02 July 2008

You wait three years for a Leadership Election, then two come along at once

The last time there was a competitive election for the Leadership of one of the main political parties in Scotland was June 2005, following the resignation of Jim Wallace as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. It is the winner of that Election, Nicol Stephen, who has resigned, triggering the second Leadership Contest in Scottish politics in the space of a week.

The official reason is that he wishes to spend more time with his family, and that the stresses and strains that the job places on his family life had become too great. I find it odd that Leadership of a Party in Opposition - just when you've started to settle into a formula at FMQs - is more pressurised than Leadership of a Party combined with the Deputy First Minister job and a Ministerial portfolio, but having never experienced either, I can't say for sure. Though I imagine that either way, there are serious pressures. But you have to wonder which stresses and strains in particular have grown to unbearable levels. Perhaps it will come out in the campaign. Perhaps speculation will come out anyway. We shall see.

So who would be the runners and riders? Tavish Scott will stand, I'm certain. I'd bet on him winning, as well. But the LibDems don't do coronations - I'm pretty sure I saw that Mike Rumbles only challenged Nicol Stephen because he was asked to provide some form of contest - so there will be at least one other name on the ballot paper. Mike Rumbles probably won't - I think he's allied to Scott and his time has passed anyway.
One of the Smiths is a vague possibility but their prospects wouldn't be all that great, alas, alas. Robert Brown is also a possibility but his top campaign priority should be to ditch the combover. I just don't see Ross Finnie standing, and if Jeremy Purvis is smart, he won't. He will go the way of a former possible candidate in a Federal LibDem Leadership Election if he does. Some might say he already did. In fact, some might say he went that way first.

Anyway. Back to the first Leadership Contest. Cathy Jamieson is thinking about it. Margaret Curran has been asked to stand, apparently, but Jeff made a good call regarding her being Iain Gray's running mate instead. Charlie Gordon, without whom there would probably be no vacancy, is thinking about it. Andy Kerr is strangely silent. And let's be honest, it's strange for Andy Kerr to be silent. In any case, they're not even initiating proceedings (ha!) until after Glasgow East, so Labour will go into that By-Election with a vacuum at the top, Wendy's potential successors campaigning but not openly, and with Gordon Brown left to carry the can if and when things go wrong. Not great, frankly.

So all eyes will continue to be on the strange death of Scottish Labour - which is probably why Nicol Stephen went now: to get an awkward moment (whether he likes it or not, Leadership vacancies are pretty awkward) for his party out of the way while no one is watching.

Personally, I intend to watch this one very closely. While the flurry of posts on Nicol Stephen's resignation is just beginning, I'm guessing that attention will eventually drift back to Labour. But not everyone's will, and the LibDems will have people watching - I am in a position to guarantee it.


Anonymous said...

Consider this question.

Why would someone resign at 9.15 on a Wednesday evening, completely out of the blue, if it was simply to spend more time with their family? Surely they would advise their close associates and constituency party of their decision and arrange a press call for the following day?

The Libs had no idea Nicol was even contemplating standing down, and they have been thrown into complete disarray.

Factor in that they are now about to select their third different candidate for the Aberdeen South Westminster seat, maybe there's something rotten afoot in the locale?

There's more to this one than meets the eye.

boxthejack said...

What rot, Anon!

You ken Nicol better than that. And parliamentarians have known for a few days.

I think Will's take is fair. If he was wanting to leave this summer, the first week of recess is the best time for his party. Bonus that Wendy's woes are the headline.

Renewal said...

Actually (if you can bear with the length of this posting) it’s three elections if you include another one that involves the Glasgow East seat and 50 million quid.

The massive new Urban Regeneration Company, Clyde Gateway, said it would enlist a couple of ‘Community Directors’. There is to be one from Glasgow East and one from South Lanarkshire. The South Lanarkshire one has just been ‘elected’ by what was called the community (well use the words ‘elected’ and ‘community’ if you have a odd sense of logic).

The South Lanarkshire Community Director was elected on the strength of little more than half a dozen votes. The votes were enlisted from a chosen constituency of ‘local community organisations’… and who selected the organisations eligible to vote? Why, our very own South Lanarkshire Council officials.

I can't yet find anybody who seems to be clear as to why particular organisations were chosen or excluded or who decreed the timing or method of election. Those in the local know, might argue that there was almost no understanding among any of the invited organisations as to what was being really voted for. Did the elected candidate know either? They mostly seemed to think that they were voting for a ‘community representative’; hence their understandable choice, of a safe, elderly, popular local volunteer.

In fact, I believe, the post is as the director of an incorporated body, one member among a team of high calibre professional board members. The director, in law, must act in the interests of the company at all times – so he cannot do that and act on behalf of the community at the same time. Just how the ‘Community Director’ and his constituent communities are going to square that when the inevitable community-versus-big-developer campaigns arrive will be interesting to behold.

Is this all a wee bit of petty local (Labour Party?) politics? Well it might be until you realise that the Urban Regeneration Company will have at least £50 to £60 million pounds (that’s £50 to £60 million pounds, people!) of taxpayers money to spend - for starters. This is a sum of taxpayers money that no properly elected Councilor, MSP or MP has such an individual personal direct influence over in the way that is happening with this Regeneration Company.

The accountability over public money and Urban Regeneration Companies in Scotland needs urgent examination. Clyde Gateway will be the biggest one so far – and going by the doings around the ‘election’ of this ‘Community Director’, things do not bode well for future governance. The media will doubtless be watching this one – but meantime, whats happening to the SNP or Lib Dem scrutiny in South Lanarkshire and Glasgow East on these activities?

McChatterer said...

>>He will go the way of a former possible candidate in a Federal LibDem Leadership Election if he does. Some might say he already did. In fact, some might say he went that way first.
That seems a long-winded way of saying Purvis is gay - but presumably there is more to it?

Will said...

Purvis's sexual orientation in and of itself isn't the issue - or at least, shouldn't be, though the tabloids will make it one. Certainly, I'd be a bit of a hypocrite to discuss it.

However, what will emerge is what he is alleged to have done, and where he's alleged to have done it.