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Showing posts with label SNP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SNP. Show all posts

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Full fiscal Autonomy - and all that stuff ...

Full fiscal autonomy (FFA) – or as SNP would now have it, full fiscal responsibility (FFR) is now the Westminster unionist politician’s favourite topic with which to bait SNP MPs. In this, they are ably assisted by the media, with The Daily Politics’ Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn acting as straight man/woman to the likes of a sneering, sniggering Michael Forsyth, as in this clip.

It never seems to have entered their heads to have a look at what it means, or more specifically, what it meant in the context of the independence referendum and what it means now in the context of a NO win on  September 18th 2014, the Smith Commission proposals and the SNP’s astonishing electoral triumph in the general election on May 7th 2015.

But why do the hard thinking and the hard work when it’s more fun to assist Westminster unionists - especially failed Scottish politicians who are now unelected Lords - to giggle and gurn, shouting “Cowardy custard! You wanted it in 2011 through to 2014 – you wanted it after The Vow. Had you won the Referendum, you claimed you would have been fully independent on March 24th 2016. Why don’t you want it now, immediately! When do you want it? Tell us, tell us …”

Let me do the work for them – unpaid and unsung as always – offering a service to democracy and to rich media pundits, sundry Lords and politicians, a gift from a simple old Scottish voter, a humble Glesca slum boy – pause to brush away a sentimental tear … (VOICE OFF: “Oh, **** off, Peter!”)

FULL FISCAL AUTONOMY

Independence confers full fiscal autonomy automatically – well, it would, wouldn’t it? But what is it?

Had we (the YES component of Scotland’s electorate) won the referendum, it would have come with everything else that full independence brings – full autonomy on every aspect of the governance of Scotland, with all the benefits and risks that independence brings.

The nub of the present argument and the childish Bullingdon Boys farce being enacted in a forum near you hinges on a key question – asked superficially but without any wish to receive a detailed answer. The question is -

What is the difference between full fiscal autonomy as it would have resulted from a YES vote in September 2014 and full fiscal autonomy in the June 2015 context of a historical NO vote and and SNP landslide on May 7th 2015?

What is it? It’s setting and raising our own taxes – all of them – and spending the money thus raised as we see fit.

In the context of the independence referendum - and the context of the Scottish, UK, European and global economy circa Sept 2014 - had we won a YES vote, negotiations – wide-ranging, complex negotiations on every aspect of Scotland independence, including fiscal autonomy would have commenced, with both rUk and Scottish negotiating teams, backed by experts and advisors from the civil service and academia, bargaining on a huge range on inter-locking and inter-dependent issues, defining the nature of the post-independence relationship between Scotland and rUK and, after a heads of agreement was reached in April/May 2016, then devising complex plans to implement that negotiated agreement.

By definition, those plans and their implementation processes (although realistically the Treasury and the Civil Service would have to some degree prepared the ground in parallel with the negotiations) could not have properly started until final agreement was reached in the spring of 2016. The full implementation of the plans would continue for possibly years after Independence Day 24th March 2016.

Of course, bang in the middle of those negotiations, we would have had the general election campaign of April/May 2015, with Parliament prorogued, no government, and major, unpredictable – and a badly predicted(!) outcome.

But we would have dealt with it. After all, countries declare UDI, gain independence by bloody or velvet  revolutions or other means,  still manage to survive - so we’d have been OK, even with the oil price collapse. We’d have had a currency union or we wouldn’t, and then have had our own currency under one of  the Fiscal Commission viable alternative options – plans B,C,D and E of blessed memory – which may well still be relevant after 2016!

What’s different now, in June 2015? Well, even to a boneheaded or disingenuous unionist anxious to make a superficial point, there are three key differences -

1. We lost the Referendum, and FFA would not be implemented in the context of Scotland being an independent nation.

2. It’s not 2011 or even 2014 – the economic situation and the global economy has changed – crude oil price have nosedived, a EU Referendum looms, with Brexit as possibility.

3. The general election result was predicted by no one, and Scotland is a dramatically different place politically than in September 2014.

In other words, Scotland, the UK, Europe and the world have changed, and only fools hang on to plans that events have made out-dated. So what does FFA mean in the June 2015 context?

FFA post-June 2015 – implementation and timeframe

Instead of getting the  block grant (the proportion of our taxes UK deigns to return to us) from the UK Exchequer as at present, the Scottish Parliament would receive all taxation levied in Scotland and be responsible for most of its spending in accordance with its own priorities.

Scotland would pay  to the UK government Scotland's share of the cost of providing defined UK-wide services, including defence spending and conduct of foreign affairs. In other words, it would be Scottish fiscal autonomy, but not full political independence. It would still be controlled by rUK in significant areas.

That would involve a negotiating agenda with significantly different priorities from the same negotiations as part of an independence mandate, as would have been the case in a different outcome to September 18th 2014 – and those negotiations would have had radically different dynamics even if the economic situation, the global economy and the price of crude oil had remained the same or risen.

So even if the new Tory government, with their shaky majority and divided party and confusion over Brexit, human rights and immigration policy, were to offer full fiscal autonomy tomorrow, there would have to be a lengthy period of negotiation about the exact nature of its terms and  implementation.

Of course they have no intention of doing any such thing, and while it’s tempting to call their bluff and say “We’ll have it, right now, thank you ..”, that would be a nonsensical response, and just about as infantile as the wee Laird o’ Drumlean’s schoolboy posturing on Daily Politics today.

So away and birl in yer kilt, Michael Forsyth, and if ye birl fast enough, yer wee heid might wind up in that portion of yer anatomy where it’s best fitted tae be,  oot o’ mischief’s way …

Friday, 22 May 2015

What if ……?

We won a landslide victory, gaining 56 seat out of 59 , almost 95% of the Westminster Scottish seats. The three main unionist parties are each reduced to a token single member in the Commons. This is unprecedented, and the benefits are very tangible indeed.

Westminster benefits of having 56 SNP MPs

Scottish National Party will chair the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and Scottish Affairs Select Committee. However, there were earlier indications that Tories and Labour will attempt to abolish the Scottish Affairs Committee.

The party will be entitled to £6 million over the next Parliament because it took so many seats in the election. It will receive between £1 and £1.2 million from the Treasury each year in what is known as short money.

The GE2015 landslide vote is not a mandate for a referendum” NICOLA

If more than 50% of the electorate voting for a party committed to independence get 94.9% of the seats for their country is not a virtual mandate for independence, what would be?

(I covered some possibilities in my May 1st blog before the election.)

