Lib Dem performance in Euro elections may spin out into Argyll & Bute

The most interesting unknown about the Scottish results of the Europarl elections in May this year, 2014, is what will happen in the Lib Dem vote. It will be an indicator for a shrivelled party of the likelihood of its very survival in Scotland; and it may have a part to play in the local politics of Argyll and Bute.

The Liberal Democrat MEP, George Lyon, looking at the catastrophic collapse of the Lib Dem vote in the 2011 Scottish elections and with no sign of recovery since then, is said to be concerned that he may be unable to retain the sixth Scottish seat at Europarl, the sole Scottish Lib Dem presence. The Scottish Greens are a serious threat.

Mr Lyon is looking at a potentially empty personal horizon. He returned the leases on his family’s Bute farms to the Mount Stuart Estate before he went off to Brussels – with the Lib Dem vote then, 2009, looking reassuringly stable.

The  Lib Dem’s Scottish Parliamentary position

Since then, a lot has changed, with Mr Lyon’s party now reduced literally to a handful – five – of Scottish Parliamentary seats.

Only two of these are constituency seats and both of them are in the far north, not around to create a critical mass to wrap around Argyll and Bute. These two are Orkney with Lib Dem, Liam McArthur; and Shetland with former Lib Dem leader, Tavish Scott.

On the mainland are the other three Lib Dem MSPs, all ‘List’ seats, and strung out across the country, with no two of them contiguous.This severely limits the impact the party can make on the country at large – and it has little presence in Scotland’s great centres of population.

Alison MacInnes is in North East Scotland; Group leader, Willie Rennie, in Mid Scotland and Fife; and Jim Hume down in the Borders in South Scotland.

As soon as we saw the pattern resulting from the 2011 election we questioned how on earth the Lib Dems could rebuild from that particular situation. It still looks very daunting.

The Liberal Democrats in coalition government

The party in Scotland suffered from the opportunist political onslaught upon them from Labour and the SNP because of the their national party’s decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives.

There’s a lot wrong with this autopilot dissing of that decision. Firstly, we have to grow up and stop toxifying political parties as we toxify countries like Russia. It’s so much easier than trying to understand them and the position they’re in.

Then there’s the issue of the Lib Dems not putting Labour back in to power.

They could not have done.

The country had voted Labour out of power – and for many good reasons. If the Lib Dems, in their own interests, had thrown their lot in with Gordon Brown, what would those who voted Labour out have said and frankly, where would the country be today?

The deal the Lib Dems did with the Conservatives was a strategically clever one. For favour of the support of their small but critical number of seats, they were treated unbelievably generously by their partners. Every single department of government had a Lib Dem in a ministerial position, in the lead or as a junior minister.

As a party, this gave them experience of government across the spectrum of departments and responsibilities – experience at a level they could never have won for themselves. Gordon Brown would not and could not have considered giving them so much, even if, politically, they could have supported him back into office.

Duffers, cads, cartoons and stars

The Lib Dems got some big jobs, not all of which they have filled with distinction. Ed Davey at Energy may have delivered the Lib Dem value-set but he has not helped the country. External issues took out David Laws before we knew what he might deliver; and his return has been a pallid event.

Nick Clegg has been a willow-the-wisp. He can produce the rhetoric in the game of politics but his judgment in the realities of government has been erratic. The overall impression is of a lightweight.

Vince Cable’s arrogance and ego, over which he appears to assert no control whatsoever, has serially damaged his career as well as damaging the government in which he ambivalently serves. Never a team player, the extent of the harm he has done through his unfettered vanity has yet to unravel – and that moment may now not be far away.

Alistair Carmichael knew how to do his ‘behind closed doors’ arm wrestling job as Chief Whip. Being Scottish Secretary is too much of a gavotte for a walk-the-waltzer.

The major success in the Lib Dems’ contribution to Cabinet government has been Scotland’s Danny Alexander as Chief Treasury Secretary. He has not tried to do tricks to play for popularity; and has made no attempt to disguise the fact that he is a serious man. In an increasingly bizarre political world which seems to be spinning out of orbit – a world where Prime Ministers and Presidents prioritise selfies at the most profound moments – the presence of a quiet and focused authority has been a relief. The same could be said for Chancellor George Osborne.

