A tale of two Press Conferences

July 31, 2008

What is it with Labour and leadership battles?

David Miliband writes an article in the Guardian proclaiming that Labour needs to change its vision and policies; note he was careful to leave out any mention of Gordon Brown – he didn’t want any journalists to get the wrong idea did he?

Next day he is with the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, in a Press Conference, and his body language and pointed refusal to endorse Gordon Brown is obvious for all to see.

Any attempt to cool down speculation over a leadership bid has now backfired badly. Indeed, what David Miliband didn’t say has now provoked more speculation.

Meanwhile back in Scotland, the Scottish Labour MSP leadership hopeful has organised a press conference. Journalists are assembled awaiting her big announcement. Reminders are sent from her campaign team to journalists making sure they turn up.

They turn up.

Cathy Jamieson doesn’t.

She forgot her own press conference.

Nice start to her campaign then. Was there any phone calls to Aberdeen University regarding their new Alzheimer’s drug by her campaign team? I think we should be told.

The very thought of a dementia ridden Cathy Jamieson wandering the halls of the Scottish Parliament is beginning to fill me with dread. Yet the style of repeatedly asking the same question at FMQs might just get better results than the woeful Wendy ‘I have no further questions’ Alexander.

It strikes me having just watched about the last minute of Freaky Friday on BBC3 that Jamieson and Miliband would have done better for the Labour Party by switching press conferences.

So David Miliband talks about changing policy without personality and is free to talk about the (Scottish) leadership contest and Cathy Jamieson has talks with Franco Frattini through an interpreter. (You’re way ahead of me!)

Problem solved!

Now what to do about Gordon Brown?

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Liberal Democrats kick Labour to death strategy

July 30, 2008

It seems that the Liberal Democrats want to get in on the action in giving the insensate Labour Party a good old electoral kicking.

Nick Clegg has yesterday signalled a change in resources, directing them at 50 constituencies in the UK where the Liberal Democrats are lying second to the Labour in Westminster elections.

Obviously, as current polls show the Labour Party support is there for the taking. Voters are jumping ship in England to the Conservatives and burning their bridges in Scotland en route to the SNP.

Nick Clegg’s plan is simple. With the Liberal Democrats now taking on the Labour Party where it can, Labour is now subject to a three way squeeze.

And if Labour meets with electoral meltdown in 2010 as expected, the Conservatives, SNP and the Liberal Democrats all stand to make substantial gains.

The political map of the UK could look radically different after the next Westminster election, expected in the summer of 2010.

If the Liberal Democrat plan works the Labour Party might be finished as a political force for decades.

And thats even before the proposed date for the Independence referendum in Scotland!

There were a baker’s dozen seats in Scotland where the Liberal Democrats placed behind Labour in 2005:

Edinburgh South
Aberdeen South
Edinburgh North and Leith
Glasgow North
Edinburgh East
East Lothian
Midlothian
Dunfermline and West Fife
Glasgow South
Glasgow North West
Glasgow Central
Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Paisley and Renfrewshire South

These seats above are ranked by their marginality by the result of 2005. The Liberal Democrats pulled off an excellent result in 2006 taking the Dunfermline and West Fife seat from Labour in a by-election.

If Nick Clegg’s Labour attack is to be successful then we would expect at least some other seats to fall to the Liberal Democrats too.

Edinburgh South is the most marginal Scottish seat by the 2005 Westminster election result.

Edinburgh South:

2005:

LAB 33.23%
LIB 32.28%
CON 24.10%
SNP 6.17%
OTH 4.22%

Current electoral calculus prediction:

CON 28.70 %
SNP 23.09%
LAB 22.33%
LIB 22.00 %
OTH 3.87%

A Conservative gain.

As you can see the main beneficaries from Labour and Liberal Democrat vote collapse are the Conservatives and the SNP.

But on current form, there’s really not a lot of difference between the four parties, making Edinburgh East a genuine four-way marginal come the next Westminster election.

It does show the problem for the Liberal Democrats though; their vote is also falling according to the polls. They need to arrest this decline for the plan to work in Scotland.

Take Aberdeen South for instance. 2005:

LAB 36.69%
LIB 33.45%
CON 17.14%
SNP 9.90%
OTH 2.81%

Electoral Calculus prediction:

SNP 26.73%
LAB 25.80%
LIB 23.17%
CON 21.71%
OTH 2.58%

A SNP gain.

Again the SNP are seen to rise spectularly, this time enough to take the seat.

But again, the votes look close, and Aberdeen South now looks a four-way marginal too.

