In 1961 Alastair Maclean wrote his novel ‘Fear is the Key’ set in the Caribbean. It was a great read, like all Maclean’s early works. I was an avid reader of his stories. He had been an English teacher in the school across the road from our house. I felt he was someone worth listening to.
His message has been listened to again, after all these years, and by David Cameron of all people. Fear has become the key strategy of the Tories in this election and it could well be a winner. Like all the best strategies it is both simple and cunning. Churchill once said of the secret services that truth must be guarded by a bodyguard of lies. Strangely enough the lies must be protected by a bodyguard of truth. Confused? That’s the whole idea!
The polls show that Labour and Tories are neck and neck. That’s remarkable considering the damage that Osbourne’s policies have done to the UK economy. Neither party has the promise of an outright victory. How can the government survive? A good general knows how to use the forces he has to concentrate fire on the enemy’s weakest point. He knows that if he can force his enemy to split his forces then he will win.
The Tories have chosen a diversion plan. Cameron talks of the danger posed by the SNP. They pose the greatest threat since the abdication, apparently. Even John Major has been rolled out and dusted down to proclaim the message. But what threat do the SNP pose to the Tories? The SNP are only contesting seats in Scotland and the Tories only have one to lose in Scotland; why the panic?
Panic is what it is about. Convincing the Scottish electorate that he is afraid of the SNP might drive many Scottish voters to turn to the Nats to hit the Tories hard. This can only hit Labour seats and reduce the Labour strength in the UK Parliament.
The same message plays differently in England. By highlighting the possibility of the SNP forcing a Labour government to go way left of their current position and forcing Scottish claims ahead of the needs of English voters he hopes to gain seats in England at the expense of Labour (the SNP don’t have any seats in England).
He hopes to force Labour to attack the SNP position to defend their seats in Scotland, drawing fire away from Tory policies. The question is, will it work? There seems to be evidence that voters are turning from Labour to the SNP. If they manage to take a large number of seats from Labour then the Tories will surely end up as the largest party. What happens then? As we saw last time, a minority Tory party was able to cobble together a coalition which enabled them to take power and wreck the economy. The poorest have suffered most while the richest few seem to have doubled their wealth.
Could this happen again? I think so. When we have an undecided result then all bets are off. Those who say they will not support the Tories can claim that it is in the interests of the country that we have a government that can have a majority in the house. The Tories will be back and in the words of Adolph Hitler when asked to come out of hiding in Argentina to take over Germany in the seventies, “This time there will be no more Mister Nice Guy!”