The current polls still provide us with no clear indication about who will form the next government or indeed whether any single party will have an overall majority. The one thing that does seem clear though is that the SNP are on course to make major gains, notably at the expense of the Labour Party. With Labour seemingly unlikely to win enough seats for an overall majority, the potential of a deal between the two parties has been mooted.
If a formal agreement was to happen, it would prove highly controversial. Only a few months ago the SNP and Labour were on opposing signs of an emotional referendum campaign. By helping the “No” campaign Labour inflicted some deep wounds to the SNP’s cause, wounds that will not easily be forgotten. The SNP has accepted the result of the referendum but their long term aim still remains an independent Scotland and it therefore seem incongruous that an independence party can form part of a United Kingdom government. For many in the Labour Party a deal with the SNP is unpalatable, hence the pressure on Miliband to rule it out.
Despite these differences both parties seem unwilling to publicly rule out the possibility of a deal. Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear she would support a Labour government (albeit on an issue by issue basis) and would be happy to talk to Miliband. Miliband has also refused to rule out a deal, perhaps realising that this is his best opportunity to gain power.
With the polls so close, Labour are not going to want to show their hand too early and are keen to leave some “wriggle room” and not to rule out any possibilities at this stage. Any deal is likely to anger traditional Labour supporters and would not be without long term ramifications. However if the choice for the Labour leadership was going back into opposition and seeing Cameron return to 10 Downing Street or doing a deal with the SNP, there is only one option they are likely to push for.
For many unionists seeing the SNP with “the balance of power” in Westminster is perhaps the ultimate nightmare. However with the SNP rise showing no sign of ending, and an overall majority seemingly unlikely it is a possibility we may all have to entertain. Alex Salmond as Deputy Prime Minister, anyone?
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – New Statesmen