The Corleone Maneouver



By Peter Arnott

There’s a great scene in Godfather 2 when Al Pacino is sitting behind a desk being insulted by a senator who he needs to “grandfather” a gaming licence for a new Casino. The senator asks him for his offer. And Michael, satanic, smug…offers nothing. He knows he has the real power.

Well, that’s just what Labour MPs did yesterday in unattributed gangster-esque briefings to the Westminster Lobby Press yesterday. To quote this morning’s Herald:

A source said that the message had been “unambiguous”.

He said: “We can’t, of course, physically prevent the SNP voting with us. But we are not going to give them anything for it. What are they going to do? Back the Tories?”

John McTernan actually tweeted this idea yesterday, Alex Massie floated it a blog in the Spectator., quoting the language of Dirty Harry.

And the Godfather Party are smugly slapping each other on the back this morning. They’re passing out cigars. We just wait for them to murder a whore (that’s in the movie) or (in Parliament) take some Devo Max bribe from the Tories…The SNP are trapped. What are they gonna do? Heh Heh Heh.

Do? They’re going to smile. They just won.

The Corleone Maneouver is not a masterstroke. It’s a concession. Labour have just said that it’s fine with them if Scotland votes for the SNP. A Labour vote is unnecessary because the SNP would never bring down a Labour minority government. They have just given up winning an election in Scotland ever again. And made themselves look like surly, sneering thugs in the process.

“Fuck you” they have just said to the Scottish electorate. “Who gives a shit how you vote? It will make no difference to us!”

After a brief moment of paying attention, they’ve just stuck their fingers back in their ears.

Hard to know where to start. (Especially as I wrote a blog here a couple of days ago urging sweet reason and civil conversation)

Of course the SNP won’t do a deal with the Tories. They’d have to be insane to even contemplate it, even if the Tories offered them Devo Max with bells and pennants on. Labour have once again totally misread their opponents and the Scottish electorate. They really think that the SNP are so mono maniacally obsessed with the changing the constitution here and now that in the name of the present they have just handed the SNP the future. In perpetuity On a plate. They’re not the Corleones. They’re the Clampetts.

Let’s play this out. The correct response from the SNP is to smile and say nothing. Of COURSE Scotland’s vote in the Commons will be with Labour (if a minority Labour government is elected). Of COURSE they won’t bring down that Labour government. But they will push and push Labour to the left…then regretfully shake their heads and say “well, it will have to do” on a Balls Budget…and they’ll abstain when Labour cut welfare..and sigh when the Tories and Labour push through Trident replacement together.

Ah, well if we were only independent, they will say…in gleeful sorrow.

The SNP will smile, say very little, and wait to win. History is only going one way. They can afford to be patient. They’d be idiots not to.

The only way the McTernan/Corleone Maneouver works is if time stands still, if the long historical process the referendum was only part of…has stopped.

Does it look like it’s stopped to you?

Deep down, even on this morning when, I suspect, McTernan’s idiotically jaundiced and patronising view of human nature in general and the SNP in particular has made them do something quite as dumb as to concede defeat and insult everyone in Scotland at the same time, Jim and John both know it.

In another borrowing from American culture, in the words of President Bartlett, what’s next?

Comments (40)

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  1. Steve Bowers says:

    love it, a plan as cunning as a fox that’s recently graduated from the university of cunning

  2. Frederick Robinson says:

    Peter Arnott. Grow up. This is real politics, involving policies and peoples’ lives. If you want to see the Godfather, go to the flicks.

    1. bellacaledonia says:


      1. Peter Arnott says:

        It’s not personal, Bella. It’s strictly business.

    2. tartanfever says:

      ‘If you want to see the Godfather, go to the flicks ‘

      Frederick, thats more telling than you think, like your political outlook, this movie was on general release 4 decades ago.

    3. Barbara McKenzie says:

      I don’t get you. Are you saying that it is childish to talk about politics and society with reference to ideas from film and literature? You don’t believe that this is an entrenched and enriching aspect of our culture?

    4. Sounds like a labour troll. Get his nappy ready.

    5. dcanmore says:

      we’re all part of the same hypocrisy Fred 🙂

  3. goldenayr says:

    Labour mentality is that of sheep,somebody says “I’ve a great idea” and they all follow because they’re unsure if it is or not.They have yet to understand that a penn is not a refuge.It’s where livestock are held before they go to the abbatoir.
    Labour have been penned.

  4. Hugh Kirk says:

    They’re not the Corleones. They’re the Clampetts. A great line but they’re not the Clampetts they’re the Griswolds.

