30 July 2007

End of Term Report Card

With Holyrood and Westminster now in Recess, now seems as good a time as any to assess the parties' performances. I'll be measuring them against my 'good year, bad year' predictions from January.


A GOOD YEAR: First Minister Alex Salmond publishing his first Executive Bill: to hold a referendum on Independence.

A BAD YEAR: Leader of the Opposition Alex Salmond criticising Jack McConnell's Legislative Programme at his last First Minister's Question Time before resigning the Leadership.

Well, with the White Paper due soon, and Alex Salmond in Bute House, this certainly qualifies as a good year. The SNP Government has hit the ground running, despite being a minority administration. The election results are (rightly) seen as a big thing in SNP circles, and so far, the work done has been largly positive, with Monklands and Ayr A&E units reprieved, and an announcement on the abolition of the Graduate Endowment. The trams row could have been handled better though, so I won't give full marks... I'm miserly like that. 4/5


A GOOD YEAR: For Jack McConnell to remain as FM thanks to an agreement with one other party, whether with Nicol Stephen as DFM or with the Tories supporting Labour's legislative programme from outwith the Executive.

A BAD YEAR: For Alex Salmond to be FM and Tom McCabe to be Leader of the Opposition.

Oh dear. Jack McConnell has got this far (but not much further, by the looks of things) as Labour leader, but Labour find themselves in Opposition and don't appear to know quite what to do about it. The one ray of light is that the defeat wasn't as crushing as it could have been, with the Party only suffering a net loss of four seats, even if the Regional Vote did come to their rescue. The good news is that their future is largely in their own hands, and if they get their act together quickly, then they might recover. 2/5


A GOOD YEAR: Murdo Fraser directing his group of 18 MSPs to support the Executive's Budget, having gained policy concessions.

A BAD YEAR: Murdo Fraser directing his group of 15 MSPs to oppose the Budget, having been completely ignored by everyone.

Firstly, Annabel Goldie is still Leader and doesn't look like going anytime soon, a scenario I wasn't prepared for. Secondly, the much-mocked 'constructive opposition' policy of the Tories appears now to be a wise one, though that might be more through luck than judgment. And the minority government has given the Tories influence, especially as they've shown a willingness to work with the SNP and secure concessions. However, internal strife could still pose a problem, and the sudden departure of Peter Duncan as Party Chairman might expose a few cracks that were papered over by the election and its aftermath. 3/5

Liberal Democrats

A GOOD YEAR: Nicol Stephen to stay as Deputy First Minister, having secured a raft of concessions from either of the Big 2, and more LibDem Cabinet Ministers.

A BAD YEAR: Nicol Stephen getting completely outfoxed by one or both of the Big 2, ending up as Leader of an Opposition Party.

Well, the Liberal Democrats decided that they'd rather go in a huff than go into government, so that rules against them, and it's been pretty ropey anyway. Despite billing themselves as the 'Party with Real Momentum', they managed to go backwards, and lose their place in government thanks to the threat of a flounce-out by a small number of their group. And whereas the Tories show a willingness to negotiate, gain concessions and reach an agreement on certain issues with the SNP, the LibDems will only work with them on matters where they agree anyway. That's something, but by not being willing to give a little to get a little, they're in danger of marginalising themselves further. Meanwhile, the threatened walkout by certain figures shows the uncharismatic Nicol Stephen has lost control of his Party and as soon as the Labour leadership issue is settled, then the spotlight will turn on the Human Ryvita. 1/5


A GOOD YEAR: Green MSPs in every region, and the power to decide who leads the Executive.

A BAD YEAR: Fewer Green MSPs, who aren't needed for First Ministers to be elected, Ministers to be appointed and Budgets to be passed.

On the one hand, the election was a disaster: to be left with only two seats can't be dressed as anything else. However, that's two seats more than the SSP, Solidarity or the SSCUP, so they're doing something right, at least. What I do object to is the willingness to blame the larger parties for squeezing the Greens out: it's down to them to make a sufficient impact for people to vote for them. You can't blame your own bad performance on the good performance of someone else. All the same, their two have manged to secure a written agreement on the way forward with the SNP, and do find themselves holding almost a casting vote on some issues, so their two MSPs have more influence than their seven MSPs had before the electionm and they even have a Committee convenership now, so it's not all bad news, and the fact that they remain in the Parliament gives them strong long-term prospects. 3/5


Richard Havers said...

Great review Will....pretty much concur with it all, except I'd have only given the Greens 2/5. I also don't think they have a chance of influencing any voting patterns now that everyone else has become aware that green is more than just a colour!

Will said...

Cheers for that, Richard. I suspect that long-term, the Greens might nick a few votes from the LibDems, but it depends on how much we see of Harper and Harvie over the next few years, but that's only because the LibDems aren't having the impact they once had! And the reason I ended up giving them 3 in the end was how they've managed to play a rubbish hand surprisingly well, grabbing that Convenership and getting that memorandum with the SNP.

The Greens looking more co-operative and consenual than the LibDems... who'd've thunk it?! :D

Anonymous said...

Agree with your 3/5 for the Greens, as well as the general agreement, they secured a legal change to stop the oil transfers in the Forth.