This weekend past, Miliband ruled out doing any sort of a deal with the SNP, even confidence and supply. This places the Labour Party in a rather precarious position. If Labour are the largest party in a hung parliament and Miliband becomes prime minister with less than 35% of the vote, without a parliamentary majority and lacking even a deal with any other party, just banking on the fact that Ed’s Queen’s Speech won’t be voted down by the others parties required (which, to be fair, they probably would let through in these circumstances), there is a legitimacy problem staring them in the face.
The right-wing press will attack them mercilessly; I realise they’ll do this to a Labour led government no matter what, but in this instance the stuff might stick. All while the SNP reviews everything on a case-by-case basis, happily voting down legislation whenever suits, content in the knowledge that Labour can’t call an election anytime it chooses and is sort of stuck with them. Meanwhile, Miliband and his party tank in the polls rather harshly.
There is a way around this, but it’s ballsy and not without risk. It starts with Miliband admitting that his legitimacy is pretty thin up front; that no one won the election, including Labour, but that given the Tories are unable to lead a government, that task falls to him. But he understands explicitly that he didn’t win and that he wants to be a prime minister that won’t simply limp on. He gets that things need to change and that this is the only clear message from the electorate this time round. The days of two-party politics are over and the Labour Party accepts that. They will therefore legislate to change the voting system. At the same time, Labour will still seek to be the largest party of the centre-left; but it will do so by convincing those who have gone to the SNP, the Greens, the Lib Dems, to give them another chance – not tell them that they need to vote tactically for something they don’t really want.
The House of Lords gets a revamp. Local government will be radically altered to accommodate German style federalism. Further devolution to cities will be part of the package.
Some of the things I’ve imagined Ed Miliband saying above I’d like to hear personally; some of it I’m less keen on. But I don’t see how he governs otherwise without some form of what I‘ve just proscribed being said. Unless he forms a coalition, which it seems like he’s not so keen on. Because if he tries to pretend that a majority is just around the corner, and all he has to do is try and screw over everyone who he’s trying to work with for half a decade, all I can say is that David Cameron tried that one and look where it’s got him.
Miliband’s premiership would need something big and different at the very start of it to give it some momentum. Otherwise, Labour could be arranging for its own decimation in relatively short order.