Worst job in Scotland?

August 4, 2008

Seems its not just the press who think that leading the Scottish Labour MSPs is the worst job in Scotland.

Oh no.

One of the three candidates for the job thinks it is the worst job in Scotland too.

Andy Kerr had in his briefing notes to journalists an answer ready to why he was going after ‘the worst job in Scotland’.

Andy Kerr touts for work

If the job is so bad then why all the in-fighting yesterday?

One of Kerr’s aides described Cathy Jamieson as a ‘cavewoman’

From the Times:

‘Last night a senior member of the Kerr team launched an intemperate attack on Jamieson, dismissing her as a left-wing “cave woman” who would drag the party into the past if she were to succeed Wendy Alexander.

The aide also attacked Bill Butler, a member of the Campaign for Socialism, who is contesting the deputy leadership against his fellow Glasgow MSP Johann Lamont.

“I would rather work for Iain Gray than go back into the caves with some of them,” said Kerr’s aide, referring to Jamieson and her allies. “Cathy and Bill Butler — can you imagine?” ‘

Maybe someone should have told him that the campaign slogan for Andy Kerr is ‘Working Together; Winning Again’.

Seems to me, Andy Kerr and his team need to work on the first part before they even think about the second.

Maybe then the electorate won’t give Andy his P45.

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?

Labour’s Glasgow East chaos

July 6, 2008

What is happening with the Labour candidate process for the Glasgow East By-election?

First of all we hear that Gordon Brown has phoned Stephen Purcell, the Glasgow City Council Labour leader, 4 times asking him to stand. Purcell has repeatedly turned the Prime Minister down.

Then, Gordon Brown phones Lesley Quinn, Labour’s former Scottish General Secretary, and asks her to stand. Again, Quinn declines the Prime Minister’s offer.

The Daily Mail reports that Gordon Brown phoned 4 party loyalists in total asking if they would stand.

These 6am calls have got to stop, Gordon! Caller ID boxes will be bought all over the Barras this weekend!

So Labour introduce their candidate shortlist on Friday:-

George Ryan
Irene Graham
Doug Maughan

with East end councillor George Ryan, the odds-on favourite to be nominated.

However, the councillor does not show up at the selection meeting for “family reasons” and pulls out of the running.

Labour then announce the selection process will now be postponed till Monday.

So that means a weekend of more phoning and pleading for Gordon Brown. Will he yet convince Purcell or Quinn? I very much doubt it.

John McTernan has been suggested by the Telegraph as a potential candidate. Probably his involvement with the cash-for-peerages row rules him out though.

And what does it mean about the calibre of the other two hopefuls on the shortlist? If Labour considered them serious challengers for the nomination then surely the selection meeting should have just continued on Friday choosing either of them.

Will they now stand again on Monday? If they’re deemed not good enough on Friday, why would they want to stand on Monday? That’s a terrible position to be in, and I think they would both be perfectly entitled to stand down from the selection process too.

And now stories are surfacing about the real reasons George Ryan quit the selection process:-

The internet is awash with rumours that some journalist or other has some dirt on Councillor Ryan.

Perhaps it is related to The Times story of housing benefit fraud claims.

Perhaps it may be the story surfacing on Guido Fawkes site about a run-in he had with a political editor after a Cathcart by-election where the police were nearly called.

Perhaps it may be the story that the councillor is none too impressed with the Union Flag – he deemed sectarian – or the National Anthem God Save the Queen – he deemed offensive. Instead, Ryan wanted the saltire and the Flower of Scotland to be used in their place. Could it be that the councillor is none too fond of the Union between Scotland and England? In which case his nomination would just play into the hands of the SNP anyway. The story is on the BBC and in The Times.

Perhaps it has to do with the GHA and funding. Residents of Glasgow East may not be too keen on the councillor if GHA take over their Local Housing Associations with compulsory purchase orders.

Perhaps it was the fact that Councillor Ryan and 10 other Labour Glasgow City Councillors – including Stephen Purcell, that also may explain his reluctance to stand – are being investigated by the Standards Commission over dodgy dealings in an attempt to obtain the land of Paddy’s Market in the East End.

Whatever the reason for his withdrawal, family reasons or not, Labour’s Glasgow East campaign is already in disarray.

Details of the real reason the sitting MP David Marshall resigned won’t help the perception that the Labour Party is mired in sleaze.

