03 January 2006

2006: a preview

As we come to the end of the Christmas and New Year break, it's expected that we try and peer into our crystal ball and attempt to deduce what the future has in store for us. I am, therefore, jumping on the bandwagon, to look at the last full calendar year before the Election.


Labour will, of course, be pre-occupied with the War of Succession in London, with continued speculation over when Blair will go and whether or not Brown really is in a position to take over. This will lead to more in-fighting and squabbles at Westminster. At Holyrood, Jack McConnell has a difficult year in store, with the Council Tax rises no doubt being blamed on the Executive, and the continuing row over NHS waiting times. Further, he realistically has until the Summer to re-shuffle his Cabinet in advance of the Election. Following the stock transfer referendum debacle, I predict that Malcolm Chisholm will be on the backbenches at the end of the year.
TASK OF THE YEAR: Maintain credibility during a difficult year.


This year should be a gift for the SNP. With the Executive likely to spend most of the year in trouble, and with the debate on the Parliament's powers re-emerging, the SNP should make hay, both as Scotland's official Opposition and as the main pro-independence party. However, Alex Salmond needs to raise his game: he was more active when John Swinney was leader than he has been since taking back the reins in 2004. He needs to get active again. Also, the party needs to stop acting like a glorified pressure group: Bruce McFee's deferred resignation is good thing: it shows the party's bigwigs are taking 2007 seriously, and if more follow his example, then the party gets rid of the nutjobs who don't realise that you need to be in government to put your principles into practice.
TASK OF THE YEAR: Start looking, sounding, acting and thinking like a government-in-waiting.


Having cast McLetchie aside, the Tories have plumped for a caretaker leader in Annabel Goldie, who, I suspect, will be quite good at holding the fort. The main target for the party in Scotland is to halt their decline. Given that David Cameron's approach will enable them to look a little bit less like right-wing lunatics, they will be in a position to do that. Renewal and revival, however, is still some way off.
TASK OF THE YEAR: Hold things together until May 2007.

Liberal Democrats

They too will be dominated by Westminster, with the ongoing row over Charles Kennedy's leadership. The MPs need to make up their minds now over whether to keep him or ditch him. This will require one brave soul to stick his head above the parapet. If they can't do that, then David Cameron will make mincemeat out of them. At Holyrood, they have to strike a balance between being in Coalition with Labour (in a bad year) and having distinctive policies in advance of the Election. Nicol Stephen also needs to find charisma from somewhere: am I the only one who thinks of Steve 'interesting' Davis when I see him?
TASKS OF THE YEAR: Make a decision on Kennedy, then raise Nicol Stephen's profile.


With the spate of natural disasters in 2005, coupled with a decline in the SSP's fortunes and a potentially becalmed Liberal Democrats, the Greens are sure fire winners in 2006. Moreover, even if they don't advance in the 2007 Elections, the party knows that it could well hold the balance of power in Holyrood. Now is the time for the Greens to go through their policies carefully, start costing their proposals (ready for possible implementation after 2007), and ditch any unrealistic ideas. It may be tough for them, but it will be worth it.


The good news for them is that the SSP will still exist at Christmas. The bad news is, it'll be on its last legs. Their finances aren't the greatest, and despite angry denials of wrongdoing, they still haven't resolved the question of the unaccounted-for £17k. They angrily refute any suggestion that it was used to buy an activist's silence, which is interesting as no such accusation has been made as far as I know. Even without the financial fiasco, Colin Fox has no credibility, and still sits in the shadow of Tommy Sheridan. In a word: doomed.
TASKS OF THE YEAR: Find a wealthy Trotskyite who's willing to fund them, make Colin Fox look vaguely statesman-like, hold the party together, perform three other impossible tasks then round the day off with breakfast at Milliway's.

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