Sunday, 26 February 2012

Default won't do

It's been quite a quiet week, so much so that, on Friday, I half wrote a blog about having a hole in my jeans. (Don't worry reader, it will never see the light of day.)

Today, the bizarre alliance between the SNP and Rupert Murdoch might have been worthy of my attention but, to be honest, Kenny Farquharson got things exactly right when he commented last week that the National Question was already really only about the degree of devolution. Giving the Murdoch press a (wrong) steer on the date for a referendum that most probably will never take place at all might be regarded by somebody as a way to curry favour but I'm a bit bemused as to why anybody thought it would sell newspapers. Still, what do I know about favours needing returned for stories not published. Odd, mind you, that of all the politicians who have litigated over phone hacking not one has ever been from the SNP.

When I first started writing this blog however my principal target was never the Nationalists. Their house of cards was always going to collapse at some point of its own accord. Lunchtime today's performance by Stuart Hosie on the Politics Show when he announced that the SNP believed in a single UK energy market, just not in a single UK, was only the most recent example of this slow disintegration. All credit to Tom Greatrex for his speaking more and more slowly in the hope that Mr Hosie might eventually, if dimly, perceive the absurdity of his own proposition.

My principal blog concern however has always been that the collapse of Independence as a serious proposition would not, as it appears many in our own ranks assumed, lead inevitably to Labour's return to dominance of Scottish politics. And that some actual (what's the word?) thinking might be needed in that regard.

So I turn to the matter which first distracted me from the perishability of denim.

I received a communication from the Party at the end of last week which informed me that we are engaged in a consultation about how we might select more women, BAME or disabled  Scottish Parliamentary candidates.

They really, really do not get this. It simply does not matter what the sex, ethnicity or physical ability of Labour Candidates might be if they are not elected. Unless of course you hold some perverse view of equal opportunity which believes that it is important that there requires to be equal opportunity to participate in failure.

But of course that's not the underlying assumption here. The underlying assumption is that "We'll be back". And the more worrying assumption is that "We'll be back" no matter who our candidates might be. So there is no reason that we can't also engage in some social engineering in the process.

Now, I am not opposed to there being more diversity in our candidates. Indeed, if the current Group of 37 MSPs was sufficiently diverse to contain within its ranks a single credible candidate for First Minister that could only be a good thing.

But, instead, we all know that our only hope lies with the Deputy Leader who does not even sit in the Scottish Parliament.

Now, I am a great partisan of Anas Sarwar but, had he not sought the Deputy Leadership position, we had at least half a dozen new Westminster MPs who could have done so with equal credibility. We had however not a single new MSP intendedly elected who could as much as run for a bus, never mind run, ever, for that position. (Sure, the list, by virtue of our own disaster, brought in a few bright sparks but, ironically, the Labour Party did not actually intend these people to be elected).

And in the meantime, let's look as who has gone. Donald by fate but Jack, Henry, Wendy, Susan, Peter and Sam entirely voluntarily. Angus McKay and Brian Fitzpatrick by the decision of the electorate but with no wish to return. Margaret and Cathy to move on to "more important" things.

And in the search for their replacements the Labour Party viewed the Scottish Parliament as a "big Cooncil" and thus concluded that if anybody was up to the task of serving at Council level then that, in itself, qualified them to serve in the Parliament.  Only it didn't. And the electorate knew that it didn't.

But since the current Leadership operates on the basis of appeasing every internal interest group and since there is no bigger interest group than the councillors, we are consulting about different selection criteria solely with regard to diversity. Regrettably however, until we recognise that ability might also be a factor, candidature, rather than actual election, is likely to remain the only position on offer.

And is there likely to be any movement on this at next week's Conference?

You might as well hope to hear something important about where we now stand on the powers of the Scottish Parliament.


  1. "a referendum that most probably will never take place at all"


    But still you won't put your money where your mouth is? Ian, this is getting embarrassing.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "Odd, mind you, that of all the politicians who have litigated over phone hacking not one has ever been from the SNP."

    Absent the blinkers of prejudice, it might have occurred to you this may be because no SNP politicians were involved in any scandals. Nor regarded as likely to be.