    1. Peter Arnott says:

      Clampetts are funnier.

      1. hughonabike says:

        I agree, The Clampetts are funnier but the Griswolds are way stoopider…

  5. Peter A Bell says:

    Excellent analysis.

    Essentially, British Labour in government has two choices: woo the SNP/Progressive Bloc; or pander to the Tories. While they gleefully taunt, “What are [the SNP] going to do? Back the Tories?”, they miss what is, for them, the absolutely crucial question, “What is British Labour going to do? Rely on Tory votes?”.

    The SNP will always have the excuse that they are forced to vote with British Labour because the alternative is much worse. But what excuse will British Labour have when it relies on Tory votes? Undoubtedly the line will be that the issue of our nuclear deterrent (or the economy; or immigration; or whatever) “transcends party politics”. In which case, both Labour and Tory supporters will ask, why bother having parties?

    To which the establishment parties might well reply, “Why indeed? Give us a minute….”.

    1. John Page says:

      Leave aside just how vile McTernan is to think in these terms…….and is Douglas Alexander son of the manse and great intellect not supposed to be Labour’s election strategy leader…… lofty principles just the behaviour of a mafia like self serving cabal?

      What does the expanded SNP Westminster cadre do with a minority Labour Govt that offers nothing? How do they avoid being blamed for letting the Tories back?

      Does anyone know the exact timing on a vote to replace Trident?

      Can the SNP have a strategy of being seen to have done everything to support Labour in return for increased powers and reversal of austerity and then if the Labour Govt (as indicated in Peter’s article above) gives nothing withdraw support for the Budget linked to Trident and provoke an election at Westminster around the same time as Holyrood.

      Even with the echo chamber of the Daily Record and BBC Scotland going on about Tartan Tories and 1979 again, the SNP could come out of this as having been principled and now making it clear that independence is the only possible route to avoid austerity economics and weapons of mass destruction.

      Michael Corleone’s approach to the Nevada Senator only worked because the Senator was corrupt and could easily be blackmailed. The SNP need simply stick to its principles of putting Scotland first, wishing an end to austerity and getting WMD out of the Clyde.

      It is not as if they are desperate for ministerial cars.

      This Westminster election is a big deal for Murphy, Miliband, Douglas and McTernan…….their last chance. But surely it is only one step in a process for the SNP?

      John Page

    2. oldbattle says:

      How can we have BRITISH labour now that we have Scottish labour? Is the idea of a British polity not one of the great lies of history? Even its other title the United Kingdom is a gross misconception foisted on us like the House of Lords: the lies of life and a life of lies. The once respected New Statesman has a lead article under the name of Andrew Marr called’ Is British politics broken?’
      What the fk is British politics?
      The idea of British politics never existed save for the killing times of the two 20th c wars. From 1707 Westminster was set up and remained a parliament for England with troublesome appendages. Dicey was quite clear in stating the case for a political culture, he called the English constitution.
      Jacobitism and later, forms of Jacobinism plus the long Irish struggle ( and popular 19th c Scottish agitation) prevented the formation of a British political popular idea. The rejection of the Empire forged in the anti-colonial movement reinforced the myth of British identity.
      Liberal & Labour leadership (Keir Hardie) further eroded Britishness leading to the inevitable realization that Britain was never more than a Tory copywriter’s bourgeois brand: a virtual yet vacuous non-state, similar to honourable as the big-lie for the inhabitants of Westminster.

  6. Aucheorn says:

    Since the Referendum was announced Labour has been out thought, outflanked by the SNP and the Tories. Look at the hash they made of the No campaign fighting for the Tories, taking the blame for everything that went wrong. Just as well they had Brown to come forward, to lie and scare so effectively.

    The trough feeders for the past few years don’t have the skill to be politicians or aren’t bright enough.

  7. liz says:

    Typical of McTernan to think he is The Godfather, he is more like Fredo than Michael

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      More like Sonny, and currently hurtling towards the tollbooths.

  8. daibhidhdeux says:

    The implosion of Britain and its empire: Previously as bloody tragedy. Finally, as farce.

  9. andrew>reid says:

    Or as Clemenza said in the Godfather Part One, “That Sonny’s runnin’ wild. He’s thinkin’a going to the mattresses already.” Sounds like he was talking about Sonny Jim (Murphy) or Sonny McTernan

    As for the rest of us, we should maybe recognise that Labour’s fundamental weakness is its failure to comprehend that things have moved on and will never be the same again, and that they are no longer trusted to create the fairer society many of us are looking for – that they can no longer take for granted the people who voted for them in the past – as Michael Corleone himself put it,“I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men whose only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them.”

