Alex Salmond: The New Evil Bogeyman of British Politics

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Children and parents alike will be going to their beds tonight in fear of the bogeyman whose dark shadow now looms large over the United Kingdom.

That evil bogeyman is of course none other than the former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond.

And what has he done to deserve this new status as The Man Who Threatens Everything We Hold Dear?

Well, he gave an interview to the New Statesman and you’ll never guess what he did. No, really, you won’t. Never, even in a month of Sundays.

He – wait for it – told the truth. And not just a bit of the truth in a “no plans to raise VAT” sort of way – but in a hand-on-the-bible “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” way.

With more than his usual sprinkling of hubris, Salmond told the New Statesman that he will do everything in his power to put Ed Miliband into Number 10 in six weeks’ time.

Then he went further, admitting that he plans to join forces with Labour on every Commons vote to bring down a Tory minority government and make it impossible for David Cameron to be Prime Minister after May 7.

He wants, he growled with an evil laugh as he rubbed his hands together gleefully, to be the Westminster power-broker. (Okay, I may have made up the evil laugh/rubbing hands bit, but you can see where we’re going with this.)

Cue wails of horror from all sides at Westminster amid claims that Salmond is threatening to hold the UK to ransom. By which of course they mean “England” not the UK because, last time I looked, Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom and its politicians have as much right to have a say in what goes on at Westminster as do London or Cornish or Midlands MPs.

The interview has been with incredulity and the ritualised abuse we’ve come to expect, with Alex Salmond being accused of being a power-hungry megalomaniac.

Now, I don’t think it’s a big secret that Salmond is indeed both power-hungry and a megalomaniac.

To be fair, though, can you name a politician who isn’t a megalomaniac? If you reckon you’re the best person out of millions to run an entire country, I suspect that’s probably the very definition of “megalomania”. (Although, Alex, for the record, the Nelson Mandela comparison might have been going just a tad too far…)

And, as Tony Blair repeatedly pointed out to hardline left-wingers in the Labour Party for many years, what’s the point of being in politics if you are not seeking the power to enact your political views?

So what did Salmond do that was so terribly wrong? Did anyone seriously think that a Salmond-led rump of SNP MPs in Westminster was going to spend the next five years glibly wandering into the Commons voting lobbies to support every Bill proposed by a Tory majority or Tory-led government?

That was never going to happen. So, in reality, what’s changed?

As Salmond himself has long pointed out, English MPs have for many years held, through their sheer numbers, the power to decide who governs the UK, sometimes (but not as often as Salmond likes to claim) against the express wishes of the Scottish people.

No one expects Labour or the Greens to vote to support a Tory Queen’s Speech just because it comes from Her Majesty’s Government, so why should the SNP be expected to do the same?

And I don’t remember anyone making the same vitriolic accusations against Nick Clegg when the Liberal Democrats were holding simultaneous negotiations with both the Tories and Labour in May 2010.

The end of two-party politics means, inevitably, that smaller parties will hold the balance of power – and they’d be stupid if they didn’t use that power to further their own political cause.

Voters want to know what politicians and political parties stand for and what they plan to do if they get elected. Salmond has simply told voters both north and south of the border what the SNP will do after the election.

Which is a darn sight more than we know about what the Liberal Democrats will do if (as most pollsters expect) neither Labour nor the Tories win an overall majority. Nick Clegg, Vince Cable et al are all still keen to keep their powder dry and their options open to work with either Cameron or Miliband and keep those nice chauffeur driven cars and important looking red boxes whatever the outcome.

But we don’t yet know what their red lines will be in any negotiations – or indeed precisely what Labour and the Tories will refuse to negotiate on.

In truth, whether you love Alex Salmond and the cause of Scottish independence or whether you loathe him and want the union to be kept together at all costs, isn’t what he said simply a brash version of exactly the sort of open and honest politics we want?

After all, that’s what the great British public keep telling pollsters, politicians and anyone who thrusts a microphone in their face.

Alex Salmond may be the new bogeyman of British politics but it might just be the case that, in politics, honesty may sometimes be the best policy.