UK Party Leaders Set out Red Lines in TV Broadcasts

Last night, the leaders of six of Britain’s political parties took questions from TV audiences on broadcasts across the country. Labour’s Ed Miliband, Conservative David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg all faced an audience in one place, while the Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party, Leanne Woods of Plaid Cymru and Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party each talked to other audiences. Green leader Natalie Bennett was not included by the BBC. During these “Question Time” broadcasts, the leaders laid out their redlines, which really was just last-week-of-the-campaign posturing.

The most ridiculous statement came from Ed Miliband. He said, “If the price of having a Labour government was a deal or a coalition with the Scottish National Party then it is not going to happen.” He doubled down on dumb with, “I’m not going to sacrifice the future of our country, the unity of our country, I’m not going to give in to SNP demands around Trident, around the deficit or anything like that.”

In Scotland, Ms. Sturgeon picked up on this stupidity and said, “he sounded as if he was saying that he would rather see David Cameron and the Conservatives back in government than actually work with the SNP. Now, if he means that then I don’t think people in Scotland will ever forgive Labour for allowing the Conservatives back into office.”

In post-broadcast interviews, Mr. Miliband included Plaid Cymru in this ban. Ms. Wood is more than prepared to help him become PM, and she stated that his view was irresponsible. It would “open the door” to a Tory minority government.

Even Prime Minister Cameron saw what rubbish this is. “Is he really saying that if Labour don’t get a majority but if Labour plus the SNP is a majority ‘I won’t be PM’? Of course he’s not saying that.”

If the current polls are anything like accurate, no party will win a majority, and the constellation of powers will be such that nothing will pass Commons without the tacit approval of the SNP. Messrs. Miliband, Cameron and Clegg are finding out that the “Better Together” campaign they ran against Scottish independence last autumn has consequences.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cameron circumscribed his own future room for maneuver when he said that one of his redlines would be a referendum on EU membership in 2017. This is an effort to damp down the vote of the UKIP, which not only wants such a referendum but which exists to secure a “yes to leaving” result. He believes that a “no” in such a referendum would settle the European question for some time.

Mr. Farage stated, “If we [UKIP] have, arithmetically, a position where we can have influence on the basis of confidence and supply, we would do that provided we could get a full, free and fair referendum for this country.” In other words, he saw what has happened to the Liberal Democrats in coalition with the Tories, and he wants none of it. However, confidence and supply still gets him his referendum, and he is prepared to make that deal.

As for working with Mr. Miliband, Mr. Farage stated on Radio 4, “I won’t help Labour. I can’t help Labour. There are no circumstances, given that Miliband has turned his back on a referendum.”

Nick Clegg set out the LibDems demand for more spending (about 8 billion quid) on education as his party’s red line. Given the way he campaigned against tuition fees in 2010 and the way he backed the Tories 9,000 quid fee cap, one can’t take this seriously. The LibDems will deal with anyone who will have them.

The final word goes to Ms Bennett of the Green Party on the grounds that she had as much right to be included as the others. She stated that the Tories, LibDems and Labour agreed on “many facets of business-as-usual politics.” The broadcast itself was “a clear example of why we urgently need a real alternative in British politics.” Not one of the three suggested”a genuine alternative to the failed policy of austerity.” Furthermore, “No-one was truly standing up the vicious rhetoric on immigration that has infected political debate in this country.”