Thursday, 31 July 2008

Follow the leader

A couple of comments about the race to become the leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament before the race really gets underway.

First, the race is, as I've quite rightly put it in the first sentence, for the leadership of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament. It is not for leader of Scottish Labour (if indeed there is such a thing). So why - as a practical question more than anything - are there more people voting in this contest than the 46 Labour MSPs at Holyrood?

I mean, I'd understand it if it was for the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland. There would be a lot of people - members, trade unions, elected representatives (all MSPs, MPs and MEPs) in Scotland - that would have a stake who became the leader. But to allow each of the aforementioned groups a one third stake in the contest to lead the MSP group in the Scottish Parliament seems a bit strange. Like offering the whole world the opportunity to vote for West End Community Council. Maybe that's overstating the point - but you get what I mean.

I know independence is a swear word in the Labour party at the moment, but that's exactly what they need - independence from London. As a colleague pointed out to me last night (during a meeting of some of the greatest minds ever to graduate from a fine Scottish unniversity) it was Labour that delivered devolution. Fine. I'm glad they did. But, for a party that was so keen (at the time) to devolve power to Scotland, might they not think about devolving some of their own power base from London to the Scottish party?

Labour remain the least devolved of the parties in Scotland. Even the arch-unionist Tories (who dusted off the old "Conservative and Unionist" posters for the Glasgow East by-election) have more control over what they do in Scotland. Granted that may be because they lost all their MPs in 1997 and there's little in the way of dissent from David Mundell regarding Annabel Goldie's leadership. But it might also be because the party realised that they were on a hiding to nothing following London's lead after their 1997 wipeout and that rebuilding in Scotland with a Scottish-based party was the only way they could appeal the electorate in Scotland.

Aren't Labour in danger of the same thing? Now I'm not taking sides in the contest - mainly because I can't form an unbiased view - but surely NOT demanding more control over the party in Scotland will just lead Labour into the same mess the "Bring it on" saga landed them in with Wendy & Gordon. Maybe their MPs need to get past their "I won't take orders from the leader of a group in a diddy parliament" mantra and let the party leader in Scotland (sorry, the leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament) have more control over Labour policy in Scotland. If they don't - they may not be MPs for much longer.

Just a thought. Not that I want Labour to get better - I just think that politics in Scotland suffers when the opposition is so weak.

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Monday, 28 July 2008

Best of the Blogs...

I recently sent my list of favourite blogs to Iain Dale for his compilation of the 100 best for his Blog Digest. Have been asked by several people how I voted and, after some deliberation, decided to post this:

#1 SNP Tactical Voting
The sheer volume of posts (and the quality) make Jeff's SNP Tactical Voting blog essential dailly reading. Some thoughtful posts on wider society, Scotland and local politics make it an interesting mix.

A friend from uni, STB will be mad I didn't give him the number one spot. Some great gossip from parly (how does he get such good sources?!) and some (not so good) predictions. Well worth a look.

Went a bit... bitter & partisan during the by-election but nontheless the pre-eminent Scottish Labour blogger. Useful to get a read on Labour's big ideas - she'll surely be one of those 'thinking big thoughts' in years to come.

Number-cruncher extraordinaire, ASwaS's terrific posts on the boundary changes merit inclusion in the Top 100 alone. Some other excellent stuff from the by-election, especially on the day.

The weekly report on Parliament. Despite working there, I still get my round-up from MacNumpty - and that's a compliment to the man.

Has become the premier Lib-Dem blogger - something which I'm not sure he's that comfortable with. Blog remains insightful and, as STB says, "not too Lib-Demmy" for a Lib Dem.

A Green perspective on Scottish politics, the pieces tend to be short, fun and to the point. Nice for a brief read. Incidentally - does anyone know why it's called "Two Doctors"?

#8 Blether with Brian
Brian Taylor's blog should've been titled "Brian's Braces" such is the fame his galluses hold. Blog is always insightful, analytical and, despite seeing him report on Scottish politics for many years, neutral. Anyone know who he votes for?

#9 Ideas of Civilisation
Long and more detailed mosts - which you would expect from a blog with a Voltaire quote as it's title. Good stuff. Its at number 9 as I usually only read it once a week - like the Sunday papers...

Since Davie Hutch handed over the blog to the mysterious Anseo, posts have become less frequent. However, still covers a variety of political issues across the continent.

So there we go. Let the scratching out of my eyes commence.

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sunday Papers


Sunday papers make interesting reading.

