Thursday, 22 November 2012

48 Hours

There is no better example of the steady decline of the quality of the Scottish Parliament than the fact that Tricia Marwick is now its Presiding Officer.

In 1999, the first Presiding Officer was David Steel. Now I am no Liberal Democrat but David Steel is a major political figure. In 1983, given a few percentage points, he could have been leader of the Opposition and, who knows, potential next Prime Minister. Throughout his life he has been a major player in the movement for Scottish Home Rule and he is, even today, a readily recognised public figure throughout these isles.

In 2003, he was replaced by George Reid, perhaps not as well known throughout the UK, but still a well known and respected public figure in Scotland. One, surely, of the more intellectual members of the SNP and recognised even by his opponents as a person of truly independent mind, in both senses of that word.

In 2007 we had Alex Ferguson. Now, no disrespect to him, he was hardly either Steel or Reid in terms of previous record but he was regarded across the political sphere as a decent cove who could be counted on to arbitrate freely and fairly (if not always correctly) on the matters placed before him. And, anyway, given the numerical dynamic of that Parliament, he was one of the few people prepared to stand.

And then in 2011?

No harm to Tricia Marwick but she had hardly set the Scottish Parliament afire in her previous twelve years during which she had only featured briefly on (even) the opposition front bench. She was (and is) the sort of person who can prosper in any Party by working hard for the cause and never saying anything remotely controversial. I could easily identify numerous similar members of my own Party now sitting comfortably on the Holyrood or even Westminster benches.

And politics, all politics, needs such people. Deep breath, she reminds me a bit of Michael McMahon on our own side.

But, in the aftermath of the SNP landslide in 2011, somebody decided that she should be made Presiding Officer.

For what it's worth, I doubt if that was she herself for she strikes me as somebody not driven by personal ambition. Rather, I suspect that more serious operators within the SNP realised the importance of controlling the chair and employed all the tools of flattery to persuade her to put her name forward. Which she did, and then found herself, to her own incomprehension, elected. A bit like Chance the Gardener.

But having been put there as a pawn, that is exactly how she has behaved and in consequence her authority has steadily declined. Leading ultimately to the debacle of the last 48 hours.

Of all the MSPs likely to be suspended from the Scottish Parliament, Michael McMahon would be pretty far down the list. He, himself, is such a decent fellow that I myself have previously railed against his even handedness in allowing SNP members to talk pish, without contradiction, in his capacity as chair of the Welfare Reform Committee.

His "offence" was to express his frustration that in attempting to cover up for her Leader's most recent duplicity, the Presiding Officer was "out of order", as, on any objective view, she was. Her reaction was to suspend him from Parliament.

In the heat of the moment, I made a number of intemperate remarks on twitter about the Presiding Officer earlier today. I withdraw them. She is not consciously partisan; she is simply, out of her depth, unable to resist doing what is whispered in her ear by the same more serious operators. For that is, after all, how she progressed to her current exalted position.

But if she is to prosper in that position she must, in the words of St Paul, put aside childish things.

She could start, any time soon, by pulling up the First Minister by observing that what he had just said was not an answer to the question asked and that he must try again.

Who knows, if she was prepared to do that, even once, she might yet become as distinguished as her illustrious predecessors.


  1. OK be even handed and discuss the lies from the opposition, as is being done in other News sites. Or would that be a step to far for the blogger who fantasises that Salmond is about to drop the referendum?

  2. Since the Labour party members have been lying incessantly for the last 15 years at least from Iraq, Libor, MPs expenses, false Rape case etc and continually blaming others for their own failings supported by the MSM, staunchly blind activists and others is utterly disgusting.

    The people of Scotland and democracy hold you in all contempt.