SNP turmoil will help Labour in England at the next election by making it harder for the Tories to run Scottish “scare” stories, says a former minister in the Blair and Brown governments.

Ed Balls, now a television pundit and presenter, said it was too early to say if the tumult in the SNP would help Labour in Scotland.

At the 2015 election the Conservatives ran ads, designed by M&C Saatchi, showing then Labour leader Ed Miliband in the pocket of a grinning Alex Salmond. Other posters featured Nicola Sturgeon as a puppet master with the warning: “Ed Miliband cannot be PM without the SNP, and it would mean chaos for Britain. Don't let it happen.”

Recent events, and the absence of party leaders Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, would take the sting out of such claims, said Mr Balls.

He told The Andrew Neil Show on Channel 4 last night: “In England this really helps because the scare of the SNP coming down to Westminster was very powerful in 2015. That’s much harder to run when you’ve not got Salmond or Sturgeon, but some unknown person with independence less on the front foot?

“In Scotland though it’s too early to say that Labour’s going to get its big breakthrough. There are lots of people who still hold the flame for independence.”



The former MP, who lost his seat in 2015, said Ms Sturgeon’s reputation as First Minister was diminishing “very fast” compared to other ex-leaders.

“There’s a truth in politics that the day you resign is not the place to judge your place in history. Things change over time. Think of the rise in John Major’s reputation, the decline in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reputation since she stepped down in Germany, but it is happening very fast for Nicola Sturgeon.”

The former Strictly Come Dancing contestant added: “I don’t think people are going to look back with such a rosy view of her time as leader of the SNP after the events of the last couple of weeks.”

Ms Sturgeon’s out-of-the-blue resignation had not made sense at first, he added.

“Since then it’s clear there was no succession plan, the party is divided completely over independence, all these problems now emerging about the way the SNP is run, and candidates who don’t seem to be well known but also aren’t even defending the record of the Sturgeon period.”

Former Chancellor George Osborne said the effect of an SNP “implosion” could not be taken for granted.

“It feels like the SNP are imploding but don’t underestimate the cause of independence and the purchase it has on a section of the Scottish population.”



It was nevertheless an “enormous boon” for Labour leader Keir Starmer, he said.

“There is an outcome for the General Election where Labour just win, they need the SNP’s support, it will be a very weak Labour government. Or there’s an outcome where Labour picks up a load of seats again in Scotland and you have a strong majority Labour government. That latter option is becoming more likely. Labour don’t just need the Tories to do badly they need the SNP to do badly."