Yet again, the British Gazette returns to the subject of what Labour’s leaders would do in the situation where they are the largest party but do not have a majority. It is a speculation that will constantly be indulged upon by the media and commentators. It is important however as it concerns the future of the United Kingdom.
Previous articles in this organ and other commentaries elsewhere have tended to focus on the attitudes and likely actions of the leaders of the political parties. This concentration however is dangerous as it forsakes a vital aspect: the power-base that these leaders have. This of course is contained in their MPs. Traditionally, politicians from countries with proportional representation have looked jealously upon the power a British Prime Minister has been able to wield. The source of this power has been the First Past the Post electoral system. This is why the Conservative and Labour parties have been so unwillingly to give it up.
But again, commentators have generally been fixated upon the end product of this and not the source. That source is of course the numbers of back bench MPs. It is this source that this article now comments upon. Therefore we will again conduct an analysis of the options available to Edward the Unfortunate but from the perspective of the Labour MPs and also those defeated Labour candidates who along with their local party colleagues realise that they have a good chance at the next election if their support increases somewhat.
Let us therefore analyse the options presented to Unfortunate Ed by Mistress Sturgeon: Confidence and Supply or Coalition.
Mistress Sturgeon may well place both on the table (flogging bench?) but in practice only one will be made available – not by Mistress Sturgeon but by the UK’s many creditors. As has been said before in previous articles – but it needs repeating – these creditors will demand that the next government is able to implement a stable and coherent programme of government over the course of a Parliament (5 years). An unstable minority government is NOT an option for the UK’s politicians unless they are prepared to accept a further cut of the UK’s Credit Rating and a resultant increase in the rate of interest payable on the national debt. Furthermore Labour’s leaders will very quickly be told that their plans to increase borrowing will also result in a further cut of the UK’s Credit Rating and a resultant increase in the rate of interest payable on the national debt. Such a move will therefore be self defeating. Therefore Labour will at the very outset have to break their election pledge to increase borrowing and temper austerity.
NB: This will apply even if Labour is able to to form a majority government without help from other parties. We therefore know already what the deficit reduction programme will be: essentially what the present government has put forward. That does not mean the manner in which the deficit reduction programme is known. There are essentially three ways of implementing this:
1. No further public spending cuts but increased taxes.
2. No increased taxes but further public spending cuts.
3. A combination of 1 and 2: Some increased taxes and some further public spending cuts.
Given these circumstances, it is clear what the preferences of the politicians will be. For Labour politicians Choice 1 will appeal. For Conservative politicians Choice 2 will appeal. Practical politics will ensure that Choice 3 will be the one chosen. By whoever forms the government after Friday 8th May, 2015.
So now we know what the economic policy is going to be after 8th May, let us return to the matter in hand: the choices open to Labour’s politicians.
Clearly, if the unlikely occurs and Labour is able to form a majority government the outcome is obvious. This however is unlikely. Therefore Edward the Unfortunate is going to be offered the prospect of a coalition with the SNP.
Now, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that Edward is so besotted with the allure of Mistress Sturgeon that he agrees to this and desires to drink the hemlock contained in the chalice she offers him – he agrees to a coalition. What will be the effects?
Well clearly, Edward will be unable to offer his cruel mistress what she suggested before the election: increased borrowing and no more austerity. This will inevitably mean that austerity and tax increases will have to be introduced: In England. The nature of the hemlock that Edward would have to consume would be clear to all: Whilst England suffers austerity, Scotland would be protected. The political ramifications of this are obvious:
- English Labour MPs and hopeful Labour candidates in marginal seats would be facing inevitable defeat.
- SNP MPs would be almost certainly be guaranteed of re-election as Scottish voters realise the power their SNP MPs have been able to exert. In these circumstances, why would a voter who had previously voted Labour vote other than SNP?
- A Conservative majority government would be almost inevitable.
This is why Edward the Unfortunate will almost certainly refuse the poison chalice – his own backbench MPs will demand it!
So there you have it: A situation where Labour is the largest party but significantly short of a majority (even with Lib-Dem support). The insistence (within a fortnight) coming from the UK’s many international creditors that a majority government with a clear direction be formed. An SNP leadership insisting that Labour commits political suicide by joining the “Progressive Coalition.”
In these circumstances there is only one option: a Grand Coalition – with the Tories.
As Dr. Johnson famously said: “Depend upon it Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”