At a Commons Treasury Committee meeting yesterday, George Osborne gave his thoughts about a possible Labour-SNP coalition:
“There’s going to be a lot of hard negotiation on things like the fiscal framework and I think it would be very unfair to the whole United Kingdom if we had a Chancellor of the Exchequer who was beholden on Scottish Nationalist votes in the next Parliament.
“I think that would not be fair for the rest of the United Kingdom and I think those who aspire to hold this office should make it very clear before the election that they would not be beholden on Scottish Nationalist votes.”
I can understand why George Osborne would not be thrilled about a Labour-SNP working arrangement. For starters, it means that he’s out of a job. But given he’s said this in the midst of a general election campaign, and thus one can conclude was said with some tactic in mind, I find the above quote, well, a little baffling.
The number one question when devising something to say about your opponent during an election is this: will it put them in a difficult spot in terms of having to respond to whatever you are going to say? So for example, Farage does this all the time with Cameron. He says something about the Tories and Europe, and since Cameron is trying to walk a very thin line on the subject, these Farage-isms usually satisfy this prime question aptly.
In the case of Osborne, Labour and the SNP, this is the easiest one to bat away in the history of British politics. “Labour are going to win a majority in May,” says Ed Balls (which he, in fact, has now said in response). Boom, simple. So what exactly was Osborne’s plan in saying this if from the start he could have concluded it would put Labour under no pressure?
I’ve asked around; people in politics whom I trust on such things. I got only wild speculation. “Perhaps it’s about making Labour seem weak on the economy given the SNP are profligate.” Problem with this theory is that if it was about the economy, surely George could have pushed harder than some vague crap about “fiscal frameworks”. Given I obsess about this stuff as well and didn’t make this connection, I don’t see how this message was supposed to filter down to John and Jane Q I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-politics either.
You want to know my first impressions upon reading what Osborne had said, his demand that Labour renounce the Scottish National Party? The Tories don’t think they’re going to win the general election. They seem convinced, in fact, that Labour will be the largest party in a hung parliament and are scared about what happens then. Which was surely not the impression Osborne wanted to put across, I would have thought.
Perhaps I should just stop thinking about the Conservative Party in terms of it being an unstoppable Machiavellian force and realise that, especially in light of fiascos such as the Clacton by-election, the Tories are just plain, old human beings. Who while they are throwing stones from inside their large, glass mansion, should rule out doing a deal with the DUP.