Ed Jacobs looks at where the SNP and DUP, the likely key players in a hung parliament, now sit politically.
Ed Jacobs looks at where the SNP and DUP, the likely key players in a hung parliament, sit politically
In just a matter of months, the country will go to the polls in one of the most unpredictable general elections for years.
Barring some miraculous turnaround by one of the main two parties, the one thing we can be almost certain of is that the country is set to vote for another hung parliament, with the balls firmly in the court not of the Lib Dems but of the smaller parties.
With that in mind, Left Foot Forward assess where the SNP and DUP, the likely key players now sit on what they would do in a hung parliament.
The DUP have made clear that they will not entertain the prospect of having members of their party sitting around the cabinet table as Ministers. Speaking to the party’s annual conference in November, party leader and Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson declared:
“We are not seeking to be part of any government coalition, but, with an open mind, we are willing to sustain, in office, a government that offers policies and programmes that are in the best interests of Northern Ireland in particular, and the United Kingdom as a whole.”
The question arises as to which party they would be prepared to sustain. Politically, it should be the Conservatives. In May it was reported that Cameron had hosted a drinks reception for DUP MPs in an attempt to woo the Party to the Conservative cause; and George Osborne’s pledge to devolve Corporation Tax powers to Stormont in the Autumn Statement was a not so subtle attempt to secure support from the DUP especially.
Despite this however, DUP support for a Conservative government cannot be taken for granted. Memories remain strong in Northern Ireland, and the Conservative’s failed decision to stand candidates, in partnership with the DUP’s opponents, the Ulster Unionists, north of the Irish border in the 2010 election could come back to haunt them.
For Labour therefore, all is not lost. It was unionist MPs from Northern Ireland who in part helped to prop up the government of James Callaghan. Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Ivan Lewis would do well to do some wooing of their own before the country goes to the polls.
The SNP will perhaps exert more influence than any other party in the next Parliament outside of the main two.
If the polls are to be believed, the Scots Nats are on course for the kind of gains which could see them replace the Lib Dems as the third biggest party in the next Parliament.
We can dismiss any deal of any sorts between the Conservatives and the SNP, even if Ruth Davidson, leader of the Tories in Scotland, has refused to rule it out a coalition.
With a recent poll carried out by Panelbase for the SNP having found that 35 per cent of Scottish voters would prefer a Labour minority government with the SNP holding the balance of power the question is what form such support would take.
Alex Salmond has already hinted that the party might be prepared to end its long standing commitment note to vote on English only matters in the Commons, which would protect a Labour government that may have been unable to secure a majority of the seats in England, however politically difficult it might be.
But whether the SNP would be prepared to enter into a formal coalition with Labour remains a moot point. On the face of it Salmond would like nothing more than to have his hands on the levers of power across Whitehall. However, with the elections to Holyrood due just a year after the General Election the SNP will be wary about tying itself to a UK government that will, whatever the result, have a severe bout of austerity to preside over.
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot forwardLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.