Sinn Fein could bridge the gap between the Tories’ and government…

Well that’s the theory… In reality the polls are still bouncing around too much to really judge whether they’d be needed to make a difference, but James Forsyth argues that Sinn Fein’s abstentionist seats bring down the Tories requisite target number of seats…

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  • There was an interesting connected story on this a couple of weeks ago in the Scottish Press.
    http://tinyurl.com/yawyjux

    Apparently the SNP are looking for meetings with Plaid Cymru and the N.Irish parties to form an informal “Celtic Bloc” in the next parliament. Obviously in event of a hung parliament such a bloc of 20 seats upwards would be in a very strong position to influence affairs. Whta was interesting from a NI point of view was that the SNP were also planning to talk with the Unionist parties here.

    Obviously the MPs elected under the Conservatives and Unionist banner will be taking the Tory whip, so that just leaves the DUP and possibly the TUV.
    They’d probably have to rename it the Celtic/Rangers Bloc but you can see the advantages of such an arrangement from the DUP point of view. Wonder if those talks have begun yet?

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    They could name it the Rancel block Oneil or the culturally *sort of* Celtic/Germanic slaves but really Celticy block.

    Salmond of course is far far far too shrewd to admit he may be courting the DUP or even SF, but a loose arrangement post election when numbers become apparent might be a goer. With SF not sitting in the HOC and therefore not taking part in the votes I don’t see much point really.

  • Henry94

    If it was so tight that SF’s MPs made a difference then the government wouldn’t last a year anyway. In any case it’s a matter for the British.

  • PE

    Salmond of course is far far far too shrewd to admit he may be courting the DUP or even SF, but a loose arrangement post election when numbers become apparent might be a goer

    When (rather than if), he gets in touch I don’t think either the SNP or DUP will be broadcasting it from the roof tops. Also, I can’t see too much meeting of minds on cultural issues. Economically though, both want the same thing and that is “Westminster swinging from the end” of their own particuliar part of the UK’s rope.

    Even with the SF abstentionists, at the minute with the bookies looking at a 20-30 Conservative majority there’s all the point in the world for at least an informal alliance.

  • LabourNIman

    “Celtic Bloc” I’m pissing myself laughing already.

    SDLP take the labour whip, meaning the SNP has SF or DUP to deal with… DUP won’t go near a ‘nationalist party’ and as much as I’d love to see SF act like a real political party and take their seats, I doubt SNP voters would take too well to the alliance.

  • Now, I too recall pieces on just such a topic. Most recently only yesterday. It went something like this, in connection with Alan Watkins’s piece in the Sindy:

    Watkins calculates that, although the magic number for a majority is 326, if we set aside the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, the Shinners who don’t show (but collect expenses), the other Nationalists who find the journey and time excessive, the odd independent or two (who are celebrated in this week’s Economist) who can’t be decisive … it’s about a dozen less.

    Malcolm would go a bit further: even a minority government can govern. All it needs is a bit of flexibility, choosing which battles to fight, squaring sections of the Opposition, keeping your own troops on side …

    Which is why Malcolm went on record, a few days since, suggesting that any Party which breached the 300-seat mark would have the right to squat on the potty-of-State at Number 10.

    Consider this outcome on the morning of Saturday, 8th May, 2010:

    * Party A: 305
    * Party B: 275
    * LibDems: 50;
    * Odds and sods: 20.

    Clearly Party A has “won” on goal difference, particularly if they are the Cameroonies and have the highest numerical vote (would the Murdoch press settle for anything less?).

    Only Party A (whoever they are) can form a Government, with the active participation (unlikely) or the tacit acceptance (by merely sitting on hands) of the LibDems. In itself, that makes the LibDems “kingmakers” (which doesn’t in itself matter) and policy-brokers (which definitely does).

    If we refer back, as Watkins does, to the fall of the Callaghan government in 1979, we see the formula. Michael Foot, as Leader of the House, stitched up understandings with the Ulstermen and the Liberals. That kept things going until May, 1979, through the “Winter of Discontent” (which was all done-and-dusted by February 1979). The SNP were then alienated by the failure to implement the Scotland Act of 1978: they immediately went outside the tent, and were pissing in. It was the SNP who pulled the plug, and called the vote of confidence: the Labour Government had chosen the wrong issue on which to fight. The Tories were the dog being led by the SNP tail.

    So, back to a hypothetic 2010:

    Issue 1: an urgent Finance Bill, with its inevitable corollary — a Vote of Confidence.

    Party B will scream, yell, throw tantrums, and vote against anything and everything proposed. Expect several long, long overnight sittings. Party B do not expect to win on this, because Party B knows that the Finance Bill has been constructed to fit the prejudices of … the Lib Dems. Meanwhile, the LibDems (like all Parties after May) are badly strapped for cash, cannot afford another General Election, but are not prepared to have their bluff called, to roll over, and act dumb.

    Consequence: the LibDems find some way to put noses in the air, despair at the inter-Party sniping, and honourably turn up to abstain in person (as Frank Maguire famously did in 1979). Suddenly, instead of being a minority, Party A have an actual majority (even if only in single figures) in the lobbies.

    Now, I wonder who the egregious “Malcolm” could be ?

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Oneil

    >>Also, I can’t see too much meeting of minds on cultural issues.

    Like I’ve said before I’d pay money to be at that particular meeting.

    Labour NImaan

    >>..I doubt SNP voters would take too well to the alliance.< >..even a minority government can govern. All it needs is a bit of flexibility, choosing which battles to fight, squaring sections of the Opposition, keeping your own troops on side.<