Sunday, October 26, 2014

Exactly how is this thing going to work, Scottish Labour?

There now seems to be a view emerging from Labour "sources" that the next head of their Scottish branch office is likely to be a Westminster MP, rather than an MSP.  Unsurprisingly, some metropolitan bubble commentators such as our old friend Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson see absolutely no problem with this, so starstruck are they by the 'heavyweight' status of the London darling who has suddenly emerged as frontrunner (although I'd be very interested to see any concrete polling evidence that Jackanory Jim meets the Scottish people's own idea of an A-list politician).  But back here where it actually matters, there does appear to be at least some recognition of the difficulties, with Malcolm Chisholm MSP arguing that having a Westminster MP as his party leader would turn a "crisis into a catastrophe".

One thing that intrigues me about the assumption that the leader will be an MP is that it presumably means that if Jackanory Jim decides not to stand or falls by the wayside for whatever reason, the expected winner is Anas Sarwar.  Er, why?  I can understand the argument that Kezia Dugdale (33 years old) and Jenny Marra (36 years old) might be a bit too young and inexperienced, but given that they're at least in the correct parliament, why is Anas Sarwar (31 years old and in the wrong parliament) so self-evidently more suitable?  I hold no brief for either Dugdale or Marra - in fact, I'm aware of no evidence at all that they "get it" about the need for a much more radical devolution package (Marra infamously claimed in a TV debate that if she was designing a constitutional system from scratch, she'd make it exactly like the one we have now!).  But to prefer Sarwar to either of them seems crazy, which is probably why there's a reasonable chance that Labour will do it.

Incidentally, I should acknowledge at this point that Duncan Hothersall said the other day that any suggestions from Labour's opponents that certain candidates were unsuitable would be interpreted as evidence that those are in fact the people that we "fear" the most.  So in the desperate hope that such reverse psychology will actually work, could I just say to Labour : DON'T elect Sarwar.  He'll be a DISASTER.  Please don't do it, we're ONLY THINKING OF YOU!

Doubtless the point will be made that Labour are merely proposing to replicate what the SNP did in 2004, when they chose Alex Salmond as leader and First Minister-designate, in spite of the fact that he was a Westminster MP at the time.  But there are three very good reasons why that is a totally bogus comparison...

1)  As much as this truth rankles with the London-based parties, the SNP are perceived by the electorate as a thoroughly Scottish party in a way that they are not.  So the temporary anomaly of having a Westminster-based leader didn't matter so much for the SNP - Salmond was always going to be seen as an authentically Scottish leader regardless of his physical location.  Labour won't enjoy that luxury.

2) Salmond answered to no-one in the SNP Westminster group between 2004 and 2007.  By contrast, Sarwar or Murphy will be a humble backbench Labour MP, required to take the instructions of Miliband's whips.  The monumental conflict of interests for any so-called "party leader" is obvious.

3) Labour have tended to regard their Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland (or Secretary of State when they were in government) as a kind of parallel leader of equal stature - witness the way that Jackanory Jim himself was put forward for the Scottish "leaders' debates" in 2010, rather than Iain Gray.  OK, at least they're now going to be liberated from the mind-boggling dilemma of having to put forward either Johann Lamont or Margaret Curran, but is it really credible to have TWO Scottish Labour leaders in Westminster, and ZERO Scottish Labour leaders in Holyrood?

*  *  *

To return to the subject of Mr Smithson, I gather from Mick Pork that he's once again been wittering on about the "disaster" supposedly suffered by the SNP in the 2012 local elections - you know, the elections that the SNP comprehensively won across Scotland, with more votes and seats than any other party, and also a bigger increase in votes and seats than any other party.  From what I recall, Smithson's main excuse for his bizarre claim is that only the result in Glasgow mattered, because it's such an important city.  But that means...the Yes campaign won the independence referendum?  That's right, isn't it, Mike?  I don't see how you can have it both ways.

As for Mike's fetish for Jackanory Jim, it may well be true that Murphy would have a slightly better chance of getting a respectable result for Labour in 2016 than Johann Lamont, albeit that says far more about Ms Lamont than anyone else.  But I really struggle to see what use Mike thinks a Murphy "leadership" would be to Labour in next year's UK general election - the only difference it would make is that Murphy would be Labour's representative in the second-string Scottish TV debates.  The whole reason that the SNP have angrily rejected the broadcasters' proposals as they currently stand is that nobody pays a blind bit of attention to the second-string debates.  And then there's Mike's claim that Murphy emerged from his referendum street-barking tour with his "reputation enhanced".  Really?  If you measure a politician's mettle by the "weapon" it takes to silence them, Jackanory Jim proved to be literally as tough as an egg-shell.

Now then.  *Clears throat.*  There's something I've been needing to get out of my system for months, and it's going to gnaw away at my soul if I don't get it out of my system sooner or later.  So if you'd just indulge me for a few moments by imagining that Neil Morrissey is singing the Bob the Builder "Can We Fix It?" song, with adapted lyrics in tribute to Mike Smithson.  Here we go...

Mi-ike Smithson
Mi-ike Smithson
NO - HE - CAN'T!

OK, good, it's out of my system now.  Incidentally, I saw a cartoon on Twitter the other day with a caption which I thought perfectly summed up Smithson's PB moderation policy -

"You do realise that exposing the illegal things your government has been doing is illegal?"

