Who will really benefit from Salmond’s return to Westminster?

This week the Government will publish its proposals for “English votes for English laws”

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Like Douglas MacArthur and Muhammad Ali, the greatest political general of his generation shall return. Alex Salmond’s announcement that he will contest an Aberdeenshire seat (one he is certain to win) next May, after a five-year absence from Westminster, focuses the mind on the impending constitutional nightmare. The question it poses, after all, is what the hell does he imagine he will be returning to?

This week the Government will publish its proposals for “English votes for English laws”. With Ed Miliband refusing to engage in cross-party talks, Chris Grayling – the repulsive Lord Chancellor – bleats that Miliband’s ostrich position is dictated purely by self-interest. As if the Conservatives’ viciously cynical plan to stop left-leaning Scottish MPs voting on English matters stems from an altruistic craving for democratic justice.

If the Government succeeds in enacting “English home rule” before May, a Labour-led coalition including the SNP – and without the SNP, on current polling, Labour could form no coalition – would make no sense. Assuming the SNP ends up with 25-30 MPs who cannot vote on English issues, such a coalition would probably be unable to pass a Budget. In which case, it would cease to be the government.

All of this depends on the arithmetic – so much more fascinating than the issues – as we drift into the era of political Moneyball. But if “English home rule” comes to pass and the two main parties remain deadlocked as they are today, it is almost impossible to see how any coalition – Tory-Ulster Unionists-Ukip; Labour-Lib Dem-SNP; any coalition at all – could be stable.

Grayling may think he is being cute by styling Little Ed as the bringer of anarchy, but you need hardly be a Bletchley Park cryptographer to discern that the Tories’ true intent – I believe Walter Bagehot coined the “He who smelt it, dealt it” principle – is to threaten the very constitutional chaos they accuse Little Ed of risking.

If Alex Salmond is as clever as many think him, he may foresee a path through this mess. Perhaps he calculates that “English Home Rule” will fail, and that in May he will be able to parlay his generalship of Westminster’s mighty invasion force and the power of kingmaker into a senior Cabinet position and a guarantee of another independence referendum. If his powers of clairvoyance betray him, however, he could be returning to a parliamentary version of medieval bedlam.

Chuka’s challenge is over before it’s begun

Distressing news for Chuka Umunna as he ponders a post-election challenge for the Labour leadership. The Independent on Sunday reports that “friends” of Mr Tony Blair have revealed that he is backing the “British Obama”. Since Emily Thornberry’s tweet virtually ensured that the next leader will have to flam up the working-class credentials (Andy Burnham-Capp, in other words), the silkily metrosexual nightclubber had next to no chance anyway. Any residual slither of hope has gone.

Those were the days ... and Ukip won’t forget it

Has any British political movement been as woefully misunderstood by its opponents as Ukip? Apparently not. Nigel Farage’s mad scramble to leap aboard the Andrea Dworkin bandwagon over public breastfeeding is insanely misinterpreted by Tory High Command as “a crisis” for the pint-supping Pied Piper of Hamelin. Or rather, as another story misrepresented as a Ukip embarrassment makes clear, of Trumpton.

A spoof Twitter account, @Trumpton_Ukip, has been set up to humiliate the insurgency. “Ukip is a political party,” as one follower tweets, “for whom motion stopped in a 1950s which never existed.” Duh. That’s precisely why it is so wildly popular.

Anything that hints at the pre-Windrush golden age of rickets, Arthur Askey buzzing like a bee, and the Krays helping little old ladies cross the road like proper gents when they weren’t knifing people for looking at them funny, cements Ukip support. No mother would have breastfed even in Claridge’s most discreet corner in 1956, and no one with a non-white face served in the fire brigade of Trumpton. So chalk up another splendid weekend for Pugh, Pugh, Nigel Farage, Reckless, Carswell and Grub.

The inquisitor, the leather chair and the koala

Hats off to Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail for taking part in Celebrity Mastermind. If his 14 points was a low winning total, his general knowledge questions seemed unusually challenging.

“In the TV series Gentle Ben, set in Florida,” asked John Humphrys, “what type of animal was Gentle Ben?”

“A Koala,” said Quentin. An easy mistake. You can barely move on Miami beach for the eucalyptus trees.

News from nowhere near the Commons

In her latest Sun on Sunday tour de force, Louise Mensch takes umbrage with the deputy PM for his Autumn Statement absenteeism. “Nick Clegg had p*ssed off to Penzance,” snarked Louise from her berth in New York. Once again she puts her finger on it. It is irritating when an elected representative “p*sses off” to somewhere more pleasant than the Commons to enhance their career.

Edwina says she went into the jungle to help women – I’ll buy that

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Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

Heartbreak befell Ant ’n’ Dec’s Aussie paradise on Saturday night when Edwina Currie was evicted from I’m A Celebrity...  to face marital tensions. The difference of opinion with husband John Jones concerns why she agreed to take part. In her valedictory speech, Edwina said she was prepared to endure the horror “to promote older women on TV”. He said it was to pay for an extension to their Peak District cottage.

On balance, I believe Edwina. She may be an unreliable witness, but he seems bananas. Speaking of the Cougar pastiche whereby Edwina continually ogled twentysomething campmate Jake Quickenden, Jones declared: “She treats him like a grandson.” Please God she doesn’t. Social services would be round in five minutes.

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