Thursday, June 17, 2010

Salmond still a class apart

Although I share Jeff's concerns about the way the wind seems to be blowing with just eleven months to go until the next Holyrood poll, I must say I couldn't disagree more with certain parts of his diagnosis of the problem. Specifically, the suggestion that the SNP would do better with Nicola Sturgeon rather than Alex Salmond at the helm seems to me fundamentally misguided. Nicola will be a fine leader when the moment arrives, but if anyone needs a reminder of the folly of assuming the grass is always greener on the other side, just think back to the naive hopes for how the SNP might somehow benefit from Salmond's first departure as leader back in 2000. Whatever his political skills, the theory went, Salmond was simply too abrasive and divisive a figure, and John Swinney - regarded almost universally as the nicest man in Scottish politics - would be able to assemble a far broader coalition of support. The logic seemed impeccable, and indeed even Salmond seems to have convinced himself of it. As it turned out, polls consistently showed that Swinney was regarded as the least impressive of the four party leaders, and the SNP went on to suffer the painful loss of eight seats in the 2003 election.

In contrast, Salmond today - for all that the honeymoon may be long over - is still clearly the most popular of the party leaders, and indeed is far and away the most impressive Scot currently in active politics at any level. Yes, the SNP face a huge challenge to retain power next year, but that - much as it's always uncomfortable to acknowledge a degree of powerlessness - has very little to do with anything the SNP have done wrong, and has everything to do with the outcome of the UK general election. In the months leading up to the election, I repeatedly said in my contributions at Political Betting that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the SNP ought to be hoping for Labour to somehow pull off a surprise win. Now that Labour are in opposition at Westminster, the SNP lose the advantage of being able to galvanise an angry anti-Labour vote, while Labour regain the advantage they used to enjoy of being the default repository for much of what might be termed the 'gut anti-Tory vote'. At a stroke, the Scottish political weather has changed, without anyone actually doing much to 'forfeit' or 'earn' it.

However, it's far too early to abandon hope - and the most important reason for that is precisely because Alex Salmond is a class apart from Iain "the Snarl" Gray. The electorate know that perfectly well, and will receive a timely reminder of the fact during the televised leaders' debates next spring.


  1. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeJune 17, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    I wouldn't worry too much about it just now, James. Nobody is even thinking about Holyrood just now, Westminster is still dominating the headlines. I'm a poltical geek and I couldn't tell you what's been going on at Holyrood lately.

    When the election comes closer, people will start to think about who they want to run the Scottish Government. If you ask someone "Do you want Iain Gray to be Scotland's First Minster?", the answer of any thinking person can only be a resounding no.

  2. That's certainly true, Ezio, although Labour will probably be hoping they can get people to answer a different question, ie. "Do you like Tory cuts? If not, vote Labour." It's a complete nonsense, of course, but no more nonsensical than the basis on which they somehow won 41 Scottish seats on May 6th - that "only a vote for Labour could prevent a Tory government".

  3. You're right, James. With the help of the Daily Record and the like, Labour will get away with anything and everything in this campaign.

    But we can't just sit here and moan about. We need to have a proper case to take to the people. We need to fight back against their lies. I know it wont be a popular viewpoint, but I think the leadership need to get their finger out.

  4. If Scotland puts an Iain Gray-led Labour party back in power, then to be perfectly honest, it doesn't deserve independence. Surely, SURELY even the people of Glasgow will think "hold on, this guy with the Quagmire jaw would be a complete embarrassment on a world stage. I can't let this fool represent my country"?

    If they try the "only we can stop the Tories" nonsense again, then they are fools. But if the electorate fall for it, then they are even bigger fools. Worryingly, I can see it happening.

    One thing is certain: the televised debates with Salmond taking on Gray will be hilarious. Although sometimes their exchanges at FMQs does seem like when you try to explain to someone succinctly why they're wrong about something - with evidence to back you up - but they're too stupid and pig-headed to take any notice. Obviously Gray is the stupid one.

  5. what kind of possible coalition arrangments would there be? Ccould there be two con-lib coalitions in holyrood and westminster!?? i take it a lib-lab coalition is ruled out?

    also lets face it, Salmond is operating in an unfair very hostile pro-unionist media environment. if the other 3 parties' leaders had to face the same intense scrutiny / bashing etc they wouldve been destroyed a long time ago. but i do worry that the snp is getting a little too complacent and comfortable in government. and lack the passion and sense urgency they had some time ago.

  6. No one is thinking of Holyrood elections at the moment and those in Labour who think they are home and dry based based on the Westminster election should treat that election with caution.

    It was an anti-Tory vote not a pro-Labour vote.

  7. I agree, Marcia, although I do think the SNP will in some ways be fighting in a much tougher environment than they were in 2007. Some left-wing voters seem much more ready to unrealistically project all their hopes onto Labour when they are in opposition.

    On the plus side, there won't be the 'fear of the unknown' that there was about electing an SNP government in 2007.