“That line of attack isn’t working any more – quick, find another one”

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The Scottish Lib Dems line up to attack...

Having been told on Twitter that it was clear that I “really hate the Lib Dems” I did wonder for a second if this post was merited.  But then I remembered a quote from my favourite TV show:  “if they’re shooting at you, you must be doing something right.”  So I decided I’d write it anyway.

I don’t hate the Lib Dems.  Well, I don’t hate the Lib Dems any more than I hate other political parties.  What I can’t stand is the way political parties will make a political stand about something on Monday, then reverse their stance by Friday and criticise those who still hold the position they originally held.  Now, there is something to be said for the Mario Cuomo quote that “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”

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The State of the Parties – SNP

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(I understand I said this would be up on Friday, but forgive me – things have been a little busier than I had planned).

The last in my series of posts on the state of the Scottish parties at Holyrood looks at the juggernaut that is the SNP.  I don’t know that there is any more to add to the post-May media avalanche of “how the hell did they do that?” which hasn’t already been said.  The party single-handedly re-wrote Scottish political history in one night, winning seats in places where they had never… (yes, okay – there’s a danger of falling into hyperbole here).  There really has been enough written about that night, suffice to note here that it was historic, likely unmatched and probably the most impressive electoral performance in Scottish history.  I’m not going to dispute that.

But since then – what have the party done?

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The State of the Parties – Scottish Greens

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I’m risking the wrath of my former Better Nation colleague James for what’s coming here… but I really do think that Scottish “Greens” is a misnomer for the party who held onto their 2 MSPs in May’s election.  I’d suggest “Scottish Lefties who occasionally talk about the environment” would be a more appropriate (if slightly lengthy) name for the party.  And that for me, is the biggest issue facing the party at the moment.  I know James will tell me that the party “don’t just pick policies out of thin air – they are principles” and that’s all well and good.  But there are ways of maintaining those principles without radically changing.

When the party was led (well, okay, co-convened) by Robin Harper from his first election to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 until he stood down as co-convenor in 2008, the party actually talked about green issues. But since he was replaced by Patrick Harvie, the party has focused much more on left-wing, social issues rather than environmental issues.  Now, as I mentioned above, this IS a principled position (the Scottish Greens have always had a left-wing tendency) but I also perceive it to be something of an electoral strategy as well.

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The State of the Parties – Scottish Lib Dems

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I did wonder whether I should bother writing a post about the Lib Dems.  I mean, it appears to be patently obvious that the party has been utterly screwed by their participation in a coalition with the Conservatives at UK level, with the loss of 300,000 votes in May’s Scottish Parliament election symbolic of the electorate’s feelings towards the party.  But my look at the parties in the Scottish Parliament wouldn’t be complete without it…

I suppose the first thing to point out (which is pretty obvious) is that there is no real distinct Lib Dem voter.  I’ve been teaching first years at university who can identify that, at least traditionally, the working class vote Labour and the middle class vote Conservative.  But where do the Lib Dems fit into that?  Well, one answer to the question as to “who votes Liberal Democrat” was “middle class people who don’t think they are middle class”.  Which I liked – and I liked it, because it’s almost true.  Lib Dem voters – at least prior to 2010 – tended to be well-educated (with a degree) but still considered themselves to not be middle class enough to vote for the Conservatives.  Hence the choice of Lib Dems.

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The State of the Parties – Scottish Tories

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My post on Scottish Labour had a bit of a negative conclusion – that they had a couple of deep-rooted problems that as a party they don’t look like they’ve identified – but compared to that post, this will be the very epitome of doom & gloom.  The future of the Scottish Tories?  What future?

I’ll be honest, I was a little more optimistic about the Scottish Tories after the announcement there would be a leadership contest (though I called some of the names wrongly…) in June.  I thought that a youthful ticket of John Lamont (who ended up not standing) and Ruth Davidson as deputy would help the party appeal to a younger, post-Thatcher generation.  I still thought that Murdo Fraser would win at that point, and even that would have been a good outcome, since (even without his “abolish the party and start afresh” idea, his positioning vis-a-vis devolution would have given the party more relevance.  But with Ruth Davidson as leader, I can’t see the party moving forward – and, indeed, I suspect they’ll be back in this position, looking for a new leader, within 18 months.

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The State of the Parties – Scottish Labour

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It is probably quite unfair to consider the state of Scottish Labour while they are in the middle of a leadership election…  and yet it is partly because they are in such a situation that looking at the party is so interesting.  And the verdict – at least from this outsider – isn’t good.

Truth be told, I think the Scottish Labour Party are in a worse position than the Scottish Liberal Democrats.  And that’s saying something.

It might be saying something crazy, especially since a party which saw 41 MPs elected 18 months ago appears (on the surface at least) to be in a much healthier position than one which saw their representation at Holyrood reduced to just five.  But bear with me.

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