Longevity of Gordon Brown’s premiership

August 3, 2008

Longevity records of modern Scottish Prime Ministers are not great.

Since the days of Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the early 20th century, there have only been two Scottish Prime Ministers from Scottish constituencies (discounting Tony Blair, who was born and schooled in Edinburgh but represented Sedgefield; and similarly Ramsay Macdonald who was born in Lossiemouth but represented Aberavon and then Seaham as PM) until Gordon Brown came on the scene.

And the two Scottish Prime Ministers in question, Andrew Bonar Law and Alec Douglas Home, weren’t even born in Scotland!

Andrew Bonar Law was born in New Brunswick in Canada and left at the age of 12. His family were Scottish and he moved to Glasgow and remained there, regarding himself as Scottish. He started and ended his political career at Westminster representing Glasgow constituencies.

Bonar Law was in fact a compromise candidate as Conservative leader. When the two frontrunners Austen Chamberlain and Walter Long divided the party they both agreed to withdraw from the leadership for the party’s interests. After a bout of ill health he resigned as Conservative leader and Chamberlain took over.

But the coalition government of David Lloyd George was in trouble. Both Chamberlain and Lloyd George resigned and Bonar Law became Prime Minister by default in Autumn 1922. He later won a General Election but his continuing ill health – he had throat cancer and eventually could not speak in Parliament – forced him to resign in May 1923. He died that year in October.

As you can see from that summary Bonar Law only managed to get the top job from the failure of the coalition government, and the Conservative leader Chamberlain resigning.

Alec Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair, London but was heir to the Scottish Earldom of Home which he inherited in 1951. He took up various roles of Goverenment in the House of Lords.

When Harold Macmillan resigned due to prostrate trouble in October 1963, the Queen had to choose the next Prime Minister as there was no party apparatus in the Conservative Party at the time to annoint a successor. She chose Alec Douglas-Home.

Believing that he could not reasonably function as Prime Minister in the Lords, he renounced his peerage using the 1963 Peerage Act that Tony Benn had used and later fought and won a by-election in Kinross and West Perthshire. (The 1963 Peerage Act also allowed all Scottish peers entry to the Lords; previously only sixteen were elected. English peers had no such restrictions.)

Unfortunately for him the Conservative Government was already damaged by the Profumo Affair and he lost the subsequent General Election in October 1964.

Again Douglas-Home can also be seen as fortunate to get the top job.

So there are only two Scottish Prime Ministers based in Scotland after Bannerman and before Brown.

Both fortunate to land the role of Prime Minister.

Both Prime Minister for a very short time.

Brown himself as not been elected, taking over from Tony Blair when he resigned. Brown has been Prime Minister now for over a year, but his time in office has not been easy.

He has been accused to having a ‘Scottish Mafia’ by the English press.

And since devolution the West Lothian Question is often quoted against Gordon Brown being Prime Minister. He can exert laws on Health and Education on England that don’t apply in his own constituency. Thats not too popular in England.

As you can see Scottish Prime Ministers holding Scottish constituencies look like there are fated to short premierships. The current speculation of Gordon Brown’s leadership and his position in the polls seem to suggest that Brown’s reign will also be short.

Could it be that England does not want Scottish Prime Ministers?

And if the Conservatives enact the proposal of English votes for English matters, will there ever be a Scottish Prime Minister of the UK again?

In which case what incentive is there for Scots to seek representation at Westminster? Their MPs will be second class citizens by default. In such a scenario the end of the Union between Scotland and England will be a certainty.

Gordon Brown may be the last Scottish Prime Minister of the UK from a Scottish constituency.

But he can cheer up in the knowledge that his reign has already outlasted that of Andrew Bonar Law and Alec Douglas-Home.

And if he manages to last till the summer of 2010 he’ll even beat that 2 yrs 5 months record of Campbell-Bannerman’s premiership.

Home-based Scots have such short and infrequent reigns as Prime Minister in modern day politics that its already clear that this Union is not a true partnership.

Brown may have another predictable short Scottish reign as Prime Minister.

The longevity of the Union looks even shorter.

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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