DAVID Cameron’s election campaign rolled into Powys this week and with it the chance for me to interview the Prime Minister.
When I say interview, I mean ask a question. Yes Dave finds the time to face the local press corps, six minutes to be exact. That works out as one question each for four newspaper reporters, including myself, and one radio journalist.
You therefore have to make your question count, but it obviously means lots of issues simply aren’t raised at all.
Journalists had been asked to submit our questions 24 hours in advance, and I stuck to mine. I doubt there would be any comeback from deviating from the question the PM had prepared for but he was unlikely to be grilled on the issues he’d addressed from the stage when speaking to some 200 party members.
He’d come to launch the Welsh Conservative Manifesto at the Royal Welsh Showground, at Llanelwedd, near Builth Wells. At the end of his speech he took questions from the national press pack, who follow him across the country on a blue, Tory branded coach.
Asked, given he’s often talked about the ‘dangers’ of a potential deal between Labour and the SNP, would he rule out a deal with UKIP Cameron talked about the dangers of an SNP backed Labour government. Apparently Ed Miliband would be ‘held to ransom’ by the Scottish National Party.
But Cameron was keen to stress the SNP ‘are not like any other party’. The SNP ‘come to Westminster and want to break our country up’.
“I’m very clear there is no dealing with the SNP in Westminster for that reason,” explained Cameron. Presumably ‘in Westminster’ was explicitly stated as the Scottish Conservatives often supported the minority SNP government in the Scottish Parliament from 2007 to 2011. What Cameron was still unclear about was his position on a deal between his Conservatives and UKIP.
While there is no denying the SNP’s ultimate aim is for Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom having lost the independence referendum last September it is still entitled to stand for the Westminster Parliament and for its MPs to play a full role once they arrive there.
It’s also untrue that the SNP is unlike ‘any other’ political party. Plaid Cymru and the SDLP both send MPs to Westminster and want Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively, to break from the union.
However Sinn Fein also stands candidates in Westminster elections. The republican party which is committed to the reunification of Ireland usually win some of those seats too. However as an abstentionist party Sinn Fein MPs choose not to take their seats in Westminster, preferring instead to ‘break our country up’ from outside the House of Commons.
The SNP are on the lips of English voters, commentators and politicians as they’ve put a rocket up the arse of UK politics. Sinn Fein has long been seen as the political arm of the IRA, that actually put real rockets underneath members of the Conservative Party – including many Cameron must know personally.
While I had a more pressing local question to ask the PM it would have been interesting to know if he has more respect for the principled abstentionist Sinn Fein than the SNP. And if he believes the SNP should stay out of Westminster, then how should it go about its campaign for independence?