Recently Alex Salmond gave a very provocative interview to Andrew Marr in which he stated that ‘if you hold the balance, you hold the power’. He then went on to claim that any future Labour government would have to negotiate their budget with the SNP. This has drawn an angry response from Labour leader Ed Miliband who called these statements a combination of ‘bluff and bluster’. However this has not stopped the Conservatives and the Tory oriented press jumping on these comments.
The Conservatives have released a video showing Ed Miliband dancing as Alex Salmond plays a penny whistle. The Tories clearly believe this is a productive line of campaigning for them to take with a previous poster showing Ed Miliband tucked into Alex Salmond’s pocket. The comments from Salmond also featured prominently in much of the press with many traditional Conservative supporting newspapers reporting them and using them as an explicit warning.
With many people in England fearful about the influence the SNP may have after the next election and the personal disdain that is felt towards Alex Salmond, pressure was placed on Miliband to rule out a coalition with the SNP. This promise though has not stopped the story and so Miliband had little choice but to hit back hard over these comments. Being seen to be in cohorts with the SNP is an electoral millstone and Miliband must distance himself from Salmond and insist he will not work with the SNP.
However although they both protest, Salmond and Miliband are likely to need each other after the next election. Without Labour, the SNP have nowhere else to go. They have already ruled out a deal with the Conservatives and Scottish voters would look very unfavourably on any SNP party which took down a Labour government and let in a Conservative government.
Alex Salmond may have overplayed his hand and forced Labour into a corner where they have to come out swinging. Labour can seriously weaken Salmond’s position by holding onto their Scottish MPs but to do so they will have to adopt a more aggressive approach to the SNP. Miliband must show that he is the one calling the shots and not Salmond. This will not be easy against the old wily political campaigner though.