Archive for May, 2011

Downfall usually sprouts from the seeds of error sown in the flush of success.

May 10, 2011

As occurred in 2007, the Scottish Parliament elections of 2011 yet again bore out the old adage, “Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them”. The SNP governed competently, if not perfectly – no mean feat given they formed a minority administration. Unlike Labour in 2007, they were unburdened by the Iraq debacle and, fair or not, the image of Tony Blair in particular as George W. Bush’s poodle. This made shortcomings as a Holyrood administration more likely to be forgiven and a return to power more likely.
Recent events have clearly shown that Labour learned little after their defeat in 2007. Going negative, with the same failed strategy as 4 years ago, severely backfired. What is it that is said about people that do the same thing expecting a different outcome? Faced with a choice, the electorate went with the positive over the negative in droves. The unthinkable – a SNP majority at Holyrood – occurred.
The danger for the SNP is now overreach. Many that voted SNP want caution and could switch their vote as quickly as they did this time. Downfall usually sprouts from the seeds of error sown in the flush of success. It is easy to focus on the errors of others and be blind to your own. Softly, softly on a multi-option independence referendum, methodically work towards expanding devolved powers and, above all, don’t fixate on constitutional issues. Continued competence in government, expansion of renewable energy as a route to Scottish reindustrialization and prudent stewardship of public institutions should be the fixations. It will be a challenging five years in government.
The danger for Labour is that they will do the same as after the 2007 election, and that is willfully fail to recognize reality. An inquiry into their recent failed campaign overseen by current leader Iain Gray, or almost any sitting Labour MP or MSP for that matter, would have as much public credibility as Tony Hayward investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Perhaps a call to Henry McLeish would be in order? And why limit any inquiry to only the recent campaign? The sad reality is that the Labour Party I knew growing up in Lanarkshire has drastically morphed over the last 40 years. Keir Hardie would be birling in his grave. In his quest to “modernize”, Tony Blair put the final nails in the coffin of the cohesiveness inherent in Labour tradition. If the Labour Party in Scotland is serious about addressing its shortcomings it must look to reestablish itself with a “new” identity, ironically based on its traditional, core values. Otherwise they could be a long time coming back, even planting additional seeds of their electoral destruction. With Alex Salmond as First Minister, I would not gamble on SNP government missteps as a route back to power.