The problem for the Liberal Democrats is to try and keep their vote share. If they manage to do that in these constituencies they’ll have a good chance of taking a couple. Winning all these marginals though will take a lot of money; money that would be better spent on better bets where there is a straight Labour – Liberal Democrat fight based on current polling predictions.

But on current predictions by electoral calculus, the Lib Dems won’t pick up any more seats in Scotland; indeed they will lose 3 seats (Argyll and Bute; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey). That’s even if they manage to keep Dunfermline and West Fife, or places like Gordon that recently turned SNP at Holyrood. This is a party who recently lost its deposit in Glasgow East, remember?

Trying to keep their vote is one problem. Trying to oust it from Labour voters is another.

The Telegraph has an article on the new Liberal Democrat strategy and a possible list of their fifty seats targeted.

The first Scottish seat on that list is Aberdeen South; as we’ve already seen its not as straightforward as it first appears. Just the Labour to Liberal Democrat swing doesn’t take into account the soaring SNP vote.

No wonder Nick Clegg is campaigning for funds to fight these seats!

Just where is Michael Brown when you need him?

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Causes and careers

July 29, 2008

Now that Margaret Curran is freshly defeated in Glasgow East, it seems she is looking to challenge for the now vacant position of Deputy Leader of the Labour MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

Is this what she meant when she said Labour was a cause not a career? A Times article reported her concession speech as full of self-delusion.

Nothing to do with the Baillieston constituency which she holds disappearing in boundary changes at the next election then?

Calum Cashley takes the view that if Labour was genuinely seen as a cause and not a career then it wouldn’t need saying.

No doubt, the Glasgow East defeat greatly damaged Margaret in the party’s eyes. Gone is the chance to be the MSP leader, but the Deputy Leader is a much lower profile role. And as Deputy Leader she would probably get a safe seat after the boundary changes; something which doesn’t look too likely now.

But even the Deputy Leadership may be beyond her hope after Glasgow East.

To continue her poltical career, Margaret desperately needs another seat or post.

That’s why she hasn’t ruled out a rematch in the next General election at Glasgow East, hoping that Labour’s fortunes have turned round and that the SNP eventually slip up.

I could be wrong about Labour and careerist politicans. But journalists however have been reporting the situation for years. Even before Brown took over as Prime Minister Andrew Rawnsley was writing about “… with suspicion and contempt at the careerist Labour MPs who have signed on to the Brownite cause”

We might find out soon enough when the next election comes and Labour lose their MP base.

Will these ex-MPs stay in politics? Or change career?

We may not have long to find out.


Gordon Brown and the long knives

July 28, 2008

Well, it seems like the knives are out for the Prime Minister.

Still I can’t believe that the Labour Party will ‘ask’ him to resign.

The first official use of the term ‘Prime Minister’ was in 1905 in Henry Campbell Bannerman’s time, although Sir Robert Walpole (held office: 1721-1742) is generally regarded by historians as the first Prime Minister.

Campbell Bannerman’s time was interesting as he was the third Prime Minister between an election, in the same way that any unelected successor to Gordon Brown would be.

Lord Salisbury, Robert Cecil, had won his election in 1895, but retired in 1902. His nephew was a politician and he got the top job without any General election taking place. This was Arthur Balfour. This is thought to be the origin of the phrase ‘Bob’s your uncle!’

Balfour retired himself in 1905 and Henry Campbell Bannerman took charge.

There was also three leaders between elections around the time of the Second World War; Baldwin, Chamberlain and Churchill but given those were extraordinary times, it was hardly surprising.

There are plenty of examples before 1905 of frequent changes of Prime Minister particularly in the reign of George IV, but post 1905 any change by Labour would be the first modern day period (outwith war) that there would be 3 Prime Ministers between elections.

Would the public accept this?

The Prime Minister position is not elected like many Presidents are. Nevertheless many people are already skeptical over Gordon’s unelected position. Tensions would only increase if another Prime Minister took over without a mandate.

In yesterday’s blog I alluded to the fact that Labour was prevaricating over the Malawi High Commisioner post to suit the party not the UK.

If Gordon Brown left office, I would not expect a subsequent election either.

Labour would be wiped out.

No. I expect they will cling on as long as they can, hoping that fortunes improve before the forced election date of 2010.

Much the same as Gordon Brown seems to be doing.

So why change leader then?

No matter about all the speculation I still don’t see any change happening. Gordon Brown has wanted this job for so long he won’t give it up easily.

