Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Salmond eyes the indy referendum prize

What's happening in Scotland, all my Westminster lobby colleagues are asking me as the polls show the SNP pulling ahead of Labour for Holyrood.

These days Scottish politics only ignites interest in Westminster when it looks like independence is back on the agenda.

The latest poll of polls put through the Weber Shandwick calculator, shows that is just what could happen.

The poll calculator puts the SNP on 60 MSPs, 13 more than in 2007. Labour would take 43 (- 3), Conservatives 12 (- 5), Lib Dems 8 (-8), the Greens 5 (+3) and Margo Macdonald would also retain her seat.

If these results were replicated on election day the SNP with the pro-independence Green and Margo Macdonald would have a majority, 66 MSPs, in favour of independence, allowing a referendum to take place in the next five years.

The usual riders apply to this poll as any other. Labour are still confident that their vote is holding solid and that they have the advantage in the all the battleground seats they have targeted.

But the SNP see a trend of Lib Dem votes splitting two to one in their favour with the remainder going Green.

That pattern of voting would take Alex Salmond back into Bute House, the First Minister's Edinburgh residence, in just over a week's time.

A independence referendum with a Tory government in Westminster and the wind in the SNP's sails is as good as it could get for Salmond, even though polls consistently show a majority of Scots against the idea of independence.

An early referendum bill would be a dream come true for the SNP. It would also help distract from the squeeze on public services that the Holyrood government, of whatever hue, is going to have to enact.

Monday, 18 April 2011

John Reid held hostage by opposition forces

He invoked the spirit of Churchill, he claimed common cause with the voters of Britain, but no matter how much John Reid tried to dress up his support for David Cameron this morning he ended up looking like the Prime Minister's stooge, temporarily taking Nick Clegg's role as the bulletproof vest while the Coalition partners stake their differences on AV.

This was beyond Stockholm Syndrome or the hapless parade of downed US spyplane pilots by the North Vietnamse, Dr Reid actually enjoyed the applause of the Tory audience.

Reid insists his support for the No to AV campaign is above party politics but he is one of the sharpest Scottish political minds - he knows that the immediate consequence of a No win in the AV referendum is deeply political.

A No vote means a victory for David Cameron, whom Reid stood shoulder to shoulder with this morning, and a humiliation for the Labour leader Ed Miliband.

I wanted to ask if that is what Reid wanted, and how the people of Motherwell looking at morning television images could only think that their former MP has switched sides.

If his appearance was to prove himself as capable a statesman as the current Prime Minister, it fell down on that too. He looked a diminished figure, the "attack dog" joke at his own expenses, lapped up by a room full of Tory party workers.

The former Home Secretary argued that there was more at stake than mere party politics. Cameron, who was delighted to have another senior party cadre hostage, knows there is more at stake too.

His premiership is at stake, and so are the chances of the Tories being in power for a long time. Cameron looked very happy leaving the stage. I return to the question - why does Reid want the Labour leadership to lose this one?