At the weekend, Alex Salmond won the annual worst kept secret of the year award for the open secret that he was returning to front line politics by standing for Westminster, a record three weeks after stepping down as Scotland’s First Minister. The second worst secret being his candidacy for the Gordon seat, held by the retiring Malcolm Bruce and third on the list of target seats for the SNP.
The consensus among the Mac-commentariat is that Salmond will storm home and win this seat. The consensus among SNP supporters is that the SNP will be key players after the next Westminster elections. While I think it won’t be the cakewalk some of the commentariat describe, being the member at Holyrood does help as the fact that there will be no “incumbency factor” at play here. I’m not entirely sure that the SNP’s influence post election will be anywhere near the (inflated) perception of hardline Yes supporters.
The main reason for this will be the unpopularity of the SNP among the main Westminster parties. If you didn’t know already, the animosity between the Tories and Labour is a mere playground spat compared to the mutual loathing between Labour and the SNP. Labour loves to bring up 1979 and sniggers at a party could have a word linking it to Hitler while the SNP loves a moral high ground more than any other British party (well, except pre-coalition Lib Dems – whose piousness riled John Major so much). Had members of the Scottish Greens burned copies of the Smith Report, there would have been a bit of exposure but nothing compared to the (Labour orchestrated) media storm that the story became. They just don’t like each other.
Not that the SNP are any more popular with the other parties, but truth be told the relationship between the two parties is easily the most poisonous in British politics. You could maybe see a similar opinion of Tory “wets” towards UKIP develop if UKIP gain any more seats. In this respect, the UKIP/Conservative relationship potentially could develop along similar lines to Labour’s relationship with the SNP. The former relationship still has some way to go though.
Ironically enough, given their supposed delusions at the last party conference, the Lib Dems would still be the go to party for coalition. Sure we don’t know what the background strains were like, but if Tory grandee’s like Major and Clarke can compliment the Lib Dems on their behaviour as “junior” partners, then the Tories could do worse.
Labour on the other hand are probably still smarting from Clegg’s ramrod refusal to deal with Brown in 2010, so any deal would have a Clegg (or Alexander… or for that matter any of the other Orange Bookers at the top of the party) sized stumbling block. What won’t help matters would be Clegg’s astonishing performance at PMQ’s yesterday. Astonishing being one word I could use, given his claims about Labour’s treatment of pensioners. Mind you seeing as the Orange Bookers are much easier bedfellows with the Tories than with Labour, they would prefer a second coalition with the Conservatives. On the other hand, whether the grass roots would tolerate a second snubbing of Labour would be another matter entirely. Perhaps after Clegg’s rank awful showing at Prime Ministers Questions, the Lib Dem rank and file might take that decision out of his hands…
All of this is, of course, pure speculation. Next years Westminster election is still very much up for grabs, UKPR’s polling is still showing Labour ahead… just. There is still a lot of water to come under the bridge before we find out whether any party will get a majority. In the meantime, do not be surprised that, even if the nationalist bloc get 20-40 seats, they still find themselves on the outside and frozen out while power is divvied up.