  10. Drew Campbell says:

    Hmm. The article appears to suppose:
    a) SNP commanding somewhere above 40 seats, and
    b) Labour managing to form a minority government.

    Opinion polls nothwithstanding, I’d say both still represent fairly large assumptions – incumbency and the mainstream media will work for Labour and I’m sad to say I expect them to hold on perhaps 20 seats. However, going with the scenario, the realpolitik of the Commons is full of Machivellian manoeuvres and policy kites flown then spun and triangulated to the nth degree. Labour could try to ignore an SNP bloc, but there remain progressive forces within their ranks that could pull them into alliances with the Left, especially when there are little or no Labour MPs from Scotland there to spit bile and venom at the very mention of the SNP. Also, arithmetic suggests Plaid, the Greens and maybe the SDLP could come into play (though I notice today that the DUP and UUP have agreed an electoral pact in four key marginals to maximise the Loyalist/Unionist vote, most likely in anticipation of propping up a Tory minority – see what I mean about Machivellian?).

    Ed Balls is not a popular figure in the Labour Party; aside from his personality, arrogance and dodgy friends like Conrad Black, he was photographed in a Nazi uniform while a member of the Conservative Association at Oxford (he was also a member of the Liberal and Labour associations – suggesting acquiring power was his main objective). His majority at the last election was just over 1,000, meaning he may well be vulnerable to a concerted attack there. Even if he clings on, he represents the fag-end of the Brownite New Labour, while young, telegenic (and grossly overrated) Chuka Umunna is seen as the Blair inheritor. Minority Labour would have to find real discipline or collapse – the most likely scenario, I’d say – but that means doing deals to get some sort of programme through.

    In politics, as we know, every gift also contains a poison chalice. Rather than stand off and ignore, I strongly suspect Labour will try to seduce the SNP into various traps, construct debates to place them in the most invidious position. It’ll be high risk because in attempting to kill off a potential ally they may take their eye off the Tories and get royally shafted for their troubles. Meanwhile the SNP must be very careful not to try and play too clever – twisting perfectly reasonable policies to make stealth gains on the independence agenda. That kind of thinking is what led Brown and Scottish Labour their present impending doom; everything was done through the prism of killing off the SNP to the point they lost sight of the main prize. It’s very easy to be drawn into those kind of games at Westminster.

    SNP will be full of firebrand novices whose best course would be to focus on becoming highly respected constituency MPs; they will be the most vulnerable to the blandishments and distractions Westminster does s well. The cohort, whatever size it may be, will be very ably led by highly skilled old hands like Angus Robertson, Angus Macneil and Pete Wishart plus, of course, Alex Salmond. Salmond is a formidable operator but extracting any kind of concessions will be hard and hazardous work.

    I wish them all the luck, wit and wisdom to navigate the stormy seas ahead – and advise reading up on Charles Parnell.

  11. Barontorc says:

    Spud Murphy and Machiavelli McTernan – what a tag team! They’re tossing themselves out of the ring and the BBC referee can’t do a thing about it. Working on it though!

  12. Golfnut says:

    Westminster smoke and mirrors again. They are not concerned about what the SNP vote for, but what they vote against.
    Labour will not need SNP support to get austerity measures through, they will have plenty of blue Tories to help with that.
    The SNP will not have to abstain, they will vote against any measure detrimental to the people of Scotland.
    Just where will WM authority in Scotland be then.

  13. steve h says:

    Labour will be sleeping with the fishes.

  14. CJK says:

    Ahhh Peter, so quickly the world turns! This certainly is a good deal more realistic than your new optimism of two days ago. Please do not let me read again on a Bella editorial piece that Jim Murphy is genuinely reaching out to yes. This is a classic short term success attitude from SLAB hoping that they can’t paint the SNP as impotent and at one level it may succeed but the reality is the vote for the SNP is in a very large part a vote against Westminster and against labour and this nyah nyah attitude will only strengthen that standpoint.
    There’s no easy rout through this and we all have to rely on the SNP staying honest and being patient. We don’t need to be king makers when we want to bring down the throne!

