David Maddox: Scottish Labour conspiracy theory

ALIENS, Kennedy and Ashcroft, conspiracy theories abound, writes David Maddox.

The Scottish Labour conspiracy revolves around Lord Ashcroft. Picture: Terry O'Neill.
The Scottish Labour conspiracy revolves around Lord Ashcroft. Picture: Terry O'Neill.

Strange and unexpected deaths often attract conspiracy theories whether its President Kennedy, Elvis or Princess Di but rarely do conspiracy theories begin before the corpse is yet cold.

However, the apparent demise of Scottish Labour – which appears to be going through some spectacular death throes before our eyes – has already got its very own conspiracy theory even before the electorate have had an opportunity to deliver any last rites.

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The theory centres on Lord Ashcroft, a former Tory treasurer and billionaire who bankrolled the party’s attack in marginal constituencies against Labour in 2010 but is now apparently performing a public service by commissioning a series of UK-wide and constituency polls.

Many in Labour, particularly Scottish Labour, do not believe the man they wanted ejected as a peer is doing this simply out of the goodness of his own heart or even a fascination in politics. Instead they believe he is “trying to create a pro-Tory narrative”.

You will find few Labour politicians, apart from Lord George Foulkes, who will say this publicly but most of them believe that the Ashcroft polls are “designed” to aid a Tory victory.

This is particularly the case with his constituency polls in Scotland which on the last showing suggested 56 out of 59 Scottish seats will go SNP signalling a Labour wipeout of their current 41 seats north of the Border.

Why would this help the Tories? According to the theory, it creates a narrative that gives the SNP momentum and makes a wipeout more likely. If this happens, the Tories really probably will be the biggest party in the UK.

It also feeds into the anti-Scottish campaign in England, launched by David Cameron over the weekend with his poster of Miliband in Salmond’s pocket, and helps the Tories hold on to or even gain marginal English seats on the back of the idea that Labour would hand over the rest of the family silver to Scotland for the keys to Downing Street.

Like the alien at Roswell, it is impossible to prove whether the conspiracy theory is true and certainly some Scottish Labour MPs believe the Ashcroft polls instead. One said he believes Labour is facing its own 1997, in reference to the Tory wipeout that year.

The easiest way to help kill the narrative off is for Labour to rule out a deal with the SNP, put a stop to Cameron’s campaign in England and make Scottish Labour look relevant again. The Scottish Labour MPs who begged Ed Miliband to do just that know that to be true, as does shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, defending a marginal English seat.

The next conspiracy theory might be on why Mr Miliband didn’t rule out an SNP deal if he vacillates much more.