Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I’ve been keeping schtum about Wendy Alexander’s screeching hand-brake turn on an Independence referendum. Not because of any unease or lack of ‘bottle’, as some would have it, but simply because it was such a seismic and unexpected political event, that I thought it would take at least a few days to get a measure of what some of the aftershocks might be.

I was wondering how the referendum u-turn might affect the Calman Commission, set up to try and derail independence. I was curious to see how the Tories and Lib Dems might react once the enormity of the change sank in. I was intrigued as to whether Calman’s recommendations would be put to the vote, or whether they would be left as the fallback in the event of a ‘no’ vote to Independence. It would be fascinating to find out whether Wendy would support a referendum in 2009, but revert to opposing one in 2010. Most of all, could Gordon Brown, the arch control freak himself, really have consented to such a ploy?

Well, now we know. Courtesy of Prime Minister’s Questions, we have learned that when Wendy Alexander called for a referendum on independence, what she really meant was that she was content to wait for the report of the Calman Commission. When she said she had the support of Gordon Brown for her move, she really meant that he didn’t support it at all. And when Scottish Labour MPs said that this was a decision for Labour in Holyrood to take, they meant exactly the opposite.

Shambles, meltdown, burach, farrago, car-crash, fiasco, debacle, SNAFU – choose your adjective or acronym as you wish. The clunking fist has clunked down on Wendy’s head – she can either tell him where to go, or back down compliantly. Either way, she risks losing Brown’s patronage or losing what remaining credibility she has within her MSP group, the wider Labour party and the country at large.

First Ministers Questions should be interesting tomorrow…


Mike Small said...

I think its the most inept political move in years. Hilarious, and Brillant.

Bill said...

Although I come at the 'independence' thing from a completely different angle to your own, what you write is perfectly in line with my own thinking on what has happened. I must say this latest example of Labour 'policy-making' in action is startling in its ineptitude; what can she have been thinking, particularly because she is supposed to be a faithful disciple of Brown, or is she really trying to push him further down the tubes?

I have long favoured a referendum, to be held the sooner the better; I thought the delaying-tactics of the 3 principal opposition parties only played into the hands of you SNP folks, but this is certainly a cack-handed way of modifying an earlier political decision.

Richard Thomson said...

I think slack-jawed amazement just about sums up my reaction to today's events, Bill. It scarcely seems possible that between them, the two supposedly 'great' minds of the present day Scottish Labour party could have contrived to make such a complete hash of things.

Hope you're acclimatising once more to the Scottish weather after your travels!

Richard Thomson said...

It's incredible, isn't it, Mike?