Alexander is clearly highly competent. He has authority. He knows what he’s talking about. He does his job. He stays out of plots. He is on Twitter – but it’s solidly political stuff, issues, points, clarifications.

The other success in government is, sadly the lost man – Michael Moore. The Borders MP’s thoughtful, open and unstrident performance as Scottish Secretary was effective and healing. He was very much his own man, with a mind beyond the non-aggressive eyes. Swopping him for Alistair Carmichael – a likeable man in the wrong job – was an unthinking and indiscriminate move that has left the pro-union campaign no more than a series of percussive notes struck in the the same minor key.

We could have done with hearing a lot more from Moore – because what he said was thought and not predictable. Now we’ll never know – but this was a very particular talent tossed away by the tweet brigade.

The view from George Lyon’s position

If you were George Lyon, looking at this overall scenario, you would have to be realistic about the chances of retaining the sixth Europarl seat. It’s possible but it’s iffy.

If you were George Lyon, you would have to have one of those chimaerical Plan Bs.

Gossip has it that there is a Plan B in the making.

Argyll and Bute’s MP, Alan Reid, has not yet declared whether he will stand again for the Westminster constituency seat. He may also have doubts whether in the current political climate, he can retain the seat for a further term – and that would be no reflection on the man.

Alan Reid gets less credit than he deserves for his strategic capability, He is no mean reader of situations.

Plan B is said to be that if George Lyon loses in the Europarl elections, Alan Reid may stand down in his favour as Lib Dem candidate for Argyll and Bute; and go to the House of Lords.

This might not be the smartest move for the party. It is arguable that its best chance of keeping the Argyll and But seat is with Alan Reid, for whom there is residual voter loyalty. George Lyon was always more glamorous but less popular, lacking Alan Reid’s bedrock voting areas in the constituency – and he has been away for five years. Things have changed a lot in that time.

Mr Lyon also has recent embarrassment on his plate over a mistaken vote that left him looking far adrift of Liberal Democrat policy. In late February this year, George Lyon was the only British Liberal Democrat to oppose the resolution put to Europarl: ‘on the application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value’.

The Liberal Democrat party was quick to explain that: ‘This was a straightforward error with the voting process which George Lyon later sought to correct in the record. It is regretful that on this occasion the correction appears not to have been made and we will be investigating why this has happened.’ This was unfortunate but it has provided ammunition that will be used against him by his opponents in the campaign; and having a problem with the voting system , after almost five years in Brussels, is little better on his score card than having voted against an equal pay measure.

However, the rumoured Plan B might well have its attractions for Alan Reid. He would be spared the rough and tumble of another campaign. He would stand down unbeaten.  He would have a lifetime set in the political world he knows well and which is interesting and often entertaining.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • I’m no Liberal , but you’d need to be very partisan to fail to acknowledge the useful contribution George Lyon MEP has made .
    As the Liberals proved at Eastleigh , it’s a mistake to write them off .
    However , were things to go badly for George Lyon and the Liberals , it’s unlikely the beneficiaries would be the Greens .
    Much more likely would be an extra seat for Labour , the Conservatives or the SNP .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

    Islay for ever April 1, 2014 9:48 pm Reply
  • Just another wee twist on the referendum bandwagon with Tommy Sheridan coming to speak in support of the Yes side in Oban on the 10th of April.
    I love Tommy,s fight on some social issues and his court case was worth watching he loved the spotlight but on this one I can,t support him.
    I will keep him as my Twitter background as I think his heart is in the right place although other parts of his body might need to be kept in check.
    I am disappointed I will miss it but I will be on holiday with my oldest grandkids.
    Any chance you will cover it newsie.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

    Neil MacIntyre April 2, 2014 7:47 am Reply
    • Sorry, Neil. Life’s a lot too short and Sheridan is a long busted flush. No credibility.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

      newsroom April 2, 2014 1:40 pm Reply
      • I bet H2O and all of his personas will be there though.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

        RichieMac April 2, 2014 1:56 pm Reply
      • And who in the Oban Yes campaign recommended Sheridan as a speaker? He is a vote loser. I will be tearing up my SNP membership card because they obviously never opposed the choice of Sheridan

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

        Larry Nugent April 2, 2014 6:54 pm Reply
  • We all know Sheridan would say ” YES” to anything…with anyone… he is a total ” has-been” ….