    1. Peter Arnott says:

      Agreed. But I maintain that A) an open hand and mind ware not a bad thing in the short term, tactically and in principle. and B) we’re going to need to lay the ground for civility in the future. They thought we’ds disappear after the referendum (that was why they said Yes to it). We are winning and we must not make the same mistake. Again, tactically. Again, in principle. Thanks for reading

  15. Kenny says:

    They may not have realised it yet, but the SNP can ruin them. On anything the Tories are ready to three-line whip, the SNP can name its price. On English issues, the SNP can (and should) abstain and very possibly have the Tories effectively running the show. And on Trident, they can watch the two English parties gang up to impose it on Scotland when Scotland has quite explicitly said it doesn’t want it. After all, the SNP has made it a major issue in this campaign and everyone knows they’re the anti-Trident party.

    I’m actually quite sad at the thought of Labour completely destroying itself, but they pretty much brought it all on themselves. Sure, the media is mostly pretty right wing and BBC HQ is just as friendly with the Tories as Pacific Quay is with “Scottish” Labour, but none of that made them abandon their principles or get drunk on power or give up all pretence of honesty and decency during the referendum campaign. I only hope someone is around who can pick up the pieces and build a new left wing party because otherwise the Tories, even as hapless as they are now, could be in government for the VERY long haul.

  16. albawoman says:

    So the freedom to vote for the party you consider best represents your values and hopes of social improvements particularly, the level of child poverty in Scotland has gone. A vote for the SNP is essentially worthless. The Scottish masses are being well and truly whipped into SLABS pen.

    Except …….most of us really do intend to vote exactly as we wish. It is the little bit of democracy left to us. People and the political scene have changed in Scotland. Labour is now a collection of individuals staring into the dark.

  17. Barontorc says:

    Dear Editor,

    I have now had two comments disappear from different articles -‘awaiting moderation’ – is there any point in continuing to add any more?

  18. Big Jock says:

    If 50% of the Scottish electorate vote SNP. Then the Labour party have just dismissed and belittled the people. The elected MPs are the virtual representation of the individuals who elect them. How far would they take this. Do they stop at 6o% or 70%. Just how many Scots are they going to banish to the wilderness for voting for another party!

  19. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    There’s a scene in The Godfather part III, that sums up Labours relationship with the tories.

    Just before Corleone has a heart attack, he says, “just when I thought I was out they pull me back in.”

  20. Anyone following the party in the last six months, will see Labour have propped up this ToryLib circus, so no one is seriously fooled they won’t work with the Tories, they just prefer the farce of pretending.

    I think the real issue is that Miliband has abandoned the North British Accounting Unit to their fate. Murphy not so visible in football tops just now. Rachel Reeves announces they are not the party of the unwaged, and economically inactive. Quelle surprise. Hope her colleagues in Scotland facing unemployment heard that!

    So yes, Labour has said fuck you to the Scots, they have to protect their vote down south, so cutting loose the whinging, sponging jocks helps.

    Let’s hope that those who remain to be convinced, can see the way our imperial masters do business, and that a vote for anyone other than SNP, weakens our representation down there.

  21. oldbattle says:

    In my many years writing for Bella I have never had a piece ‘waiting moderation’: until today. Oh dear “time and tension tolls the bell(a) that summons some to moderation and some to hell”

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi – sorry we’ve been inundated with abuse, smears, trolling and racist comments (sometime slap rolled into one). So thats why we’re all in mod queues. Not fun for me either.

      1. MBC says:

        Sorry to hear that. It’s means you’re being really effective though. Bella is one of the best blogs there is!

  22. bringiton says:

    Well,I think we are finally seeing the end of British Labour and the unveiling of a party which has been entirely English Middle class since Tory Blair and friends took over.
    It was impossible for Labour to try and straddle two horses going in different directions at the same time,Old Labour in Scotland and New Labour in England.
    England now has political parties which represent their interests and Scotland is in the process of acquiring the same but the big question is,do we have still have mutual interests,what are they and how do we implement them for the benefit of both countries.
    We are going to find out what and how over the next few years.

  23. Johnny come lately says:

    It’s always fun to speculate, but there are no numbers at this point in time, and therefore everything is just speculation. I agree with the point that Labour effectively have cut their Scottish contingency loose, and made it perfectly clear at the same time that they don’t give a hoot as to what Scotland votes, as we’re not getting anything out of it, our votes don’t count, we have no right to political influence in this great democracy etc etc.

    Where now for Scotland? That’s anyone’s guess, but I would wager that all of these statements from both parties do not (as the Americans would say) amount to a hill of beans. If labour or the Tories need support they will take it where they can find it, even if that means doing business with The SNP.

    I wonder how Labour voters in Scotland are feeling at this moment time now that Ed has just told them to take a hike.

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