Complaint without Consequence?

With the Scottish Parliamentary elections only five weeks away, Andrew Marr, himself a Scot, brought his Sunday AM show north of the Border for the BBC today.

Among the guests, Alex Salmond leader of the SNP, Douglas Alexander the Labour star who continues to rise even with the Scotland Secretary and Transport minister portfolios already under his belt, the Lib Dems Lord Steel who was the first Presiding Officer of the Scottish parliament, and the Tory stalwart, Malcom Rifkind, formerly Foreign Minister among other positions.

And it was an intriguing battle for the hearts and minds of the Scottish electorate, as the full politicial spectrum of colours was on display.

Douglas Alexander had a crisp white shirt and blood red tie on, Malcolm Rifkind a standard blue and white spotted number, Lord Steel a neutral striped purple middle of the road neck tie, with only Alex Salmond at odds, sporting a blue shirt and red tie.

Then again, when yellow and black are your party colours, what else can you do?

Nonetheless, this was a very different Alex Salmond to the one of previous elections, quite a change from the man many blame for having gotten too excited in the past as the Nats peaked too early, his bravado and bluster shooting the party in the foot.

This was a sober, statesman like Salmond, a man who could be First Minister. A natty new haircut, slow and almost pondering, concilitory response to Marr as they sparred over the issues of Fiscal autonomy, need for a referendum on independence, on the polls.


Polls, at least half a dozen of which, show that at this late stage the SNP hold a persuasive lead over Labour as the campaigning steps up a gear. Such is the lead, Labour have adopted it as a scare tactic to try and convince their traditional supporters to get out and vote, as the closest election in our nation’s devolved history goes down to the wire.

Douglas Alexander, mastermind of so many of Labour’s election successes and close, trusted friend of PM in waiting Gordon Brown, had the look of a haunted, tired man, looking down at his feet as his political mind spun in frenzy as he tried to claim the higher ground.

But in truth, he looked like a man drowning, like his party in Scotland. He came across as angry, desperate. But passionate, that he and Labour will not go down without a fight, and if he can rally such spirit with his colleagues, maybe they can just cling on.

It has been suggested that Labour, the dominant party in Scotland for 50 years, may even turn to the Tory party as a coalition partner should it give them a majority in the imposing structure of Holyrood. It was something Alexander refused to deny, itself political dynamite if the Blair government has left his Scots cousins in such a precarious position.

But while these two men may hold the current power within their grasp, their appearances paled with that of the elder statesmen in Steel and Rifkind, who treated the audience to engaging, entertaining political rhetoric, which regardless of how you feel towards their policies, does make you wonder of Scotland is now denied the benefit of their wisdom.

Perhaps that is what happens when you are allowed to step out of the limelight and are not involved in the day to day dogfighting of those craving the spoils of power.

Douglas Alexander said his party faces criticism without consequence, an acceptance perhaps that it is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the political infighting of London Labour, that has the Nats on course for an historic first victory.

But surely such a statement plays into the Nats hands. Because if that truly is the case as even a Labour minister would suggest, what benefit to remaining under its power, when we could enjoy such joys here on our very own doorstep?


Categories: Interviews and talks

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