At yesterday’s meeting of the SNP group ‘leading’ the administration of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Gordon Blair chose not to resign from the party.
In doing so, he pulled the group back from the certain political abyss into which his planned action would have propelled them.
The group is now in continuing limbo until we see if some semblance of political discipline and judgment obtains.
The plan had been that Councillor Breslin’s resignation was to be followed by one from Councillor Blair, hoping to see the sort of rolling revolt that would have unseated the second SNP group Leader of Argyll and Bute Council in under a year.
The plan to defenestrate a second leader – with the single aim of getting Breslin into the chair – is not essentially about saving Dunoon’s Struan Lodge care home. It is centrally about control – and then about putting a panicky self-interest before the interests of Argyll as a whole.
Dunoon is one of the five main towns in Argyll – but it is not Argyll.
The interests of one place cannot swing the spending and the policy of a council entrusted with governing in the interests of all.
The elderly on Mull, for example, are in a precarious situation, without the 47 free care home spaces available in Cowal last week – despite the politically motivated distortion that the closure of Struan Lodge would cause ‘bed blocking’.
At the heart of this is the external control freakery that has made mischief in this party group and this administration from the start. This is an obsessive determination to win dominance at the cost of seeing the local party unlikely to be trusted again to govern Argyll and Bute.
There is a fabulous Leonard Cohen song, The Captain, set in what seems to be the aftermath of a Vietnam military debacle. Its opening lines are:
‘Now the Captain called me to his bed
He fumbled for my hand
“Take these silver bars,” he said
“I’m giving you command.”
“Command of what, there’s no one here
There’s only you and me –
All the rest are dead or in retreat
Or with the enemy.’
And that’s the issue.
The drive to take an improper and unconstitutional control of the council administration is getting to the point where ‘Command of what? There’s no one here. There’s only you and me’ will sum it up.
The first leader of the administration, the universally liked and trusted Councillor Roddy McCuish, proved to be his own man. That was not the plan. He wasn’t meant to be like that. That was a nuisance. He duly stepped down, after giving notice that he was likely do so, at the Council Meeting on 14th February
Roddy McCuish’s straightforwardness and common sense dignifies local politics – and particularly at the moment, but his independent stance made him the focus for manoeuvres.
Councillor James Robb, who was then installed, became leader because the planned elevation of Breslin could not be put into action at that time. This was because Councilor Breslin’s status in the group was then uncertain, following the threat of resignation he had issued and which was neatly trumped by then Leader, Councillor McCuish’s simple acceptance of it.
As we have said, this was the last thing the cabal had wanted because Robb has always manifestly been his own man. Like Councillor McCuish before him, he is not ‘manageable’, so he has been demonised – and particularly in Dunoon, the home territory of the cabal, where the erection of the gibbet is always a locally appealing ploy.
These politics simply stink.
Those who newly voted for the SNP candidates in Argyll and Bute in the May 2012 council elections did so because they dreamed of old fashioned things like openness, collegiality, integrity, strategic vision and a steady and principled hand guiding Argyll and Bute through extraordinarily difficult times.
They – and we – could not have imagined and would certainly not have chosen the vicious internecine conflicts that have characterised the SNP group since it gained its lead group position in the council.
The former administration, now the opposition, has had to do no more than sit back and watch, open jawed, as the lemmings have rushed for the cliff-face under their own propulsion. It’s been a year-round Christmas.
There have been moments of saving grace.
Councillor John Semple, a better hearted man than he often gets credit for, unselfishly moved aside as Depute Council Leader, to make way for Councillor McCuish, when he ceased to be leader.
This was good judgment because Councillor McCuish is a steadying influence for the group in these warring times – and it was a gesture generously made.
The planned revolt against Councillor Robb, now aborted with Councillor Blair’s decision not to resign, has failed – for the time being.
Will the group be given time and peace to coalesce as they must do, without questionable interventions?
Or, as before, will a short hiatus be followed by another round of manoeuvres?
We’re taking no bets.