by Hazel Lewry
With the clocks at under three weeks and ticking, what are the big election stories of the campaign so far?
To date I’m afraid the lead news and interest story of the election has not been policy related.
The ambushing of Iain Gray, amongst much hilarity on the part of onlookers and the media has undoubtedly taken pride of place.
The hapless Mr. Grey compounded the issue when he was reported to have ducked a meeting in Stirling by beating a hasty retreat to Bannockburn in an attempt to avoid opposition party activists who were also campaigning in the area.
Perhaps someone should inform him that when leading a charge of Scots, if only Labour camp followers, that in the Bannockburn area one customarily would be expected to engage with the opposition. We should perhaps be grateful he was almost 697 years too late for the main event there. Even with a campaign that’s verifiably going to pot.
Meanwhile Scotland’s incumbent party met with protestors in a coffee shop, under a convivial atmosphere where grievances were acknowledged and [apparently] items were actually purchased.
Labour’s problems were also compounded as Andy Kerr followed up Iain Grays earlier televised disaster with a woeful performance on Newsnight. He was clearly often at a loss for words, relying upon Gordon Brewer to make his points for him. Mr. Brewer just didn’t seem to be aware he was doing this in his efforts to simply elicit straight answers from obviously un-costed and poorly conceived policies.
The Labour cause was almost dealt an idiotic “coup de grace” when Ed. Balls on a visit from London indicated that the UK Premier wanted Tory voters to vote SNP. After the noted comment and its inherent assumption of the intelligence level of Scots voters, the visit of Mr. Balls could be seen as one particular parachute that failed to open.
Alistair Darling, the chancellor who presided over the biggest banking failures in UK history, supporting the policies that have indebted generations went on record with a statement of support for Ian Gray. Any support, even this, has been welcome as on the day of the Labour manifesto launch the voice over for the party’s last election campaign, Brian Cox, added his support to Alex Salmond.
Basically the campaign so far has largely boiled down to Labour supporting Labour and past Labour supporters in large part supporting the Nationalists. Ditto for the Lib-Dem’s.
Labour then went on to attack the Nationalist green credentials. In the Scots’ vernacular, “Aye-Right”. This from a party who’s overt goals could well be to dump England’s nuclear waste in Scotland as well as loudly affirming Nuclear power as a policy commitment (Something to do with Family ties perhaps Mr. Balls?).
With relatives of both ex-premier Gordon Brown and Ed Balls widely reported to be holding Nuclear Power Industry positions. The daily mail reported Iain Gray as saying Alex Salmond’s green energy policies could have the lights go out in Scotland within four years – no industry corroboration was immediately available.
The plus side continued for the SNP with employment figures released during the campaign continuing to show a month on month trending increase in the number of people in work and off benefits. This took place on the day that UK unemployment figures as a whole showed scant change with the number of women alone on the dole above one million.
The unemployment tide in England no doubt assisted by Toyota suspending production at its UK plants for over a week. The suspension is credited to the nuclear disaster in Japan, creating another own goal for Labour’s nuclear program. Still they persist.
In health news Labour promised to reduce cancer waiting times which had run amuck under their last term in office, finally being brought under control by Nicola Sturgeon and her competent crew during the term of the present administration.
Apparently the trend in reducing wait times and eliminated hidden lists isn’t sufficient for Mr. Gray, he believes the group who performed so disastrously from 1999 to 2007 should have the opportunity to prove they’re a wee bit better now.
Labour then chose to attack the SNP over a no-redundancies pledge to public employees on the same day that Nurses south of the border threw in a 97% vote supporting a “no confidence” motion in the health minister there.
This poor unfortunate who had only just inherited the job from a labour predecessor within the last year was being forced to ram through cuts due to Labour’s failed fiscal policies – Ironic?
Compounding Labour woes Iain Gray then apparently led a demand for the requirement of corroboration to be dropped from Scots law, ostensibly for rape cases, but where next Mr. Gary – is there a Baronetcy opening close to Tankerness perhaps?
Rape cases would be the start, and although wishing dire consequences upon Rapists I’ll personally avoid this if it chances removing an innocent individuals rights.
As Iain Gray floundered through this one perhaps he should have thought on Jim Wallace’s Scotland Bill amendments helping to create what Tory lord Forsyth has described as the bill that will destroy the Union. It will be interesting to see what those who practice Scots law have to say on this policy.
The Lib-Dems were hamstrung by UK Leader Nick Clegg’s policies and alliances before the election started, and now resemble a poor equine of the same fate, simply waiting to be released from its misery, likely date sometime around May 5th.
This is a fair assessment as the campaign got stuttering with candidate after candidate dropping from Lib-Dem placements either through voluntary self termination or party “error” meaning there are thousands of “Ex” Lib-Dem votes up for grabs. They were in company with the Tories here who were themselves preceded by Wendy Alexander abandoning Labour after her selection.
