Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Character building

The only thing scarier in contemporary Scottish politics than the blind, unthinking #SNPbad diatribes from Unionists is the blind, unthinking #SNPgood counterpart. 

Since the National party took over the government in 2007, Scottish Labour has at various stages called for the resignation of every single government minister (with the exception of three Sturgeon-era new ones), both First Ministers, and various MPs, MSPs, councillors and parliamentary and council candidates. I don't know why the Nationalists don't have a party mascot, but you can rest assured that if it did, it wouldn't be a terrifically long period of time before Scottish Labour called for it to resign. 

The net effect of all this, of course, is that the electorate has just switched off from their demands. When John Mackay on the STV News portentously reads out that Scottish Labour has demanded the resignation of yet another unfortunate, eyes are rolled across the country. They call so often for sackings and resignations, for the smallest and pettiest of things, that even when someone has committed an offence of such gravity that it does necessitate their withdrawal from public life, Scottish Labour calling for their resignation actually undermines the case for it. 

They're the boys' club who cried resign.

And so to Michelle Thomson, the tribune of the people of Edinburgh, West. The legitimate businesswoman has resigned as an SNP MP after questions were raised over her conduct regarding her acquisition of property from financially distressed families. 

The facts are thus: last May, the solicitor who acted for Thomson was expelled and his name struck from the register of solicitors following an investigation by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which found that he had committed professional misconduct whilst acting on her behalf. The panel condemned her solicitor for "facilitating mortgage fraud" whilst acting for Thomson. 

One of the transactions involved Thomson's legitimate business partner, the legitimate businessman Frank Gilbride, buying a house at a price well below market value, from a cancer patient. He bought the property for £64.000 and sold it to Thomson just hours later for £95.000. Gilbride subsequently paid Thomson £28.181,80, meaning she had acquired a property from a desperate family at an outlay of less than £3.000.

The Crown Office has now instructed the Police Service of Scotland to launch a criminal investigation into the purchases of distressed properties. And Thomson has been suspended by the SNP and is now an independent MP. 

The clattering noise you can hear is the patio furniture being overturned as Jackie Baillie runs on stage, stampeding to get to her typewriter to issue the sort of statement from Scottish Labour that we've all seen a million times. It has all the buzzwords: "Sturgeon", "come clean", "very serious", "full transparency", "who knew what when". 

This time, though, they're right. 

However, balancing out Baillie's fanatical #SNPbad are #SNPgood zealots. "She's never been prosecuted!", they shout. "Innocent until proven guilty in court!", they cry. "It's not beyond reasonable doubt that she's committed a crime!", they groan.

I have no idea whether Michelle Thomson - or her solicitor - has committed any crime. The existence of a criminal investigation is not in itself an indication that a crime has been committed. 

But that's not the point. "Beyond reasonable doubt" etc is all very well as a burden of proof in a court of law. But not everything is a court of law. 

I rather expect my MPs to clear a higher baseline of morality than "isn't a convicted criminal". 

Certainly, this is a bar which Thomson clears. But managing the absolute minimum levels of personal character and morality to be eligible to enter parliament isn't the same as having the personal character and morality to be able to serve with any distinction. 

Members of the Westminster Parliament must have no stain on their moral character, nor any question marks over their personal probity. 

An individual who preys on families suffering financial hardship so she can snaffle up their homes on the cheap before selling them on at a large profit to herself, whose solicitor in those very transactions has been struck off for his behaviour during them, does not need to be convicted in court for her behaviour to fall above the standards of a criminal, but far below those expected of a Member of the Westminster Parliament.

Meos tam suspicione quam crimine iudico carere oportere, as Caesar correctly observed. Michelle Thomson's actions may very well be within the law. There is no suggestion that they are not. But they - and, by extension, her character as a whole - fall below the standards one is entitled to expect of a tribune of the people. 

Michelle Thomson is not fit to represent the people of Edinburgh, West. She has preyed upon the needy of her constituency and her country for financial gain. She can be an MP, or she can be a spiv. But giving the impression she is close to being the latter, she cannot reasonably expect to remain as the former. As Gandhi said, the moment there is suspicion about a person, everything she does becomes tainted. That is no situation for a parliamentarian to be in. She ought to resign. And do so with haste. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Palace Coup

After his performance in a 6:0 thrashing of Dundee last week in Glasgow, I saw Celtic's young centre Tom Rogic described as "the Alice Springs Torsten Frings". If it's Australia we're taking inspiration from, I do find myself wondering whom in the Conservative party is the Whitehall Malcolm Turnbull. 

There's a difference, though. Last week's palace coup in Canberra was purely politics. Tony Abbott is an absolute blackguard who is detested, as far as I can make out, by everyone in Australian politics. But that's not why he was sacked. He was defenestrated in the grand Australian tradition of throwing leaders out as soon as their chances of winning the next election decline to less than 100%. 

A look at the fates of the last few Australian prime ministers to govern in Parliament House shows this. Abbott was thrown out by his own MPs. His predecessor, Kevin Rudd, was one of the most popular Australian prime ministers ever before he was toppled by his deputy, Julia Gillard, before he toppled her in turn, before being thrown out by the voters (that latter group apparently having been totally overlooked). One has to look back to John Howard, the creepy wee man who replaced Paul Keating in 1996, to find an Australian prime minister who managed to serve a full term without being sacked by their own MPs.