From the Scotland on Sunday reporting that Labour are considering a "suicide election" soon to save them from an even bigger defeat in 2010 to the Sunday Herald claiming that former Labour leader Neil Kinnock is being asked to privately tell Gordon Brown that it may be time to resign, they don't make good reading for the embattled PM or his party. The Sunday Herald goes further by openly stating that Brown should go and that an election should be held quickly after Labour appoint a new leader, while Iain McWhirter claims Labour need a Brutus to stick the knife into Brown's back

So - is it time?

Glasgow East showed the level of anti-Labour feeling in their own heartlands. I'm not naive enough to think that all of the SNP's vote was a pro-SNP vote and there wasn't a bit of wanting to give the PM a clear message: that he is unpopular, his policies are not working and that maybe he should consider his position.

I think there may be something in the suicide election idea. Labour know they will get absolutely thumped if they go into an election with Gordon Brown as leader - possibly even worse than the Conservatives wipeout in 1997. So why not install a leader to take the fall - Jack Straw maybe - then regroup in opposition with the potential for a fresh candidate (Miliband) to take over (a la Tony Blair)? That's the Scotland on Sunday suggestion.

It does appear though, that whatever Labour does, they are looking at a long period of opposition to a Conservative party with David Cameron as leader.

Something to think about certainly.

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Friday, 25 July 2008

Glasgow East: The Aftermath (Part 2)

With apologies in advance to Stephen Glenn, this post will focus on everyone’s favourite political irrelevance – the Liberal Democrats.

Now I know Kenny Gibson got slated for his motion entitled “The Irrelevance of the Liberal Democrats” which, quite rightly, was included in the watchdog Crap Holyrood Chat. But I can’t help but think he might have a point – even if that is maybe isn’t quite the right forum to air that particular view.

Glasgow East’s result only served to emphasise that point of view. They had someone who, by all accounts was a fairly able candidate and will – presumably – get a chance in future elections. But to amass only 915 votes and lose their deposit in a constituency where they’d consistently performed reasonably well in the past is simply not good enough.

Now you can (and Stephen Glenn probably will ) make the point that this election was, from the off, a two horse race, and the Lib Dem vote was squeezed further by the resurgent Conservatives (who were smart with their candidate selection and ran an efficient campaign). But even so, their performance – lost deposit and all – is simply not acceptable for a party that claimed to be “The Real Alternative” government.

So I suppose the question is this: what are the Liberal Democrats (good for)? I guess that’s 2 questions really. It’s not enough to be a political party with (fairly substantial) representation – both at Westminster and Holyrood – without having something to define yourself by.

For all the Lib Dem bluster about standing up for civil liberties where were they when Alex Salmond wanted to allow the Scottish people their democratic opportunity to decide on Scotland’s future? Nick Clegg has hardly established himself as a political heavyweight since he took on the leadership. Indeed if you showed 100 people in Scotland a photograph of him how many of them (excluding members of his party) be able to tell you who he was?

I guess I’m trying to be constructive here. For the Lib Dems to be good for anything they’ve got to re-define themselves ala New Labour or Cameron’s “green” Conservatives (complete with new tree logo). But without the charismatic leader, that seems a difficult process. But they better do it quickly, or they will become an irrelevance, both in Scotland and the UK.

Unfortunately for them, it seems the future’s bleak. The future’s orange.

Over to you Stephen...

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Glasgow East: The aftermath




That last post was a great way to celebrate my 100th blog entry. But there's more.

John Mason MP won the Glasgow East by-election on a swing of 22.54% from Labour to the SNP. Of course that is the kind of swing you only get in by-elections. When Labour won the 1997 election in a landslide victory over the Tories, they (only) gained a swing of 8.8%. Of course that was enough to win 418 seats in the House of Commons. But let me indulge in a little fantasy for a moment.

Were that 22.54% swing replicated across Scotland in a General Election (I know - I just said it - it's not likely, but let's look anyway...) it would give the following result:

SNP - 49 (!)
Lib Dem - 7
Lab - 2 (I'm giving the Speaker's seat to Labour... generously)
Con - 1

On that basis, Labour would lose a staggering 37 seats to the SNP with only Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) and the Speaker Michael Martin returning as Labour MPs. This would include losing PM Gordon Brown, Chancellor Alastair Darling and Cabinet Secretary Des Browne.

Which would - arguably - be a bigger meltdown than the Tories in 1997, who lost all 11 of their MPs.

Now there are several caveats.