Now the BBC are saying that Margaret Curran, the Baillieston MSP, is intending to stand for Labour as a candidate! That would be unbelievably farcial given Labour’s griping about Alex Salmond holding a job in Holyrood and Westminster (though Alex is merely following convention set by Donald Dewar and Jim Wallace, and has announced that he intends not to fight his Westminster seat at next election).

Of course, due to boundary changes at the next Scottish General election, the Baillieston seat will disappear. Maybe this forced her hand.

Fair play to her for offering and trying to pull Labour out of their self-dug hole, but that would just leave Labour open to more ridicule.

What if she was to lose? She would still remain MSP for Baillieston but her leadership challenge would be crushed. She would be seen to no longer have the confidence of the people who elected her in 2007!

Perhaps she thinks that if she managed a good campaign in front of the media then her positioning as potential Scottish MSP leader would be improved. A sort of MSP leadership campaign head-start before the other rivals formally start their bids after the by-election. What does Cathy Jamieson, Iain Gray et al think of this move?

In the meantime, the Solidarity Party has named its candidate for Glasgow East. That honour goes to Tricia McLeish from Shettleston.

Tommy Sheridan had nominated her.

So Tommy Sheridan will not be standing for the Glasgow East constituency. That leaves the SSP and Solidarity splitting the socialist vote as expected, and the two main players, Labour and the SNP free to campaign without Tommy Sheridan’s profile stealing the election spotlight.

I’m sure Tricia will do a good job, but I imagine Tommy, as leader of the party, would have collected more votes.

It seems Solidarity would be happy with a SNP win in the election to try and force out Gordon Brown. Tommy Sheridan commented “We have got no problem with the SNP winning this election. Solidarity will be pleased to see the demise of Gordon Brown.”

Given the recent polls a lot of people will feel the same way.

Ferrets in a sack

June 30, 2008

No sooner has Wendy Alexander left her role as leader of Scottish Labour MSPs than a succession of candidates are being tipped to replace her.

Andy Kerr, Iain Gray, Cathy Jamieson, Margaret Curran, Charlie Gordon, Tom McCabe and Malcolm Chisholm have all been mentioned.

Under Labour election rules each candidate needs the backing of 12.5% of Labour MSPs to run. That’s 6 MSPs out of the 46 Labour MSPs.

Given that the seven pretenders wouldn’t back each other; each candidate would need 6 MSPs from the remaining 39 MSPs.

But 7 candidates with 6 nominations is 42 MSPs.

One candidate mentioned has to drop out.

So we could be facing six candidates vying for the leadership.

It just goes to show that there is no obvious successor to Wendy Alexander. She was seen as the most capable in the Scottish Labour MSPs in a limited talent pool.

Whats more, these seven leadership contenders mentioned do not show a strength in depth of Scottish Labour.

Any one of these, like Wendy Alexander, would be outclassed at FMQs by the First Minister, Alex Salmond. Indeed, they would struggle against any of the SNP cabinet.

But that is not the issue now. The new leader has to have a clear vision of where Scottish Labour is going:- is it to be London-led or will it have a more Scottish face and stand up to Westminster? Will Wendy’s policy of backing a referendum be maintained? Will Scottish Labour develop clear policies instead of nat-bashing?

In short, they need to become an effective opposition.

Many analysts consider that whoever the new leader is, they should be aiming for the 2015 election. I think that is pessimistic, though I do think the SNP will win the 2011 election.

A week is a long time in politics, and there is always a chance that events, dear boy, events! will derail the SNP bandwagon. If the new leader leads an effective Labour opposition perhaps events will conspire to give Scottish Labour a fighting hope in 2011.


What is more likely to happen though, is that the new leader will be sanctioned from Westminster’s shortlist and Scottish Labour MSPs will still be in feu to Westminster.

And the leadership contest is more likely to amplify the divisions in the Labour Party. Divisions that are already apparent.

No wonder the SNP Finance Minister, John Swinney, said today: ‘We’re not really too worried about who the Labour leader is in Scotland. Labour have no idea where they are going.

‘They’re already fighting like ferrets in a sack, as they always do – which is at the root of the Wendy Alexander problem by the way – about the issue of the independence referendum, it’s all over the newspapers, they’re taking different views, they’re all bad-mouthing each other in the process.

‘That’s all part of the furniture of the Labour Party’s contribution to Scottish politics.’

They may be ferrets but they all want to lead the Scottish Labour MSPs? I wouldn’t be in their trousers!