No-one in the Labour Party wants to be the one carrying the long knives. Many see the job right now as a poisoned chalice anyway.

It’ll have to be left to the electorate in 2010 to deliver the fatal blow.

You can’t trust Labour to do anything right!


Cui bono?

July 27, 2008

If the Labour Party are still reeling from the political earthquake that was the SNP Glasgow East by-election victory and shuddering to think about the coming General Election in 2010, perhaps they should take a step back in reflection.

One country that goes to the polls next year is Malawi.

In the last Malawi General Election in 2004, electoral voters rolls figures were inflated. Obviously this gave opportunity for the election to be manipulated, but it was charitably dismissed as just a shambles rather than a devious ploy to get elected.

This time round, the Malawi Government has put more money in to this election to try and prevent any such errors.

But there are worrying trends from neighbouring countries that are seen as stifling democracy. Foremost among these is Zimbabwe with its leader Robert Mugabe, whose party activists have been torturing and killing supporters of the opposing party.

Kenya has seen around 1500 people killed in its recent election.

And Malawi is not short of political tensions. Bakili Muluzi, ex-president was arrested after accusations that he was trying to stage a coup on President Bingu wa Mutharika. They both belonged to the same party (the UDF) but Mutharika left to form his own party (DPP).

So it has come as no surprise that the British High Commisioner to Malawi, Sir Richard Wildash, has added his weight to calls that the 2009 election is seen to be fair.

‘Nothing can so thoroughly undermine democracy as bad elections.”

Such calls can be seen as international pressure on Malawi to run its elections properly. As Malawi is a Commonwealth country, Britain’s voice remains important.

But Sir Richard Wildash is leaving his post in January 2009 at the latest.

Scheduled to take over is the ex-First Minister Jack McConnell.

What should normally happen with a changeover is that there would a short handover period. Jack would normally leave for Malawi now or in the autumn (at the latest) for this to take place.

Will it happen this autumn?

Probably not – despite Malawi’s calls that any gap in the High Commisioner role would be unacceptable.

Despite the Westminster all-party Foreign Office Select Committee demanding that Jack McConnell be sent to Malawi soon.

With such a delicate General election taking place in 2009, it is vital that the new High Commissioner is in place when Sir Richard Wildash leaves.

So why the delay? Why has Jack not left or indicated his timetable?

Its obvious that the Labour Party want to delay Jack’s departure as they feel that they won’t be able to win the Motherwell and Wishaw seat; again putting pressure on Gordon Brown and his Labour Government.

Its a clear example of Labour putting its own party interest over that of the UKs and that of Malawi.

If the SNP won the seat, Holyrood parliamentary arithmetic would mean that they would then only need 1 other party’s support to implement its policies.

Although the ex-First Minister’s seat is looked on as rock solid – so was Glasgow East; in fact it was more so. In view of that the SNP would really fancy their chances at another upset.

Motherwell holds special significance for the SNP as it was the area that gave them their first seat to Westminster in 1945, held by Robert McIntyre who was later to lead the party. They would really be up for the challenge.

It may not be just the prospect of another SNP by-election triumph thats holding back Jack McConnell.

Sir Richard Wildash seems to be of the old school of British diplomats, always ready with a handy Latin quote.

In one speech to the Malawis, the number of Latin quotes were flying thick and fast:-

“As Seneca wrote:

“Non scholae sed vitae discimus” – that is, “We do not learn for school, but for life”.

As Horace wrote:

“Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem”; that is, “Remember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even”.

As Cicero wrote:

“Cura nihil aliud nisi ut valeas”; that is, “Pay attention to nothing except that you do well”. ”

There was many more quotes from Churchill to Bunyan to the French Renaissance essayist Montaigne.

Obviously something that the Malawis have come to expect from the British High Commissioners. A classical education from a public school no doubt, in true British Foreign Office style.

I may be wrong but I doubt Jack as an ex-maths teacher is versed in his Latin. Maybe that is holding him back from going!

Never mind. I’m sure his Malawi tenure will be more secure than that of most Labour Party MPs come next election:

Hodie adsit, cras absit.


Glasgow East and Independence

July 26, 2008

There has been a lot of talk regarding the Glasgow East by-election win for the SNP.

Most commentators seem to agree that it says nothing about the support for Scottish independence.

I disagree:

One report in the course of the campaign struck me.

It said that SNP activists were extremely encouraged by the number of Labour voters in Glasgow East – whether they switched or not – who wanted Scotland to be independent.

