I’ll have to go shopping soon. There’s nothing in the house.
I realise the way this works is that you read the last bit first, as it were. So if you’re interested enough you probably have to go back to I Didn’t Mean To Do This to get the main thrust. Otherwise I’ll try to make this self-standing if you haven’t the time.
I’m picking up on Douglas Alexander who is the last thing approaching a political thinker in Scottish Labour. I’ll gloss over the Damien McBride claims he was ready to jettison his sister in the wider cause – which may have included his own advancement. Frankly, I’d have done the same. In fact I have done, many a time when she threatened to get what I wanted. Come on. That’s what sisters are for.
Douglas Alexander is promoting the idea of a national all-party convention if there’s a No vote, and he’s right. It is exactly the right thing to do. When there is a national disagreement about how to proceed, the needs of all, but especially the majority, have to be respectfully treated. All parties, all opinions and representative groups should take part, just as they did in Iceland to find a new constitution.
I never dismiss any idea from any source out of hand. The foundation of my political belief is that I am a democrat. I am one among many. All views are relevant. I am not always right. And Douglas is never less than worth listening to.
At the same time Douglas is Labour’s election strategist, a man given to longer-term thinking and clever calculation. He has mastered the arts of statecraft and can take credit for wrong-footing opponents. He is one of that breed of political exponents you can’t take your eye off and every time I hear him, I listen between the lines, if you see what I mean. We all learn not to take at face value the words of salesmen and manipulators even – especially – when they are offering something attractive. To put it another way, Douglas has earned our scepticism.
So, apart from a good inclusive idea what does Douglas’s convention tell us? First, if he is truly interested in the views of all, why didn’t he argue that the views of the known majority be placed on the referendum ballot paper? If we are genuinely trying to find a consensus way forward why deliberately deny the single largest group of voters – call them Devo Max – their choice in this great event of democratic history-making? It seems the views of the many only count when Douglas’s tribal enemy is first eliminated, then we can get down to democracy. I find that unconvincing.
My second thought is that Labour will struggle to produce anything credible on more powers before next September. This is partly because Johann has no devolutionary impulse of her own. She is not driven by it the way Dewar eventually was. It is not her cause. She is suspicious of what she calls the politics of boundaries. Her commission is motivated more by necessity than desire and will reflect that. I predict more powers to local government than to parliament. I’m also doubtful that Miliband will sanction whatever she produces in the face of a deeply sceptical English electorate furious at Scottish spending. (It’s a pity then the Scottish Unionists haven’t bothered to correct misleading impressions).
In that case, to get Labour off the hook, Douglas’s Convention is the perfect diversion. We don’t need too much detail on new powers or too much commitment to implement because we will all get into a big tent after a No vote and sort it out there.
That has the added advantage of suggesting the detail will have to wait for civic Scotland and others to thrash out because it’s only fair and democratic to do it that way. And if the Nationalists say No they won’t be interested in the people’s option because they were beaten.
Then there is the post referendum reaction. Enough Scots may well not be convinced of the case for independence yet but it would be a gross error to believe they will stop voting SNP. On the contrary, the polls indicate the opposite, that Scots will express their appreciation of Salmond’s gallant fight for what he believes in and, assuming he hams his way through a humble concession speech, I think there will be a sympathy vote thrown in. There will be no return to power for Labour.
In that same loser’s address I expect Salmond to thank the Scots for their thoughtful and trouble-free constitutional debate unmarred by violence or any of the nasty conflict Johann Lamont ascribes to their nationalism and then to point in her direction and demand: “It’s over to you now, Johann. You said Vote No. You promised something better. You’ve had plenty time to come up with it. In fact you said you were fed up waiting for the referendum vote. Well, we’re waiting now. The Scots are waiting. And they won’t wait much longer.”
All the pressure will transfer overnight to Labour. Instead of Unionist demands on Yes for detail after detail, it will be nationalists demanding detail and action from a Labour party unable to deliver and very possibly unable to win at Westminster. The tables will be turned and I suspect there will little support from the media who will also begin a relentless pursuit of Ms Lamont, producing a pressure she shows little sign of being able to handle.
How to reduce such scrutiny? By pointing to Douglas’s big tent, of course. You take the heat off by simply saying that this needs us all to decide together. It’s not just up to Labour. It is Scotland’s issue to solve. In that scenario Johann is just one of the contributors who will all be in it together. She doesn’t need to lead, doesn’t need to innovate or inspire. She only has to sit nice and let others do the work.
Is Douglas Alexander capable of devising such a plan? Sorry, that is rhetorical.
I’m away for the messages now. Next, I’ll layout what Johann should really have done to win the referendum for Labour all on its own without the Tories and hand oor Alex a bloody nose…