make such an agreement.
The secret meetings, held behind the backs of their respective Scottish parties and leaders, were disclosed in Sir Menzies’ recently released autobiography.
In Menzies Campbell: My Autobiography, Sir Ming described how he met Brown twice in Edinburgh during the election campaign – once on Easter Sunday and on election day itself, when it was clear that the SNP was ahead in the polls and heading for victory.
On both occasions, Brown asked for a new Labour-Lib Dem coalition as he did not want the SNP to control the Scottish Executive and its 30 billion budget.
Sir Ming told Brown that, although he was also against an SNP-led devolved administration, he could not decide coalition policy, as that was in the hands of the party’s Scottish leader, Nicol Stephen.
Jack McConnell, the then Scottish Labour leader, was not invited to the meetings.
Brown was operating without the knowledge or approval of the Scottish Labour leadership.
News that Brown was working behind the scenes to forge an anti-SNP coalition infuriated Nationalists and embarrassed Scottish Labour leaders, particularly as McConnell made it clear after the SNP won last year’s election that Alex Salmond would be given the chance to form a government.
Sir Ming wrote that Brown first called him at home on Easter Sunday last year to ask for a discreet meeting.
He stated: “Like me, he was anxious about the possibility of the SNP governing in Scotland, our own backyard. Was there common ground between Labour and the Lib Dems to tackle the SNP together?
He made a number of suggestions. I told him I would have to discuss them with Nicol Stephen. “He then raised possibilities for a new coalition between the Lib Dems and Labour on the assumption that the two parties had enough seats jointly to form a government. ”
Sir Ming wrote that this was difficult for him as such decisions were for Mr Stephen.”
As the election campaign drew to a close, Brown got in touch again.
Sir Ming wrote:
“We met at the same discreet place as before. Throughout the campaign, the polls had put the SNP ahead of Labour. Was there scope for an arrangement between our parties? What would be the consequences for Scotland and our parties if the SNP used the 30 billion Scottish Executive budget to build support for independence over the next few years?”
Sir Ming also explained how the Scottish Lib Dem leadership team met at his Edinburgh home the night after the SNP’s victory to eat pizza and decide what to do. “After two hours, we packed away our pizza boxes and any possibility of a coalition deal with the SNP.”
Sir Ming also revealed that both he and Tavish Scott, the Lib Dems’ election campaign manager, were against an SNP-Lib Dem coalition, but a deal with Labour was still a possibility.
Brown contacted Sir Ming the next day. Sir Ming wrote that he had to be “circumspect” as he was not supposed to “muscle in” on Scottish party affairs.
By the time Scott went on BBC Scotland’s Politics Show the following day, all forms of coalition had been ruled out for the Lib Dems, which is what he then announced.
Brown was so desperate to keep Alex Salmond from being First Minister he tried to cut a deal to keep him out of power.
The 2007 Scottish General Election
The SNP won the Scottish General Election with 47 MSP’s to Labour’s 46.
Despite all the odds being stacked against them the SNP formed a minority Government and retained power for the full term of the parliament.
But Brown, assisted by his network of spies, the Civil Service and rumour mongers continued with his vindictive attacks on Alex Salmond and his government making life extremely difficult for the newly elected SNP government turning down meetings delaying and denying Scotland effective governance.
But due to the dogged and unstinting efforts of Alex Salmond a way forward was finally agreed through the establishment of a new “Joint Ministerial Committee” comprising the leaders of devolved administrations and representatives of the Westminster government.
Adding insult Brown insisted that the First minister of Wales should undertake responsibilty for agreeing the format and chairing the body at the first plenary session after which Jack Straw would take the chair at meetings.
What a control freak. No Gordon Brown Alex Salmond meetings.
The 2015 General Election
Brown departed the scene but his legacy lived on in the newly elected leader of the Labour Party in Scotland.
Murphy had a history of doing deals within deals, (the referendum campaign gave truth to this). He would deal with the devil if needed to get a result.
But of note and some encouragement for Scots was the scale of his leadership victory.
Despite the unqualified backing of Miliband, the Labour Party Executive and all of the Scottish group of MP’s in Westminster he only managed to gain about 50% of the total vote.
With 50% of the labour Party in Scotland against him, including all Trades Unions Murphy will not find rich pickings on the left leaning membership of the party.
Noteworthy also was that the Cooperative sponsors who supported a number of Scottish MP’s. did not support Murphy’s election which was very damaging for Murpht and the labour Party.
The SNP sustains a Trades Union support group and many Labour supporters transferred their allegience to the SNP.