It also said that Glasgow East constituents gave the highest percentage of ‘Scottish’ as nationality on their last census return forms:- 96 % ; compared to only 4 % who thought of themselves as British.

People vote for political parties for a number of reasons.

For Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to assume that people who vote for them don’t want an independent Scotland are living in cloud cuckoo land.

(The reverse that all the SNP voters don’t want independence is true as well. Only a vast vast majority want independence! In the Glasgow East election for instance they no doubt picked up votes from unionists wanting the discredited London Labour Government out.

If unionists really believe that the SNP is a single issue party then they would need to believe that all the SNP voters want independence.

If not, maybe those who have actually read the SNP manifesto and discovered it wasn’t just one page long with the single word ‘Independence’ then maybe they would realise that a referendum is probably the best way of finding out true public opinion.

Of course, the convention given by unionists is that the SNP need at least 50% of the Scottish MPs in Westminster or a majority of MSPs favouring independence in Holyrood to make independence happen.

Whichever happens first – by weight of numbers or by referendum – is fine by me!)

Ah but what about the polls they say – clutching to some selective polls that says that Scots don’t want it.

Equally nationalists are just as guilty of clutching to their polls that say Scots do want it.

As with most polls on independence it depends on how the question is phrased. Here’s a guide to the poll results.

The truth is until that question is asked formally in a referendum we won’t even have a real measure of public opinion to go on.

Look at the dodgy polling results for Glasgow East for instance.

The last one from Progressive Scottish Opinion only four days before the result put Labour on 52% and the SNP on 35 %.

As you can see that poll was utter rubbish, given that the SNP have just won the seat!

Polls are wrong a lot of the time. Its a fact. If they weren’t we wouldn’t have expensive elections in this country – we’d just phone up a few hundred folk in the constituency and then appoint the appropriate MP, MSP or councillor. No need for hustings, election budgets, PR etc. but just a small dent in the phone bill.

Glasgow East shows that there is now no safe seat for Labour even in its west central Scotland heartlands.

The fact that residents considered themselves Scottish not British, and that many Labour supporters favoured independence made switching to the SNP all that easier.

For that reason alone, given a bit of good fortune and a SNP impetus to change things for the better in Glasgow East, it gives the nationalists a great chance to secure the seat in the next Westminster election.

Labour must now fear a domino effect in Scotland that could decimate them politically.

One of the reasons the SNP wanted a referendum in 2010 was to show just how well they could govern Scotland. Now that was a prime reason for the vote switch; a popular Scottish SNP Government versus an unpopular London Labour Government.

Now that the SNP have succeeded in Glasgow East, a former Labour stronghold held since 1922, it shows just how popular this SNP Government is.

Part 1 of the plan accomplished.

Part 2 is the referendum.

And all this unionist claptrap of neverendums is just that. Claptrap!

They quote Quebec as a place of neverendums. Quebec has had two referendums for independence in its entire history. Once in 1980 and again in 1995. That’s it. Neverendums? Claptrap!

They quote John Mason when he said “When you are asking someone to marry you, sometimes you have to persist.” on his view on referendums – if – and thats a big improbable if – the SNP lost the 2010 referendum.

What do they think he was going to say?

“Oh well, we’ve lost a referendum, might as well disband the SNP!”

Cloud cuckoo land again by the unionists.

All that would mean is that the SNP and the other independence parties would need to try harder to convince people.

The issue might be kicked into the long grass for a while, but the political football will always return to the field of play so long as there are nationalists on the park.

But that’s all conjecture.

Right now, the nationalists are cruising the political match, banging goals in for fun. Unionist team captain Gordon Brown has done nothing but score o.g.s!

Glasgow East has seen another unionist red carded and time is running out.


SNP win Glasgow East

July 25, 2008

Yes. The SNP have won Glasgow East.

It might be a shock result but is anyone surprised?

I’m not going to go into Labour’s terminal decline in Scotland today.

I’ve already posted quite a bit on Labour’s slapstick election campaign too.

No. Today should be about celebrating the SNP’s magnificient win.

A justified result for the SNP’s brilliant campaign team and candidate John Mason.

A win that delivered the promised ‘political earthquake’. (Yet another SNP promise delivered!)

An earthquake with tremors felt around the world:-

The USA: New York Times and Time magazine
Canada: The National Post
India : Top News
South Africa : News 24
Australia : Sydney Morning Herald
France: France 24
Spain: EITB 24

to name but a few countries coverage.

Now thats what I call putting Scotland on the world stage!

To do it permanently, independence is the next step.

Bring it on!