25 July 2007

A swift boot up the Jack-sy

(Running out of 'Jack'-based headlines? Moi?)

Well, folks, we have a stalking horse. Or at least, we appear to. Charlie Gordon (the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, after the By-Election to replace Mike Watson) has decided that it's time that the Labour Party was given a say on its Leader in the Scottish Parliament (this would be a first, incidentally: in the McLeish-McConnell contest a hastily arranged Electoral College involving MSPs and the Party's Scottish Executive, and McConnell then decided not to contest the full Leadership Election held later), and that he could be the one to bring it about.

According to the Herald: "However, it is understood he has little expectation of winning the leadership, and that the effect would be to draw other MSPs into such a race.

"Contacted yesterday, Mr Gordon would say only that he has not ruled out standing to force a contest."

I'm not totally certain of the procedure for ousting a sitting leader, but when there's a vacancy, candidates require the backing of one eighth of the Parliamentary Party, or six MSPs in this case. In 2001, John McAllion and Malcolm Chisholm both failed to get the seven that was needed then. Will Charlie Gordon succeed where they could not? (If Labour people were willing to enlighten me as regards the procedure of ousting an incumbent, I would be grateful)

In a sense, it doen't matter. The pendulum has swung against Jack McConnell: Annabel Goldie was seen as in trouble before the campaign got underway. As it did, McConnell was seen as the one in the weakest position. In the aftermath of the election, Nicol Stephen appeared to be in difficulty, but the spotlight has again shifted to McConnell. The Labour group has the poorest discipline of any of the groups in terms of rebellions (see Whips passim) and people are not just talking about life after McConnell, they're talking about either making life after McConnell happen ASAP, or at the very least throwing the question of the Leadership open to a wider audience. Charlie Gordon has said that he will force a contest, and Wendy Alexander's campaign is being prepared, if there is to be a vacancy. The conclusion is clear: the vultures are circling, and McConnell's time is up.

Perhaps it would have been better for McConnell if Labour had lost the Cathcart By-Election back in 2005!


Richard Havers said...

Nicol Stephen? Who's he?

Jeff said...

Is it just me or does this looming leadership contest have the potential to be a real slugfest?

We've seen polite and positive leadership contests recently (Davis vs Cameron, Huhne vs Campbell) but I just don't think Curran, Alexander and Kerr have it in them to rein in their inner beasts and keep the debate constructive when they want it so bad.

I can hardly wait.....

Do you think Wendy has it in the bag?

Will said...

Richard - I'm surprised you haven't heard of Nicol Stephen, he's a rather notable oddity: a human version of a Ryvita.

And Jeff, you're right, it'll be cathartic and ugly. But Wendy does absolutely not have it in the bag. I suspect that she will have support from each part of the Electoral College: she'll have the MPs, but the MSPs will be split between Curran and Kerr; she'll have a fair part of the Membership and I suspect she'll battle with Margaret Curran for the Trade Union vote, I suspect, but Wendy's supprt from the Unions will be based on her closeness to Brown. In terms of actual policy, Curran will have the edge there.

In a contest, Wendy would almost certainly get the most first preference votes, but based on what I think is likely to happen, Curran will be second, and Andy Kerr's transfers will be up for grabs. Curran could surprise us all, and win.

Lord Straf-Bollinger said...

The Labour group has the poorest discipline of any of the groups in terms of rebellions ...

This is common to all Labour caucuses and parliamentary parties in the commonwealth. It's endemic.