Nicola's argument, quite deliberately, rather dances round this key point, by saying that some very significant event or events - e.g. BREXIT - the exit of UK from the EU - would be required to reactivate the question of a referendum. She rests her assertion on the related facts that 

1) the manifesto did not commit to a referendum and did not make independence a core issue, and

2) a proportion of the electorate voting SNP (unknown) must have included voters who voted NO in the 2014 referendum and still firmly wish to remain part of UK

That group had every right to vote in the belief that, although they were voting for a party whose core long-term objective is independence, the Scottish electorate firmly rejected independence on September 18th 2014 and the SNP accepted that democratic result, and both the former and the current First Ministers had expressed personal views that there would be no referendum in a generation, however one defines that. But those views were personal, albeit widely shared, and they could not bind the people of Scotland, as both Nicola and Alex Salmond have subsequently stated.

NICOLA “The People decide

Although Nicola is right to say that, democratically, the people decide on independence in a referendum, their ability to do so only comes if the independence party they support explicitly commits to independence during the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament - if elected - in their manifesto before the 2016 election. (The People, in practice, decide very little, except at the ballot box, and once in a while, during revolutions!)

In other words, if  Nicola and the Party place such a commitment in the 2016 Holyrood manifesto and win decisively, the aggregate case for an independence referendum would be well-nigh unanswerable.

She won't, because whatever these figure say about a mandate to call a referendum, there is no certainty that she would win. Alex Salmond,  a risk-taker and a gambler, took the political gamble in the 2011 manifesto - and was right to do so. The risk is huge – another NO vote would kill independence aspirations stone dead – or lead to something that no one would care to predict …

We came close to winning. But Nicola is not a political gambler: she will only take carefully judged risks with a high chance of success in the light of the previous failure. She will seek to get more powers, something close to federalism, and will postpone independence till Scotland is independent in all but defence and foreign affairs.

The $64,000 question is - will the SNP’s massive membership permit the Party to exclude such a commitment from the 2016 manifesto or will they pass branch resolutions demanding one?

Nicola's authority and popularity are at their very peak right now, but another mood may develop which, while retaining respect for her and her authority, begins to lose the fan/celebrity awe – a mood in which members are prepared to constructively flex  branch muscles, and democratically question strategy.  That, after all, is how party democracy is supposed to operate.

Will it happen? Who knows? Despite the massive membership, as any Branch Chair or Secretary knows, at any given time only a small minority of members are actively committed to attending branch meetings and influencing branch democracy. But in the SNP, on key decisions, the entire branch can vote online or by post, as for example on the selection of candidates for election.

Additionally and perhaps crucially, there are still campaigning organisations out there committed to independence who are not necessarily SNP supporters or members, e.g. Radical Independence, Common Weal, the Scottish Socialist Party, and party politically unaligned activists and voters, and also supporters and members of nominally unionist parties who nonetheless may support full independence or devomax or federalism within UK.

Depending how event unfold in the next 11 months, and dependent on how Scottish Labourand its ousted MPs – re-group and re-define themselves, all sorts of possibilities exist.

And of course, there are the trades unions, the STUC and campaigning groups within them, not to mention a number of groups who campaigned for YES banner under a variety of identities.

What we have is an unprecedented and varied mass movement - a mass engagement of the Scottish electorate, with its own hydra-headed structure, united by a core desire for political change in Scotland, but with significantly different views of what it should be and how it should be brought about.

Those who wonder how it will behave in the post-referendum, post-GE2015 phase we are in now, in the 11-month lead-up to the 2016 Parliamentary election might find illumination – or cause for alarm – in Eric Hoffer’s unique 1951 book The True Believer

Interesting times …

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom–Ed or David?

Important message on the continuity of the State during a political hiatus made here. (The role of the State as opposed to the Government is not well understood by the electorate).

But the real insight into the mindset of the bewildered British Establishment comes from The Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, distinguished historian, not a typical member of the British Establishment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Hennessy but assimilated effortlessly by it.

"Specifically, the northerly wind coming from Scotland .. we haven't really caught up with the way that that northerly wind is the weather maker ... It could produce a lot of resentment on the part of the English, who would feel that we are 80% of the country, we have 80% of the economic activity and we have this endless drizzle of complaint from north of the Cheviots."

Although Lord Hennessy puts these words in the mouths of the English electorate, he chose them. One gets the feeling he stopped just short of saying "north of Hadrian's Wall" and that his choice of words, "drizzle of complaint" etc. reflects his view and those of his class.

In response to Marr saying that either Ed Miliband or David Cameron could be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he responds

"I find that very difficult to contemplate - but you could be right."

He's astonished that "this most stable of political societies - where you have the occasional domestic row, really -  where liberal capitalism jostled with social democracy as the basis of the electoral contest - would be so complicated that we'd even be contemplating the last Prime Minister of the UK. What have we done to ourselves?"

Lord Hennessy demonstrated by his utter insular bewilderment the dictum, often quoted by Sir Tom Devine, another distinguished historian, that a historian's province is the past, not the present or the future, and that his insular southern bubble view of this disunited kingdom is badly out of date, and has been for a very long time indeed.

Friday, 1 May 2015

SNP 2016 manifesto and a second referendum – that is the question

It’s not on SNP’s agenda, it’s not on Nicola’s agenda, but it’s sure as hell is on the general election debate agenda, because the three main UK party leaders put it there. By using the question of a second Scottish independence referendum as an expedient political football, they have managed to score three own goals -

1. They’ve triggered a UK-wide debate on the independence question, a question that was at best dormant as Scots focused on trying to make UK democracy work for them after the Nationalists after lost the 2014 referendum.

2. They’ve effectively questioned the democratic right of Scots to vote for the party of their choice in a UK election.

3. They’ve catalysed English nationalism, and highlighted the political differences between Scotland and England at the very time they should have been emphasising what unites them.

The 2014 Referendum

The SNP, while reiterating its over-arching objective of independence for Scotland, did not commit to a referendum in its 2007 manifesto. During the four year life of that minority government, despite repeated “bring it on” challenges from Wendy Alexander, Alex Salmond did not set a date for a referendum or call for one, concentrating instead on the high-wire act of running the country as a minority government.

But as the 2011 Holyrood election approached, the strategy changed, and the manifesto included this explicit commitment, if elected, to a referendum bill during the lifetime of the 2011-2016 Parliament, later specified as in the second half of the term.

Ref2011Manifesto

Now, what determined this decision in go for it? Was it a great, popular demand from Scots for a second referendum? Was it a landslide victory in 2007 conferring legitimacy? Was it the outcome of a consultation exercise with the Scottish electorate?

