Alex Salmond: "We'd be voting against" any Tory government. Photo: Getty.
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Exclusive: Alex Salmond says SNP would vote down the Tories in a Queen’s Speech

Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland, tells the New Statesman that the SNP will not let David Cameron return to power.

Alex Salmond has ruled out any type of post-election deal between the SNP and Conservatives, in an exclusive interview with the New Statesman.

Speaking to NS editor Jason Cowley, he was unequivocal about what would happen if the Tories tried to form a minority government.

“The Tories would have to go effectively straight for a vote of confidence, usually the Queen’s Speech…and we’d be voting against.”

“So if Labour joins us in that pledge, then that’s Cameron locked out.”

Salmond’s intervention comes with just over six weeks until polling day, and confirms that David Cameron has little chance of winning a second term – let alone a third – unless the polls shift.

The Tories are set to win around 280 seats in May. That would be more than 40 seats short of the 323 any party needs to hold a majority and pass a Queen’s Speech. The Lib Dems are likely to only win around 25 to 30 seats; another Tory-Lib Dem coalition will fall short of a majority.

For Cameron to remain in power he will have to form a four-party pact between the Lib Dems, DUP and Ukip. Even then, he will probably fall a few seats short.

If Labour and the SNP vote down a Tory-led government, they will have two weeks to form an alternative. If they don’t, they will trigger a second election. Salmond told the New Statesman that he thinks Labour will therefore strike a deal with the SNP at any cost.

“Under the [Fixed-Term] Parliaments Act, that Westminster's parliament passed but nobody seems to have read, you’d then have a two week period to form another government, and of course you want to form another government because this might be people’s only chance to form another government.”

The key issue in this campaign is now whether there will be an “anti-Tory” majority. If Labour, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and SDLP together hold more than 323 seats, it is impossible to see how Cameron can survive in Number Ten.

An average of five current election forecasts suggest these five parties would hold 327 seats. Whatever happens, the SNP are intent on toppling the Tories.

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In the interview:

  • Salmond says that Ed Miliband shouldn’t have ruled out a full-blown coalition with the SNP: “If I were him, I wouldn't have ruled it out.”

  • Says that Gordon Brown’s intervention saved the Union.

  • Says that David Cameron announcing his plan for English votes for English laws on the morning after the referendum was a mistake. “I’m going to quote Churchill: because in victory, magnanimity.”

  • Predicts that Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Labour’s shadow  foreign secretary and election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander will lose their seats to the SNP.

  • Says that the party with the most seats won’t necessarily end up forming the government.

  • Tells us that that the political figure he most identifies with is Nelson Mandela.

Read the full interview, to be published in our Easter Double Issue, here. 

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.