You might remember that after the launch of the Independent Group a few weeks ago, Chris "in the works" Deerin penned a notorious article that revealed the breakaway Labour MPs understood full well that they would need a "different strategy in Scotland" and that they had even invited Ruth Davidson to be their leader. Obviously they had made the schoolboy error of believing the journalistic propaganda that Davidson is some kind of "centrist" bridge-builder, rather than the tribalistic zealot we all know and love. Having got nowhere with an obviously doomed Plan A, we now know what the wacky Plan B for a "different strategy in Scotland" is - and it looks suspiciously like putting four political has-beens in a room together and calling them a political party.
Today's Scotsman reveals that Labour siblings Douglas Alexander and Wendy Alexander (former Shadow Foreign Secretary and Scottish Labour leader respectively), their Lib Dem namesake Danny Alexander (former Chief Secretary to the Treasury), and the former Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, have all left their parties to form a loose new grouping known temporarily as "the Scottish Independents", which will now seek formal registration with the Electoral Commission as a fully-fledged party, with a permanent name to be determined. The Scotsman piece is predictably breathless in portraying the new outfit as more "heavyweight" than the Independent Group, boasting as it does two former UK Cabinet ministers and a former party leader. Well...up to a point, Lord Copper. What matters far more is that none of them are current elected representatives, which makes the whole "breakaway" concept a bit phony and very easy for the general public to ignore.
Douglas Alexander, who appears to be the group's unofficial spokesman/leader, has innocently dismissed any suggestion that they are a Scottish front organisation for the Independent Group, but admits that they were "inspired" by the actions of Chuka and co, and that it would be "prudent" for the Independent Group and the Scottish Independents to avoid standing candidates against each other, and that "it may be appropriate to consider" a CDU-CSU type relationship. Decoded, that appears to mean that in the unlikely event that the Scottish Independents get candidates elected as MPs, they would sit as part of the Independent Group in parliament, but would be free to pose as a nominally separate party in their occasional forays home and in election campaigns.
As you'd expect, Alexander has also provided some vacuous, waffly quotes about people from different political "traditions" coming together to break free from the shackles of "increasingly outdated ideologies", although it appears the one dated ideology that hasn't yet outlived its usefulness for him is rabid British nationalism. You do have to wonder: if these self-styled centrists truly believe we're living in a post-ideological world, what is the common denominator that will in future bring politicians together under the same umbrella? In this case 'having the same surname' seems to be the only obvious commonality - which must leave poor Struan Stevenson feeling like a second class citizen.
My ears pricked up when Alexander mentioned a specially commissioned YouGov poll that supposedly shows considerable public appetite for a new centrist, anti-independence party in Scotland. I've managed to track the poll down in an obscure corner of the YouGov website, and you won't be surprised to hear that the results are not quite as Alexander portrays them - just 18% of respondents say they would "consider" voting for the Scottish Independents, while 52% would not. That's strikingly close to the percentage of people who said in a similar poll back in 2007 that they would "consider" voting for Archie Stirling's Scottish Voice party. If you've never heard of Scottish Voice, there's a good reason for that.
I was particularly tickled by this supplementary question...
There is currently a fashion for the names of new political parties to echo the names of their founders. For instance, the French governing party En Marche has the same initials as Emmanuel Macron, and the new British party Change UK has the same initials as Chuka Umunna. Which of the following names for Scotland's new party do you prefer?
DA Party: 4%
Alexanders the Great: 2%
I do not believe that the name should be a nod to the fact that two of the party's founders have the initials DA, or that three of them share the surname Alexander: 61%
I have to say the Alexanders would be well advised to listen to the public on this one. If they're crazy enough to call themselves "DA Party", they'll be inevitably dubbed "yer da". And as for "Alexanders the Great"...well, where do you even start?
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