Monday, 16 May 2011

All this "whithering" makes my head hurt...

So I get home tonight looking for a little light relief, only to find an email from my Group chair preparing for a meeting on Saturday by asking me to describe in no more than 10 words "what went wrong?" Aaargh!

Seriously, though, it's good that there's so much opportunity to direct the debate. James Taylor makes some good points here on how Willie could be our John Swinney (although I would hope his time as leader would be a little less riven by factionalism and division within the party and ends a little more successfully.) There are, though, a couple of points where I disagree.

Our targetted seats policy has worked strongly since it was properly developed in the late 1980s / 90s. It also develops a degree of realism about what we as a party can expect to do. Even in the good days, we still weren't gaining huge amounts of votes in the Lanarkshire / Central Scotland heartlands of Labour - I lost my deposit in Motherwell & Wishaw in 2003, despite us generally increasing our vote. In fact, the only time we haven't lost deposits there was in the 2005 General Election, and it was really after that we should have been capitalising.

Targetting allows us to aim scarce resources in areas where we have an established support. Come 2016, we'll need to concentrate hard on winning back seats like NE Fife, Edinburgh Western and the Aberdeenshire ones, and simply won't be able to spend much more than the deposit cash on the likes of Cowdenbeath. In many ways, this will be easier than gaining seats on the list because there's more of a base already there and the list vote was generally worse than on the list.

I understand also James' points about "what gets measured gets done" but one thing the party has become increasingly guilty of in recent years is asking more and more of members, many of whom will also have day jobs or families to balance against what they want to do for the party. If the party was to start saying "we need to double the number of leaflets delivered" there has to be some thought for people who are going to do it. One thing which Willie is excellent at is bringing in new activists -he certainly did in Dunfermline - but he can't do this across all of Scotland on his own!

If there are to be changes to the party in Scotland, though, it's essential that this is opened out to all members and not left to "senior party members" or party committees to decide. Personally, I still think a conference is the way to go on this - preferably soon, before the summer holidays, but if not then at the time of the October conference.

Anyway, I'm off to try to summarise all that in 10 words. Or I might just try to master quantum physics before bedtime tonight - that might be easier....

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