First, a 22% swing is not likely. As I said, even in 1997 Labour only managed 8.8%. If Gordon Brown is as unpopular as the 1990s Conservative Government we may be looking at a swing in the region of 8-12%. Maybe even 14% at a stretch. But that depends on several things - not least Brown getting more unpopular (which could happen...).

Second, I can't for the life of me see the Tories only winning one seat. If they are to form the next UK Government (which looks fairly likely at this point) you'd be looking at them winning between 5-10 seats, probably nearer 5 than 10.

Third, I also can't see the Lib Dems winning 7 seats with no substantial change in their leadership/ policies/ dullness.

But other than that, a sizeable swing is definately on the cards, assuming the SNP continue to fare as well at Holyrood. Probably looking at winning 13 seats from Labour - which would make the target of 20 seats fairly do-able.

More later...

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Seismic!

Wow... Political earthquake indeed.

The SNP win Glasgow East by 365 votes, overturning a Labour majority of 13,507 with a swing of 22.54%.

Doesn't matter how you look at it - it is an incredible result.

Seismic indeed!

(Incidentally... you heard it here first - 3 weeks ago!)

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Thursday, 24 July 2008

On yer bike...

I saw BBC news at lunchtime today and was amused that this story was one of the lead news articles.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really quite sad that the leader of the Conservative party has lost an "old friend" as he put it, but really, isn't there more going on? Like maybe a "political earthquake" somewhere....

This one did amuse me though - how New Zealand authorities differentiate between what names parents can and cannot call their children. They have a list of names which have been accepted and names which have been deemed unacceptable. Guess which are which:

Violence
Number 16 Bus Shelter
Midnight Chardonnay
Benson and Hedges (twins)

Yeah Detroit
Stallion
Twisty Poi
Keenan Got Lucy
Sex Fruit
Fat Boy
Cinderella Beauty Blossom
Fish and Chips (twins)

Kinda puts Apple Martin and Peaches Geldof in perspective doesn't it?

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Monday, 21 July 2008

What would you spend 100 Billion on?


I've avoided blogging about Glasgow East for several reasons:

1) There's so much else about it on the blogosphere at the moment (and some of it not that nice).


2) I'm not close enough to the action to make any properly informed comment and/ or predictions about what is going on on the ground.

3) I'm almost glad that polling day is Thursday so that Parliament is a bit noisier...

So anyway, on a completely different topic, I note today that Zimbabwe is soon to introduce a $100bn note (yes - one hundred billion dollar - in true Dr Evil style).

Any thoughts as to what that would buy here? Obviously if we're talking pounds and not Zimbabwean money. 1,000 houses costing £1m each gives some idea of what we're talking about. But what will Z$100bn buy for you there I hear you ask?


What has an estimated rate of inflation (for 2008 ) of 10,500,000% done to an economy which, in 1980 was trading at Z$1 = US$1.47?

You'd need all of your Z$100bn note and then some to buy a LOAF OF BREAD in Zimbabwe.

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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Gone to the dogs...


Having already suffered a blow to my predictions with
the news that my outside bet for the Lib Dem leadership isn't even going to "throw his hat in the ring", I thought I'd have a quick look at what's going on over the pond.

The big news in the US Presidential election is that John McCain now has a sizeable - 5% - lead over Barack Obama...


...among people who own pets.

Apparently because John McCain has a pet he appears more 'compassionate, caring, giving [and] trustworthy' than Barack Obama.

So there you go.

And for those of you campaigning in Glasgow East just remember this - when you see a garden with a huge rottweiler in it, the owner of said pet is more likely to vote for your candidate if they have a pet themselves. That's if you can get to them without getting an arm torn off first...

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Monday, 7 July 2008

Back again!

Hello all!

Apologies for yet another break. It seems I've missed much with an unfortunately timed (and unwanted) extended holiday. But with a by-election upcoming and 2 leadership contests on the way - and my health (hopefully) improving, I plan to be back on here more regularly. Incidentally, here's my tips for the above:

1: Glasgow by-election: SNP by 500-ish votes

2: Labour leader: Cathy Jamieson (although I said here in Feb Lord Foulkes would be a good bet)

3: Lib Dem leader: Jeremy Purvis (see how I'm sticking my neck on the line here and picking someone who hasn't been hotly tipped...)

Back soon (I hope)...

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Regrettably, this is probably required:
This blog is my own personal opinion (unless otherwise stated) and does not necessarily reflect the views of any other organisation (political or otherwise) that I am a member of or affiliated to.
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