There is much excitement this morning over a scoop in the Daily Telegraph that indicates that the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would prefer David Cameron as Prime Minister to Ed Miliband.
A memo, written by a civil servant, reports on a conversation between Sturgeon and the French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann in February:
“Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats; that she had no idea ‘what kind of mischief’ Alex Salmond would get up to; and confessed that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material).”
Could it be true? Well, as Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?”
The author of the memo names his source as the Consul General, Pierre-Alain Coffinier. The author of the memo himself adds:
“I have to admit that I’m not sure that the FM’s tongue would be quite so loose on that kind of thing in a meeting like that, so it might well be a case of something being lost in translation.”
Sturgeon has denied it in the most emphatic terms. On Twitter. So have the French.
My hunch is there must be at least something in it. The emphasis that it would be Salmond who would be in the House of Commons – and thus in a greater degree of influence than his Party leader – is interesting. That sounds plausible.
It could also well be that Sturgeon has a higher regard for Cameron’s personal abilities than those of Miliband. She would not be alone in that.
Then it could also be that she might prefer a majority Conservative Government to a majority Labour one. Of late the Conservatives have got more keen than Labour on further devolution. This is partly that due to the idea that greater financial independence for Scotland would mean politics there would cease to be about who could shake the begging bowl loudest at the English taxpayer. It would also make it harder to resist denying Scottish MPs votes on English only matters.
Furthermore, the SNP calculate that a Conservative Government at Westminster would make it easier to gather up Socialist votes north of Hadrian’s Wall.
But even if the story is completely true, so what?
What matters is what the SNP MPs at Westminster would do in the event of a hung Parliament. There have made it clear that, should there be enough of them, they would put Ed Miliband into Downing Street. It doesn’t matter how useless they might say he is. Nor does it matter that they might prefer another result. It sounds as though Salmond would regard a hung Parliament as rather fun – while Sturgeon would not. What of it? Those would be the cards they had been dealt.
If the numbers make it possible the SNP would put Labour in. The negotiations would be about how easy the SNP would make it for Labour to impose there disastrous policies on the English – who had voted against such measures.
Whatever the degree of truth in the Telegraph story that threat remains. An anti-British coalition could still be in place next month.