DASTARDLY, sinister, power-crazed and despotic – some of the more printable southern reactions to “news” that Alex Salmond will bring down a Tory minority government at the first opportunity.

Shock, horror.

According to the “scoop’s” publisher: “Alex Salmond has ruled out any type of post-election deal between the SNP and Tories in an exclusive interview with the New Statesman.” Jings. The news prompted Conservative party deputy chairman Bob Neill to froth : “This is a deeply sinister threat [which] would cause chaos for Britain.”

Er what?

Salmond and, more importantly, the actual SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon have said a million times they will not support the Tories if they fail to get a working majority of MPs after May 7 – that’s very old news. The only half “new” thing from Alex Salmond is a plan for the scenario that will likely follow such a stalemate.

If Cameron tries to form a minority government without the necessary 323 seats (even with LibDem, Ukip and Democratic Unionist support) but there is an “anti- Tory” majority amongst the other parties, then it would hardly be sinister for Salmond to vote against any attempt by Cameron to struggle on – it would be his democratic duty.

Let’s try this argument again for Bob Neill and others who find the hung parliament scenario o’er complicated.

The party which can muster the most support in the House of Commons will get first crack at forming a government. That doesn’t mean the largest single party – it means the largest single posse. So if Dave wins an outright majority (very unlikely) he’ll be laughing. If he doesn’t have an outright majority but does have a deal with other parties to take him over the line – he’ll be chuckling. It’s only if he cannot form an outright majority that Salmond’s “threat” has any potency. And then it’s hardly a threat but more an assertion of democratic reality. As the New Statesman commented on its own bizarre non-scoop: “The key issue in this campaign is now whether there will be an “anti-Tory” majority. If Labour, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and SDLP together hold more than 323 seats, it is impossible to see how Cameron can survive in Number 10.” It would not just be impossible – it would be undesirable, undemocratic, no can do, finis, over, kaput, the end.

Indeed David Cameron clinging to power in such circumstances would be like a bizarre human re-enactment of the dead parrot sketch. To misquote Monty Python, if a failed David Cameron wasn’t nailed to the despatch box, he would be pushing up the political daisies. Why on earth should a party leader without overall support in the country or the Commons demand that he become Prime Minister again – for a while? What is sinister about Salmond resolving to stop a fatally wounded Dave from limping back into power? Indeed in the “exclusive” article, Salmond wearily reminds journalists and politicians that the law demands speedy action: “Under the [Fixed-Term] Parliaments Act, that Westminster’s parliament passed but nobody seems to have read, you’d then have a two-week period to form another government.”

This is a total non-story. Why then has it been blown up into World War Three?

Well if a bogeyman sells papers or enlivens the General Election in England – any excuse will be used to build up his potency. And there is no doubt the former SNP leader is that bogeyman. Just look at this week’s headlines.

Will Alex Salmond ever shut up? – Daily Telegraph.

Alex Salmond ridiculed after he compares himself to Nelson Mandela – Daily Mail.

Conservatives slam Salmond’s ‘sinister’ threat – The Guardian.

Tories unveil a poster of Ed Miliband dancing to Alex Salmond’s tune – New Statesman

It seems almost churlish to point out Salmond is still only a prospective parliamentary candidate and Nicola Sturgeon actually runs the SNP. Still, who wants the facts to get in the way of a good, old-fashioned, vaguely anti-Scot rammy? According to the professor of constitutional law at Glasgow University – not Alex Salmond – Adam Tomkins, the former leader’s gambit is deliberately designed to anger the English.

“Salmond is being very clever. He wants the English to give him what he wants, with his fun and games – to get the English to say, ‘Bugger off.’ The threat for us Scottish unionists is that the English aren’t ready for this and will overreact in just the way Salmond calculates.”

He is right. The London-based media don’t really understand the current situation – where a “regional, nationalist party” looks set to become the third largest political force in Britain.

But there are small risks for Salmond. Some Scots will cheer as the rejuvenated former First Minister runs circles round supposedly more sophisticated London opponents.

Others will cringe if the General Election campaign becomes more and more like a wrestling competition – all theatrics, half nelsons and bluster – and acquires a hostility to Scots that was absent during the referendum campaign amongst ordinary English voters.

This is the farce the General Election campaign has become.