Finishing behind the Tories in seats and votes could forceÂ Ed Miliband to play the political equivalent of Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.
Last night, the Tory strategy for Friday morning emerged,Â David Cameron will declare victory on Friday if he has most votes and seats and cast a Labour led government as illegitimate, The Tories will say
â€˜Weâ€™re legitimate, weâ€™re the largest party, we should carry on.â€™ If necessary, dare the others to vote down a Conservative government.
â€œWeâ€™ll bring forward a vote of confidence on our Queenâ€™s speech so they do the deed in plain sight, rather than meekly saying, â€˜I suppose your numbers add up, goodbyeâ€™.â€
Another senior figure added: â€œWe will get into the legitimacy argument pretty quickly. We just donâ€™t think the public will put up with Labour doing deals to win from behind.â€
I’d expect more hyperbolic members of the Tory party and the media to publicly accuse a Labour led government of being illegitimate, Ed is a usurper and even accuse of him conducting aÂ coup d’Ã©tat, Boris Johnson has upped the ante, by describing a Labour/SNP alliance Â as “Ajockalypse Now.”
The polling also backs up the Tory position, the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found that,Â Â “If Con has most seats, but could be forced out by Lab+SNP, by 40-32% voters say Con minority government should have chance to govern” and “Who should rule? By 43-29% voters think party with most votes has a better claim to government than one with most seats.”
I think this is a plan by Dave to entrap Miliband, to ensure Ed Miliband’s comments in the above video from Thursday’s Question Time are shown to be a lie, and thus damage his Premiership from the very start, as Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have found out, breaking a very public pledge when taking office, can damage you enormously short and long term.
As the Sunday Times notes “But the prime ministerâ€™s allies say he would not resign unless it was clear that Labour had enough votes to pass a Queenâ€™s speech, meaning Miliband would need to hold talks with the SNP, which he has vowed not to do.”
In 2010, when there was talk of Labour continuing in office via a rainbow coalition, senior Labour people such as John Reid and David Blunkett memorably criticised such a scenario, BlunkettÂ said a “coalition of the defeated” would damage the Labour party at subsequent elections, we could see a repeat of such advice being given.
Given the quality of some of the potential SNP MPs, for example this week one apologised after posting offensive messages on Twitter likening anti-independence campaigners to Nazi collaborators and disparaging the elderly, and there are other examples,Â with reports that the SNPÂ would use their [newly elected] MPs to agitate for a second referendum, the Labour party might conclude they are better off not allying themselves with the SNP if this is the sort of MPs they will have, especially if their ultimate goal is an independent Scotland.
At the back of every Labour MPs and strategists mind will be the fact it was the SNP that helped topple the minority Labour government of James Callaghan in a confidence vote, which ultimately helped usher in 18 years of Tory rule.
Labour MPs in England are likely to see colleagues in Scotland with larger majorities than they have have, toppled next Thursday, and they will be worried it might be them next, if a Labour/SNP government takes a Scotland First approach.
It may be in Labour’s long term interest to let a Tory minority government rule for a while, as they struggle to pass bills, exploit their long standing fault line on the European Union and let them propose the bulk of the austerity measures that are coming irrespective of who wins the election, and let the Tories deal with the fact Westminster is set to receive the greatest number of parliamentarians committed to the break up of the United Kingdom since 1918 when the Irish elected 73 Sinn Fein MPs and possibly hope the Tories remove their greatest electoral asset, David Cameron.
The downside for Labour might be that the SNP may surge even higher, as the SNP would love to point out that Labour declined to kick the Tories out of government, but it will come down to the numbers, there’s 533 MPs in England and 59 in Scotland, so Labour will do what is perceived to be popular with the 533, not the 59.
If there’s a market on Labour abstaining on a Tory led Government’s Queen Speech Â at the end of this month, I’d be backing it, as there isn’t, it might be worth backing a Tory minority government, at the time of writing, the best odds on that were 11/2.
The downside for Ed, were he not to become Prime Minister in the next month, he probably would be removed as Leader quickly, as Labour might decide, that whilst Ed’s ratings have improved, they would do better with a different leader.
So Ed might be faced with a situation, that he only becomes Prime Minister by breaking a pre election promise, form a government that could end the United Kingdom and damage Labour for a generation in England, or decline power, ending his tenure as Labour leader in the next week or so, a most unhappy choice for him.