The next Holyrood is in 2021, this election is important in a number of ways for different people, most people at present are seeing the election as a genuine three way contest between SNP, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour. I still believe that we are looking at a possible hung parliament if the current situation remains more or less the same.
Prior to Holyrood 2021, there will be no Scottish independence referendum which will suppress any chance of momentum for the SNP. Given that is the prospect, this election could be all about the ‘hard grind’ on the doorstep, politicians having to fight for every vote instead of the contest being cluttered up with bogus dreams of independence. The Scottish Conservatives are the second party of Scotland at present, they have a chance to take control of the Scottish Government as much as the other two.
No one is getting a walk through, the Scottish Conservatives need to widen their appeal and work areas that perhaps they are traditionally strong in, like gold mining; there will be a lot of toiling for votes. In politics, it isn’t unusual for parties to bum their load on their prospects at an election. Everyone thinks they are ‘in with a shout’. To that end, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is "likely" to be Scotland's next first minister according to her deputy Jackson Carlaw. Jackson Carlaw insists it was "perfectly possible, if not in fact now likely" that she would lead the next Scottish Government.
Given the SNP is effectively leaderless with Nicola Sturgeon, given the scandals, failures and inability to manage government, the SNP are looking more than tired. If you factor in the constant rumours swirling that Nicola Sturgeon is looking for another job, especially after her American trip, you can see why people think a change of government is in the wind. Run as a one man band, the SNP haven’t a leader in waiting post Sturgeon, in fact post Sturgeon, the best they can hope for is a John Swinney return as caretaker leader.
Far from being a party with a wealth of talents, the SNP is populated by small people.
One thing which Jackson Carlaw uses to float his claim is that he likens the current SNP administration at Holyrood to the end of the Conservatives' 18 years in power at Westminster, under Margaret Thatcher and then John Major. During that era, there was infighting by the Conservatives which doesn’t really translate to the situation the SNP find themselves in now. Although there is the Salmond problem in the wings, Alex Salmond is out of the party, his disgruntled supporters might be vocal but their modius operandi is to plug Scottish independence.
Jackson Carlaw is acting as interim leader while Ruth Davidson is on maternity leave, his stint in the chair is going reasonably well, and he hits the nail on the head when he says that SNP having been in power in Scotland since 2007 have developed a sense of entitlement. When parties get that feeling, the rot sets in, politicians don’t work, they don’t serve their constituents and eventually the party machine collapses where a few kid on that they are micromanaging many, except that is only on paper. The activist base collapse and no one comes out, the party ends up forgetting how to campaign properly in an area.
Jackson told the Holyrood magazine:
"The second SNP administration - and this one too - reminds me a little bit of the period of the Major years as they wore on, where, after 18 years of Conservative government, there was more of a sense of entitlement setting in, and a sense among people that this is how it now is in the ordered way of politics and nothing is ever really going to change that. Well, we found out very rudely in 1997 that the electorate is very capable of deciding when it's time for a change and it can decide for a change in a way that you would never have thought possible, even five years before it happened."
The biggest letdown leads to Conservatives losing the government to me always appears to centre round management of domestic politics. The opposite can be said of the Labour Party, their fall at the end of the Blair/Brown era centres around badly damaging foreign policy decisions.
A smart party takes care of the both the home front and foreign adventures, keep that in balance and everyone loves you, tilt too much and you’re out the door!
The other party in contention for Scottish Government is the Scottish Labour Party led by Richard Leonard. Leonard is still finding his feet, being slotted as the third party of Holyrood has been a shock to the Labour Party. They might not have seen that coming but others did, the Labour Party reaped the consequences of their actions, too many changes of leaders at Holyrood, and effectively no impact. Proposing policies one minute and the next campaigning against them doesn’t gel with the public. If you take the SNP’s ‘poll tax on wheels’, and think back to 2000, the Labour/Lib Dem came up with this, only to see it dropped.
Another gem which probably sticks in people’s minds more is PFI hospital car parking charges which Scottish Labour brought in and then when opposition mounted a fierce campaign against them.
Of course, you could be swayed by people saying that those policies of the past where brought in by people who are now gone, and the new team never supported them. You have to ask the question why people then didn’t know such policies were against Labour values. Richard Leonard needs to get Scottish Labour active, but to be active, you need something to sell on a doorstep, and of course you need to believe in the candidate whether it be for Holyrood, Westminster or council. The clock is ticking for Scottish Labour and they have to abandon the mindset that 15 minutes at FMQs at Holyrood represents ‘work’ and makes up for the lack of activism in the party.
Looking at the Scottish Labour Party at present, I liken it to an engine, although certain people have turned the ‘key’ the engine hasn’t kicked over. If you take a recent CLP meeting of Pollok CLP as an example, the candidate Matt Kerr called for ‘volunteers’ to help his campaign. Outside what some would recognise as his group, no one volunteered. His election agent then asked for people to deliver ‘introduce the candidate’ leaflets, no one volunteered for that either. Of course this being the first CLP meeting of the year, you might have expected that people might not be ready to dive back into activism. Team work is important in politics, and it helps that you understand how to manage a team, especially if they are helping you providing free labour. Cllr Matt Kerr won the selection for Glasgow South West on the 12th September 2018, so that is about 5 months, give or take, given he said he had 12 people coming out for him, I am highly surprised that he hasn’t finished leafleting the Govan side of the constituency. If one person can manage to leaflet the bulk of the Govan ward on the Pollok side in about 10 days, why can’t Team Kerr finished Govan?
Obvious Team Kerr will have to work harder and smarter.
Finally, Holyrood 2021, everything is up for grabs for the three parties, SNP, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour. The Scottish Greens aren’t worth talking about as they have limited appeal in Scotland. Jackson Carlaw thinks his party is in with a shout, and his assessment might pan out. Nicola Sturgeon said she became active in politics because of the Conservatives, how ironic would it be if she had to hand over the keys of Bute House to Ruth Davidson?
I suspect the howls of laughter down the corridors of Holyrood would be epic!
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University