The second in a short series of very welcome guest posts from high profile Labour folk, setting out the stalls of their preferred candidates for the leadership. Ian Smart, self proclaimed “lefty lawyer and Scottish Labour party hack” explains why he’ll be voting for Tom Harris MP.
I know this is going to sound kind of strange, but the main reason I am supporting Tom is that he has ideas that I don’t agree with.
It is only strange, however, if you realise that for him to have ideas I don’t agree with, he must – as a predicate – have ideas at all. In that he is head and shoulders above either of the other candidates.
I know what Ken’s supporters want him to be: the candidate untainted with municipal Labourism; untainted with the disastrous campaign in May; untainted with adherence to the current party establishment.
And he is untainted. But only because, to quote Westlife, or was it Boyzone, “you say it best, when you say nothing at all”.
(At this point I should acknowledge that it was really Alison Krauss who said that, but that would undermine my point by leading us off into the hinterlands of bluegrass.)
Ken Macintosh has been in the Scottish Parliament since 1999. To quote another great Socialist thinker, Michael Caine: “not many people know that”.
If I was persuaded that the party needed an articulate, strategic, Scottish Tony Blair (which, in this hour of desperation I might just be) then I’m still at a loss as to why we have settled on Ken. He is a really nice guy; his six kids are, I am led to believe, a real credit to him, but he is no more credible as the Labour First Minister of Scotland than……. just about anybody else who is not actually in the SNP that I might care to mention. His one virtue, in the terms Johann’s people imposed on the contest, is that he is at least representatively qualified to stand. And that’s it.
So, then we have Johann.
Now, if I was with the 62nd Army at Stalingrad, having just lost one of my key Divisional Commanders to the Stukas, I can think of few people I would more like to turn to in such circumstance. Johann is hard as nails; she knows who the enemy are and she would die in the last ditch fighting them. What we need at this moment, however, is not a hero but a strategist. And while Johann may even be a strategist, the problem is that her strategy is wholly misconceived.
Insofar as one can work out what criticisms she has of the 2011 Campaign, they appear to be the wrong criticisms. Not that we were insufficiently negative but rather that we were not negative enough. Not that many of our candidates were useless but that they were simply badly organised and under-resourced. Not that Scotland has moved forward but rather that it must be persuaded to move backwards.
You genuinely wonder if the only chance that she might support a multi-option Referendum would be if the other option was the outright abolition of the Scottish Parliament.
So, I’m kind of left with Tom. My apologies to him for that tone, but, to be honest, he and I are just about the most improbable political allies ever. I would happily see Tony Blair in the jail, while, if Blair (improbably) fell on hard times, Tom would be happy to offer him his spare room.
But, in the immediate aftermath of the shipwreck in May, as I cast about the blogosphere for anybody else shouting from the lifeboats, here was Tom Harris. Shouting that Labour hadn’t understood that devolution had changed the nature of the game; that the first loyalty of any candidate for National Office had to be, clearly and unequivocally, loyalty to the Nation they sought to lead; that the old ways of campaigning were, just that, old; that electoral success depended not just on mobilising the already persuaded but also in persuading at least some of the rest; that the opposition didn’t have to be Tories, just because they were the opposition.
So, because he gets it, Tom has my support.
And, in case one should doubt my underlying motivation, also because he is the only one of the three candidates who has the remotest chance of beating Alex Salmond in five years’ time. If supporters of the other two respond “He couldn’t beat him either”, maybe they should pause to think what this contest is meant to be about. And reflect on the word “either”.