Liberal Democrat new direction

August 27, 2008

Congratulations to Tavish Scott, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats.

He won with 59% of the vote over rivals Ross Finnie and Mike Rumbles.

The result was a predictable shoo-in. Even I managed to get it right when I suggested the winner would be between Tavish Scott and his ego, some time ago in the middle of the Glasgow East campaign.

So where does Tavish take the Scottish Liberal Democrats now?

I guess he is going to follow Nick Clegg’s new strategy of kicking Labour to death in Scotland, where possible.

This follows the political maxim if a party is down keep kicking them.

It would make sense for the Liberal Democrats to try and hoover up as many disaffected Labour voters as possible. From where the Labour Party is currently, it should be fairly easy to pick up ex-Labour voters that feel betrayed by the party’s lurch to the right under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Those ex-Labour voters that don’t go straight to the SNP anyway.

And what of the Liberal Democrats new approach to the SNP?

Well, it seems that Tavish might just come out in favour of a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s future.

Is this the begiinning of an olive-branch?

Or just the start of a Liberal Democrat move similar to that of the Labour Party moving to the right under Thatcher and Major when the realised that left-wing politics wouldn’t get them elected in the UK? Are the Scottish Liberal Democrats going to get more nationalist using their federalist umbrella?

Its obviously too early to tell.

Tavish has barely sat down in his chair and arranged his stationary.

But its something we should be watching for.

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
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:


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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David Davis resignation

June 13, 2008

Its a win – win situation.

David Davis has made one of the shrewdest political gambles of his career.

In resigning from Parliament after such a contentious Labour win aided by the Democratic Unionist Party, and fighting as a candidate in the subsequent by-election, he now appears as a man of principle.

As Shadow Home Secretary you may have fought that he was in the right job to influence people’s minds on the 42 day detention, but although he may have won the moral argument in the Commons the vote still went against him.

Labour have been arguing that the public are behind them but as David Cameron said that doesn’t make it right.

Now standing on a civil liberties platform in the coming by-election he can give Labour a public vote that might just change the popular views in the UK, and destroy Labour’s public argument.

I fully expect David Davis to win his seat.

His closest rivals last time were the Liberal Democrats and as they support David Davis’ stance on civil liberties Nick Clegg has refused to put a candidate up against him.

Now it is up to Labour whether they will stand.

If they refuse, it will look as though they have been scared to test public opinion.

If they accept, odds are they will be humilated.

Its win – win for David Davis.

The public like politicans of principle. You may not always agree with them but at least they stand a corner and fight for their beliefs.

That’s why people like Tony Benn are so respected. His socialist views may be a thing of the past for New Labour but his views give us a true distance of how far this New Labour Government has travelled to the right.

You could argue that democracy needs this shading to work well.

The talk is that Labour won’t stand in the by-election and try to marginalise David Davis.

If that is the case then Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun, has said that he will probably run, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s money and press.

Now a News International campaign against David Davis will certainly make the by-election more interesting.

I suspect though that Davis will still win against Mackenzie. It would take some sleaze or corruption angle by News International to make it a close race. Something which they will no doubt be looking into just now.

Much as I’d love Kelvin Mackenzie to win the seat and become an MP – everytime he speaks his anti-Scottish diatribe, the nationalist vote in Scotland soars. He’s a one-man Recruiting Sergeant for the SNP, SSP and Greens. In a political war he could be even described as a fifth-columist for Scottish independence! – the vote has got to go with Davis.

We have too few principled politicans in Westminster to afford to lose him.

Speaking of lack of principles let us turn to the Labour Party. They have bullied, dealt and perhaps bribed their way to win this vote.

There was media talk today of Gordon Brown offering would-be rebels: ‘What do you want in your constituency?’ and offering Labour MPs sitting on marginals safer seats come election time. One radio report said one Labour MP was offered the Governorship of Bermuda! Even bribes were suggested!

But it is the deal offered to the DUP that is the most interesting. The SNP will be watching with interest to see if Northern Ireland accrues any benefit from this deal, as this negates the Government policy of acting in the interests of the UK over a devolved administration. Labour couldn’t use that argument to argue against a Scottish oil fund for instance.

The Lord Advocate of Scotland, Elish Angelini, has said that she sees no circumstances where this law to come into effect in Scotland. The previous Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, a Labour Peer no less, has agreed with her.

Given that any such extension to 42 days detention without charge in Scotland would need to be granted by the Lord Advocate then it can be seen that the law will be operationally defunct here in Scotland in any case.

If it comes into statute at all. There is enough opposition in the Lords to suggest that this bill will never make it to law. It will also be challenged on Human Rights laws if need be.

Which makes Gordon Brown’s posturing on this all the more remarkable.

He seems to have lost his leadership of the party somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle.

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