08 December 2007

And so, we wait

Despite this blogger's predictions - and hopes - Wendy Alexander is still Leader of Scottish Labour. She is waiting for what the Electoral Commission say, and in fairness to her, there is a logic to that. If Charlie Gordon - or, as Navraj Ghaleigh would have it, David Whitton - were to be the fall guy who takes the blame, then a Wendy Alexander resignation would serve nothing and she would live to fight another day. She would be wounded, there's no question about that, but she could survive.

More interestingly, and from Wendy's perspective more dangerously, Charlie Gordon has confounded everyone by announcing that he's staying and fighting. He too is waiting for the Electoral Commission to report and has tided himself over by attacking practically everyone, mostly on his own side, and particularly former colleagues in Glasgow City Council's Labour Group.

Firstly, this decision does not square with his original decision to resign as Shadow Transport Minister. Is he now going to un-resign? Would Wendy let him? Why was it that the facts made his position on the frontbench untenable, but we have to await confirmation from the Electoral Commission before his position on any bench becomes untenable?

Secondly, Wendy now has a threat. Gordon has been hung out to dry. If they both survive, Wendy has an enemy on the backbenches, who could wreak havoc, Gordon did more than many to undermine Jack McConnell - the two were not exactly bosom pals and Gordon threatened to act as a stalking horse if McConnell's leadership had continued. Charlie Gordon now provides a destabilising influence - as if it were needed - on the Labour benches. Will his colleagues rally round to him? After his combattive statement, it's doubtful, but Wendy has a threat, a potential critic, with an axe to grind. One public critic has a habit of generating a second, even if the two have different grounds for their position, different criticisms to make, and can't stand each other. None of that matters: once one egg is thrown, a second can follow. Then a third, and so on.

Thirdly, should Gordon be damned by the Electoral Commission and has to resign, it doesn't matter whether or not Wendy is in trouble as well, she's still toast. And the reason is simple: by not going with dignity right at the start,Gordon has chosen to fight on and prove his innocence. But if there is no innocence to prove, what then? Gordon has committed the same false indignation that did for the likes of Jonathan Aitken. And what happened to his party? Anyway, Gordon's reputation would be in the mud, Labour would be bounced into a By-Election they didn't want, and with Gordon having attacked everyone, key figures in the local - and national - party would be at each other's throats. This would all but hand the seat to the SNP and that would kill off Wendy Alexander's leadership. Weak performances at FMQs are one thing. A scandal is another - we do not yet know if Wendy has what footballers call 'bouncebackability' so she may survive this. But an electoral defeat to the SNP, in combination with those other factors, may prove to be the final straw, and the Labour MPs who have been supporting her to keep Brown safe may start looking nervously to their own seats, their own majorities, and gently suggest that out of the 44 other people who would be available, one of them might have a better shot of getting Labour back on the success vector than Wendy Alexander.

In any case, Wendy Alexander and Charlie Gordon have both publicly tied their futures to the Electoral Commission, so those hoping for a quick beheading will be disappointed. Wait we must, and wait we will.

Or must we? This story has been driven primarily by the Sunday papers, most notably the Sunday Herald. Who will get what coverage this week?

Perhaps we need only wait a couple of hours to see what will happen: if the story dies down, then the Commission will have the final say. If not, the vultures will be circling. Perhaps they may even be preparing to swoop.

So the fate of the Scottish Parliament's main opposition party rests in Paul Hutcheon's hands. We await his next move.


Jeff said...

Great post!

And Paul Hutcheon may not have disappointed you this morning, he's trying his level best to continue the Labour pains...

I particularly liked your prediction that a Cathcart by-election loss could be Wendy's moment to step down.

Very astute and highly plausible.

Ted Harvey said...

I was at a major national awards dinner last Thursday.It was a non-party political event with a wide cross-sector audience. I was struck by the overwhelming consensus that Labour in Scotland was 'toast' as a direct consequence of the selfish and desperate decisions of both Alexander and Gordon to hang on in in the face of utter indignity and public cynicism. These decisions were seen as ensuring a dire forseeable scenario for Scottish Labour.

For me the most telling remark was from a senior local government official and long term Labour loyalist. He had decided to take early retirement (well there is the fantastic public sector pension). He has already given up, on the political activity, mostly because of disillusion. His take was that Labour had long ago given up on its traditional member and activist base that would have stood with it throughout the present unfolding crisis. Instead it had 'been bought by' and procured new corporate friends whose friendship, is purely instrumental. Now that the 'benefits' of association with Labour are doubtful, these new 'friends' will just walk away... and even take up with the opposition.

neil craig said...

Who could credibly lead the party? McConnell's weakness was that Wendy was always there & always looked like a credible leader. Wendy has no such problem & Labour no such strength. Charlie Gordon was probably the guy with most credible competence (talking broadly) as a chief executive.