None of these things.  There was no YES campaign, no dynamic grassroots organisation of activists as yet. The 2007 win was narrow, and had shown the possibility of a nationalist government, a giant step in itself, but not a mandate for independence. The national conversation and consultation was in the future, and the great debate on the second question had yet to come. The will of the Scottish people, now much in the mouths of politicians, was anything but clear.

So the decision to go to the electorate with an explicit manifesto commitment to calling an independence referendum if elected was not driven by “the will of the Scottish people” but by a brave political calculation allied to a wish to make it clear to Scots that, if they voted SNP again. they were voting for a government  that was committed to offering them a legal referendum and a democratic choice over Scotland’s future somewhere around late 2013 to mid-2014. (In the event it was September 2014.)

The landslide victory of 2011 on this manifesto could not be interpreted as a mandate for independence, but it undoubtedly was a mandate to offer the people a democratic choice.

On the face of it, therefore, a similar political calculation could be made in drawing up the 2016 manifesto, with considerably more justification – a huge membership, a powerful grassroots organisation and possibly an unprecedented number of MPs elected to Westminster, an outcome that for years unionists repeatedly accepted would be a definitive expression of the will of the Scottish people because they thought it would never happen.

But Nicola Sturgeon, the most powerful and charismatic popular leader the SNP has ever had, now a national and international political figure, backed by a huge party membership, clearly has no such intent – and explicitly rejects the argument that a large bloc of SNP MPs returned to Westminster on May 8th would constitute an argument for independence or a mandate for a second referendum.

Why is this formidable and popular Nationalist politician adopting such a stance?

The answer lies squarely in the fact that there was a referendum in 2014 and we lost it. The Scottish electorate democratically rejected independence, and crying “We wuz robbed!” doesn’t alter that fact.

Nicola believed in 2014, Alex Salmond believed in 2014, (I believed in 2014!) most independence supporters believed in 2014 and most anti-independence supporters believed in 2014 that this was it – our one big chance for, if not a generation, for a helluva long time.

She recognises that, while nationalists feel a great sense of betrayal over the outcome of the referendum, given the sordid way in which the UK Government, the unionist media and Better Together conducted themselves during the campaign, Scots who voted for the Union – a majority – would feel a great sense of betrayal if they were asked to vote again on the question.

In that context, and the context that the independence movement has achieved more since losing the referendum than they did before it, I think Nicola and the SNP strategists have judged that the gradualism of the movement towards greater self-determination for Scotland is a safer bet than another throw of the dice.

Is she right? Are they right?

My answer is probably yes – and I trust her judgement absolutely over my own limited perspective as a voter.

But – and it’s a big but – I’m not sure that position can hold in the face of events changing at exponential speed: politicians do not control events – they respond dynamically to them.

Let’s get this election over, evaluate the outcome and the UK parties responses to it. Let’s give it a chance to work. Big things are at stake, big immediate issues, Trident renewal, austerity, the desperate need for investment to kick start the economy.

It’s a long, long way from May 2015 to May 2016. We have time on our side, and Nicola on our side. Let her play the ball – she has done it superbly so far, and her best days have still to come.

Vote SNP and put your faith in our party leader and Scotland’s First Minister to do the right thing –because doing the right thing is always the right thing to do!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Nicola – fearlessly abseiling down the rock faces of the Union …

I have seen and heard many political performances in my life, from the 1945 general election through to April 2015, including some great ones, but I have never witnessed a flawless one – until yesterday at the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre.

The contrast between Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party and the confused, panic-stricken, contradictory, fact-free, humanity-free utterances of Tory, LibDem, UKIP and Scottish Labour politicians could not have been more starkly evident. Her calm, informed, gently humorous and profoundly human outline of the SNP manifesto and her responses to a wide range of media question could not be really be described as a performance – it was a direct expression of core values, coming straight from an intelligent Scottish heart.

This was not a contrived media persona, but the true face of a warm, vanity-free Scottish woman who patently has no fondness for the limelight or political celebrity, but who endures both as a necessary part of realising the hopes and dreams of Scots, of all ethnic origins and backgrounds who have placed their trust in her and the party she leads. Indeed, it is a trust that now extends beyond Scotland …

Gaun yersel, Nicola!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Latest YouGov poll – and that stark arithmetic, Ed …

The numbers still say the same thing, Ed – you need the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Even the Queen’s getting worried by the possible outcome of a hung Parliament. No point in going to see her unless you’re sure, Ed.

Don’t even think about a “Government of National Unity” with Tories – look what getting down and dirty with Tories during the independence referendum did to Scottish Labour. The same fate awaits UK Labour – don’t do it, Ed.

LATEST YouGov POLL

YouGov

Here’s the previous Newsnight Index poll and the YouGov Nowcast poll. (last blog).

I averaged them, perhaps invalid, but polls are a snapshot with error margin, so probably gives a good idea of state of play.

Poll Ave April 9th 2015

ANALYSIS (as per previous blogs)

Net out Sinn Fein and the Speaker leaves 644 voting maximum, so 323 minimum necessary for single party overall majority or voting deal combined majority, in coalition, confidence and supply or informal vote-by-vote, issue-by-issue basis.

Neither Ed Miliband nor David Cameron are remotely likely to have an overall seat majority as single party.

Any way you slice it – since SNP won’t do any deal with or vote with the Tories – Ed Miliband can’t ignore the SNP, whether Labour is the largest or second largest party.

If he leads the largest party, his choice is either minority government – with huge risk – or deal with SNP. If he’s not the largest party, his choice is either let the Tories in or deal with the SNP.

Quite simply, the SNP – with the help of Plaid and Greens as bloc - can make him PM on either outcome.

Since coalition is firmly ruled out, his options on an SNPbloc/Labour deal are therefore confidence and supply – a pre-deal delivering support on negotiated conditions – or informal issue-by-issue, vote-by-vote haggling with SNP bloc.

NICOLA POSTER

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Indy fundamentals – winning the debate

I received an invitation on Monday from a very distinguished journalist from outside the UK, one whose work I have long admired, to take part in a pre-recorded radio discussion later in April on what has been happening in Scotland since the referendum and analysis of the election.

I said I would be delighted to do so, providing I knew in advance the format and who else was taking part, and also that I was introduced as a supporter of SNP and independence, but simply as a voter and online activist without any official role in the party.

I received a reassurance on my status point, but when two of the other participants were named (with a fourth still to be selected) I declined to take part.

I offered the following reason for declining, without specifying any participant.

EMAIL EXTRACT

POSTSCRIPT. At this critical stage in Scotland's politics, SNP activists who are not politicians (who are constrained, as elected representative, by other expectations from media) have really only one criterion to satisfy - would my participation in this forum as structured offer useful debate and analysis valuable to the Scottish electorate? My judgement is no, but others will make their own decisions.

