Friday 1 May 2015

Ed Miliband and Minority Government

What did you think of last night's grilling of the main party leaders? As much as I detest Dave and his Nick Clegg mini-me, I think they performed creditably by the criteria one judges media appearances. The Prime Minister was polished and a little bit sweaty, but his question dodging body swerves saw him through the half hour. Clegg, who is probably the most telegenic and eloquent of all the mainstream politicians ate a bit of humble pie but made a good case, by his standards, for why the electorate should give the LibDems another punt. And Ed Miliband was, once again, his confident, assured self. Though tripping as he left the stage was a classic Ed moment.

Of the three, it's fair to say the Labour leader had the hardest time from the audience. Indeed, two of his toughest inquisitors who were supposedly floating voters were actually Tories. If you have to lie about your affiliations to get your points taken seriously, that's just how toxic the Conservative Party have become.

However, venturing onto social media after the broadcast I found plenty of lefties cluttering up my feeds and status updates denouncing Ed as useless, spineless, inept, and all the rest of it. Restating his commitment to Trident replacement, to cuts, to immigration controls weren't the problem. It was about his comments regarding the SNP. Asked again about deals with the SNP post the general election, Ed ruled them out completely. There will be no coalition. No confidence and supply. No backroom footsie over individual votes. He even went so far to say that if government meant treating with the SNP then he'd prefer Labour to not be in power. Cue denunciation.

Alas, comrades who've gone Stur-crazy over the SNP have taken leave of their senses. This is an entirely sensible position for Ed to take given the circumstances Labour finds itself in. In Scotland, a pre-election deal would plunge Scottish Labour even further into the shit, it would effectively be handing the mantle of anti-Toryism to Nicola Sturgeon. When so much territory has already been ceded, it makes no sense at all to surrender your remaining positions. In England, formally agreeing to keep the Tories out is electoral suicide. It would be nice were it not the case, but when the Tories and UKIP are pushing English nationalism it's out of the question. That's what nationalism does you see, it divides people up and stirs up imagined sleights and irrationalities - something the SNP's socialist cheerleaders have purposely forgotten.

What Ed and Labour plan to do then is not hand power to the Tories. Alongside the SNP to reject a Tory administration. And Labour will attempt to form a minority government of its own, which the SNP will not dare vote down. And this will be how it is for however long the show lasts. The SNP's social democratic turn limits its strategic and tactical options. If every parliamentary vote is more or less a vote of confidence, they're stuck. Likewise the Tories - on those element of Labour's programme most left wingers have problems with, such as Trident and immigration, it's hard to see from the safe distance of now how the Tories can't but vote along with Labour to ensure these elements of its manifesto are implemented.

It's quite canny, really.

One last thing, while Ed is getting cursed for ruling out a deal, no one has taken the First Minister to task for not calling for a Labour vote elsewhere. She wants to deal with a Labour government, her lefty supporters hope the SNP would keep it honest, but in Wales and England it is Plaid and the Greens that have Nicola's seal of approval. If you want a Labour government because you think it's the bees knees or the least worst option, you've got to vote for it.


Paul Nightingale said...

The audience seemed more hostile towards Miliband. It might have been when he spoke about the SNP that they calmed down and, surprisingy, started to listen.

ejh said...

This is an entirely sensible position for Ed to take given the circumstances Labour finds itself in.

There is no way it is possible to have sensible discussion, "entirely" or otherwise, with Labour people who keep on commending their approach in Scotland without noticing what that approach has done to their share of the vote.