Rebecca Coulson is a freelance classical musician and writer, and the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the City of Durham.
I’m about as unconvinced that Ed Miliband wants to win next year’s general election as I am that Alex Salmond wants Scottish independence.
If Miliband really wants to win, then he’s not trying very hard. And the Labour Party certainly isn’t by keeping him as their leader. Topsy-turvily, their only recent policy has involved attempting to hijack the One Nation from Disraeli. Spring’s embarrassing party political broadcast – which, on a very slow night, might have been almost amusing in a 2am comedy slot – failed (until the credits) to mention the party it represented, any of those non-existent policies, or indeed the elections for which it was intended. And when not playing dangerous games with foreign policy pronouncements, Miliband has been starring in a series of highly-avoidable gaffes featuring sandwiches.
Throughout recent times, the British political system has remained largely balanced thanks to its bipartite nature. A decade or so of this; a decade or so of that. The threat of endless coalitions – pace kudos for keeping the current one going – may change this slightly, but we all know that control of the UK alternates between blue and red hands. So, waiting until next time round, until 2020, might seem superficially attractive to Labour. And maybe Ed’s just a place-holder? Fine, you think: they realise they’re not going to win a majority, so they’re biding their time.
But wait a minute. Surely that’s not what it’s about. This isn’t a game. Politics is about doing the right thing, about winning because your doing so will make things better, not winning because you want to win, or you want to be the winner. If the Labour Party can offer genuine change, and can show that the Conservative-led government could be running our country in a better way, then they need to come out and do that. If not, they need to stop getting in the way of progress. Our long-term economic plan is working, and a half-hearted attempt to sidetrack the country, for the sake of it, isn’t a silly sandwich situation – it’s reckless and wrong.
And that brings us to Scottish independence. Alistair Darling’s televised beat-em-up of Alex Salmond hinged upon the Scottish First Minister’s (continuing) refusal to answer any serious economic questions. And this makes me wonder if he really wants independence at all.
Parties which run on emotive single issues are always in danger of having to follow these through upon reaching power. And having led such a party to such success in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, Alex Salmond couldn’t have not demanded a referendum for the SNP. But surely he’s a socialist first and foremost. And the one sure-fire benefit for Scotland that independence would bring would be that, eventually (after years of hardship), someone would have to fix their economy. There would be no more free university places, and no more relying on the Barnett Formula to give their aging population the best deal out of the UK’s shared economy. Yet, from these ashes could, no doubt, rise an economically strong country, in time. But it would not be the socialist paradise of its First Minister’s dreams. It would, of course, also be a sadder place. A place which had chosen isolation over a great shared history. For the UK’s achievements (and mistakes) are not England’s alone – no matter what Salmond tries to suggest. So, does he really want independence? Is he really trying to win it, or is he just putting up a rhetorical fight in the knowledge that people will think he tried? And that the issue would then be resigned to the back room snug for a couple more decades, warmed by the extra benefits gained from the UK during the fight. Maybe? Probably. Or if not, he’s not as clever as he seems.
So, we land back on the political board game. A game featuring oversized rooks and queens and pawns. But we’re worth more than that. So, Ed and Alex – own up and stand aside, or answer the big questions, and offer some solutions. Don’t play games with people’s lives. We Conservatives are in it to win it, because we know that is what’s needed. Are you?