Alex Salmond has today, 7th December, made his pitch for election to represent the UK constituency of Gordon in Aberdeenshire in the 2015 General Election.
He will of course be his party’s candidate but he will not necessarily win the seat.
This is a long time Liberal Democrat stronghold with a doughty candidate to replace the incumbent Sir Malcolm Bruce, who is retiring at the election. Seasoned journalist Christine Jardine, has already scored notably with the very real point that this election is not about Alex Salmond – not should it be. It it is about Gordon.
The reality for Gordon ~, in looking to its own interests, is that whatever the outcome of the 2015 General Election, the Lib Dems are likely to be back in government as the support act. The most likely outcome is the continuation of the current coalition, possibly with the Ulster Unionists on board. So if Gordon votes in its own traditions, it will have the greatest chance of access to the levers of government than it will in voting SNP. With the SNP committed to independence as soon as possible, no pro-Union party of any colour could defend a coalition with a party whose very existence is dedicated to breaking up the Union.
This entire area, though being Mr Salmond’s Scottish constituency back yard, voted decisively against independence, rejecting the dodgy Salmond prospectus.
The former First Minister is not only already yesterday’s man and a noted bully, a characteristic today’s society says [but has yet to prove] that it abhors – but he was single-handedly responsible for the main reasons many who might have voted for indy could not do so.
With a straight ‘Yes’ to Andrew Neil’s question, he lied baldly about having legal advice on Scotland’s position with regard to EU membership – when he had not even asked for it.
He compounded this by getting Nicola Sturgeon to make this confession to the Scottish Parliament, rather than taking responsibility for it himself.
People fundamentally do not like bare faced liars; nor do they respect men who cannot take their due responsibility – and, particularly those who then take shelter behind someone else, here a woman.
The most important issue of the entire referendum campaign was the currency an independent Scotland would use. Mr Salmond typically took one massive gamble to reassure a nervy electorate and promised that an independent Scotland would use the pound sterling in a currency union with the continuing United Kingdom.
When this was refuted by the United Kingdom government and the question on the lips of the majority was ‘What’s the Plan B?’, it became clear that Mr Salmond’s gamble was absolute. It was the pound or chaos. There was no Plan B. He just kept saying we would get the pound – because he said so. Just like that.
The former First Minister’s conduct during and after the indyref campaign became progressively divisive. He even attacked older voters after his defeat, working to make them a target of abuse by the braveheart brigades and to alienate them from the rest of the population that their working lives had supported to maturity.
SNP supporters themselves have good reason to pause before voting for Mr Salmond in Gordon.
In his pitch for the seat this morning he was already making mischief in the SNP group of MPs at Westminster.
He announced that if he were elected he would not seek to lead that group but would ‘fully support Angus Robertson who is an excellent leader of the SNP at Westminster, a close friend and a fine MP’.
The issue here is twofold.
Firstly, the SNP group of MPs has previously been led by Mr Robertson because there was no superior authority in a group of equals and therefore no basis for any internal competition.
Now, however, the group contains the newly elected Deputy Party Leader, Stewart Hosie. He will expect and more importantly will be expected to lead that group – and not Mr Robertson who, another bruiser and bawler, has a natural affinity with Mr Salmond.
If Mr Hosie does not lead the Westminster SNP MP Group, both he and his position in the party will be profoundly diminished. What would he actually be for – some ritual nodding in the application of what Argyll witnessed as the SNP’s extremely flexible rule book?
There is here the precedent of Mr Salmond’s then Deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, being his Deputy Party Leader and automatically Leader of the party in Holyrood – when they were in opposition and he, as Party Leader retained his Westminster seat.
There can be no legitimate – or constructive – question about Mr Hosie’s automatic leadership of the Westminster group. Yet, in his intervention this morning, Mr Salmond was effectively bolstering Mr Robertson’s case in an internal turf war. This demonstrates that Mr Salmond is already a divisive force in a team that, in the SNP’s interests, must be and be seen to be a team performing in unity with objective propriety.
Were Mr Salmond indeed to lead that group, despite his demurring this morning, he would be much less of a complement to Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership than, put simply, a damned nuisance in his egotism and unpredictability: both headline stealers and both subversive of anyone else’s stable strategies.
The second issue is of course that, if Mr Salmond were elected and were not, as he has now no right to be, Leader of the SNP group of MPs, he could not and would not accept the authority of the group leader. He might mean to do so but would not be able to help himself bursting out of the confines of his proper role in support.
Salmond is a man used to unquestioned and absolute command. He is used to having no brake put on his habit of making policy on the hoof every time he opens his mouth.
At Westminster he would be an experienced back bencher – but no more. He would not be the one making and laying down the SNP group’s policies and strategies there. These would come primarily from Mr Sturgeon and Mr Hosie, with contributions from the MP group.
But who can seriously imagine Alex Salmond ceding authority to anyone who has for long been his subordinate – positions whose subservience he relentlessly reinforced?
We have earlier reported a first hand account of an occasion at Holyrood when Mr Salmond came into a very senior Cabinet Colleague’s office, where he and another Cabinet Minister were engaged in discussion with third parties. Mr Salmon said not one word but clicked his fingers in the air, turned and walked out – with the two Cabinet Ministers immediately breaking off the conversation and trotting away behind his literally, dog-whistle summons.
Alex Salmond at Westminster would actually be a serious obstruction to the stability and the progress of the SNP MP group under the new regime. He started to be that obstruction today. If he was sent back to Westminister, he would be a dum-dum bullet for the SNP group. Every time he stood up his colleagues would see the point at which he entered a debate – but quite where he would emerge from it and at what cost to the party could not be anticipated.
This is the former First Minister who went to Brussels to make a speech intended to persuade – and simply threatened the EU instead. Mr Salmond has always found the straight threat the fastest way to make his point.
Any SNP voter with any wit would think long on where to place their vote, with the option of abstaining or spoiling their vote.
Any non-SNP voter would think as long – with the opportunity of supporting the Liberal Democrat candidate in a constituency-strong message to the SNP that it is not prepared to see Gordon become the agent for the endless performance of the Alex Salmond Show at Westminster. Gordon’s concerns are of much more substance than providing a cue for another entrance of the pantomime villain.
This is a situation we know Mr Salmond’s colleagues privately do not relish. The new government at Westminster from next May was to be their time to make their mark for their party in whatever ways suggested themselves as the most productive. They do not warm to the prospect of what would effectively be their continuing relegation to the cameo roles – but they cannot say this in public because to do so would have all the cultural resonances of abusing a sacred cow.