Monday, 30 April 2007

Scottish Elections 12 - Brown and Salmond

I know it’s parochial to post so often about the Scottish Elections but they are important to me. This is an extra unplanned post. I had planned to post about “British Identity” following an article by Jack Straw but will post on this tomorrow. I have to write about Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond.

Gordon Brown was asked if, as PM, he could work with Alex Salmond as Scottish First Minister. The answer should have been a straightforward. “Of course, I would. I will work with the First Minister whoever that may be. That would have been the constitutional position but he did not say this. He equivocated. He did not say, as reported, that he would not work with Salmond but he stumbled and smothered his words, saying something along the lines that he could not work with Salmond on any topic which threatened the union. The key is that, despite being asked the question twice, he refused to state that he would work with Salmond.

This deserves to be a big story because implicit in his answer is the threat to voters: vote SNP at your peril because life will be difficult for the Scottish Executive.

David Cameron was asked the same question and he answered that he would work with the First Minister regardless of party. Cameron is in a slightly different position: he isn’t going to be PM soon and there is no chance that the Conservatives could be the largest party in Scotland. Despite these provisos, Cameron must be praised for being so clear.

If only Brown had said the obvious. We would have understood his preference for a Labour First Minister. Instead he has harmed his, and Labour’s, position. The SNP must be rubbing their hands with delight. If they replayed this in a party political broadcast they would be weighing the SNP votes.

Were we expecting a more consultative government under Brown? That is unlikely if this issue is typical – a surly and ungracious reply unworthy of a Prime Minister – even one in-waiting. Brown may not be much longer in-waiting but, if he continues to act so ungraciously he will not be long in No.10.

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