Leaders: Protest vote against ­Labour could backfire

With a seeming acceptance now that the minor parties will hold the balance of power in the new UK parliament the battleground has to switched to what that power balance would look like. David Cameron’s view of a Labour/SNP pact at Westminster will surely frighten a lot of people. But why on Earth is he saying it in Scotland? That must surely be the very definition of wasting his breath.

Camerons warning on what Labour and the SNP are likely to do is aimed at the wrong audience. Picture: Getty
Camerons warning on what Labour and the SNP are likely to do is aimed at the wrong audience. Picture: Getty

The big question here is just how many disaffected Labour voters – and Liberal Democrat voters probably – will go to the SNP. Former Labour voters in Scotland who want to register upset at the party’s recent direction, and want to force the party to change, may think that voting SNP is a way of making that protest to Labour – and are also not seeing much risk in terms of policy, given the likely balance of power and the views the SNP take on social justice. But that is only a likely outcome, because the real risk is that they deny the Labour Party in the UK the biggest number of seats, or even an overall majority, and let the Tories in. That seems like an awfully big risk to take just to make a point.

Mr Cameron’s warning on what Labour and the SNP are likely to do is a powerful one but aimed at completely the wrong audience. The people who will be most concerned about the prospect of a Britain governed by Labour in which the SNP have a powerful say are English Tory voters. If he wants to enjoy the full effect of that message, he should be shouting it from the rooftops in the English counties, not Glasgow. He should use that to bring out the Tory vote and to try to minimise how much of that vote he loses to Ukip.

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It would appear that Ukip is helping him there as the party’s fortunes continue to weaken, not even given a flutter of life by the launch of their manifesto. Nigel Farage’s manifesto tackled immigration – an issue they think they can win votes on – by calling for an Australian-style points system to assess all potential migrants to Britain, and claimed benefits would only be paid to migrants who had been in the UK for five years. But Ukip is unlikely to be a player in any power-sharing deals unless the parties are extremely close and the polls for Scotland are way off. Ukip are likely to get four seats at best.

That didn’t stop Nick Clegg yesterday also playing the bogeyman card by warning that if it wasn’t the Lib Dems holding the balance of power, it would be Ukip or the SNP. Currently the Lib Dems are on course for between 20 and 40 seats. If it is at the lower end of that forecast, there is a real possibility that the SNP contingent will completely dwarf it. However, given that the Lib Dems could back either of the two major parties, whoever had the most seats, the arithmetic might just work out for them.

Given the uncertainties and the complexities around a balance of power, it might just be that voters decide the protest vote route is not the one to take.

A case of the vapours over e-cigs

There is a growing trend to ban e-cigarettes from more places, and more often they are being thought of and treated as if they were exactly the same as cigarettes. There is a view that if people are seen vaping then it will be seen as cool, so more will do it. There are fears over the exact ­effects on health of inhaling the vapour, and a belief that vaping will be a gateway in to smoking.

Now there is a study that shows, actually, e-cigarettes are unlikely to become a “gateway to smoking” for teenagers despite being popular. The authoritative study shows few of those who try them become regular users, and in the UK less than a third of 1 per cent of non-smoking young people goes on to regularly use an e-cigarette.

The World Health Organisation has also recognised that there is little evidence of e-cigarettes acting as a gateway to conventional smoking.

Smoking is a terrible health risk that needs to be eradicated, but there seems to be a prevailing view that e-cigarettes are part of the problem and that they should be banned and vilified and are not part of the solution. Although that may be the way to go in a perfect world, the fact is that many people in this country smoke despite the health risks. And for people who want to stop but cannot go cold turkey, then e-cigarettes pose a safer alternative or even a help to gradual cessation. The dangers are less than if they kept on smoking cigarettes.

So we should do what we can to promote the safer alternative to cigarettes, not ban them in some misguided draconian attempt to prove that all smoking does not exist. This evidence further supports that position.