Following last night’s statement from Miliband stating that he would not have a labour government if it means doing deals with the SNP, people seems super confused about what that means. Some people even seem to think that we live in a democracy rather than a monarchy, and forget that Lizzie ultimately determines the Prime Minister, albeit under established conventions. There are several potential scenarios but none of them get to the heart of the problem – that the Labour Party is dead and needs putting out of its misery.
On last nights Question Time, Miliband ruled out not only a formal coalition with the SNP, but also a confidence and supply arrangement. The key statement is below.
If it meant we [the Labour Party] were not going to be in government not being in government, not doing a coalition, not having a deal, then so be it. I am not going to sacrifice the future of our country, the unity of our country. I’m not going to give in to SNP demands around Trident, around the deficit or anything like that, so I just want to repeat this point to you – I am not going to have a Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the Scottish National Party.
Ed Miliband, Question Time, 30th April 2015
That is a pretty clear statement, that Miliband would rather not form a government rather than rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, or reverse the austerity programme, two areas which the SNP have highlighted as major policy differences between themselves and Labour. But what then is the constitutional situation.
First off, in the event of a hung parliament there is no obligation for Cameron to resign.
Cabinet Manual 2.8 “Prime Ministers hold office unless and until they resign.”
Cabinet Manual 2.12 “Where an election does not result in an overall majority for a single party, the incumbent government remains in office unless and until the Prime Minister tenders his or her resignation and the Government’s resignation to the Sovereign.”
And convention suggests that he would not do so in the absence of a confidence and supply deal
Cabinet Manual 2.10 “Recent examples suggest that previous Prime Ministers have not offered their resignations until there was a situation in which clear advice could be given to the Sovereign on who should be asked to form a government”
Consequently Cameron need not resign, citing Miliband’s refusal to do a deal with the SNP and an inability to “command the confidence” of the House of Commons without an SNP deal, putting Miliband on the spot to either renege on his “no deal” position or to allow Cameron to continue in office. If Cameron refuses to resign, there are then three potential scenarios.
Scenario 1: A rerun of the election
Under the Fixed Terms parliaments act, a new election can be called on the basis of a two thirds majority of the House of Commons. Either Labour and the Conservatives together, or potentially one or other of them could call for a new election in the hopes that they may establish a stronger position. Cameron may feel that the confusion may strengthen his position in the south – reinforcing a key theme of the election that Miliband is weak, while Miliband may gamble that his tough stance with the SNP may see former Labour voters in Scotland return to the fold.
Scenario 2: A No Confidence Motion
Miliband may call a No Confidence motion. Under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, were this to be passed – which it almost certainly would be on current predictions – this gives Labour 14 days to cobble together a government. Refusing to do a confidence and supply deal with the SNP at this stage, which would enable a confidence motion to be passed in a new Labour government within the 14 day deadline would trigger a new election. At this point, Trident and austerity becomes key sticking points. If the SNP decided that they would only provide confidence to the government on the basis of agreements around this area, they may well be accused of allowing the opportunity of a Labour government to slip away. The SNP however may calculate that their support base in Scotland is sufficiently strong to be more damaged by not securing a Trident and anti-austerity commitment, than by any political fall out in rUK, which would backfire on Labour if they were unable to obtain a majority in a second election.
Scenario 3: A National Unity Government
The third option is that Labour could enter negotiations with the Conservatives for a government of national unity, citing the SNP as a threat to “the future of our country, the unity of our country” and a grand coalition, softening some of the worst excesses of Tory policy is the only way forward. This would be a gamble, but one based on the idea that in England at least, there is nowhere else for traditional Labour voters to go, and that their willingness to work with the Conservatives rather than the SNP would appeal to unionists and centre voters in any future election – which could be called at any time, giving them a “nuclear option” of calling a new election once they felt that the timing was right.
There is a tacit assumption that Miliband is merely posturing and that “of course” there will be a deal once the election campaign is over, but North British Labour have been touting “the largest party forms the government” line for a long time now, and the press have been preparing for a Tory coup with few murmours from the Labour Party, suggesting that this is not merely posturing, but a deliberate softening up of the electorate. For Labour Party policies have far more in common with the neo-liberal Conservative Party than with the slightly left of centre social democratic SNP.
Or to put it simply, we are fucked. Labour is a cesspit which would sell their granny rather than rid the UK of weapons of mass destruction and end the austerity doctrine which is causing untold misery across the country. Still, still socialists in rUK are calling for a Labour vote. Labour is finished as a party of working class interests. It is dead in Scotland, its North British branch facing total wipeout from a position of electoral dominence, this is not only a result of rising demand for independence, but a recognition that in policy terms there is little which seperates the Labour Party and the Conservative. But in rUK it still clings on – the ghosts of Labour past haunting the working class aided and abetted by the fetishisation of the Labour Party as a “socialist” party. The Labour Party is but a hollowed out shell, unrecognisable from the vision created by Keir Hardie, illusion upheld, not r by the Labour Party itself who have long abandoned any pretense of socialism, but by socialists who refuse to accept reality. The modern day Labour party is little but a zombie feeding off the hopes and dreams of working class people. It is time we put it out of its misery and allowed a proper socialist movement to arise.