From an editorial leader in this week’s London Evening Standard:
“The man likely to lead the SNP in Westminster, former party leader Alex Salmond, has made it clear that he is contemplating keeping a minority Labour government in power on a case by case basis. ‘If you hold the balance, then you hold the power,’ he said yesterday.
Seems to sum it up pretty well.
As readers will know, when professional broadcast journalists can’t or won’t do their jobs properly, we’re not above jumping in ourselves.
So when someone tweeted to tell us that Jim Murphy had just started a phone-in on London station LBC, it seemed an ideal opportunity to quickly ring up and try directly asking him the question that Scottish Labour really, really don’t want to answer.
Here’s what happened.
The population of the UK, according to the 2011 census, is 63,128,000. Shapps just told us he only cares about 11,200 of them (or 0.018%), because apparently those are all the votes the Tories need to turn round to secure an absolute majority in May’s general election. We very much doubt that any of the 23 target constituences he mentions, across which the required 11,200 votes are spread, are in Scotland.
And that, readers, is what the Tories (and, for that matter, Labour) really think of “the democratic will of the British people”. You may want to keep it in mind when you vote.
We’ve just had a fascinating email from Scottish Labour forwarded to us, from a concerned reader who’d written to them to ask if Labour would really refuse to form a government if they weren’t the largest party. The answer might not be the one anyone who’s seen the party’s election literature (below) would be expecting.
Because almost nobody in Westminster, whether they’re politicians or the media, ever pays any attention to anything outside SW1A, Alex Salmond’s comment in London yesterday that the SNP would vote against any Tory government in the event of a hung Parliament – which to any Scottish person was news as surprising as a weather forecast for rain – has been greeted with seemingly-genuine shock and horror.
Reporter after reporter has treated the non-revelations (which have been official SNP policy for as long as we can remember, and were stated explicitly by Nicola Sturgeon in November) as a stunning bolt from the blue, and Tory politicians and the right-wing media alike have burst into frothing, spluttering rage, based on the fact that apparently none of them grasps how either the UK electoral system or basic arithmetic work.
(Or not. It might have been a present.)
We’ve had to illustrate this piece with a tweet from our old chum Duncan Hothersall, because at the time of writing the Scottish Labour account on Twitter has no mention of Labour’s “five point plan”, and nor does the branch office’s website.
And the reason for the absence of any more information is probably that the “plan” is another example of a Labour policy that looks like a tasty boiled egg until you crack its shell and discover that there’s nothing inside.
Respect to John MacKay of STV, who on last night’s Scotland Tonight asked Labour MSP James Kelly the question this site has called for about whether Labour would stand aside and let the Tories rule if the latter were the largest party after May’s election, but Labour had enough seats to win a confidence vote and form the government with backing from the SNP and/or other parties.
Kelly, unsurprisingly, flapped and blustered and totally evaded it. But then we doubt he has the authority to make the tea in Scottish Labour, let alone speak for the party on key policy issues. If the question isn’t put repeatedly by all of the media to more senior Labour figures until an answer is produced, we’ll be wanting to know why.
Here’s Ed Miliband, giving a speech this morning to literally at least 20 Labour MPs, Labour MSPs, journalists and possibly a stray member of the public who accidentally walked through the wrong door in Clydebank, a place where Labour leaders used to address gatherings of thousands.
Unusually, Miliband took a few questions from the hacks, all of whom promptly wasted the opportunity by lobbing completely pointless softballs about coalitions and deals, all of which (a) have been asked a hundred times already, (b) were rendered moot by Alex Salmond on the Marr show yesterday, and (c) were only ever going to be batted away non-committally.
So here’s an actually worthwhile one they can ask instead next time.