Let’s look on the bright side. If Burns’ birthday marked the countdown to Scottish E-Day on 5 May, then there are only another 95 days to go.
The pessimists amongst us might consider that with the quality of fare currently on offer those 95 days might just be the longest of our lives. But – glass half full again – it gives us all, especially political junkies, electoral anoraks and most especially, we bloggers, something to girn about. Oh, happy days.
Some observations then on the first week of the campaign (even though technically, it doesn’t actually start until this term of the Scottish Parliament dissolves – oh please! – in late March.)
- Patriotism. We might have expected, nay could have predicted that the SNP would wrap itself in the patriotic trappings of Burns to kickstart its campaign. A suitably couthy yet aspirational personal message from the First Minister – check. An upbeat, shiny, happy people launch thingy – check. But who’s this raining on the SNP’s parade but Labour. Sorry, Scottish Labour and boy are we going to be reminded of that. They apparently forgot to read up on the copyright on nationalistic totems. And we can expect more of this muscling onto traditional SNP territory as Labour lays claims to its Scottishness and its roots. No shortbread tin can consider itself safe before the sell by date in May, though please – nae kilts, Mr Gray, and nae cheesy fitba photocalls, Mr Park. By the way, I telt youse to expect this already.
- Different strokes. The SNP did positive and Labour went negative. They almost cancelled each other out but not quite, as even the Daily Record’s political editor pointed out. And before the SNP get excited, that will be the only endorsement from Labour’s favourite standard bearer they can expect in this campaign. Labour’s decision to launch its 100 days’ campaign with a list of 100 broken SNP promises was a good idea, especially when harnessed to the concept of delivering it all by Twitter. But the execution was all a bit limp and undermined by the spuriousness of some of the claims. But there will be more list battles, especially as the SNP has yet to issue its final one of promises delivered. Though if it has any sense, it will hold back on this, in order to wring every last drop of opportunity from the remaining days of government: a lot can be made to happen in 95 days if civil servants can be shaken from their torpor.
- The Big Leak of the Week. Thank goodness this wee gem turned up in Labour’s inbox on Thursday, for official Parliament business had delivered precious little for the political hacks to write home about. It’s a curious one. Either the First Minister needs to become much more circumspect in the use of his contacts list, or at least find more devious ways of getting emails to deliver the goods sought. Or we’ve all been double bluffed. The burd doesn’t get the supposed whiff of desperation in the hunt for good news on jobs. This is a bullish, call to arms ahead of Salmond’s trip south that also trails some interesting thinking on business policy. Crucially, the *leak* allows the SNP to see where opposition to business rate reform might come from and on what basis. And if the news of the foray to Westminster to make demands of the Coalition government had come as part of an official release or briefing, would it have made the front page of the Scotsman? Probably not. Although I may, of course, be crediting them with far too much tactical nous here.
- Coming to a social network near you. Oh yes. As well as Labour’s tweeting of broken promises, Twitterland and Facebook have been invaded by the Nats, there’s been a flurry of partisan activity in the bloggersphere and the SNP website now has a natty wee factcheck ticker tape. No corner of the internet is safe, it appears, in the hunt for votes. The SNP is definitely winning the web wars but it’s early days. And they’ve all got a way to go to match Cory Booker. A couple of tips though. First, important sounding 140 character announcements don’t cut it. You have to reply and engage, and be prepared for banter, good and bad. It helps too to give a sense that you actually are a real person rather than a craftily-worded, multi-purpose political broadcast by the 18 year old intern in your office. Real views and real life count. Second, it’s an inclusive world out there. Befriending only your ain folk and journos defeats the purpose. They’re all either voting for you already or only your mate in the hope you trip up. There are plenty floating voters in this brave, new social media world: go find, follow and befriend them.
And the observant amongst you, dear readers, will have noticed that this blogpost has indeed ignored the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens. When they do something, anything, of interest, the burd will blog on it. Honest.