04 August 2007

The Dreaded Vote of Confidence

Liberal Democrat MSPs have all signed Nicol Stephen's nomination form to be re-elected as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, so perhaps reports of his impending political demise are exaggerated, as his position is effectively secure until 2011. However, there are still questions.

The Herald quotes Mike Rumbles: "I am absolutely certain Nicol Stephen will be re-elected in October. He is the best man for the job and he has the backing of all the MSPs, including myself." Given that Rumbles stood against Stephen in 2005, the question has to be asked: did Rumbles not think he was the best man for the job in 2005? Or has he only stopped thinking of himself as the bes man for the job since then, and if so, why?

The Herald also quotes Tavish Scott: "If I had wanted to stand as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats I would have done so two years ago." That's not a ringing endorsement. The question here is, what happens if Scott changes his mind? Is Nicol Stephen a hostage to Tavish Scott's good will?

Scott continues: "That policy of continuity was the strategy every time Jim Wallace stood, and I think you will find it's not in the tradition of Liberal Democrats to have a bloodletting whenever they decide to consider the leadership." That's even less of an endorsement: while Rumbles at least offers praise (however dubious) for Nicol Stephen, Scott's rationale against a challenge is that the LibDems prefer continuity and don't do bloodletting. What Scott is saying is that Nicol Stephen will only avoid a challenge because he is already the Leader.

And there's a wider question about this decision. Didn't Charles Kennedy find himself unopposed after the 2005 Westminster Election? Didn't Kennedy then find a massive array of knives plunged into his back within a few months?

Nicol Stephen is not out of the woods at all.

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