Alex Salmond, Britain, donorgate, england, Politics, Scotland, wendy alexander

Saturday afternoon, Scotland

The politician who is in the most trouble because of Donorgate is, by a long distance, Wendy Alexander. She has done what others have done down south, taking an illegal donation. But Wendy Alexander was also stupid enough to say, in Parliament, that she knew nothing about the source of the donation. It turns out she had signed a thank-you note to the donor. If she doesn’t go, then we can be sure that no one in London will either.

But when the pressure on Alexander had become unbearable, here comes Alex Salmond himself to her rescue, by drawing attention away from the donations scandal with a pretty childish insult to Blair and his family. The Yucca has too much respect for Salmond’s political skills to think that calling Blair’s family ‘revolting’ in the middle of such a difficult week for Labour north and south of the border was not deliberate. Salmond has come to Brown’s rescue – he’ll want something back, be sure.

And while talking of Salmond’s political skills, the Yucca appreciates his bashing of anti-english sentiment in Scotland as “pathetic, inward-looking, provincial, narrow-minded and silly”. Not only do Salmond’s words ring true, they also reveal his strategy: the enemy has been identified as Britain, not England. England, indeed, is a potential ally in the struggle for more devolution/independence. So much so that while anti-scottish sentiment in England is good news for Salmond, anti-english sentiment in Scotland is an embarrassment and an obstacle. Well played, Alex: just be careful not to alienate that substantial part of the SNP’s electorate which did vote for you on anti-english grounds. You know the way Americans call Britain ‘England’? Well, when Scots say they want rid of Britain, what they mean, too, is that they want rid of England.

Alan Milburn, Alex Salmond, Blairites, Britain, Charles Clarke, general elections, gordon brown, IRA, Iraq, John McDonnell, labour leadership, Labour Leadership Contest, Labour Party, Michael Meacher, New Labour, Politics, Scotland, SNP, socialism, the left, Tony Blair

…running out…

When Meacher pulled out on Monday, I thought that the leadership contest was on. I was wrong. It is now Wednesday evening, and it is looking increasingly likely that John McDonnell will not get the required 45 nominations. At 6pm, he is still 16 short, and there are only 16 MPs that have still to declare (among those, Charles Clarke and Frank Field): Brown has 307 against McDonnell’s 29.

UPDATE: it’s over. Brown’s got 308 and McDonnell has conceded defeat. This is a sad day for British democracy.

Some considerations on this development: I was expecting Brown not only to let McDonnell run, but possibly to encourage a challenge. Apparently he hasn’t done so. Two possibilities: Brown is indifferent on whether there will be a contest or not because, we can only guess, he has polls telling him that the public won’t mind either way. Labour’s support might be falling, but the fall won’t be accelerated – or so the polls might predict – by a ‘coronation’. If such polls existed, and were accurate, I would be surprised. It definitely wouldn’t be good news for British democracy.

Alternatively, Brown might be actively looking to avoid a contest. Maybe he thinks that McDonnell’s support among unions and party members would be high enough to put him in an uncomfortable situation. The next government might then be forced into acknowledging so much support for Old Labour in its policies, if not in its composition. If this latter scenario is anywhere near the truth, then all the more reason for wanting a contest; because if Brown’s fears are justified, then the Chancellor is effectively silencing his own electorate by stopping McDonnell. And that can’t be good for politics; it can’t be good for Britain; it can’t be good for Labour’s chances at the next elections; and therefore, in the end, it can’t be good for Brown (caveat: it might be that Brown has convinced himself that he will lose at the next general elections, and that therefore he wants to make the most of his time in government. In that case, stopping McDonnell might make sense. But I don’t believe that Labour doesn’t have chances coming 2009, nor do I believe that Brown believes that).

Another interesting thing is that Milburn is supporting Brown, while Clarke hasn’t announced yet. It might be that the former Home Secretary is waiting to see McDonnell’s numbers, and that he is only willing to nominate him if that will turn out to be necessary for a contest. Indeed, McDonnell is miles away from Clarke, but my enemy’s enemy… On the other hand, it might be that Blairites want Brown to lose at the next general elections, and so are promoting a ‘coronation’ – see Milburn’s and Byers’ support. Lots of people would like to think that the Blairites are willing to do anything to screw Brown, but I would be very surprised if that included putting their own political careers and salaries at risk – as inevitably they would do by promoting Labour’s defeat next time around.

One final remark: if we take the way in which MPs are nominating seriously, from a political point of view that is, then we might have to conclude that the kind of leftism represented by John McDonnell is really no longer at home within the Labour Party. And this would have to be added to Blair’s legacy: “I left a Party where socialists couldn’t even get enough nominations to stand for leader”. In this respect, it is indeed a shame that to represent the left is someone which such ideological foreign policy ideas such as McDonnell (see IRA+Iraq).

Oh, and Alex Salmond is the new First Minister of Scotland.

Alex Salmond, Britain, Conservatives, David Cameron, Edinburgh, gordon brown, Holyrood Elections, Labour Party, LibDems, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Elections 2007, Scottish Green, scottish independence, SNP

Salmond caught in the net

Salmond has had hardly the time to celebrate the greatest moment of his political career and of his party’s history, that trouble kicked off. The most likely coalition deal, SNP+LibDem+Greens, already appears to be off. The Liberals aren’t interested, and understandably so. They took a sore beating, both here in Scotland and down in England. The tendency, in Scotland, appears to be to blame the poor performance on having been in government with Labour for too long. Opposition pays much better in electoral terms, the LibDems seem to have decided – eight years too late. That’s a pretty weak argument, given that the Liberals have possibly done worse in England, where they have always and only been in opposition, than in Scotland. But even if the argument doesn’t stand, they might be right all the same: staying clear of government for the next four years might improve their electoral performance next time around. So the Liberals are out: for now, anyway. Indeed, Salmond might make an offer that they can’t refuse, such as the post of First Minister for Stephen; but that’s unlikely. I tend to think that Salmond prefers a shot at leading himself a minority government rather than letting someone else lead a majority government.

No other option appears feasible: a deal with the Tories would have the same problems, namely the independence referendum, than the one with the LibDems; plus the fact that Tories and SNP are further apart in terms of policy. Cameron would not allow it anyway even if the Scottish Tories were to suddenly grow interested in it. A Grosse Koalition with Labour is even less likely: it would guarantee stability and it would probably allow Salmond, just like Merkel in Germany, to lead the government, because of the higher number of seats. But given the sort of campaign Labour lead in the past weeks and months, that kind of arrangement won’t be forthcoming – not to speak of the fact that obviously Brown cannot show himself to be compromising with the devil, otherwise the task to be re-elected at the next general elections will become just short of impossible.

A minority government is bad news for Scotland; change and reform are already difficult enough for a Parliament elected through PR – even though only partially so. This way, we would be in for a four-year-term that would do not much more than prove right those that opposed an independent Holyrood Parliament in the first place as a waste of money and time. With the added drawback that not only things wouldn’t be decided in Scotland, but they would not be decided at all – because now they are the responsibility of Holyrood. So a deal is in the interest of Scotland. But a country’s interests can move politicians to a compromise only when they match their own.