Tavish Scott has exacerbated the issues facing the Lib-Dems with a series of forgettable performances and Danny Alexander down London way made certain the weapon of execution was primed with a proudly declared smash and grab raid on the oil industry which his party compatriot Michael Moore stated had “Shot the Nationalist fox”.
This disaster of a Li-Dem policy for employment and investment in the energy industry is now being reportedly forced into a rethink as investment flees Scotland’s shores. It appears Mr. Moore has difficulty distinguishing foxes from bulldogs.
These and other issues combined to create a complete collapse in the Liberal-Democratic vote. Allowing that these disenchanted and disenfranchised Lib-Dems participate on May 5th the big question of the election appears to be where will that vote go?
So far it’s reported as breaking mainly towards the SNP. By-elections in the North bear this out.
The primary Lib-Dem campaign focus that can be said to be working well at present is that of self elimination.
Patrick Harvie meanwhile put the Greens on the election map. This before even issuing their manifesto, with the “Second Vote Green” campaign being re-activated and voicing support for Labour should a partner in coalition be required.
Two strikes for the greens from two principle statements Patrick, firstly there is no “second vote” they’re all equally weighted, and then doesn’t it appear [after Fukushima, Chernobyl, et al] a little “off” for a party referring to itself as “green” to be courting a party proposing Nuclear Energy?
Mr. Harvie appears to have little comment to date on Mr. Salmond’s SNP government’s proposed significant investments towards improving green transport, including infrastructure.
As Alex Salmond was reported to be entrenching a position on the Edinburgh Trams fiasco he effectively inherited from the Lib-Lab parties upon election in 2007, the teachers union was questioning the ability of the SNP pledge for full teacher employment to be carried out – and with justification. There are now demonstrably more teachers than the proposed pocket money budget from Westminster can support. This policy requires more explanation, but that may be in the manifesto waiting more scrutiny.
Media winners were undoubtedly STV who produced what can only be described as a masterpiece when compared to the shouting, barely lit, poorly moderated fireside chat debacle thrown at an unsuspecting populace by the BBC. Alex Salmond’s statesman like performance was overwhelmingly acknowledged to be the winner in both debates.
The BBC scored another own goal when putting Nicola Sturgeons’ photo beside that of Tavish Scott, Annabel Goldie and Iain Gray, we find Ms. Sturgeon was still the most widely recognized of the group.
Media party preference has broken largely as expected with the BBC and Daily Record displaying what has been described as blatant levels of propaganda, the BBC in particular being accused of hiding or downplaying breaking news that is detrimental to Labour, and creating breaches of its own code by undertaking polls outside the scope of its charter. The Sun has a surprisingly neutral stance leaning towards the SNP. The Herald and Scotsman who have been acknowledged highly pro-Labour in past elections appear to be softening that stance in a very limited number of articles.
Observations and summary: Winner and loser so far.
The biggest winner of the campaign to date has to be the National Party and Alex Salmond who are reported to have a large poll swing working in their favour with a momentum that only appears to be growing as we reach towards May 5th. They have seen their vote share rise significantly in recent polls through a combination of solid record and a quality front bench.
The biggest loser has to be truth and honesty in reporting, the award jointly going to the Daily Record and the BBC, thereby the Scottish Nation. These entities seem to be operating hand in hand with Magnus Gardham writing dubious misleading headliners like “Salmond supports Gray” , and the BBC apparently clearly and consistently flaunting it’s charter for even balanced reporting.
It is widely acknowledged by informed and educated individuals that without the support of these organizations the Labour campaign would already be imitating that of the Lib-Dems, though perhaps not quite as severely due to a hard core labour vote. It may be another decade of ineptitude before Labour in Scotland poll less than 20%. Or an Independence referendum.
Special Mention: Annabel Goldie has seen her personal stock rise considerably in Scotland, so much so that some across the board commentators have ruefully suggested she’s in the wrong party.
Were her policies and party anywhere close to an idea the Scots historically believed worthy of support she’d possibly prove formidable.
Her latest kudos arise through arguing to at least investigate parity on corporation tax if devolved elsewhere and acknowledging shortcomings in Calman.
Her stock went up farther when she frankly acknowledged David Cameron as head of the Conservatives or Scottish Conservative mps (there can be only one?) section stating “I’m not leader of the Scottish Conservatives – I’m leader of the MSP group at Holyrood.” The biggest cross “Auntie Annie” may have to bear so far is trying to reconcile councils requiring referendums for future tax increases with no referendum being needed on Calman – Tax is Tax Ms. Goldie. There shouldn’t be different rules for different levels. Period.