By far the quickest way to get banned for no reason on PB is to point out that others have been banned for no reason.


  1. To be perfectly honest, naming anyone in the hope they'd elect them as leader to spite us would be fruitful, so I name the lot of them.


    But they definitely shouldn't go for Ian Davidson, oh no. Nor David Mundell.

  2. They should plump for Ruth Davidson.

  3. I am not sure that your point about having two leaders is valid. If Labour choose an MP as their Scottish branch manager, it would be logical to appoint whoever it is as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

    On the other hand, we are talking about Labour...

  4. Les, that would be an even bigger conflict of interest. At least as a backbencher, Sarwar or Murphy could (in theory at least) defy the instructions of the whips. As Shadow Secretary of State, they'd be bound by collective responsibility - absolute obedience to Miliband would be required.

  5. I cannot recall Jim Murphy ever making a important policy contribution or idea, nor has he ever said anything at all that is noteworthy or original. He seems to be a prototype New Labour, Blairite drone. Therefore why is he regarded as a "big hitter" by the MSM? Of course that is a rhetorical question, but the guy does not appear to have any qualities or skills you would want in a leader.

    In fact the only 'skill' he appears to possess is an ability to be devious, and be able to smear people and parties if they get in his careerist way. Murphy is going to get found out big time because he would will be put under more scrutiny than he has ever encountered, which unfortunately so far has appeared to be at the never happened level. A character as odious as Murphy is bound to have a lot of baggage.

  6. Don't forget Spud's ability to support Irish Republicanism while wrapping himself in the Union Britnatteryjack.

    His academic record of 8 or was it 9 years at University without gaining any degree.

    His betrayal of students by supporting student loans and then tuition fees as leader of the NUS.

    His support for the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. The Iraq war. Glasgow Celtic.

    Smurf is a walking gland. His only role in life is as an extra in war films in a nice shiny SS or Gestapo uniform.

  7. --/opens another packet of popcorn/--


  8. Jim near wets himself over nuclear weapons and stuff. You've got to give him that.

    I always imagined him making Airfix models of nuclear subs and aircraft carriers after a day at the Commons.

    "Jim - come down out of that attic right now, your dinner is ready!"

  9. So. Duncan Hothersall frequently and virulently condemns Rev. S. Campbell because, to use his method, he considers him effective

    No.shit Sherlock

  10. Some Labour politicos touting Brown for the job. What planet are they on?

  11. Rolfe,

    I expect that if you want Scotland to be 'North Britain' who is better qualified?

    On the other hand how, ahem, popular would he be?

    It is a dilemma for the labour party in Scotland, they can either bend the knee, as Brown has shown himself to be a connusmate artist at flexing lower joints, or they can go another way.

    I doubt Labour in Scotland have the wit or the guile to move away from the arthritic pain between the femur and the tibia.

    I expect Brown - who has heard from him over the last two years, apart from the last few weeks before the referendum (?) - is a shoo in.

    Then the fun begins.

    Watch as Brown doesn't justify anything he says, watch as Brown asks for even more 'support' in terms of his ridiculous opinion poll strategy for directing his complete and utter failure to deliver, away fom himself.

    Watch the 'bigot in chief' call us all 'bigots' because we don't think Gordon Brown is the largest brain on the planet,and probably, not, even,in Kirkcaldy.

  12. In the name of the wee man, who the effing cares??

    There has ALWAYS been only ONE leader of the labour party, and he is based as always in london.

    SLAB have ALWAYS been a branch office of the london party, and the fact they are presently without a "leader" is neither here nor there, given their past record of doing absolutely ZILCH for the Scots nation, apart from attempting to destroy any progress which is being attempted by the ONLY party which actually CARES about Scotland, namely the SNP!



    Could they really be this stupid?

  14. The issue is that the MP would not be able to represent the party in holyrood. This leaves labour having to pick an MSP to be that spokesperson. This sad individual would have no real status or power, he just the mouth piece for a MP - most likely a back bench MP at that. The real crisis is what to do in 2016. If they intend to win - an I admit this is a longshot - their leader could not be first minister - that role would fall to the spokesperson who would in effect be nothing more than an assistant to the deputy leader of the labour party in Scotland. - Thats not a ticket most people would be backing.

    Chisholm is right about this, its crisis to calamity. This not just labour shooting itself in the foot, its labour blowing its foot off with both barrels

  15. James, about SLab's leader being also Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, you said "they'd be bound by collective responsibility - absolute obedience to Miliband would be required".

    I doubt whether Miliband and his London cronies would see this as a problem when deciding who to appoint as Shadow Secretary - probably just the opposite.

  16. Not having a Holyrood leader would seem to be a bad idea, it's handing over a very big stick for them to be beaten with during every single FMQ between now and the election.

    A more radical idea would be for Murphy to step down from his current seat and take a list MSP slot (possibly letting said MSP stand in his place in East Renfrewshire) so he could move across.

    Can't see them trying that though.

  17. Bystander : That's not possible under the rules - a list MSP can only be replaced by someone who stood unsuccessfully on the list (in the same region) at the last election. The only way to do it would be to have a constituency MSP stand down and bring about a by-election. There would obviously be an element of risk attached to that, because funny things can happen in by-elections, even in the safest of seats.

  18. In that case I'd agree, 2 by elections in the current environment would be very dangerous for Labour... thanks for the correction.