Labour must be more aggressive in fighting the SNP!

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.

 

Our leaders still have a lot to give even when they step down from their roles!

Party politics is a cut throat business. An incumbent Prime Minister cannot now expect to survive a bad election result and remain as leader of their party. This forces former Prime Ministers onto the back benches only for them to leave the political stage as soon as possible to pursue alternative careers away from Westminster.

Recently David Cameron has stated his aim to remain in the House of Commons after he stops being leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister. In modern times this would much make him a rare exception but one who could benefit his own party and also the British parliament. A former Prime Minister or leader of his party would have considerably experience, insight and expertise that should only add to our Parliament.

The only former Prime Minister sitting in the Commons at the moment is Gordon Brown. For much of the last five years he has been conspicuous by his absence and we have rarely seen him on the national stage. We saw from his late intervention in the Scottish independence referendum debate that he still has a lot to give, and his absence from the Commons appears to have been a missed opportunity. Brown will stand down at this election and there is a perception that much of his final five years in conventional politics have been wasted.

It is hard for any Prime Minister to take a step back once they have been removed from their position. Going from being the leader to being one of the troops again is understandably difficult. Add to this the opportunity to go and fulfill other dreams and interests, and the perception from your own party that your continuing presence is a liability to them, the decision to step down is often an easy one. However, if more could be done to encourage them to stay in the Commons, this could benefit party, parliament and the country.

As elder statesmen, former Prime Minister’s hold rare positions.  They have witnessed, experienced and been part of much and that means they still have much to give. David Cameron’s intentions are to be welcomed and we can but hope that in the future he will be one of many former Prime Ministers that opt to stay in Parliament and continue to contribute to public life in this way.