We did so well last week, I thought we should try again.
For those who care about such things – to them, it is the winning, not the taking part – of 145 votes cast in last week’s poll on who should be the next Scottish Conservative leader, 100 went for Murdo. We failed miserably to pick whom the Conservatives themselves chose, Ruth Davidson.
And I’m not sure what that means. They’re right, we’re not? I actually think it’s the other way round. One young Conservative buck suggested we were doing it deliberately because it suited “all of us” to have a weak Tory leader. I’m not sure I would agree that Murdo was the weak choice actually, or that everyone taking part in my polls is that cynical. I like to think that everyone approaches it as a bit of fun, and with honest intent. I’m right huh?
What tickled me in particular was the realisation that for many of us, this was the one and only time we would ever vote Tory. It was almost cathartic.
Enough though. That was last week. This is now.
Despite having gone on, seemingly forever, the Scottish Labour leadership contest only actually got underway properly last week with the opening of nominations and today marks the start of frenetic campaigning now that nominations have closed.
Three contenders for each of the “prizes”. For Depute Leader, two MPs in Anas Sarwar and Ian Davidson and also an MSP in Lewis Macdonald. Anas Sarwar seems to be the party’s darling for this post. He is young, enthusiastic and coming across as a breath of fresh air. You can see why the party is warming to him. And frankly, it would be very good for Scottish politics and Scotland to have someone from an ethnic minority background in one of the senior positions in a party. It is a disgrace that we are only approaching the prospect now.
With Ian Davidson, what you see and hear is what you get. Yes, he can be rude, gruff, plain speaking, and liable to mire himself and the party in controversy, but everyone knows that about him. It depends on what you want your depute party leader to do. The Blair Prescott double act worked well enough. There is little that Ian Davidson does not know about campaigning and politics, and he could perform that Prescott type of role very well.
Lewis Macdonald is also a time-served and worthy candidate, who unlike his rivals, has held Ministerial office. It would be good to see someone outside of the central belt occupy a party leadership role and might give a different perspective to things in Scottish Labour.
But the main event is the leadership contest. What to make of the three contenders, who are very different and all of whom have some appeal.
Tom Harris has done well to get this far. There was a suggestion that he wouldn’t secure enough nominations but he scraped through, despite the cliquey tendencies of the MSP group who all chose one of their own. He is certainly generating a lot of heat, using his media skills to garner headlines and talking points. Is there substance beneath the bluster? Well, he’s certainly taken the fight to the SNP but on sadly familiar territory. Whether his tactics will succeed depends on whether the party wants to wear familiar clothes in opposition or try something different. Harris might need to demonstrate more thoughtfulness to gain votes.
Johann Lamont is currently deputy leader so it was natural that she would want to step up. As such, she will be a weel kent face amongst the party faithful and she has been a loyal and dogged performer for her party of the years. Critics suggest she is part of the problem, having been so closely linked to the party’s failures in recent years, but she has been offering a fresh perspective on things. Her line that the party does not need a new narrative, it already has a story to tell is a good one that resonates.
In terms of nominations, she is clearly the frontrunner – more MSPs including heavyweights like Paul Martin, Sarah Boyack and Jackie Baillie, but the presence of Malcolm Chisholm and Elaine Smith ensures she is not the establishment choice and in her MP nominees, the presence of PLP convenor Jim Sheridan and party darlings like Cathy Jamieson also bode well. Securing the backing of the GMB (along with Davidson for deputy leader) provides a strong filip at the start of the official campaign. Johann represents good, solid old Labour values and that is bound to play well with the party and its complicated electoral college.
If Johann is old Labour, then Ken Macintosh can be portrayed as new-ish Labour. Although he has been elected for as long as Johann, he is being represented as a fresh face. This is reflected in his nominees, with many of the new intake of 2011 choosing to back him but interestingly, Ken also attracted the most MP nominations. He is an assiduous parliamentarian and has kept his seat despite the odds being stacked against him. Beneath the avuncular exterior, there is clearly a man of sterner stuff. His line that he is a devolutionist not a unionist is an interesting one, and it will be good to have this developed.
Unlike the Conservative contest, it has all been very polite to date. No one seems likely to push the nuclear button, no one has yet come up with a big idea and it remains to be seen if real difference will emerge on policy, and on strategy. The biggest faultlines are likely to appear on the constitutional issue; some fireworks and a meaningful debate would be good.
Who should win? Who knows. I have no preference, yet. Perhaps you do?
This week, we are really spoiling you with two votes! And if it all hots up in the next four weeks, we’ll do the poll again to see if opinions have changed…