[Updated 15.15 below] Stewart Hosie, SNP MP for Dundee East, is now Deputy Leader of the SNP.
How will this play if, as he clearly intends, Alex Salmond returns, on May 2015, to his conflicted preference of the House of Commons at Westminster?
As Deputy Leader of a party whose rules set the authority of its leadership over the entire party, surely Mr Hosie is expected – and will expect – to lead the party at Westminster?
Yet, as today’s published interview with Newsweek Europe shows, Mr Salmond is, in preemptive mode, assuming that he will be that leader. He talks of what ‘he’ will demand of Ed Miliband in return for possible SNP support after the May 2015 General Election.
He also speaks in that interview in astonishing and untrammelled megalomania, asking the interviewer: ‘‘Is ENGLAND [Ed: our emphasis] going to be safer IN MY HANDS [Ed: our emphasis] or in the hands of this coalition government or of Nigel Farage? Much safer IN MY HANDS [Ed: our emphasis].’
We can only wish Nicola Sturgeon and Stewart Hosie good luck with that.
The other issue for the Westminster group is the likely double demotion of the current Leader of the SNP group of MPs there, the belligerent Angus Robertson, with Mr Hosie now the de iure leader; and with the shade of a restive and demanding Mr Salmond looming large.
In a group of six more or less generally unknown MPs, as has been the SNP situation at Westminster, they can rub along together well enough.
However, with a Deputy Party Leader amongst them and with the possibility of the rumbustious busker, Alex Salmond in their midst, clearly assuming that he will de facto and de iure, automatically lead them, harmony and discipline may be hard to maintain.
The best thing party supporters could do for their party and its new leadership is not to elect Alex Salmond to Westminster, where he will be unable to stop himself being more trouble for his party than for anyone else.
He has had his day. He ought gracefully to accept that. Of course all demagogues understandably find such acceptance difficult if not impossible to achieve and Alex Salmond has been the demagogue of his time.
Fortune has smiled upon him with uncommon generosity; but it really is time now to return to the tote and the rub of the greens – and to count himself lucky that he has the opportunity, supported by his five pensions, to allow him to do so.
And non-member candidates coming up on the inside rail
The Westminster scenario sketched above predates the arrival of a group of MPs swollen by a currently unknowable number, through seats gained in the 2015 General Election.
This updated scenario is today made even more problematic by the SNP’s published intent to change the party rules to allow the selection of candidates who are not even party members to stand for election to represent it.
One would have thought that a party membership newly of 84,000 would provide a rich enough variety of candidate to satisfy the most demanding. But no. The SNP want to have the freedom to recruit candidates from beyond their own party and beyond this paid-up membership.
That can only cause ructions in disaffected long standing members with known ambitions to represent the SNP in parliamentary election to Westminster or Holyrood.
It will also cause disaffection amongst a welter of the new membership who rushed to join the SNP in its despond at losing the independence referendum – and whose support has buoyed the party beyond imagining.
How will those members feel in seeing some who are not even party members, selected as SNP candidates for election – some for May 2015?
What this is about is that the party hierarchy want to make their own choice of ‘kerb appeal’ candidates, with no limitation whatsoever, even inconvenient rules like the requirement to be a member of the party.
This has already happened at local level.
In the forthcoming Argyll and Bute Council by-election for South Kintyre, the party is to be represented by John Armour, a very likeable and popular local man who directs and performs in a successful local amateur drama club and who is a long-time presenter on the local radio station, Argyll FM, based in Campbeltown.
Mr Armour – a long time SNP supporter but not a member of the party until very recently – is authoritatively alleged to have been ‘given the tap’ to stand by local MSP, Michael Russell.
The question remains of what a loyal traditional membership and a massive and engaged new membership over three times the number of the preexisting membership will separately and together feel about being overlooked in favour of a hand picked beauty parade of non-members for strategic seats.This cannot pass without bequeathing enduring grievance. The serpent is already on his way into the thickets of Eden.
Nicola Sturgeon said recently and complacently that she was ‘struggling to see the negative’ in the party’s massive new membership. She may soon find out.
The will to run rampant, free of any restraint from inconvenient regulations, is something Scotland has already seen from the SNP but ought to ready itself to witness and experience much more frequently from now on. They’re only tuning up.
A total of 34,934 votes were cast in the SNP’s Deputy leadership election – with a turnout of 55.7%. This represents some ten thousand more people voting than the SNP had members on referendum day.
In the final vote – after the redistribution of votes from the eliminated Angela Constance – Stewart Hosie got 18,915 votes compared to 15,150 for Keith Brown – which equates to 55.5% to 44.5%.
15.15 update: The SNP Conference has approved the proposed change to party rules to allow non-members and overnight members to stand for the party in elections. Game on.