One of the United Kingdom’s traditional two major political parties, adrift with no known destination, no passenger manifest [will the SNP be embarking in May], a rookie electoral navigator who’d rather be at the Bafta’s, lacking strategic direction and under a skipper with no visible compass – the Labour party has just failed to knock a pirate off its hull.
Tony Blair has shimmmied aboard, under the radar, and chucked £106k of booty on deck- to be distributed in kid’s party goody bags of £1k around the party’s 106 target seats across the UK.
This is fly-paper money. Touch it and you’ve had it. This is the political reality, whether Labour like it or not.
This may seem like a minor matter – what’s £1k going to do for a campaign for a seat after all? Sugar the coffees to revive the doorsteppers.
But this is not a minor matter for a very substantial number of voters, many of whom are doubly implacable in their recoil from Blair because they themselves were late to see him for the charlatan he was – is.
Anyone with any political nous knows that you listen to those whose votes you want – and you do what it takes to kill off nuisance issues at once. Let them run and they’ll tangle your ankles before you can move somewhere else. And when those tangles slow you up, the opposition will have you in the stocks.
But instead of quietly asking Mr Blair to take his sticky pence away, instructions have gone out that candidates do not have the latitude to turn down the money. The party has accepted it and the candidates in the given seats will use it.
One of the three refuseniks is Lesley Brennan, fighting the SNP’s Deputy Party Leader, Stewart Hosie in Dundee East. She instinctively shrank from the sticky money and, with an uphill struggle to get on competing terms with Hosie, can do without any and all hostages to fortune.
She said she wasn’t taking it. But the clueless party stepped in to lame its own candidate by ordering her to shut up, take it and use it.
Where is there any strategic political intelligence in this? It is simple self-destruction. For what conceivable advantage? There can only be damage.
5 of the 106 target seats getting the sticky money planted on them are in Scotland: Dundee East; East Dunbartonshire; Edinburgh West; Dumfriesshire; Clydesdale & Tweeddale; and – Argyll & Bute.
The Labour candidate for Argyll and Bute, Mary Galbraith, was reported yesterday as defiantly telling the Daily Mail: ‘We welcome the donation and will use it to campaign in Argyll and Buge to prevent another five years of Tory rule.’
At every hustings from now on, in every street encounter with SNP activists, the accusation howled at her will be: ‘You took the Blair shilling?’ And instead of having time to get across the message she wants voters to hear, she will have to spend her time defending this silly sally. Any attempt to brush the challenge aside will only lead to the raising of the decibels in repeating it. And for what?
This is not about the negligible worth of £1k in a General Election campaign. It is about little more than pig headedness and poor political judgment.
The public have distaste for this and Labour can afford no avoidable recoil.