Vote! Choose the next Scottish Labour leadership!

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…


13 thoughts on “Vote! Choose the next Scottish Labour leadership!

  1. I chose the two whom I know will help the path to independence Harris and Davidson.

    On the whole not a great choice for the SLAB comrades.

  2. Cant vote.Won’t vote. Ed Miliband is the boss of Labour and the pay master for Labour in Scotalnd. Who his viceroy is up here is of no consequence.

  3. Is it not bad manners to intrude in such delicate matters?

    Neither contest could be described as gripping.

    You are soon due to revisit your assessment of our new parliamentarians. I wonder now if anyone still rates Willie Rennie?

  4. Very weak choices on offer.

    There is a comparison to football.

    Scotland used to poduce world class footballers, no longer.

    Scottish Labour used to produce world class politicians, no longer.

    Both are in terminal decline. You can now compare Scottish Labour politicians to Scottish football chairmen.

    Machine politics, cronyism, sleaze, incompetence and self-entitlement has done for Scottish Labour.

    Remember when Steven Purcell was being touted as a future Scottish Labour leader, and that was just 18 months ago?

    How close did Scotland get to having Mr Purcell as First Minister?

  5. I think that Jeff at Better Nation did a good job of flagging up Tom Harris’ plus points. His major minus point is that in Scottish terms he is about as right wing as… er… the new Tory leader. Very much the Blairite, I suspect that if he manages to get his PR machine working he might be the person to beat. I think though that in the end, those Blairite leanings will be his undoing.

    In sharp contrast, Ken McIntosh almost seems annonymous, a tad annodyne. I think his plus point is that he will be so anonymous that he can alow people to project their vision on to him, thus appearing to be the unity candidate. I think McIntosh may well win.


  7. Spot on analysis.
    These guys don’t even have the political nous to know when the tide’s gone out.
    Political pygmies all who should be reminded that no body can remember the name of any one of the similar unionist irish MPs who sat in the House of Commons blocking independence as the Irish people chose the high road.
    I used to entertain high hopes about Cathie Jamieson (not least because she did GSA which usuually produces imaginative thinkers) but like so many elected by a loyal Scottish electorate she has chosen well paid and untroubled political inconsequence far away from any bothersone constituents.
    As a matter of interesst iseem to be unable to get any comment published on Labour Hame They don’t like it up ’em

    • Same here… In my case prehaps they don’t like it being pointed out how close Balls & Osborne’s economic position’s are. You don’t think they might not like the thought that we know that Balls & Osborne are now singing from the same pro cuts hymnsheet.

  8. In regards to us getting it wrong about Murdo, I wouldn’t say we did – personally, I was voting for who I thought they SHOULD elect, not who they WOULD. I was quite confident that Ruth Davidson would win, being the no change candidate that most fitted the Blair/Cameron/Clegg model. I’m actually shocked Murdo did as well as he did.

    As for Labour, well it’s difficult to choose in either contest. The fact there are no real stand-outs in either contest perhaps points to the lack of talent available. Sawar as deputy leader? Oh pur-lease! He was my MP for the last few months when I lived in Glasgow, and his election campaign was pathetic. As Angus points out, his family name is hardly spotless (his dad was a very lazy MP – and one of the worst offenders in the expenses scandal – and of course, his brother Athif is a bit dodgy). The guy’s a year younger than me, and I wouldn’t say someone my age is old enough to be in such a position, regardless of it being the current trend. Especially when he’s only been an MP for 18 months (we saw some of Ruth Davidson’s inexperience show in her campaign).

    Ian Davidson? Urgh. I was watching the Select Committee for The Evil Plan To Cut Scotland Off From The Rest Of The World And Plunge it Into Eternal Darkness (or the Referendum On Separation For Scotland to give it the shorter title) and he spent about half an hour going on, and on, and on, and ON, about the fact that “a candidate” lost in the Scottish Election by 7 votes (ooh, that wouldn’t happen to have been the SNP beating Labour in Glasgow Anniesland would it, Ian? Oh look, it was!) and how the returning officer decided against a recount. He is not the man to help Labour stop being so bloody negative. Incidentally, you’d better watch what you say about him – you don’t want to be appearing in the papers apologising for calling him exactly what he is, do you?

    Lewis MacDonald? Hmmmm. I don’t like the guy, but that’s mainly from hearing him speak a load of Labour nonsense on Northsound radio. However, he has the massive advantages of a) not being a misogynistic old fool and b) not being an inexperienced little twit from a dodgy family. Not that I’m trying to imply either of the others suffer from those traits, you understand. Plus, as others have said, it would be nice to see Labour acknowledging that Scotland doesn’t start and end along the M8.

    If they’ve any sense, they should elect Lamont and MacDonald. I’m hoping they take the Tory route and elect Harris and Sawar, leaving them without a leader in Holyrood, and having to elect a spokesperson who, in the Labour chain of command, will be behind Miliband, Harman, Murphy, Alexander, Curran, the 12 Team Scotland geezers and geezerettes, Tom Harris and Anas Sawar. They’ll be 20th in command, and they’ll be rightly known as the person who couldn’t even get elected as Scottish leader or even deputy leader.

    It’ll be quite spectacular.

  9. Does it matter who led the Light Brigade into the valley of death?
    An interesting thought. Should Harris or Davidson be elected to either position it will expose forever the myth Labour talent is to be found at Westminster.

    You cannot find impressive leaders if you have no serious or significant cause

  10. I find it difficult to vote as I have never understood what the party really stand for because its run by big business as that’s what most unions have morphed into and they carry most voting weight. So I suspect that the result could be as bizarre as:

    Tom Harris MP as leader with Ian Davidson MP as deputy!

  11. Heaven help us if Johann Lamont wins the Scottish Labour leadership. FMQs is barely watchable at the moment without the guaranteed sourness that Lamont always seems to bring. Tom Harris has brought the necessary “Can he do that?” factor which would make for, at the very least, interesting and entertaining debate…

    • But what have Harris and Macintosh achieved in their careers? They are both photogenic enough, and can be charming on occasions, and they speak quite nicely, but unlike Lamont they didn’t get anywhere. If none of the candidates are ideal, and that is plainly the case, it would be best to go with experience. And if the election is seen as for a caretaker – right now Labour don’t look to have much chance of providing the FM after 2016 (if there even is an FM after 2016) – why not pick someone who has already played the caretaker role on many occasions?

      As for the idea of Ian Davidson being deputy leader, surely that’s just people having a laugh. Even young Sarwar isn’t a very plausible candidate. Too much family baggage for my tastes and an all-West-of-Scotland leadership team would be wrong on so many levels. I’m no great admirer of Lewis Macdonald, but he has some gravitas and he doesn’t represent Glasgow. That may not be a great deal, but it’ll have to do.

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