07 January 2007

The Scottish Right

This has been a bad week for the Tories. First we had the news that businessman Archie Stirling was setting up a breakaway political party (of which more below) which would park its tanks on the Conservatives' front lawn, and now we hear that Conservative Party candidate Jackson Carlaw is gunning for Annabel Goldie, the Party's Leader, in the vote to rank candidates on this year's Regional Lists. Carlaw is famous chiefly for telling racist jokes at Party functions, but he reckons that he would make a better Tory candidate (and possibly Leader) than Goldie.

Of course, the Tories do hold two seats in the Region, and Murray Tosh - the other West of Scotland Tory - is seeking election in the South of Scotland this time around as candidate for Dumfries. That creates a vacancy, so both Goldie and Carlaw could end up in Holyrood come May. But the fact that Goldie faces a rough selection battle is embarrassment enough: it shows the low opinion that some Tories have of her Leadership, and I expect a Leadership Election to take place within six months, especially as Carlaw is not alone: younger candidates are trying to unseat current MSPs in Glasgow and Highlands & Islands, while one candidate in Mid Scotland & Fife has appealed to members to de-select all of the Party's current MSPs.

Fortunately for the Party, the force which might have challenged them has started on weak ground. A few days ago, we thought that Archie Stirling was launching a new über-Unionist, die-hard-Tory party called Scottish Voice, which would either endorse current candidates or field its own. Instead, Stirling is launching a 'pragmatic' party called the Scottish Democrats, which seems to have no policy, no plan, no strategy and as such, no chance. That said, the 'sensible, pragmatic' approach is the traditional Tory way of doing things, which until the 1970s, could be summed up as having stood for 'the Union, the status quo and decency'. The Scottish Democrats look like they will go the way of the People's Alliance/New Party - almost incidental to the process, and the SPA had the benefit of IDS being Leader of the UK Conservatives, and defections from Tory MSPs who had been placed in low positions on their Lists.

Having said that, thanks to the PR aspect of the election, every vote matters, so while this new venture might not work out, they could prevent the Tories from picking up the odd Regional seat if things are close. Even on the Constituency vote, it's a close run thing: the Tory majority in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale is 99, while the Tories are in second-place in a handful of marginals. Particularly in the Labour-held ones, the presence of an alternative right-wing party could potentially make the difference in the result. But don't hold your breath.

No comments: