11 March 2010

Bo, Selecta!

Well, you have to admire Labour's eagerness. At a time when there are still vacancies unfilled (and a situation in East Lothian where the local party is seeking to create a vacancy) for an election this Spring, some activists are looking forward to next year's Holyrood elections. Well, the ones with the potentially messy selection contests.

And the one for Renfrewshire South did have the capacity for a mess: the seat is effectively a new one, created with offcuts from West Renfrewshire, Paisley South and Eastwood. Now, the sitting MSP for the first of these, Trish Godman, is probably in a wiser position to stand in Renfrewshire North & West. The sitting MSP for the second, Hugh Henry, could have easily fought Paisley but that would have involved a selection contest with Wendy Alexander if she is a mind to stand again, so Renfrewshire South perhaps seemed the better bet. And the MSP for the third, Ken Macintosh, could stand again in Eastwood, but that seat sees some very unfortunate (for him) boundary changes, which mean he has to be sure of a 3.15% swing from the Tories to Labour just to hold onto his job. So Renfrewshire South was always going to be a battle between Messrs Henry and Macintosh.

Hugh Henry has won that battle.

This is significant, not least for Ken Macintosh, whose wish to get re-elected has become considerably more difficult (remember also that the notional Tory majority of 2,018 in Eastwood is, if anything, lower than it ought to be thanks to the intervention of an independent, former Tory, candidate in the last election, who prevented Jackson Carlaw from winning the seat on the old boundaries).

But more importantly, everyone likes to talk about Jim Murphy swooping to Holyrood like an avenging angel should he be beaten by the Tories' Richard Cook in a few weeks' time. But where? With Trish Godman in Renfrewshire North & West, Wendy Alexander in Paisley, and Hugh Henry in Paisley South, there ain't no room, particularly with Ken Macintosh's plans for a chicken run thwarted.

And the Regional List is no help to either of them: Labour's constituency performance means that the party is, notionally, over-represented in West Scotland: by rights, they ought to have seven seats rather than eight, and the SNP ought to have six seats rather than five. That means that any Labour hopeful on the List needs a swing from Labour to the SNP of 4.63% on the Constituency Vote (enough for the SNP to win Dumbarton and Cunninghame South, taking out Irene Oldfather and Jackie Baillie in the process) yet at the same time, has to hope that Labour's Regional vote losses are minimised. A difficult position to be in.

So, before we have the Westminster election out of the way, we have the opening, internal manoeuvres in the Holyrood election. And they aren't good for the Shadow Minister for Schools and Skills.


Andrea said...

I wondered why Labour decided to run the (re)selection processes for Holyrood in the run up of the GE campaign. Couldn't they have waited until June? Maybe nothing will happen, but selection contests can sometimes generate a bit of recrimination and bitterness.

Is Trish Godman standing again? She's not so young anymore

Will said...

Andrea, I thought it was odd to do it now, but then, we've had a fairly balanced electoral cycle, with an election every two years, alternating between Westminster and Holyrood. Leaving the dissolution until 2010 has thrown things out of sync and the result, I fear, is a rushed process for Holyrood.

Remember that, from an SNP perspective, candidate selection for 2007 was pretty much taken care of to the extent that all the Regional Lists were in place by July 2006 - ten months before the election - and it's clear that there's a major dilemma for party organisers here: try to run two parliamentary election campaigns at the same time, or cram everything for Holyrood into the half the time everyone's used to having. I guess Renfrewshire Labour just felt that it was better to get the early start, get things over with, and make sure that everyone knows where they stand. Macintosh now has a little time to decide what he wants to do in Eastwood, while had he won this contest, Hugh Henry would have had ample time to campaign for the Paisley selection.

I know that Trish Godman has indicated that she wishes to in the check that Labour usually runs - everyone but George Foulkes voiced that intention if I recall correctly - but you're right, she is in her eighth decade now, so at the next election so there will surely be doubts as to whether or not she fancies carrying on until the age of 75.

On the other hand, John Farquhar Munro will be 76 come the next Scottish election, and SSCUP Leader John Swinburne sought re-election just two months before his 77th birthday, so there's precedent for Trish Godman carrying on at least until 2015...

Andrea said...

Will, what is/were the timetable for SNP re/selections this time?

Will said...

I haven't heard anything formal as yet, Andrea - I suspect that local branches are starting to make arrangements, and I daresay it may well come up at Conference next week, but as yet, nothing official.