23 May 2010

Have I instigated this?

This is what I said about the Scottish Tory reshuffle:

And what happened to Mary Scanlon? Has she irked Ms Goldie? Or is she standing down like her fellow 1947 baby Bill Aitken, who is after all only six weeks older than her? If he's going, then you can see why she'd be going too. Incidentally, if this is the case, can we expect Ted Brocklebank and Nanette Milne, both born in 1942, to depart as well? If so, this would represent a relatively major infusion of new blood for the Tory Group.

This was in the Sunday Herald:

There is speculation Ted Brocklebank, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife and Nanette Milne, MSP for North East Scotland, may also step down in 2011.

Brocklebank, 67, and Milne, 68, have both been MSPs since 2003.

After her demotion in a Tory reshuffle last week, former Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon, 62, is also under pressure to go.

Now, we should note that Mary Scanlon has voiced an intention to seek re-election, and Nanette Milne is inclined to do the same, but the Sunday Herald couldn't get hold of Brocklebank. Incidentally, they went further and queried Sir Jamie McGrigor's position, and he didn't get back to them either.

Nevertheless, it's telling that out of 16 MSPs, the retirement of one has prompted allegations of fustiness for a further four members. This isn't helped in Scanlon's case by her demotion from the front bench so that Murdo Fraser can take her portfolio. It's telling as well that in Scanlon's Parliamentary career, she was Health Spokesperson all through her first term, and Communities Spokesperson in her second until her resignation to fight the Moray By-Election. Then, after the 2007 election, her return to Holyrood and the reorganisation of the Tory front bench to map onto the new Scottish Government Ministerial structure, she returned to Health. Now, in a small group, there's a versatility expected of members (Ross Finnie spent eight years as Rural Affairs Minister: when the LibDems went into Opposition, he became Health Spokesman), and you'd expect that a trusted frontbencher would just move to a different, vacant portfolio in a reshuffle - in this case, Education in a straight swap with Murdo Fraser, or Justice. But not this time. Clearly, there has been an expression of only limited confidence in Mary Scanlon on the part of Annabel Goldie, and one has to wonder what the future holds for Scanlon if she does seek, and win, re-election in 2011.

But what about the fustiness or otherwise of the Tories? Well, in the first place, it depends on how you define it. If you're linking it to age, and you shouldn't, then you have to define at what age one does cease to be fit to serve. And it's interesting that Kenneth Clarke, seven years the retiring Bill Aitken's senior, has just been appointed to the post of (funnily enough) Justice Minister and Lord Chancellor. So if he's fit for that, then Bill Aitken and all the Tory MSPs mentioned above are fit to carry on. Similarly, next month, Clarke will reach his 40th Anniversary of being elected to Parliament for the first time. The Scottish Parliament is only eleven years old. Again, if he's fit to carry on, so are the MSPs.

And besides, with one known retirement, with boundary changes basically gifting the Tories two extra seats, and with uncertainty about whether or not Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson will seek re-election and if so, with what styling (his two predecessors quit Parliament at the end of their term) then there are three, possibly four potential new faces who will be tasked with defending a Conservative seat.

In Central Scotland, Margaret Mitchell has been the Party's sole MSP since 2003, so can hardly be described as a 'bed-blocker'. And despite having no portfolio at all and being exiled to Convenership of the Equal Opportunities Committee, it's hard to think of a credible local replacement.

We know that Bill Aitken is standing down as an MSP for Glasgow in 2011 after 12 years.

The Highlands & Islands cohort is in need of the most renewal: Mary Scanlon was an MSP since 1999, save for a year out of Parliament following her attempt to win Moray, and her replacement, Dave Petrie, ended up ranked fifth on the Tory list in 2007. Jamie McGrigor has been in situ continuously since the formation of the devolved Parliament. If new blood is needed, it's here.

In Lothian, it's a different story: David McLetchie has been an MSP since 1999 but is something of a big hitter in the Scottish Tories, while up-and-coming Gavin Brown was only elected in 2007. That's a reasonable mix.

In Mid Scotland and Fife, none of the sitting MSPs were elected in 1999: Murdo Fraser came in two years later, following the resignation of Nick Johnston; Ted Brocklebank was third in the 2003 rankings (when sitting MSP Keith Harding was ranked fifth and ended up defecting to the People's Alliance), and remained there in 2007, where he was overtaken by Liz Smith, who was able to capitalise on Brian Monteith's departure from the party. So this region has had some pretty high Tory turnover anyway.

North East Scotland has Alex Johnstone, MSP since 1999, Nanette Milne, MSP since 2003, and a vacant Regional slot thanks to the extra SNP Constituency in Angus North & Mearns. So there is, unless the Tories go backwards, scope for new blood anyway.

South Scotland sees the Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson as the only remaining Tory member of the Class of 1999 (Phil Gallie stood down in 2007, Murray Tosh failed to be re-elected that year and David Mundell headed to Westminster in 2005), with his elevation to the Chair making John Scott in Ayr the longest-serving Tory MSP in the South, having won the 2000 By-Election. Derek Brownlee replaced Mundell in 2005, while John Lamont entered Holyrood in 2007 having won Roxburgh & Berwickshire. Assuming the PO stands down, there's a Tory vacancy in Galloway & West Dumfries. The thing is, former MP Peter Duncan is probably the likeliest candidate given the fact that a return to Westminster isn't on the cards until the day of the 2015 Holyrood election, so he won't exactly be a breath of fresh air either. But Brownlee and Lamont provide the youth anyway.

West Scotland, meanwhile, may well have Annabel Goldie as a member since 1999, but as Leader, she's obviously untouchable. Jackson Carlaw only took a seat in 2007, but the redrawn Eastwood sees the Tories gain a seat in the Region overall, creating a vacancy.

So there is still some freshness in Tory ranks, and plenty of scope for new blood. But to get at it in any major way, they'll need to shed some of the old blood. The question is, if the sitting tenants won't leave, will the members evict them?

In the Highlands especially, they may have to.


Lallands Peat Worrier said...

I know that it is a familiar saw to say that the press is finding conducting investigative journalism increasingly difficult these days - but surely "I saw this on a blog written by some SNP blogger, it simply ~has~ to be true!" must still be a source too far! Then again, yon article does use that irritating press tick of passive voice - summoning up allegations of pressures without ever stating who the pressers might be.

While its not beyond feasibility that you have been accidentally pro(de?)moted to the position of a "senior Conservative party source" - this is probably better chalked up as clairvoyance rather than transmutation!

Will said...

Well, I still might claim indirect responsibility. After all, having had all of Friday to update their website, it still claims that Bill Aitken is the Justice Spokesman, so were it not for moi, they might not have known that the reshuffle had taken place! :)

Still, I can't resist a little post hoc, ergo propter hoc...

Anonymous said...

Can't see Peter Duncan standing again, his political career is over. If Russell Brown beats him again then Brown gets to keep him.

Brocklebank, Milne, Mitchell, Scanlon and McGrigor all need to go. None of them contribute a single thing to the group.