Perhaps this edit of a recent 'debate' will give you some idea of where I'm coming from -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9sNS3NouNs

I was deeply disappointed not to feel able to take part, given the reputation of the journalist and the country and media channel he represented. I feel that it may be worth explaining just a little further why I declined to take part in this one.

MEDIA DEBATES

I am as capable  of holding my own in debates and discussion as the next man. I prefer structured debate between rational men and women with some concept of how constructive debate is conducted, but I can play the noisy, talking-over, point-scoring, flyting, special pleading, heckling game with the best – and even enjoy it up to a point. No one with my background – both social and professional – could fail to play this game well. But what does ‘well’ mean in context?

The question is not can I hold my own in such debates, but whether I should enter them in the first place, without asking the question – what if anything will they contribute to my key medium-term political objective – the independence of Scotland – and my immediate objective, the success of the SNP in the pivotal and historic 2015 general election?

Like every other committed voter, I watched and listened to many debates and engaged in some, both live and online. Some made a valuable contribution to understanding, and forged the formidable Scottish independence electoral force – to all intents and purpose the SNP - that is now astonishing UK and world media.

But many were negative and counter-productive in my view, and the root was always the same – one or more participants who dragged the debate down to the lowest level and, in some cases, dragged more responsible debaters into their own gutter.

Such unedifying displays alienate many men - and most women. There are no winners and there are few positive outcomes. Their adversarial nature may satisfy certain journalistic objectives of providing ‘good’ radio or television in terms of liveliness and spectacle. I choose to avoid ones where the structure and participants seem to me to make such an outcome likely. Politicians can’t avoid them: some even seek them out as a vehicle for their particular repertoire of bluster and bludgeon.

They’re not for me anymore …

A brief digression on Youtube comments…

YOUTUBE COMMENTS

Some time ago, I closed comments on all of my 1400+ YouTube video clips on my YouTube channel, which has been running since February 2009. I removed several hundred video clips posted between 2009 and January 2012, which is now the oldest clip. My main reason for doing this at the time was my inability to copy with pre-moderation of hundreds of daily comments, each of which had to be read, a decision made, and processed by approving or removing.

Leaving comment unmoderated would have relieved me of the pre-moderation work, but would have been legally dangerous, and deeply damaging to the objectives of the independence campaign, since a very small percentage of the abusive clips (less than 10%) were from those claiming to support independence, feeding the ‘cybernat’ slander perpetrated by the unionist media. Whether these were genuine or, as seemed likely in many case, agent provocateur fabrications mattered little since there they were.  Pre-moderation was vital, since a distressingly high incidence of abuse, threats, obscenity, blatant racism and incitements to violence occurred, with legal implications. Despite this, I was committed to retaining comments because they also contained good, vigorous and often highly productive democratic debate with which I was often fully engaged. So my only way of dealing with the burden of pre-moderation seemed at that time to be to reduce the numbers of live clips.

However, the situation remained unmanageable for a one-man operation, hence my decision to close comments, one that annoyed many loyal subscribers. From time to time, I forget to close new clips to comment, and comments briefly get through, until the pre-moderation email alerts me.

I had one such this morning – a violent, racist anti-semitic outburst from an anonymous poster, reinforcing my view that I should retain the comment ban.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Tuition fees – extract from 2010 blog

This 2010 extract is still mainly relevant, I feel, and it may help some YES campaigners with the ‘fairness’ questions sometimes thrown at them.

1. It is Scotland’s responsibility to offer free education to Scottish students and students permanently living in Scotland.

2. It is not in Scotland’s economic interest to offer free education to students from Europe or the rest of the UK, however, present EU legislation compels us to offer free higher education to EU students – the Umbria/Cumbria rule. It does not, however compel us to offer free education to students from the rest of the UK, since the UK is regarded as the state by the EU.

3. It is in Scotland’s interest to attract paying students from the rest of the world, and ideally we would also like EU students to pay.

4. The demands from the UK that Scotland should offer free education to Students from England in the interests of ‘fairness’ is nonsense – it would negate the whole purpose of devolved government’s freedom to decide how its money should be spent in areas of expenditure over which it has discretion. If English students didn’t pay, some other area of Scotland’s expenditure would suffer, and in the light of the draconian fees (up to £9000 per annum) that the ConLib UK government is imposing, there would be a flood of English students to Scottish universities at the expenses of places for Scottish students.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Polls: Newsnight index and YouGov Nowcast - and average, April 9th 2015

Here’s the latest Newsnight Index poll and the YouGov Nowcast poll.

I averaged them, perhaps invalid, but polls are a snapshot with error margin, so probably gives a good idea of state of play.

Poll Ave April 9th 2015

Net out Sinn Fein and the Speaker leaves 644 voting maximum, so 323 minimum necessary for single party overall majority or voting deal combined majority, in coalition, confidence and supply or informal vote-by-vote, issue-by-issue basis.

Neither Ed Miliband nor David Cameron are remotely likely to have an overall seat majority as single party.

Any way you slice it – since SNP won’t do any deal with or vote with the Tories – Ed Miliband can’t ignore the SNP, whether Labour is the largest or second largest party.

If he leads the largest party, his choice is either minority government – with huge risk – or deal with SNP. If he’s not the largest party, his choice is either let the Tories in or deal with the SNP.

Quite simply, the SNP – with the help of Plaid and Greens as bloc - can make him PM on either outcome.

Since coalition is firmly ruled out, his options on an SNPbloc/Labour deal are therefore confidence and supplya pre-deal delivering support on negotiated conditions – or informal issue-by-issue, vote-by-vote haggling with SNP bloc.

Nicola has made her pre-deal conditions and voting intentions abundantly clear.  Stewart Hosie expertly analysed the various options today on the Daily Politics, eventually in the face of an increasingly agitated Andrew Neil on Trident/NATO aspect.

The Referendum and the opposition to Scotland’s independence has always centred on defence, (see link below) the nuclear deterrent and Trident, as I noted some years ago. We didn’t win our freedom on September 18th 2014, but now Scotland is playing the Westminster game on their ground – but fully democratically and constitutionally on our terms with our democratic voting independence.

It’s the nukes, stupid!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Westminster 2015 – politics, polls and possibilities: the current state of play

I thought I’d have a crack at updating my February blog – May 8th 2015 – when the hard bargaining starts

Polls are remarkably consistent in pointing to a hung Parliament – now virtually a certainty rather than a possibility. Again, I offer my understanding of the arithmetic and dynamics of this, but happy to be corrected on errors or points of detail!

