Greens : Nats :: Nats : Tories?

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equations.jpgAlex Salmond is away this week at the Alex Salmond Annual Conference 2009, and everyone sounds like they're having a lovely time counting their chickens ahead of the UK General.

The Maximum Eck therefore went on GMS this morning to set out his strategically sensible but odd-sounding ambition for this election: a hung Parliament. 

Brian Taylor captures the thinking perfectly. The comparison to Steel's "go back to your constituencies" line may be brutal, but, as BT observes, this approach is much smarter because it excuses Salmond from having to admit he'd love nothing more than a Cameron victory. Apart from a Thatcher victory, that is. Fortunately it's just him and Norman Tebbit on that one.

The SNP attitude to the rest of the UK is changing pretty fast. Salmond said last week that Westminster would be "hung by a Scottish rope", a stark contrast to the more charming line he took before the last Holyrood election. Back in 2007 he said England and Scotland would be "the best of pals, the closest of buddies". I prefer my pals not to try to hang me with a rope, but I'm sure Kevin Pringle knows where he is on the message calendar.

Last year, at the midpoint of the transition from best pals to hanging with a rope, Salmond said he'd "make Westminster dance to a Scottish jig". That might still sound like a relatively friendly metaphor, but note the compulsion. It actually reminds me more of the brutal ending of Snow White, where the evil queen has to dance in red hot iron shoes until she dies

In Salmond's the cause of death is now hanging, not dancing, but dead is still dead. If you like you can also pick a role from Snow White for the First Minister to play. Anyone picking Bashful will be laughed at.

Back to his appearance on GMS. This morning he said that:

"A Scottish block would be influential regardless of the outcome of the election. What I think is true is that a balanced Parliament, a Parliament without an overall majority would be the most influential, give us the most ability to extract concessions and win gains for Scotland. 

"I think there's no doubt that in a Parliament without an overall majority, then if you have a block of MPs then you can achieve fantastic things, and I only point out that of all the politicians in these islands I am probably the one with the most experience of minority government. I'm on the receiving end of it. 

"Obviously, if you take the first Budget the SNP brought in last year then the Green Party with two MSPs were able to have an extraordinary influence because we're a minority government, because it's a balanced Parliament."

(on iPlayer until next week, roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes in)

I remember that Budget. What happened is that a small opposition party (that's us) brought forward an eminently sensible and pragmatic proposal, but an overweening minority administration tried to bully them into accepting something negligible and almost entirely different. When that bullying failed, the Budget fell

What exactly the SNP actually learnt from this process it would be good to know. Was it that larger parties tend to get their way in the end? Pleasing as it is for him to tell a UK-wide audience that Greens are influential, the fact is that he turned us over and the policy never happened.

The equation doesn't hold for other reasons too. Our only objective in the Budget talks he refers to was a policy one, to get the idea implemented, to cut bills and carbon emissions and to boost jobs. There was no hidden agenda, although we'd obviously have been happy to take credit for the idea (which regular readers will know we nicked from Kirklees Greens). 

Salmond, on the other hand, would be going into UK Budget negotiations striving to demonstrate that the new Tory government doesn't care for Scotland, and that only the SNP can stand up to them. 

This would make the SNP almost impossible for Cameron to deal with, just as a minority Labour government found them in the 1970s. The Tory leader's long term future may well depend on ensuring he avoids both their rope and their red-hot shoes, just as the polls predict he will.



You're right to be cynical, I reckon. I just cannot fathom the logic of this strategy.

On the one hand, polls would suggest that we're not anywhere near Hung-Parly territory. The party should be broaadcasting that voting SNP matters REGARDLESS of the outcome, that Scottish affairs will only be on the agenda with a strong SNP - that kind of thing - particularly if the Tories win with less than 5 Scottish MPs.

On the other hand, if it were a Hung Parliament, surely it would make more sense for folk that were sceptical of the Tories to vote Labour - and help them to more MPS and avoid Cameron - rather than vote SNP... and possibly still get PM Cameron.

I've thought about this for a good bit... and I can't work it out.

Also, I really don't get the 20 seat malarky. I mean, I can see the ambition (a la 2007) and potential seats to be won... but something tells me they'll get as many as 13 and no more. What do you think?

Malc, I think the SNP's usual experience of being squeezed in UK elections will continue. They know it, too, which is why there's all this preemptive moaning about access to the debates.

The fact is, all the media based in London (and much of the media based in Scotland) will be primarily interested in Dave Cameron evicting Gordon Brown from Number 10. Just as we got squeezed in 2007, so the Nats will be squeezed in 2010. They'll improve their position, obviously, but Jeff's analysis does seem unusually complacent.

That Newsnight Scotland chappie put it perfectly when he compared the Nats' Independence policy with William Hague's "Save thaa Paaand" General Election campaign a few years ago - a lot of people agree with it but most people put it very low on their list of priorities. Must say, that's where I stand.

"Jeff's analysis does seem unusually complacent."

I disagree.

Put simply, I wasn't stating which seats the SNP would win, merely the ones they 'can' win.

The beauty of the word 'can' and it's regular misue was laid bare to me in a brutal lesson from my Geography teacher back in the day.

Sent over to collect a pupil I asked Mr C "Sir, can Mrs D speak with pupil X". (I used the full names, I didn't go to spy school)

Mr C said I was asking the wrong question and instructed me to try again. I did, many times, but foolishly relied on the word 'can' when I apparently should have used the word 'may'.

A clever and uncompromising rinsing in front of 30 of my peers who wouldn't let me forget it.

Anyway, what am I saying here? Basically, 'can' the SNP win in North & Leith, Stirling, East Kilbride and even Inverclyde? Yes.

Will they win? Who the hell knows.

The Nationalist aim of 20 MPs is not an errant one is all I was saying and Salmond's claim for the SNP to be Scotland's voice in Westminster is a clever strategy against the probable inevitability of the Tory/Labour squeeze.

Ah, you mean "can" in the sense that any candidate whose name is on the ballot paper can win? That makes much more sense.

I'm therefore surprised that you missed out the other 39 seats - by that logic the SNP can win those too.

Well, 'can' win based on the national swing taking the SNP candidate just ahead or just a little bit behind the incumbent.

What is this, pedant's corner? It doesn't take much to catch my meaning surely.

Yes, it's the prediction business, and some pedantry is inevitable.

One way round it would be for you to go back to your original list and give probabilities for the Nats taking each seat:
Kilmarnock & Loudon, 90%
Midlothian, 3%

etc. Just a thought.

And a fine thought at that, sounds like a good way to inject life into a tired format.

Incidentally, no sign of a Green candidate in North & Leith?

I would expect a fine result for her or him....

There will definitely be a Green candidate for North and Leith, fret not, and I know who my money's on it being, but party democracy must run its course.

Surely you'll be backing the Tramfinder General, though?

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