    We need voices on both sides of the argument who’s morality is beyond question…role models for the next generation, all the more pertinent given the age drop during the referendum…what we do not need are more self serving narcissist’s with a polemic outlook on life, society, culture and the electorate…

    If we want to sort the wheat from the chaff…put all MSP/MP’s on 30k a year and let them claim expenses from an independent authority.

    Lets see after this who can rightly take the moral high ground, who is commited to the electorate and political change… then we can cast our votes with at least a modicum of trust.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 2:13 pm Reply
    • 30k????
      Personally I’d put them all on 15k a year (which is a lot more than I get) and then see how concerned they suddenly become about the realities of life.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

      ClootieDumpling April 2, 2014 3:11 pm Reply
      • You are right…I’m too nice.

        I was thinking about putting them on the minimum wage….? but actually it should be less…most folks on the minimum wage do a dammed site more work…and are more honest.

        I believe it would take 1000 voices on a petition to raise the question at 1st Ministers Q’s in Holyrood…?(if anybody knows the actual figure shout it out…this would be a good time to remind the politicians, all politicians…that we pay their wages, and a project I would be happy to embrace))

        Simple question…do you think MSP’s get paid too much…”Yes” or “NO” ?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

        Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 3:30 pm Reply
        • Yes. I have a friend that recently moved to Denmark and she commented that out there, politicians are not paid a huge amount, certainly not the obscene amount ours get.

          According to her, that’s one reason that politicians are more productive and serve the population more effectively, but i’ve seen nothing in the Yes propspectus that suggests we follow this Scandinavian model. I wonder why not….

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

          Jamie Black April 2, 2014 5:22 pm Reply
          • Come the revolution, Jamie, I will certainly support you on this one.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

            Kassandra April 2, 2014 8:09 pm
    • Better a “has been” than a “never could be” like you Karl. From reading your posts I think your morality is not beyond question – to say the least, so I take your pontificating with a large pinch of salt. If you were half the man Tommy Sheridan is, you would be very nearly a small fraction of a person.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

      Kassandra April 2, 2014 7:55 pm Reply
      • So you’re a Tommy groupie Kassandra, and not a follower of one of the seriously intolerant stab-in-the-back mobs swirling around that corner of Scottish politics?
        Could it be you’d find life more to your liking in North Korea?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

        Robert Wakeham April 2, 2014 9:35 pm Reply
        • “Stab-in-the-back is strictly a right-wing hobby, Robert – I would have thought you would be aware of that.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          Kassandra April 4, 2014 8:43 pm Reply
  • Great idea folks if the average wage in the country is supposed to be around £25,000 that’s what they should get.
    As its all about serving the country and not about financial gain it should get 100% backing from politicians of all parties.
    Karl I would certainly sign a petition it would be great just before the referendum to see what answer we would get.
    You might have to go into hiding for suggesting it but surely when money is tight they should take the lead.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

    Neil MacIntyre April 2, 2014 4:40 pm Reply
    • This would be aimed at all MSP’s … whatever their persuation….

      In regards to the ” Yes” campaign it would give credence to their claim that they will introduce new type of politics…lets give them a hand.

      I need to look into how it can be done.
      FA: any thoughts ? … none political thoughts.

