13 September 2008

Leadership Saturday: It remains to be seen just how easy it is being Gray

Iain Gray is now the Leader of the Scottish Opposition, with Cathy Jamieson coming second and Andy Kerr third. The full breakdown of results hasn't yet been published and it will be interesting to see how the individual blocs in the Electoral College voted.

This is a mistake. At a time when the Labour Government at Westminster is disintegrating more dramatically than anything Labour at Holyrood has ever been able to muster, the last thing Labour at Holyrood needed was to hitch themselves to the Westminster wagons, which are in the process of plunging into a rather deep canyon. And Gray is the closest of the candidates to Downing Street, make no mistake - even if he tried to avoid any form of public support from the likes of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling... a sort of endorsement that dare not speak its name. The man has had a charisma bypass, is a rubbish communicator if that interview on Newsnight Scotland is anything to go by, and displayed tactical insanity in his decision to abstain on the Budget as Shadow Finance Secretary. And he's a mark of continuity within the party: from Alexander to Gray, the same approach and so with that the inability to reform the party where it counts. I can only imagine that champagne is being supped in Bute House right now.

Of course, the choice wasn't great - this is borne out by the fact that no candidate managed to win outright on the first vote. Cathy Jamieson had re-re-positioned herself on the party's Left, annoying the 'reformist' wing but still not winning back the trust of the left-wingers she deserted as a Minister. Nevertheless, that ticket would have probably given the activists a boost and might have won a few disaffected voters back. Andy Kerr triggered a turf war between MPs and MSPs, and would have undoubtedly caused a full-on civil war within Scottish Labour, but once the fog had cleared, the dust had settled, Labour had lost a General Election and Brown had found himself out on his ear, Kerr would have been the last man standing, able to implement his agenda and make changes to the Party which might have made them a more effective unit, being able to write their own manifesto without clearing it with the UK party first, for the 2011 Election.

But Gray, despite seeking to "close the 2007 manifesto" does not appear to offer substantive changes from the status quo, and will continue the Labour line of defaulting to blaming the SNP automatically for any rows or threats emanating from Whitehall rather than trying to produce something more concilliatory. No, Gray is Labour's man in Scotland, not Scotland's man in Labour. And the new Leader of the Opposition is not helped by a YouGov poll which found that just 3% of respondents saw him as the best potential First Minister. Even if all those who named a Labour candidate were to rally round him, he would have a personal support level of just 12%.

Meanwhile, Johann Lamont is now Deputy Leader. As an outsider to the Labour process, I'm afraid I must confess that I do not know anything about what she offered, other than spite towards the SNP. Clearly she is going to be the 'attack dog' (as Vice-Presidential candidates are meant to be) of the ticket but Labour's relentless negativity cost them first place in the Scottish Parliament, in local Councils, in Crewe & Nantwich and Glasgow East. Labour needs to muzzle its attack dogs, not elevate them to the Deputy Leadership; it needs to produce new, positive polices, not the same old mince that has seen its popularity rightly plunge.

But I do not believe that Labour's new ticket is aware of that.


Scot by choice said...

Hey Mac, don't lose much time in the non-issue of whom is going to be Alex's next verbal punchball and focus on Kezia being forced by Google's Editors to drop the text of Hamif's daughter from her blog. She has not commented on it yet but Brooks of the Jhonston stables has already publish the new in the Press and Journal.

Will said...

I ain't touching that one - except to say that I remember how cut up people were when Wendy Alexander rightly took pelters for breaking the law of the land now seek to attack Hanif, who at no point has sought to be a First Ministerial candidate in Scotland, unlike Ms Alexander.

You can't complain about a witch-hunt against Wendy one week and go digging mercilessly through Hanif's history the next.

Anonymous said...

Will....."You can't complain about a witch-hunt against Wendy one week and go digging mercilessly through Hanif's history the next."???
Not sure of your logic here - that is exactly what you can do! Or, in common parlance, what goes around, comes around.

Will said...

David... the logic is quite obvious and easy to understand. If someone complains that something isn't right one week, then does that very thing themselves the next week, that not a case of "what goes around comes around", it's hypocrisy. If something's wrong when someone else does it, it's wrong when you do it. Simple as.

Anonymous said...

Well, yah boo! It was you who introduced some very dodgy parallels. I'm sure hitting someone's wrong. Hitting them back is usually looked upon in a different light.

Will said...

Yes, it's called retaliation and in some circles it's punished more severely.

The fact is that you can't say that a witch-hunt is a bad thing one week, then go on a witch-hunt the next.

You can't whinge about your rivals capitalising on errors committed by your party's Leader, then make hay when a Councillor on the other side makes the papers for the wrong reasons.

This is the typical Labour mentality post-Alexander: you hurt us so we're going to hurt you back. It makes the party look petty, it makes the party look childish and it makes the party look hypocritical.

If something's wrong, it stays wrong - no matter who does it.

Anonymous said...

This is the typical Labour mentality post-Alexander: you hurt us so we're going to hurt you back.

I agree with that (I'm not a Labour member btw but know enough of them). As for how it looks, I don't think that's a consideration; enough people simply want scores settled. That's what nationalism introduces into the body politic - it doesn't have a great record across Europe for encouraging dialogue.

Will said...

Well, we agree on something, at least, but I hardly think you can blame nationalism for Labour's approach to politics (unless you count the fact that the SNP are Labour's opponents)!

And it's worth pointing out that multi-national states don't have the greatest of records either. But at least the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia (the last two post-45) had something - even if it was a doomed ideology - to hold them together. When you took that away, what was left? Sham states that couldn't sustain themselves.

reasons to be cheerfull..one! two! three! said...

Hey guys,

Lighten up! Andy Kerr isn't leader of the Labour party- be grateful for small mercies..

Ted Harvey said...

Yes, getting back to Will's original point. The election of Gray as Leader of the Scottish Opposition is so wrong-headed of Labour as to be almost incredible.

But there again, I suppose it is just another demonstration of the long slow decay and decline of Labour, and the most visible symptom of this :- its deeply unlearning and unadaptive mindset.

At the weekend I almost felt a grimace come on when I saw on TV Gray's risible attempts to sound all leader-like... an attempt that involved a momentary near-shouting at two points before subsiding back into droning banality..

Lamont was a failure as a junior Minister in the Scottish Executive. Methinks she is indeed now maybe settling for the marginalised and undignified role of 'attack dog'... help ma Boab! Maybe she is another Labour politician that wants to be known as 'Stalin's Granny'!