Isabel Hardman

Has Ed Miliband got something clever up his sleeve?

Has Ed Miliband got something clever up his sleeve?
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How will Ed Miliband manage tomorrow if Labour does end up the second largest party but with a viable ‘anti-Tory alliance’ in the House of Commons? The Tories are trying to craft a narrative that such a government would be illegitimate, and David Cameron will give a statement early on Friday.

But there is a theory developing among some Tories who rate Miliband’s strategic skills that he could be about to produce his own clever game-changer too. He could be about to offer a significant devolution of powers to the regions, a huge transfer of power to Scotland and Wales, the elected Senate of the Nations and Regions that was promised in its manifesto as a replacement for the House of Lords, and electoral reform. This would lock in the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and Ukip. It would explain why Miliband has been quite happy to rule out doing a deal with the SNP, because he would be inviting all the parties to enter his big reform tent and almost daring them not to. And it would explain why in the past few days a number of senior Labour figures have been very keen to emphasise their devolution plans as just a starting point.

It would also stitch up the Tories good and proper because they’d end up opposing something that their own voters are in favour of (House of Lords reform), and they would see the coalition that they assumed they could bank on with the Lib Dems evaporate as Clegg’s party scrambled to support two policies its membership is passionate about.

And it would be the sort of post-election pitch about shaking up a system that appears tired and on its knees that would make Miliband appear to be the great reformer, someone who identifies problems and solves them with big bangs.

Of course, the Tories could be ready with their own offer: House of Lords reform, a federal UK, full fiscal autonomy that Nicola Sturgeon could not turn down without the majority of the SNP going into meltdown. But that depends on whether the party leadership sees Miliband as they guy who came up with the energy price freeze and the non-doms policy, or someone they can beat with media briefing and tactics.

UPDATE, 9.45pm: Labour sources are pouring cold water on the idea of PR as an offer to the Lib Dems, saying electoral reform was ruled out by the AV referendum in 2011 and there is more than enough for the Constitutional Convention to address.