Friday, 29 April 2016

Marshmallow woman

STV's political editor Bernard Ponsonby is conducting a series of one-to-one interviews with the leaders of the parties fighting the Scottish General Election.  The most excruciating of these is the one with Kezia Dugdale.

She reminds me of someone who has brought a family-sized bag of marshmallows to a gunfight, with about the level of effectiveness you'd expect from such a scenario.  She doesn't have her facts at her fingertips and constantly relies on 'well that's what I've been told'.  Shades of Johann Lamont, whose interviewing style was equally hapless.  See, for example, this interview with Gordon Brewer regarding one of Labour's tax plansCompare and contrast with Nicola Sturgeon, who is generally well-prepared on the topic she's discussing and is therefore almost always able to think on her feet when challenged. 

This illustrates a fundamental weakness with Labour politicians in Scotland.  They try to reduce debate to the level of soundbites, and when the interviewer asks a question that departs from their script, they flounder.  One wonders if this is because any Scottish Labour politician with any talent is quickly moved off to Westminster, leaving behind the less talented for the Scottish parliament, which is to be regarded as the minor leagues.  This is key to understanding why Labour in Scotland are doing so very badly in the Scottish general election.

The SNP are very much a party for the people of Scotland, and this is illustrated by the fact that not all of their best politicians are hived off to Westminster.  Labour and also the Tories are perceived not to be interested in Scotland and its people, preferring instead to send all of their best to London.  The electorate are not stupid and can discern which parties are for Scotland first and which are for the UK first.

If Labour and the Tories in Scotland want to become serious contenders for the Scottish government, they will have to find some way to show the electorate that Scotland is important to them.  Almost inevitably this will mean them supporting federalism at the very least and probably ultimately independence.  So far this is not a step they are prepared to take, and they risk the very real possibility of being left behind by history if they are not prepared to change.

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