06 May 2007

A few thoughts on the Presiding Officer

Or rather, who it might be. I can't think of any SNP MSP (at least from those re-elected) who would be ready for this job, and even if I could, they wouldn't take it because 1) every SNP MSP is needed, and 2) George Reid started out as SNP, so it's another party's turn.

A former SNP MSP, Margo MacDonald, is being mentioned as a possibility, and she would strike the fear of God into the hearts of unruly members. Certainly she terrifies me, but I would say that: in 2001, she pinned me to the bar in Edinburgh University's Teviot Row House after I spoke against her in a public debate (she was eventually quite affable, but the initial encounter, in which she swept towards me and gave me one of the sternest lectures I've ever had, left me scarred). But would she want to do it? No, of course not. The Presiding Officer's job requires a dignified silence on political issues. Margo doesn't do dignified silence on anything.

Labour won't put anyone forward either. They need their members in place, and even if they didn't, I don't see any positive candidates. Trish Godman has been a Deputy Presiding Officer for four years, but Presiding Officers tend to have an X-factor, a gravitas that Godman doesn't have. She's better at keeping things calm and measured, she's effective, but quiet, so she's out. George Foulkes has a bit of clout but he's only been in the Parliament since Friday afternoon and he's far too partisan: he would never be acceptable to the SNP. Or anyone other than Labour.

The LibDems are too busy licking their wounds and every one of their 16 MSPs will be needed in a governing coalition involving the SNP. In any case, again, who would they choose? Robin Harper's name was floated a while ago, but like the LibDems, he is needed in a Coalition now.

This brings us to the Tories. Annabel Goldie's name was mentioned, but she has reportedly said no. No name immediately springs to mind, but this is the only group who could supply a PO: the SNP and Labour both need all of their MSPs at this time; Margo isn't an option; the LibDems have been knocked back, as have the Greens, and both parties need their full strength for what is looking like the most likely Coalition right now: an SNP-LibDem-Green government. So it has to be a Tory.

But which one? I've been reflecting on this, and Ted Brocklebank might be a strong choice. He's got some gravitas, and he'd probably handle the job with charm and dignity. Plus which, he might be looking to bow out by 2011. Nanette Milne would also be a possibility, but I think Brocklebank would probably have a greater impact. We shall see.


Richard Havers said...

Ted's a good call. What happens if no one want's it?

scotto voce said...

Margo might preclude herself on health grounds. Looks increasingly like a Tory to me..... Bill Aitken?

Anonymous said...

Margo's says she's interested and she may actually do the job well and appropriately (with a few controversial verbal hiccups I imagine).

If a Tory I'd go for Bill Aitken. I quite like him and I'm a screaming left-wing Nat.

If Labour. Patricia Ferguson.