13 March 2009

What next for Dundee?

The SNP has won the Maryfield By-Election on Dundee City Council, with an increased first preference vote share and a small swing from Labour. Dundee, of course, became an SNP City at Holyrood last year with Shona Robison holding Dundee East and Joe FitzPatrick gaining Dundee West. And the SNP are the largest group on Dundee City Council, but control was in the hands of a Labour/LibDem Coalition that relied on Tory backing.

Between them, the three parties had fifteen seats out of twenty nine. They now hae fourteen, and have therefore lost their majority.

The SNP had thirteen seats. They too now have fourteen, drawing the party level with the three Unionist parties combined.

(Incidentally, this should serve as a warning to Councillors just over the boundary in Angus, where the opposition to the SNP - which previously controlled the Council - pulled a similar stunt and formed the Angus Alliance: yesterday saw a 3% swing away from the combined first prefernce vote share of the three parties in Dundee so this would be a good time for Alliance Counciilors in Angus who got in on transfers to start checking the arithmetic again!)

The SNP have, therefore, suggested that it would be sensible for them to assume control of the Council. If one of the Unionist parties breaks away (and it's a big if), then it's a done deal. Otherwise, it now all hangs on Ian Borthwick, the sole Independent.

My guess is that it will indeed come down to Councillor Borthwick: simply consider the hostility to the SNP from the other parties that must surely be the cause for the current administrative arrangements.

Firstly, the Grand Unionist Coalition that it's rumoured was attempted by Gordon Brown and Ming Campbell couldn't be formed at Holyrood. In Dundee, they appeared to manage it without any prodding from UK Party Leaders.

Secondly, we're told so often about how Labour hate the Tories and how a vote for anyone else would let them in and that would be a disaster. In Dundee, Labour see Tory support for their administration as a good thing. One wonders if they'll mention that in their election literature.

Thirdly, the Tories take the view that the Labour Government at Westminster is bad enough without it being coupled with a Labour-led Government at Holyrood. In Dundee, this distaste for Labour does not extent to the Council Chambers.

Fourthly, the Tories spent eight years ripping the piss out of the Labour/LibDem Coalition at Holyrood. In Dundee, they've been propping it up.

Fifthly, the LibDems chose Opposition over joining any Coalition at Holyrood in 2007, and even spurned Labour, their long-standing partner. The most likely reason for this was Labour's second place: the absence of a Parliamentary majority even with the combination of the two parties was another possible reason. In Dundee, the two parties combined actually had fewer Councillors than the SNP alone after the May elections, and still pressed ahead.

Basically, unless Councillor Borthwick actually joins the Grand Unionist Coalition in Dundee, it looks like the city is heading for a minority administration. The question now is whether it will contain one party or three.

And the next two years of Dundonian politics rest in the hands of one man: Councillor Borthwick. We shall see what he decides.


Oldrightie said...

Labour, so yesterday!

Holyrood Patter said...

the stv at the council can provide wider ammo.
im based in greenock, not fertile ground for the snp, but our branch is using the phrse new labour/tory coalition as often as possible, and hope to get some truck out of it

Advanced Media Watch said...

Labour in Scotland will do anything to keep the SNP out and in England they act like Conservatives in Morris dancers attire.

The Libs are rank, In Edinburgh they jump into bed with the SNP but 40 miles north they ditch the SNP for a grand pan unionists alliance.

If the independent councillor has any sense then he would opt to go with the SNP, having 3 parties running a council is a big mistake, to much bickering.

Grogipher said...

Few wee things mate - I don't see how we'd be able to form a minority administration, as that would first require a motion of no confidence..

Post elections, you can form a minority administration aye, but I don't see how it would be possible for the SNP's 14 votes to oust the ruling administration, especially with the Provost's casting vote.

Secondly, there are other options available. I won't go into too much detail, but the independent is not the only option. Two of the three parties in the administration have severe internal issues, that may have a larger say on the eventual outcome.

subrosa said...

Interesting times in Dundee right enough. I'm with Arthur on this one, I think it's down to Mr Borthwick the independent.

Have never understood why the tories are onside with the labour and libdems, neither have many Dundee tory voters.

Will said...

G, in terms of the no-confidence vote and minority administration, there is a precedent of that happening in Stirling, where the SNP got Tory support for the night and Labour's Gerard O'Brien went AWOL, allowing the Opposition to oust both the administration and the Provost.

With the support of just one other Councillor (hence my focus on Borthwick), the SNP would have enough backing for a successful no-confidence vote without the Lord Provost's casting vote coming into play, and could potentially remove the LP himself.

Obviously, you've got the inside track on tensions within Council groups... I'm just using the present unwieldy arrangements as the basis for my argument. If there are Councillors within the groups that are less than happy with things, however, than that's another matter...