Well, it was a full on week of politics.
First out of the blocks was Murdo Fraser, declaring his candidacy for the Tory party leadership in Scotland by announcing that if he elected, he would disband said party and form a new one. That certainly woke up the party faithful from its slumbers and excited us all for at least ten minutes. Whatever the pros and cons of his move, it means this is now a real contest with Fraser stealing a march on his rivals, particularly Ruth Davidson, who had been widely talked about as the change candidate.
Then we had the archetypal grey man of politics, Alistair Darling, stirring things up with the publication of his memoirs, confirming what we all knew that life with Gordon could be difficult and that the banks behaved terribly over the financial crisis. More interestingly he had a pop at his successor, Ed Balls – a sideways swipe at Brown – for offering people little in the way of economic coherence at the 2010 UK election.
This put current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, in a bit of a bind at Prime Minister’s Questions. The big story of the week was the flat-lining economy with murmurings against the Tories’ strategy of slash and burn austerity economics without having a clue how to generate some much-needed growth. Yet, because his own party’s failings had been exposed by the silver-haired and silver-tongued former Chancellor of Exchequer, Miliband could say nowt. As usual, Cameron was handed a get out of jail free card.
Though not quite, for up popped Nadine Dorries, who had a mixed week really. Despite landing a big blow on her own Prime Minister at lunchtime by questioning who was wearing the trousers in the relationship between Cameron and Clegg, her hateful little amendment on abortion counselling services was, thankfully, slapped down by MPs. And even though the NHS reform bill took a bit of a battering along the way, with some of its more controversial measures ending up in the waste-bin, David Cameron would be right to be quietly satisfied with the week’s events. This was the first big change test and it paves the way for all the other public sector reforms his government is gagging to unleash. It won’t be pretty.
The action swung back to Scotland with First Minister, Alex Salmond, setting out his Government’s Programme for Scotland. Seems he took the burdz advice after all.
Apart from a handful of mentions of the “i” word, the speech was laced with subtle references to the journey that Scotland was taking and for the most part, he concentrated on the job at hand, that of attempting to create growth in the Scottish economy, despite having one hand tied behind his back by Westminster. Clever.
But if the First Minister was determined to show restraint, no such compunction from the Opposition, who focused almost exclusively on the plans for a referendum on independence. Iain Gray made rather a good speech, Annabel Goldie embarrassed herself by professing not to know who Christine Lagarde, the Head of the IMF, was and Willie Rennie put in a particularly excruciating, whiny performance. Shame really, for he can and has done better. None of them landed a blow and the First Minister could sit back and relax and enjoy the show. Why should he focus on his defining rationale when everyone else is prepared to do it for him? Until the opposition parties remove their constitutional goggles and start formulating and articulating what it is they are all actually for, then the SNP can expect to continue to ride the crest of 40% plus poll ratings for a while yet.
On Thursday, Ruth Davidson finally came out, confirming what we all already knew, that having served an apprenticeship of only four months as an MSP, she now feels qualified to lead her party from the electoral wilderness. It all fell a bit flat after Murdo’s dramatic intervention at the start of the week.
No matter, for the stage was set for US President Barack Obama to put in a barnstorming performance before Congress. Reaction to his speech was almost comical. Democrats popped up and down with far too many standing ovations for it to be properly sincere, serving only to interrupt his rhythm and flow. Meanwhile, Republicans looked like they had swallowed a basket of lemons, though the majority leader did at least have the good grace to applaud politely at some of the most heartfelt passages which urged Congress to set aside their political differences and work together to get America back on its feet. Obama needed to reclaim momentum at this crucial point in the race to be re-elected and in doing so, he has effectively bowled Republican lawmakers a googly. Pass his $447 billion jobs package or if not, come up with something different which will do the business. It reminded us all why we got excited at his Presidential candidacy in the first place.
It was a fitting end to a very busy political week. Several politicians had good weeks, others had pretty poor ones. So this week’s poll asks: which politician (on these shores) had the best week?