29 October 2006

A few continuing stories (Updated)

A quick glance through the weekend's papers (and a look at the TV programmes) tells me that this is a week to look at stories that I've already covered, and how they're progressing.

Firstly, on stock transfer: Malcolm Chisholm has been interviewed today, informing viewers that he has personally visited all of the Council areas where the Council Tenants have been balloted on having their housing transferred over to an association. Obviously, Edinburgh (his home patch) was the first of these. The tenants voted No. He's visited Stirling. They voted No. He visited Renfrewshire. They voted No, which could possibly gift two marginal constituencies to the SNP next May. He's also campaigning in Inverclyde and Highland, no doubt to the abject terror of local Labour parties in those areas. Having admitted that he is now the Zelig of stock transfer debacles, he's effectively cursed any future plans while he's Communities Minister and now seems to have "Sack Me" written on his face.

On party funding there are two interesting stories worth considering: the first is the RMT's decision to end its affiliation to the SSP, as discussed here. They haven't as yet announced their support for Solidarity, but I suspect that this will be a matter of 'when' rather than 'if'. Meanwhile, the £2.4 million donated to the LibDems by convicted perjurer Michael Brown is causing consternation: reports abound that the party will have to return the cash, and the Scottish LibDems have opted against disclosing how much of that money went their way, but seeing as their 2005 Election expenses were more than double their 2001 figures, I'd guess that it was quite a bit. But if there is a forced repayment, it'll leave the LibDems' 2007 campaign in tatters.

Finally, The Greens will be discussing Coalition options (a subject I like to come back to occasionally) at their Conference next week, with Patrick Harvie taking the initiative by circulating a paper on what part the party could play in propping up any potential Executive next year. Although he's tight-lipped on what policies will have to be part of any deal (though he has re-stated the party's opposition to nuclear power), he did mention his preferred option for how the deal would work. He's seeking the activists' backing for the 'Confidence and Supply' model, where the Greens would take no ministerial seats and would not be expected to support the Executive on most matters, but they would support another party's candidate for First Minister, back the Executive in confidence motions and vote for the Executive's Budget in exchange for concessions on policy over the four-year term.

Harvie says this will allow a more exciting form of politics, where an Executive will have to win an argument before it wins the vote. I think it'll lead to more U.S. Congress-style 'pork barrel' politics, with Executive whips having to negotiate with other parties, and individual members of all political hues (including their own), in order to get votes passed, where the only question Ministers will have to answer from MSPs will be, "What's in it for us?" Or perhaps I'm getting cynical.

UPDATE: According to Kenny Sheerin's blog, the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement has also disaffiliated from the SSP, apparently citing concerns that the party isn't giving enough weight to the Independence argument. However, a number of SRSM members will stay in the party as individuals, so I don't think they're switching to Solidarity.

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