Sunday, September 23, 2007

Trouble At T'Mill

I posted earlier in the week about the respective performances on Thursday of Wendy Alexander and Menzies Campbell, where I was fairly kind about Wendy and pretty scathing about Campbell. For the sake of a snappy headline, though, I suggested that this might have been Campbell's last outing as Lib Dem leader, something which seems to have raised at least one set of eyebrows - in retrospect, quite rightly as well.

My reaction to Campbell's speech has been pretty much at odds with the rest of the world, which was either rabidly favourable (most Lib Dems); gave the benefit of the doubt (the MSM); or completely ignored it (everyone else) - but such is life. Of course, the Lib Dems would never be so daft as to ditch a leader when everyone suspects an election only weeks or months away. However, there is still dissent there. I still reckon that if we do have an autumn or spring election, providing either Chris Hune or Nick Clegg holds their seat and is in a position to challenge, we've almost certainly seen Campbell deliver his last conference speech as Lib Dem leader.

One thing which I didn't forsee was the hebdomas horribilus which was about to befall Wendy Alexander. In common with some others, I actually thought her delivery at FMQs was OK, even if the topic she chose and the 'facts' behind it were somewhat off-beam. I even resisted the temptation to intrude on private grief when the ludicrous George Foulkes slated her newly appointed Head of Communications, Brian Lironi, as "an idiot", and said of former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish that he was a "strange guy" who should "shut up".

But then, I really didn't need to, since there are plenty others around to do that. According to a 'senior Labour source' in today's Sunday Mirror: "Foulkes is a self-important buffoon fast becoming a liability in Scotland", who "seems to think he is licensed to shoot his mouth off at every opportunity regardless of consequences".

"He could be got rid of without a by-election and it could be portrayed as him having to go back to London because of his terror work in Lords. But the reality would be that the party wanted rid of him quick."

Now, Henry Mcleish can look after himself, but Wendy had a duty to slap Foulkes down for his attack on a party employee. She ducked that responsibility, and Lironi has apparently gone off sick. For what it's worth, I've been a party official myself, which is why I sympathise. If someone attacks you, professional etiquette demands that you maintain a diplomatic silence and rely on others to stand up for you - if that doesn't happen, then you might as well pack your bags, which according to the Sunday Herald's Paul Hutcheon and Scotland on Sunday's Eddie Barnes, he plans to do this week, after just two months in post.

But the problems don't end there. According to the same Sunday Herald piece, Labour MSPs are now complaining that she is shutting herself away with a wee clique of advisers. One Labour MSP commented: "Wendy's had a disastrous first week in charge. The party's more split than I can remember, while another weighed in with "Wendy said she'd changed. She said motherhood and marriage had made her a more sympathetic person. That's bollocks."

That sort of discontent and bile usually takes months, if not years to build up. Much was made about the inability of the left to mount a challenge to her, but in an economically, politically and socially conservative movement like the Labour Party, that really shouldn't have been a surprise. Never mind the standard posturing that emanates from the 'Campaign for Socialism' every so often - my suspicion is that these dissenting voices come from the moderate mainstream of Labour - the constituency which was supposed to be happiest with Wendy's elevation.

As I said, I've been wrong a couple of times this week. However, if I'm right and these dissatisfied voices are those in the mainstream who lacked the courage to mount a challenge when they had the chance, wouldn't that represent the most most dangerous political cocktail of the lot?

No comments: