Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond and the United Kingdom Independence Party’s Nigel Farage suggested on Sunday they could pull a next coalition government in a respectively more left- or right-wing direction.
In separate interviews with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the junior party leaders, who are both expected to do well in May’s general election, staked out positions to the fringes of the two major parties.
Salmond predicted his Scottish National Party would “hold the power” in another hung parliament and use that position to advance “progressive politics” across the United Kingdom.
Polling by the Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft last month showed the Scottish nationalists, who already commands a majority in the regional legislature, winning fifteen out of sixteen closely-contested seats currently held by Labour.
Extrapolating Ashcroft’s polling results, May2015, an election website from the New Statesman weekly, estimates that the nationalists will win 55 out of 59 Scottish seats in the next general election.
Labour is projected to win 271 seats in the House of Commons where 326 are needed for a majority.
Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, last week ruled out a coalition with Salmond but left open the possibility of a looser “confidence and supply” arrangement.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, similarly told The Guardian newspaper earlier this month that her Scottish National Party could support a minority Labour government on an “issue-by-issue basis.”
Sturgeon said she would no longer condition policy support in Westminster on the removal of Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet from Scotland — a longstanding nationalist demand — but Salmond on Sunday criticized Labour for accepting many of the spending cuts the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have made in the last four years, suggesting that a future Labour government would need to relax its deficit targets in order to enlist the nationalists’ support.
Farage, by contrast, criticized the ruling coalition for not reducing the deficit fast enough and keeping taxes too high for low and middle incomes.
If you look at the last five years, virtually nothing has been achieved. Because we’re still running a £90 billion per year deficit.
Under Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system, Farage’s Euroskeptics could win only a handful of seats despite polling around 15 percent support nationwide. But with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats projected to win under 300 seats together, the support of small right-wing parties like UKIP could turn out to be crucial in keeping the left out of power.
Beyond cutting foreign aid and Britain’s £8 billion net yearly contribution to the European Union budget as a consequence of altogether leaving the bloc — which UKIP advocates — Farage struggled to make clear where he would cut to bring down the deficit faster while financing tax relief at the same time.
Salmond was similarly vague in justifying higher public spending, saying only he favored raising taxes for the rich.