20 August 2006

Hit the road, Jack?

Scotland on Sunday reports that McConnell might just have to do that: the Labour Party is said to be unhappy at his performance: particularly in his attempts to appear a small-n nationalist, and with the dpearture of Susan Deacon, which has led to concerns that she might destabilise the campaign.

The paper reports that the view in Labour is that a good result will mean only a handful of seats lost, and that any losses will be the justification for members to challenge McConnell. Comine those two notions and it seems that a challenge is inevitable.

But is it? Regardless of whether or not Labour are overtaken the SNP, it's not yet guaranteed that either will form the next Executive. That will depend on the attitudes of parties like the LibDems and the Greens, so the Election itself won't determine who runs Scotland. It will only determine who determines who runs Scotland (Does that make sense? I wrote it, and even I'm not sure). That means that a challenge would have to be deferred: if Labour still end up leading the Executive, then any attempt to change Leader before 2011 might inadvertantly cause the entire Coalition (or minority government) to collapse, which would then see Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon being elected First Minister midway through the Parliament.

And if Labour do end up in opposition in May, they'll have to wait for Coalition negotiations to end, and for their defeat to be confirmed. That'll take a month. By that point, speculation about Tony Blair's leadership will have reached fever pitch, and if he goes (along with John Prescott), there'll be the de facto coronation of Gordon Brown, and the acrimonious battle to be his Deputy. If he doesn't, there'll almost certainly be open civil war with in the UK Party, so Scottish Party chiefs will want to avoid a contest north of the border. Then when the dust has settled, the Party will be getting into gear for the next Westminster Election, which unless Brown has a really bad case of the jitters and leaves it to 2010, will probably be no more than 18 months away. So we're looking at a possible departure date for McConnell of just after the Westminster Election.

And besides, the options open to the Labour Party are pretty grim: Wendy Alexander's profile has dropped since her resignation six years ago, Tom McCabe is too dull and managerial, Cathy Jamieson's had a torrid time as Justice Minister, and Andy Kerr's name is mentioned only in jest. Margaret Curran's hands (which, as we all know, control the rest of her) are a strong possibility, so she'll probably walk it, but after Jack's coronation, the Party might want a real contest.

1 comment:

Neil Craig said...

Indeed. The fact that Scottish labour can't come up with a serious alternative to Jack says it all.