CURRENT STATE OF PARTIES
Conservatives           303
Labour                       257
Liberal Democrat       56
Democratic Unionist   8
Scottish National          6
Sinn Fein                       5
Independent                 3
Plaid Cymru                  3
Social Dem & Lab.        3
UKIP                               2
Alliance                           1
Green                              1
Respect                           1
Speaker                           1

Total no. of seats  650

ARITHMETIC OF FORMING A GOVERNMENT

After a general election, the leader of one of the parties has to demonstrate that he or she can command a majority of the votes in the House of Commons on major issues i.e. impose the democratic will of the Government on dissenting voices in the House and govern this increasingly Disunited Kingdom - a practical necessity and constitutional requirement - the leader has to convince the Queen as Head of State.

If one political party has this capacity, its leader de facto becomes Prime Minister, subject to the Queen’s ratification, but if no single party has the requisite number of seats – even though one may have more seats than any other single party – then either

a deal has to be struck with another party or parties, or

the party with the majority of seats has to risk governing as a minority government, or

a hung Parliament effectively  exists and another general election has to be called.

The party leader with most seats (but short of overall majority) gets first crack at forming a government

Last time, I used the first Newsnight Index – this time I’ll use the latest Skye/Thrasher poll projections of the hung Parliament possible seat outcome.

Sky Hung poll

Labour largest party on 283 seats  - way short of the magic 321-323 seats to give an overall majority - Tories 272, SNP 53, Others 23, LibDems 17, UKIP 2

Thee are 650 seats in the House, a simple majority requires the aspirant governing party or parties to be able to command 326 seats (half of 650 + 1)– but since Sinn Fein doesn’t take up its five seats, that becomes 323 (half of 645 +1).  Sinn Fein could of course put a green cat among the Brit pigeons at any time by deciding to turn up! And they might just do that, worried by DUP influence (currently 8 seats, maybe 9 after May?)

There is the question of the Speaker (actually speakers, with deputies). The Speaker only votes on a dead heat, and then by tradition for the governing party, so theoretically that throws another one vote potentially in contention!)

On the Sky/Thrasher projection, Labour would be the party with most seats, but not enough to hit the magic 323. Ed Miliband can then choose to “do an Alex Salmond 2007” and elect to govern as a minority government a high-wire act, with huge risks, which Alex was well-equipped to perform – requiring him to do ad hoc deals on every major vote with other parties or interest groups within and/or across parties. If Ed hasn’t the balls for this – or the Queen didn’t like it – he would then have three other options -

call for another general election, or

try to strike a confidence & supply deal with another party or parties – a kind of minority government with a pre-arranged support understanding, or

form a coalition government with one party or with more than one party - a Rainbow coalition

(Aficionados of the various Borgen series on BBC Four will understand all of this effortlessly, plus have an insight into the role of sex in government!)

Ed has now decisively ruled out a Labour coalition with Tories, UKIP or SNP  (it was never a preferred SNP option) and appears to have ruled out any formal deal, e.g. confidence and supply, so he must either bottle it and call another general election or govern as a minority government.

But the stark realpolitik of minority government means that he must negotiate and do deals, otherwise he risks falling  at the first fence, e.g. a budget vote.

Who will Ed’s likely partners in government be – if he chooses to have partners – and how would it play out on the above, or similar projections of a May  7th outcome?

To get to the magic 323, he needs 40 votes. For comfort – and to reassure Lizzie – he ideally needs more. The SNP can give him 53, LibDems 17, and Others 23 votes. UKIP can offer 2.

He says he won’t deal with UKIP or Tories: the  LibDems are proven carpetbaggers and will deal with anyone, delivering 17 votes – but,  of the 23 others, 6 don’t vote (Sinn Fein and Speaker) and of the remaining 17, he probably can  only deal with Plaid and Greens (and George Galloway ?). Even if he had all the Others (including Ulster Unionists?) he only musters 34.

(Breaking news is that DUP will deliver their 8 (9?) votes to anyone who offers them £1 billion. Now, who’s crying “holding the UK to ransom” now, Anna Soubry! Ah, they’re unionists!)

If Ed was mad, UKIP squeaks him another two, giving 36 but still leaving him four short of the magic figure, which in itself is a tight and risky margin.

Any way  it plays out, it seems inevitable that the SNP will be the key players, even if their actual seat fall short of the astonishing 53 seat projection.

Without going into the obvious numbers, on this projection, David Cameron has even less chance of usurping Labour as the largest party to form a government.

Of course there are other radical options, all centring round some kind of Government of  National Unity, i.e. keep the WMD, keep austerity and keep the SNP out of the power loop at any price.

My view is that such an attempt - apart from running a grave risk of triggering a schism in either the Labour Party or the Tory Party or both - would catalyse the spirit of Scottish independence dramatically and trigger an unstoppable popular demand for a  second independence referendum.

(There are even more radical scenarios than that, ones that I would not like to see provoked by such UK rashness.)

POSTSCRIPT: Alex Salmond ideas on Fixed Term Parliament Act manoeuvre

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Salmond on Marr, Soubry on Salmond, Murphy in meltdown – just another day in Scotland-dominated UK politics!

SNP membership hits 100,000, polls couldn’t be better or more consistent – and Scottish politics seem so human, vibrant, cutting edge - and Westminster politics so tired, so contemptibly predictable, locked in the past.

Anna Soubry MP   does a fine archetypal Tory woman impression of Ann Widdecombe in full expostulating, "end-of-Britain-as-we-know-it" mode.

I must give Anna full credit - she does synthetic indignation body language better than anyone littering the Tory benches today.

 

Stuffed full of John McTernan soundbytes, Jim Murphy falls apart under Andrew Neil's relentless professionalism - and the cold, hard facts of the polls.

Defensive, misjudging speed of delivery, lurching in typical fashion from Scottish Labour backroom brawler mode to cloying attempts to ingratiate - all in all, Murphy's painful swansong.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The “democratic principle”– and Unionist attempts to deny it when YES voters exercise it.

I wrote this in response to a Herald letter from a regular correspondent to Letters who echoed with uncanny accuracy the line being pursued by the UK unionist parties on YES Scotland’s (I refer to those who voted YES) temerity in not giving up after the referendum, but forging ahead with the SNP in exercising their legal and democratic rights to participate in the Parliamentary union the September 18th 2014 ballot result had compelled them to remain a part of. A great silence has followed my letter – so far …

Herald Letters March 11th 2015 

"SNP is a regional party ..." Peter A. Russell

Dear Sir,

I hardly know where to start with Peter A. Russell's letter on the SNP role in the 2015 general election. It reflects the deeply confused constitutional - not to say democratically questionable - assumptions that lie at the root of so many unionist arguments.

