18 October 2006

Malcolm's mire

The Malcolm in question is, of course, Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm. Today he found out that a third local Council has had stock transfer plans rebuffed in a referendum of tenants. Renfrewshire joins Stirling (which rejected the plans last week) and Edinburgh, Chisholm's home patch, which rejected them at the end of last year. All three defeats (the only defeats so far, though Inverclyde and Highland are to consult their tenants on similar proposals) have taken place since Chisholm took up the Communities brief.

Chisholm has, of course, issued the usual dire predictions on the future of housing in Renfrewshire, but he might want to be worried about his own future: the Scottish Tenants' Association is calling for his head. Meanwhile, this latest reversal affects two key marginal seats: Paisley South (Hugh Henry) and West Renfrewshire (Trish Godman), so the SNP's chances of taking the Constituencies next May have probably increased with this. The only thing saving Chisholm now is that McConnell has missed what is probably his last opportunity - the resignation of Colin Boyd QC as Lord Advocate - to reshuffle him to a job where he's less likely to face calls for his head, as he had to endure when he was Health Minister as well. Unfortunately for Chisholm, there's little sign that McConnell is minded to create a Minister of Getting The Sandwiches For Us in the foreseeable future. And even if he did, Chisholm would probably spark a row there as well.

Then there's the post-May future: these defeats are an embarrassment to the Executive, so if Jack McConnell is still FM after the Elections, he might have to axe Malcolm Chisholm, or perhaps put him forward for a Committee Convenership where he doesn't reflect quite as badly on other Ministers. If Labour do find themselves in Opposition, he might just retain a frontbench post, but only if a number of key Labour people lose seats (Chisholm should thank his lucky stars that Deputy Ministers like Lewis MacDonald and Hugh Henry are in marginal seats). I know I seem to have it in for the guy, but really, I don't see a future in the Executive for Malcolm Chisholm.

Of course, if Jack had read and taken my advice in January, and reshuffled Chisholm out of Communities over the summer, then that might not have stopped the stock transfer defeats in Stirling and Renfrewshire, but Chisholm might have had a chance to salvage his reputation and someone else might have been able to spin their way out of this.

1 comment:

Mark McDonald said...

I feel a bit sorry for Chisholm, it's clear his heart is in the right place on a number of issues, but he's just not up to the job.