In the House of Commons David Cameron stares intently at Labour leader Ed Miliband and declares: “I’m looking at Alex Salmond’s poodle” (your report, 26 March).
Now where did that idea come from? It is based on a quip by Lloyd George more than a century ago during the fierce debate about parliamentary reform. In response to a Conservative backbencher, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer exclaimed: “The House of Lords is not the watchdog of the constitution; it is Mr Balfour’s poodle.”
The jibe against the then Conservative leader prompted the fierce struggle over the so-called “people’s budget” and the attempt of the second chamber to block it. It was a seminal moment in British history.
It is a measure of the SNP’s advance and Mr Salmond’s reputation that the “poodle” comparison can be drawn at all. Just as significant is Mr Miliband’s clumsy attempts to counter the charge. His only possible excuse is that the prospect of a large Nationalist contingent in Westminster has taken the political establishment by surprise.
It is even threatening to obscure some of the real issues that should dominate an election campaign. The constant talk of coalition or confidence and supply or vote-by-vote support gives a bad impression to voters.
It is one of politicians feuding among themselves, obsessed by their own egos and position. The SNP, in particular, ought to guard against obsessing about how it could support a minority Labour administration.
It should seek support on the basis that it is best placed to look after Scotland’s interests and do that whoever becomes the biggest party in May.