1. The "democratic principle" is that a government, once elected, is accountable to all the voters, not to the "majority of the voters" who may or may not have voted for the party or parties that form the government. In the 18 general elections since 1945, no single party forming a government has ever had 50% or more of the vote. The present combined Tory/LibDem Coalition had 58.08%. (As an aside, I have delivered leaflets and campaigned, at some level of involvement, in every one of them from the age of 10.)

2. The SNP has not "chosen to be" a de facto regional party in the UK". It stands candidates for the UK Parliament in Scottish constituencies determined legally and constitutionally under UK-wide law. No political party has a duty to stand candidates across the UK. It is committed to an over-arching objective of Scotland's independence, but it currently operates with a UK framework of law, offering itself to an electorate that contains voters in favour of and opposed to independence.  Once elected, SNP MPs represents all shades of political opinion within their constituency, in exactly the same manner as any MP anywhere in UK. It is clear beyond doubt that Scottish voters opposed to independence voted - and will vote - for the SNP.

3. The SNP forms the devolved government of Scotland. It can never be the main party in government of the UK, nor does it seek to be. While Scotland remains a part of UK, its objective is to represent Scotland's interests within the democratic structure and arithmetic of Westminster voting. It cannot pursue independence at Westminster, only further devolution within a UK framework. It has no intention of "dictating to 90% of the UK electorate" but will pursue an agenda for the electorate and the people of Scotland - all of them.

4. Independence can only be secured democratically by a referendum - the UK Parliament will never vote for the independence of any of its four component countries. The Scottish people rejected independence in the last referendum. If the SNP wins a large block of seats on May 7th, and subsequently wins a decisive third term majority in the 2016 Holyrood election, it will undoubtedly be a powerful democratic indicator that a majority of the Scottish people want a second referendum.

5. The UK electorate may vote for a party label, but they in fact vote for individual constituency MPs who, without exception, represent a "regional' constituency" under a first-past-the-post system. Most MPs run under a party label and accept a party whip, but in Westminster they vote as individuals MPs, whipped  or independently. That is UK democracy, however distorted on occasion by the party system.

yours faithfully,

Peter Curran

Sunday, 8 March 2015

SNP and Labour after May 7th - Coalition? Confidence and supply? Issue by issue?

SNP and Labour after May 7th - Coalition? Confidence & supply? Issue by issue?

I'm totally against coalition (remember LibDems fate), but in favour of confidence & supply or issue by issue. A Rainbow alliance without coalition? It all depends on whether Tories or Labour have the most seats, but not an overall majority for either party.

Ian Murray MP eaten alive, regurgitated - then eaten again by Gordon Brewer.

Murray tried unsuccessfully to use the non-stop gabbling approach to avoid answering the simple question - "Will you rule out a pact/deal with the SNP?"  A lame performance by the dead pan, dead-eyed Murray - all in all, a car crash of an interview.

Of course, he won't rule it out, because Miliband hasn't ruled it out, Murphy hasn't ruled it out, Labour hasn't ruled it out.

They'll do a deal alright, if their political survival depends on a deal - and it will!

TACTICAL VOTING

I couldn't help noting the accents of the leaders of Forward Together and Scotland in Union - then was promptly ashamed of myself. But then the growling, unmistakably Scottish tones of Alan Cochrane sounded, enthusiastic about both campaigns and the Union, and I remember that Unionists are not defined by accent alone, although it can give a clue ...

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Don’t get fooled again, Springburn – look at Labour’s record and weep…

I wrote this in 2009 after Michael Martin, Labour MP for Glasgow North East and the Speaker of the House of Commons had announced his decision on the 19th of May to resign, to forestall the imminent historic humiliation of being the first Speaker in history to be forced out by a vote of no confidence. I really believed that the electors of Springburn, a district I had known well all my life, would awaken from their fantasy that Labour was on their side.

Not only was I wrong in November 2009 at the by-election, but wrong again at the 2010 General election in May 2010.

Despite all that has since happened, including the ignominious defeat of the hapless Gordon Brown Government, leaving us with the nightmare of the Coalition, the Ashcroft poll shows that Springburn is still set to do it again, lemming-like.

Glasgow North East

But the SNP has a strong candidate in Anne McLaughlin this time, and perhaps the electors will finally learn the lesson that the rest  of Glasgow has – Labour is no longer the people’s party.

Don't get fooled again, Springburn!

 

The 2009  Moridura blog

FRIDAY, 22 MAY 2009 

I wondered just how long it would take for Alf Young of the Herald to decide that a general election would be a bad thing right now, and here he is on cue today saying just that.

For those of you unfamiliar with Alf's deeply coded messages, let me translate - if a general election was announced swiftly, Labour would be wiped out at the polls, the Tories would win  in England, and the rickety United Kingdom would have a Tory government, making it completely unrepresentative of the will of the Scottish people.

The new Westminster government could not then deny the Scottish people a referendum on independence, which would happen around the time of the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2011, with the SNP being returned with a decisive working majority. The likely outcome would be a decisive vote for the freedom of Scotland.

This must not be allowed to happen. In the fantasy world of the Herald, the Scotsman and the Scottish Unionist, the general election must be deferred as long as possible, giving Gordon Brown's corrupt, incompetent, indecisive and rotten administration time - time to recover credibility over the next few months, aided by the full weight of the Scottish unionist press, more defence jobs bribery, more judicious patronage, as many distorted scare stories as can be mustered, and ideally a nice popular, winnable war against some far off country - the Falklands Factor.

But there's a worm in Alf and Labour's apple - it's called Glasgow North East, better known as Springburn, and a by-election is imminent. How imminent?

Well, it could be July, but if Alf's logic is applied, it could be deferred till September or October, and this would sit well with Gordon Brown's electoral cowardice and reflex procrastination instincts.

A recent Channel Four News report covered Springburn and Labour, gained great moral force by being presented by Sarah Smith, the daughter of Labour's lost Leader, John Smith.

Here are a few facts.

Under Labour for generations, and in recent times while its Labour MP, Michael Martin was one of the most powerful politicians in the land, Springburn has

about two and a half times the national rate of unemployment.

life expectancy 12 years lower than more prosperous parts of Scotland.

almost 12% more smokers, and 5% more deaths from smoking than the Scottish average

widespread deprivation and urban decline

The Channel Four documentary quoted an old Springburn joke - "You can't join the Labour Party in Springburn - it's already full!"

But most of the Labour voters questioned said bluntly that that old reflex loyalty could no longer be relied upon.

