22 July 2007

Jack off

(Well, I am sorry, but 'Hit the Road, Jack' has been overused.)

Anyway, Scottish Labour's voice on Earth for one day a week, the Sunday Mail, is reporting that Jack McConnell's departure from the Labour leadership is now imminent. The paper reports that the former FM will announce his departure before the end of the Summer recess, and it seems that there is an element of pressure on him to do so by 20 August. This suggests that his quitting isn't actually his idea. Of course, some more churlish bloggers might suggest that Jack McConnell hasn't actually had many ideas before now, and that his time in office might best be summed up by a departure from it that he didn't think of.

Anyway, the Mail quotes 'a source close to Jack McConnell', who says, "Jack has the option of resigning or trying to battle on. Part of him wants to stay because he feels Labour needs an experienced leader to take on a big beast like Alex Salmond. But he recognises that a lot of people in the party think it's time for a change and hanging around might cause a war. That's not a war that Jack wants to fight."

So if the source is accurate, he's going before he's pushed. A wise move, and certainly wiser than the sentiments expressed in his suggestion that "Labour needs an experienced leader to take on a big beast like Alex Salmond." Salmond has been quite willing to gut McConnell with a flick of his tongue at FMQs: when McConnell quoted the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch to describe the SNP policy on the Edinburgh Trams, Salmond replied that there was only one dead parrot in the chamber. When McConnell said that Salmond was no Donald Dewar, Salmond retorted that McConnell was no Henry McLeish. In short, on the one point that McConnell thinks works in his favour - his ability to take on Alex Salmond - McConnell falls well short.

So the question is, who will succeed him? The Mail names three names: Wendy Alexander is the first. I would imagine that she will get the votes of the Party's 39 MPs, given her closeness to Gordon Brown. Under the electoral college system, Parliamentarians get one third of the vote, so the MPs will be responsible for around 15% of the electorate, while MSPs comprise about 18%. This means that Alexander has almost one sixth of the vote virtually in the bag. Andy Kerr is the second, and is likely to get McConnell's supporters (i.e. the Labour Party in Lanarkshire). The paper names Margaret Curran's Hands as the potential third candidate, and claims she is popular with the MSPs. But is Scotland (and in particular, Scottish Labour) ready for a Party Leader called Margaret? The last Margaret didn't get such a good reception in Scotland.

So who will win out of those three? Alexander has a reputation as an intellectual, and is in a prominent position, but she's not everyone's cup of tea and probably lost a lot of friends after she bottled out of going for the Leadership in 2001. Andy Kerr represents an element of continuity, so given that McConnell lost Scotland for the first time in half a century, and given that change is felt to be needed, there's a possibility that Kerr could get tanked, unless he works hard at courting the Unions and the membership at large is actually quite happy with McConnell. Margaret Curran's Hands could surprise, but the rest of her has a rather terrifying, confrontational edge (my mother once walked in while she was being interviewed on TV and went, 'Yeeek!'), and it's the rest of her that needs to be the candidate. She needs to get the hands under control. None of the successors are ideal. And that's a big problem.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Considering Brian Lironi wrote it, it raises some questions.

Ted Harvey said...

It's just breathtaking that the Scottish Labour Party is in such a state that a piliticain of the calibre of Margeret Curran is even mentioned as a serious contender as Leader.

She epitomises os much that is utterly wrong and now outmoded in the old Scottish Labour establishment mindset - parochial, 'one of the connected', aggressive and suppine when it comes to her Westminster superiors.

The Executive's entire community regeneration remit never recovered from the replacement of the inestimiable Jackie Baillie by the junior Margaret in some skullduggery... didn't she glory quite happily in the unofficial title of 'Baillieston banshee?'