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A Labour-SNP alliance will be a political remake of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’

4 May 2015

9:29 AM

4 May 2015

9:29 AM

On the radio this morning, Ed Miliband spoke as if he could get a Queen’s Speech passed without speaking to the SNP. This struck some as implausible, but it sounds right to me. Here’s the transcript:-

Q: Well let’s just be absolutely clear… neither you nor any of your colleagues will have any conversations with anybody from the SNP at any point after the election.

A: We’re not going to negotiate about a Queen’s Speech, no. We’re not going to negotiate with the Scottish National…(Interrupted)

Q: Well you’re refining my question a little bit aren’t you.

A: I don’t think I am John. You’re asking me whether we’re going to negotiate about our Queen’s Speech…(Interrupted)

Q: I’m asking you whether you’re going to have any conversations with them.

A: I’m not planning that, no.

As Alex Salmond told me over a glass of pink champagne a few weeks ago, the SNP has already decided to enstool Miliband with no conditions: it wants him in No10 like a spider wants a fly. Once he is in No10, he’ll be the SNP’s captive – every time he wants to pass a Bill, Salmond will demand a price. And if Miliband wants the Bill passed, he’ll have to pay that price. HS2? Only if it starts in Edinburgh. Budget? Only if there is a tax cut for whisky manufacturers in, em, all parts of the UK. As Nicola Sturgeon neatly pointed out last night, if Miliband refuses to obey the SNP’s Budget demands then they won’t vote for his Budget and it will fall.

‘I know Ed Miliband wants to cling to the pretence that he’s going to win a majority. The polls say he won’t, and if he ends up in a minority government then he simply cannot continue to say he’s not going to continue to talk to anybody, because that means his own government would be paralysed, and he will not want that to happen’ 

But for all this fun to start, the SNP need to capture their hostage. They need him in No10. So they’ll vote for his Queen’s Speech, and do enough that he stays in office. But for the rest of the time they will torture him. And a good torturer ensures their subject stays alive. Just.

So a Labour-SNP coalition will be a political remake of Stephen King’s misery, with Salmond playing the role of Kathy Bates. Miliband may want to end this with a second election but under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act he will need two-thirds of MPs to agree – ie, he’ll need the Tories to agree to put him out of his misery. And why would a Tory leader of the opposition – Boris Johnson, say – want to do that? He’ll want this horror show to run for a year, maybe three years, until the very word ‘Labour’ is indelibly associated with weakness and parliamentary chaos.

So Miliband is right: he does not need to worry about the SNP backing his Queen’s Speech. What he needs to worry about is what happens next.

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