Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Scottish Questions, Devine Interventions And Lib Dem Intrigue

It was Scottish Questions today at Westminster, not that you would have noticed from reading the BBC website. If Scottish Questions was a waste of time before devolution - being largely clogged up with home counties Tories asking puffball questions designed to extoll the virtues of the Union - it has even less relevance today, what with there being an SNP government sitting in Edinburgh.

A few MPs were enjoying their first outings following last week's party reshuffles. Des Browne and David Cairns have been promoted to Scottish Secretary and Minister of State respectively. Ben Wallace also popped up on the Tory benches as the new sidekick to fellow ex-MSP David Mundell. But to show that some things never change, Livingstone MP Jim Devine again made a fool of himself, slating the SNP for imposing single status agreements at West Lothian Council, when they were actually set in train by Devine's council colleagues from the outgoing Labour administration. Oops...

However, perhaps the most surprising and least remarked upon change, was the Lib Dems' replacement of Jo Swinson with Orkney and Shetland MP Alasdair Carmichael. For all that I've said some pretty harsh things about the Lib Dems in the past, I genuinely don't have a bad thing to say about either Jo Swinson or Alasdair Carmichael. Sure, some of Ms Swinson's contributions could be a bit earnest and predictable at times, but I can't think of anything she's either done or not done over the period she held the post to merit her demotion.

That said, Alasdair Carmichael has an easy, fluent manner, and comes across very well indeed. He is clearly head and shoulders above many of his Scottish Lib Dem colleagues, including at this point in time Jo Swinson. However, that was also the case at the time Jo Swinson was appointed, so why change things round now?

Trouble behind the scenes, or further evidence that Menzies Campbell just doesn't really have the stragegic and managerial skills needed to build a decent team? Any Lib Dems prepared to have a go at explaining this one are cordially invited to the comments section for a discussion :-)


Allan said...

Of course nothing to do with the fact that the Lib Dems are heading towards the kind of internal warfare that they have avoided so far in their 20 year history (even after the merger) between the social democrats and the Orange book wing (a collection of liberal free marketeers who David Cameron has been trying to woo).

Of course geting rid of a popular leader in a bloody coup doesn't help.

Richard Thomson said...

Aye. In England, the Orange Bookers could really do a number on Gordon Brown's nanny statism and David Cameron's soft-focus toryism, but they're being held back by the apolitical unionism of Campbell and the rest of the Scottish party.

North and south of the border, the Tories are a party that is weaker together and which would be stronger apart. I'm rapidly coming to the same conclusion about the Lib Dems.

ASwaS said...

Or it could be that since Swinson is going to get annihilated in East Dunbartonshire next time around, they want to give her more time to push Focus leaflets through doors in her constituency (or whatever Lib Dem MPs do) while covering themselves so that their Scottish spokesperson doesn't get scalped.

Richard Thomson said...

Could be... East Dunbartonshire isn't my neck of the woods, so apart from the fact the SNP did well at the last council elections, I don't have much idea of what the local politics are like.

She got a hard time this morning for arriving in the chamber after questions to the Chancellor had begun, then Alasdair Darling was actually quite nice and reasonable to her in his response to her question, even when he pointed out that 'green' taxes tended to hit the poorest hardest.

She didn't look very happy. Poor Jo...