What Sarah Smith devastatingly stated as "the breach of trust between the party that is supposed to fight for the underprivileged and the people who need it the most" will be in the forefront of Springburn voters minds when they go to the polling stations.

Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University caught the echoes of the questions from last year's Glasgow East campaign - "What has the Labour Party ever done for this constituency? It's still as impoverished as it ever was ..." Glasgow North East is even more impoverished.

What was Michael Martin doing? He was living in a palatial palace as Speaker, and he was implicated in an expenses system where MPs were making claims related to luxury items of home furnishing when people in Glasgow North East were struggling to get basic, essential items, such as cookers and fridges.

Don't get fooled again, Springburn.

Don't be fooled by politicians who make snap appearances at old ladies's lunch clubs, smile and twinkle, then disappear in a chauffeur-driven hired limousine to grand civic functions and expensive dinners.

Don't be fooled by little successful interventions into small grievances when the main structural decline of your community and your life is accelerating unchecked.

This is not the Labour you knew for so many years, in opposition, fighting against the evil Tories, who could be blamed for everything - this is Labour who have been in government for 12 years, yet have frittered away the resources of the nation and the lives of Scottish servicemen and women in foreign wars, the party that is cutting the Scottish budget for essential services by £500 million pounds while spending fifty times that - £25 billion pounds - on outmoded. irrelevant weapons of mass destruction.

Don't get fooled again Springburn!

Vote for the party of your ain folk, the Scottish National Party.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Wedding of the Year - the impending nuptials of Ed Miliband and the SNP

The National gets better by the day: in today’s edition, it excelled itself.

From its eye-catching, ‘Russian Roulette’ front cover through its news items to its articles, analysis and readers’ letters, it provided a wealth of information on key topics for committed supporters of Scotland’s independence – and hopefully many others as yet uncommitted – that helps to make them the driving force in the best informed electorate in the world, despite the efforts of the rest of the mainstream media to misinform and mislead them.

And of course, there’s the regular Monday delight – the Greg Moodie cartoon, in my view one his very best to date. (My cartoon consumption goes back to the 1940s and includes the American funnies, sent to me by relatives in the U.S., and I was viewing the great newspaper political cartoonists from early childhood.) This one had a real story to tell, with the word balloons driving the riveting, graphic wedding narrative – the impending nuptials of Ed and the SNP.

The second part of Alasdair Gray’s series, titled Towards Democracy contained - among his musings on explosions in munitions depots  and the nuclear risk, the following gem -

Everyone wants to live as far from such things as possible, so the London Government has placed the most dangerous in Scotland.”

He also observes that “British and North American armed forces have been bombing and blighting foreigners in wars where a minority of British and U.S.A soldiers died, and this caused no explosions in their homelands before a suicidal guerrilla group destroyed the New York World Trade Centre.”

But perhaps Alasdair’s most interesting proposition was that Alex Salmond adopted the high-risk strategy of moving the SNP towards NATO membership – which almost split the party in 2012 – to stop Obama, the U.S.A. and its supporters from “directing a global blast against Scottish independence before the referendum.”

Alasdair Gray advances the idea that this was in fact counter-productive -

As a result, President Obama spoke as gently against it as the Pope. I believe the strong blast Salmond feared may have given the Yes campaign a clear majority, because a lot of Scots were getting tired of being told they could not rule themselves ..”

Well, we’ll never know – but I, for one, think Alasdair Gray may be right. But in this, as in so many other vital, pivotal judgments, e.g. the currency question, I don’t envy Alex Salmond the agonising choices he had to make. Characteristically, he made them bravely, decisively and without equivocation, not as a gambler, but as the statesman he was - and is.

Alasdair is in no doubt, and has a view on what must be done -

NATO will keep its bases in Scotland no matter how much an independent Scotland protests, but that is no reason the SNP conference should not return to its former policy of total nuclear disarmament.”  and “Alex Salmond’s amendment is less than three years old, and can be scrapped.”

However, for me, the most insightful and immediately relevant article in this fine National issue was George Kerevan’sTime to face up to reality about the role SNP MPs will play post-election”. Kerevan is one of the true political thinkers in the SNP camp, and unlike many Scottish journalists, is capable of getting right down to the structural heart of complex political issues that others shy away from.

Anyone who wants to understand the complexities of the Westminster situation Nicola Sturgeon and the new bloc of SNP MPs will face if they are returned in the numbers the polls suggest must read this article - and then read it again.

In the maze of options, from coalition (currently ruled out) to confidence and supply deals (not “supply and demand” deals as one journalist suggested elsewhere!) the voting behaviours of an SNP/Plaid/Green bloc will demand fine judgements, as Kerevan’s keen eye detects.

Yesterday, Iain Macwhirter, in an excellent Sunday Herald article In this era of Coalition, the political map has turned yellow addressed similar questions.  But he used the language of negotiation  (a language most journalists should take care to avoid, since they rarely have any understanding of the dynamics of negotiation) to describe the dilemmas facing the SNP Westminster bloc.

In examining the choices the new SNP bloc will face, the choices that Nicola will have to mastermind – having ruled out the possibility that Alex Salmond “could become the back-seat driver from hell”, he adopts what I believe to be a false premise, namely that Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out “playing politics with the Tories

Leaving aside the fact that the SNP minority government of 2007-2011 only survived because Alex Salmond deftly played politics with the Tories to get his budgets through, what Nicola has ruled out – as I understand it – is entering into coalition or any confidence and supply-type arrangement with the Tories. To do either would clearly be political suicide for the SNP in Scotland.

But this cannot be extrapolated into saying that the SNP would never vote with the Tories on any issue. (If Nicola said this, I missed it!) One only has to illustrate by extremes, e.g. what if the Tories agreed to vote against the upgrading of Trident against a Miliband Government determined to do it?

Although such a scenario  stretches the bounds of probability, it does illustrate that distaste for the Tories cannot overwhelm common political sense, where there are key voting issues on which consensus exists. Such a distaste for the SNP from 2007 to date led the Scottish Labour group in Holyrood into utter folly, directly contributing to the decline of their party.

So when Iain Macwhirter says of voting with Tories that “Remarkably, the SNP has chosen not to do so and make clear that the only party it will play politics with is Labour” I believe him to be factually wrong.  He goes on to say that -

Sturgeon has thus handed an extraordinary advantage to Ed Miliband. He knows that the SNP will go into post-election negotiations with with precisely zero negotiating clout

I must disagree totally with this verdict of a journalist, Iain Macwhirter, for whom I have the highest admiration and respect. Politicians, lawyers (Nicola is both!) and journalists rarely have even a rudimentary understanding of negotiation, but Nicola Sturgeon is a unique politician, as is her mentor and close colleague and friend, Alex Salmond – and both, although rooted in fundamental political principles, are supreme pragmatists.

