The world will have noticed that the British Conservative won a surprisingly clear-cut victory in last week’s General Elections; and that Scottish nationalists (less surprisingly) swept the board there, leaving only 3 of the 59 Westminster seats for the other three British parties to split equally between them.
But far fewer will have appreciated the speed, scale and significance of the utter and total collapse in the Labour vote in Scotland which was, for most of the post-war period, a stronghold of Labourism…
I grew up in its heartland and actually contested a political election in May 1964 on the eve of my University Finals in Politics at the University of Glasgow - just as 20 year-old Scottish Nationalist Mhairi did last week. The difference is that I was running for a municipal seat I had little chance of winning – and that she was running for a winnable seat – and not only won but (as did most Nationalists on the night) did so by a massive majority. It was 4 years later before I made it to local political office – and another 6 to a senior position in regional government…..
Today I want to spare some thoughts for the individuals involved in the sea-change which is underway in Scotland – both the winners and losers.
I know that good advice generally drops on deaf ears – as Oscar Wilde put it “I always pass on good advice – it’s the only thing to do with it….” But I really hope someone takes Mhairi aside and has the clout to warn her against the seductions of office….I hope that politics students at my alma mater are still given Robert Michels to read……… and that someone gives her a good reading list of “alternative” stuff to read…..
I can’t say I’m a fan of the trend there’s been of appointing younger and younger people top high office – I had a poster in my own political office in Glasgow which read “I wish I had been born earlier, I would have made the same mistakes….but faster…..”I feel real pity for her losing opponent – a real heavy-weight who punched well above his age…Douglas Alexander. I knew his father in the early 1960s in Greenock – a Church of Scotland Minister – who subsequently became Leader of the highly-respected Iona Community….Douglas – despite being a lawyer and colleague (if not acolyte) of Gordon Brown – was decidedly not one of the many machine Labourists of whom there were, bluntly, far too many in the West of Scotland. Glasgow Labour MPs in particular were a disaster and gave the Labour Party a dreadful name from which it has never been able to recover.
And I include in that criticism a colleague of mine from Strathclyde Region in the 1980s – Ian Davidson – whose tongue became well known for its infamous forked calumny even then and became more so the older he got and the higher he climbed (a vicious Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Scottish Affairs for the past few years).
He was one of many who deserved to go – although less so was Iain McKenzie who was Leader of the Labour group of Inverclyde Council in my hometown until he successfully sought election to Parliament only a few years ago on the (premature) death of the incumbent MP. His victor – by a massive 15,000 vote margin, is an unknown Scottish nationalist whose sole claim to fame is to be the grandson of the town’s most famous goalkeeper!!
I don’t pretend to be a polling pundit - so can’t offer any convincing theory about why the conservatives pulled off this surprising victory – but my gut tells me that the Nationalist campaign of backing Labour was the strongest factor persuading wavering voters in England to go with the Tories.
The Conservatives pay big money to ensure they are plugging the right messages – David Cameron took a lot of stick for sticking with the lines given him by his highly successful (Australian) campaign pollster. But I suspect that their huge posters showing the long arm of one of the Nationalist leaders reaching for the wallet in the back pocket of the English voter will propve to have been the most effective poster in decades. Another blog has expressed it well -
Not only have the SNP destroyed the Left in Scotland they have pretty much destroyed it in England too. The SNP campaign of promising to rule both England and Scotland and propping up a Labour government has spectacularly backfired. English voters faced with this campaign preferred to vote Conservative rather than have Alex Salmond pulling the strings.
The sculpture "Sadness" is by one of Bulgaria's early 20th century masters - Lazerov - and I snapped at the Svetlin Roussev gallery in PLeven