      Now why would I want to hide…its for the good of a ” New Dawn”… and hardly a threat to the establishment.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

      Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 4:51 pm Reply
      • I’m liking the sound of this Karl! There are several websites where the public can start their own petitions, including the 38Degrees one “Campaigns by You”, and http://www.change.org.
        Just have a look at the MSPs’ allowances as well. In 2012-13 the expenses for our “local boys” were:
        Mike Russell £28,875.83
        Jamie McGrigor £31,737.67
        Mike MacKenzie £30,780.19
        And that’s on top of the 45k they get paid.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

        ClootieDumpling April 2, 2014 6:01 pm Reply
        • I want to get a question raised in Holyrood…got to do a bit of research on how to go about this…but believe they have to go through a MSP…

          I know that MSP talked about not accepting Westminsters up lift…fair enough, but that still means that they got expenses…similar to those you have kindly listed…and also a bloody good wage.

          If we want New Politics…and lord knows we need it…whether in the union or not…this could be a good spring board… got to go and eat…its half 8 here..
          Anyhow…I wont let this rest…I’ve planted a seed.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

          Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 6:27 pm Reply
          • SSP had a policy of a MSP only taking a workers wage, nothing new about this.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

            John Sinclair April 2, 2014 9:24 pm
          • J.Sinclair…

            Thanks for the info…I will read up…early days yet.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 9:32 pm
        • Karl’s grasp of nuance is a damn sight better than your grasp of geography, below, Kassandra – and you might benefit from a visit to Walsingham in August.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

          Robert Wakeham April 2, 2014 9:24 pm Reply
      • “New Dawn” – that’s you showing your true colours now, Karl. Greek reference (- for the topically challenged).

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

        Kassandra April 2, 2014 8:12 pm Reply
        • Golden Dawn… 🙂 numb nuts 🙂

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

          Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 8:14 pm Reply
          • You amaze me with the intellectual quality of your replies! Your grasp of nuance is not improving either. Your editing qualities are improving though!

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

            Kassandra April 2, 2014 8:16 pm
          • Just to explain this to you further, Karl, as I feel it might be necessary, a “reference” is not a “quote” – it need not contain the EXACT words as those referred to. Hope you pick up on this, as it gets tiresome to keep explaining it.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

            Kassandra April 2, 2014 8:49 pm
          • You simply fall for the bait everytime…:) which pleases me, as it confirms your ignorance.

            Playing on these forums has become a wee shot in the arm for you…a wee one sided power trip…because no one really reads what you write here , its white noise, and obviously no one at home listens to your white noise either…so what on earth do you do with yourself ? nope don’t answer that…I can hear the loop of a nordic symphony in the background….is that Greig, aye Peer Gynt if I’m not mistaken…enjoy.

            Anyhow…I have got better things to do…thats your 30seconds done…off out with some local friends now…

            toodle pip.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

            Karl Hughes April 2, 2014 9:12 pm
          • http://www.scotsman.com/news/bill-jamieson-yes-there-should-be-no-poll-abuse-1-3362654?WT.mc_id=Outbrain_text&obref=obinsite

            You are part of the problem…not a part of the solution.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

            Karl Hughes April 3, 2014 2:59 pm
  • Another Yes promise that will come to nothing I would expect!

    If the yes mob are successful, the first thing that will happen is that MSPs will vote themselves a hefty rise in salary/expenses. Afterall they will running the whole shop.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

    JimB April 2, 2014 5:12 pm Reply
  • Karl, maybe you should look at it in another way, does it matter that a MSP or MP get a substantial salary, if they were managers in private or public companies they would be judged on their performance at least once a year, (in my industry your as safe as the last quarters results), the problem is that we the electorate only judge them once every four years (election time).
    Even then we are not very analytical, mainly a case of who talks a good story with a bit of brave heart chucked in, it is us the electorate who need to get their act together and start holding the local MSP to account. Basically WE are lazy and like to moan!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    Rchard April 2, 2014 10:52 pm Reply
  • Another article hijacked by the usual suspects talking about something else.
    If you gave politicians a rubbish wage, where do you think they would make up the amount they need to fund their lifestyle? That’s right, a few backhanders from those with an interest in pushing through certain policies. I know they do it already but that is just greed. If it became a necessity it would be much more widespread.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    Andy April 2, 2014 11:21 pm Reply

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