They will deal – when and how they need to deal – when the situation demands it, in the over-arching interests of Scotland and the Scottish people.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Labour’s crime – the Iraq War – and my March 2003 fears on the eve of war

I wrote this letter to the Herald on 17th of March 2003. I was then, at least still nominally a supporter of the Labour Party, as I had been all my life and as my family had been.

The war against Iraq began three days later on March 20th 2003 with the U.S. launch of the bombing raid on Baghdad - Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Never in my life have I more wanted to be wrong in a prediction, but what followed unleashed unimaginable death and devastation that lasted from 2003 –2011, beyond my worst imaginings - and, in a very real sense, is not over yet.

The long slow death of Scottish Labour began in March 2003, in significant part due to their moral cowardice at that pivotal moment in history. New Labour – the creation of Blair, Brown and Mandelson seemed to die in 2010, but the rough  beast is stirring again, slouching towards Westminster.

child1child 2

My letter, published in The Herald, 17th of March 2003.

Seventeen and a half per cent of the UK population are children of 15 years of age or younger. (Source of data – CIA website)

41% of the Iraqi population are children o 15 years of age or younger. (Source - CIA website)

Therefore in any “collateral damage” to innocent civilians, 41 children will die or be maimed in every 100. (My source for these statistics - CIA website).

To add to the misery of the Iraqi children already hurt by Saddam Hussein and our sanctions will be an international crime.

Much has been made of Tony Blair’s “sincere conviction” over his stance on Iraq. If sincerity of conviction was the touchstone, the actions of any misguided politician in history could be justified. I hesitate to offer a list of those who pursued policies destructive to justice and life who were “sincere” in their conviction, but produced horrific consequences by their actions.

This coming war is profoundly misconceived and unjust, and Tony Blair is profoundly mistaken to pursue it.

He has wrecked our relationship with our European allies, damaged our international status, weakened our democratic and parliamentary traditions, has perhaps delivered a damaging blow to the Labour Party, and will undoubtedly damage our economy and our security.

As for Scotland’s MSPs supporting Blair's action by their contemptible inaction – don’t look for my vote (Labour for more than four decades) in the May elections.

I now know where the politicians of principle are – a tiny minority in the Scottish Labour group, and a majority in the SSP and the SNP. My advice to the few MSPs of principle left in the Scottish Parliament is to cross the floor now.

Iraq has become the defining political issue of our time, and the question that will be asked of politicians (and all of us) is – where were you when there was still time to stop it?

Peter Curran

Iraq

Thursday, 5 February 2015

May the 8th 2015 – when the hard bargaining starts?

All the forecasts indicate a hung Parliament as a probability rather than a possibility. I offer my understanding of the mechanic and dynamics of this to those who perhaps have never examined the matter in any detail.

If you are already well-informed on such matters, pass on – what follows is not for you, you clued-up thing, you …

CURRENT STATE OF PARTIES
Conservatives           303
Labour                       257
Liberal Democrat       56
Democratic Unionist   8
Scottish National          6
Sinn Fein                       5
Independent                 3
Plaid Cymru                  3
Social Dem & Lab.        3
UKIP                               2
Alliance                           1
Green                              1
Respect                           1
Speaker                           1

Total no. of seats  650

HARD ARITHMETIC OF FORMING A GOVERNMENT

After a general election, the leader of one of the parties has to demonstrate that he or she can command a majority of the votes in the House of Commons on major issues - e.g. the Budget, major legislation, decisions to commit the Armed Forces – in other words, impose the democratic will of the Government on dissenting voices in the House and govern the United Kingdom. This is a obviously a practical necessity and of course constitutional requirement, as the leader has to convince the Queen as Head of State.

If one political party has this capacity, its leader de facto becomes Prime Minister, subject to the Queen’s ratification, but if no single party has the requisite number of seats – even though one may have more seats than any other single party – then either

a deal has to be struck with another party or parties, or

the party with the majority of seats has to risk governing as a minority government, or

a hung Parliament effectively  exists and another general election has to be called.

This situation existed in the hectic days following the last general election in 2010, and a fascinating spectacle it was.

There have been many projections of just how the seats will play out after May 7th, and there will be many more, as poll after poll offers its forecasts, but for the purpose of illustration of the arithmetic, I’ll use a slightly dated, but useful projection of the BBC’s – the first Newsnight Index - for no better reason than that I already have a graphic for it – and it may well be as accurate as any other that comes up!

Newsnight Index projection GE2015

With 650 seats in the House, a simple majority requires the aspirant governing party or parties to be able to command 326 seats (half of 650 + 1)– but since Sinn Fein doesn’t take up its five seats, that becomes 323 (half of 645 +1).  Sinn Fein could of course put a green cat among the Brit pigeons at any time by deciding to turn up!

If we look at the Newsnight Index projection (it’s not the current one), Labour, on this projection, would be the party with most seats, but not enough to hit the magic 323. Ed Miliband could then choose to “do an Alex Salmond 2007” and elect to govern as a minority government – a high-wire act, with huge risks, which Alex was well-equipped to perform – requiring him to do ad hoc deals on every major vote with other parties or interest groups within and/or across parties. If he hadn’t the balls for this – or the Queen didn’t like it – he would then have three other options -

call for another general election, or

try to strike a confidence & supply deal with another party or parties – a kind of minority government with a pre-arranged support understanding, or

form a coalition government with one party or with more than one party - a Rainbow coalition

(Aficionados of the various Borgen series on BBC Four will understand all of this effortlessly, plus have an insight into the role of sex in government!)

Who will Ed’s likely partners in government be – if he chooses to have partners – and how would it play out on the above, or similar projections of a May  7th outcome?

To get to the magic 323, he needs 37 votes. For comfort – and to reassure Lizzie – he ideally needs more. The SNP can give him 33, Plaid two and Greens one. He definitely(?) won’t find his extra one from the Tories or UKIP, and thus is left to trawl among the LibDems, the Northern Ireland parties and the Others!

Perhaps George Galloway will see his way clear to support Ed, but probably at a price that would be unacceptable!

However it plays out, it seems inevitable, if present polling trends are accurate, that the SNP will be the key player.

But consider this possibility – the LibDem 26 plus 11 othersbut drawn from where?

I haven’t had so much fun since the 1945 General Election, where I campaigned for Labour and Attlee as a ten year-old. Now, that was fun …

N.B. The Speaker does not vote, except in deadheat votes, when the convention is that the speaker casts the tie-breaking vote in favor of the governing party.