It's rarer in British politics. Even while it was clear that Ed Miliband was consistently failing the Number Ten Test, there was no thrust against him by his MPs. Ditto Gordon Brown - the man who fled from every contestable election in his life managed to limp on to a General Election despite it being obvious that he was repulsive to voters in England and Wales. It's almost three decades (it will be 27 years next week, as it happens) since a sitting Labour leader was challenged for the leadership. The previous time a sitting Labour leader faced a leadership challenge was 1960. No Labour leader has ever lost a leadership spill.

The Tories, as one would expect, are rather more ruthless. Since Labour's last spill, where Neil bastarding Kinnock beat Tony Benn by a 9:1 margin, the Tories had a failed, then a successful coup against Maggie Thatcher, a failed John Redwood-led coup against John Major (Major won by two thirds), and replaced Iain Duncan Smith after just two years as leader. 

Thatcher herself came to power by overthrowing Edward Heath, who ten years earlier was the first Tory leader to actually be elected. In that leadership election, Enoch Powell considered that he had been humiliated in his third-place finish. He received 5,0% of the votes - a full half point more than Liz Kendall, further to the Right than Powell, garnered in the Labour edition this month. 

It now rather looks as though we're going through the first Palace Coup since Alan Pardew replaced Tony Pulis at Selhurst Park.

This isn't political in any way. Just eighteen weeks ago, David Cameron led the Conservatives to their first election win in more than two decades. He won the Scottish independence referendum a year ago, keeping the United Kingdom intact. In terms of the integrity of the United Kingdom, he possibly imagines himself to have contributed more than any British prime minister since the war criminal Winston Churchill. He would have every right to. He doesn't face a coup because it's considered he's a loser - rather, on the contrary, the British prime minister has already announced that he will not lead the Tories into the next general election. 

But the concerted barrage of attacks this week - increasing in intensity as we move toward the Conservative conference next weekend - can't be seen as anything other than an attempt to force him out. 

There is little political imperative for removing Cameron now, given that he's going at any rate at some point in this parliament. His politics aren't particularly extreme - he's a milksop leader, firmly on the Wet side of the Tories. 

Perhaps that's the problem. 

The rabid, ultra-right, frothing-at-the-mouth, poor-hating Tories (imagine, your Theresa Mays, John Redwoods, Norman Tebbitts, Liz Kendalls, Iain Duncan Smiths) have quietly seethed over the last five years as Cameron patiently explained to them that they couldn't bring back workhouses quite yet, because the Liberals would block such radical Right-wing policies in the coalition government. 

If anyone reacted with more horror than Ed Miliband to that exit poll at 10.01pm on election night, it would have been David Cameron. 

Every Conservative leader is a coalition leader, delicately balancing the two wings of the party. When they fail to balance, they fall. Maggie Thatcher found that out. John Major almost found that out. Despite his 2:1 margin of victory in 1995, he only held onto power by three votes (he had decided to resign if he received fewer than 215 votes: he got 218). 

Cameron is much closer in temperament and belief to the Liberals than to the Right of his own party. He would have felt much more comfortable governing alongside Nick Clegg than Iain Duncan Smith. The Liberals were a good deflection shield for Cameron - and now they've gone, the Right would certainly expect much more influence in the governing of the country. 

Given the identity of the people and papers attacking the British prime minister, it seems reasonably clear that the coup is coming from the Right of the party - as in Major - rather than for pragmatic reasons - as in Heath. 

When Thatcher was toppled, the balance of her mind had been disturbed. She was clearly quite seriously mentally ill by the time the Cabinet moved against her. Had she not been removed, the Tories would certainly have lost the General Election in 18 months time. None of these are the case with Cameron. He recognises that leaders cannot go on and on and on.

What is interesting in particular about this particular coup is that it doesn't seem to benefit a single candidate for the Tory leadership. Cameron inherited George Osborne as Shadow Chancellor, and has retained him as his finance brief for over ten years. Their economic policies are inextricably linked. Theresa May, although not given particularly senior Shadow Cabinet jobs by Cameron, has been his interior minister since Day One of his premiership, retained in position even after the switch to majority government freed up more ministerial positions. And it would insult the intelligence of the reader to explain why a focus on Cameron's university activities could only cause harm to Boris Johnson. 

So if it's not about the Tory leadership per se, and it's not about the last or next election, what on earth could be inspiring such a coup? One of the most striking things about it is the personalisation of it. The drip-feed of stories is clearly intended to undermine not just Cameron as a leader, but as a person. 

The story about him shagging a dead pig could only ever be intended to humiliate. It might be that the intention of humiliating him is to neutralise him.

The intervention of a former British prime minister in contemporary politics is (despite the best efforts of bulging-jawed weirdo Gordon Brown) a rare event. It was extraordinarily unusual to see Jim Callaghan or Edward Heath speak publicly about the activities of the British government. Wilson, of course, suffered from Alzheimers and never spoke about his successors. Major was the very model of a former British prime minister. He was and is discreet. If Thatcher was the Matt Busby turning up to the training ground every morning after retiring to try and overshadow the new manager, Major was the Alex Ferguson - giving his phone number over and maybe turning up for the Party Conference/Champions League, but making it clear that the new man was firmly in charge. Tony Blair is much too busy making money - and until 2010, much too scared of Gordon Brown - to involve himself in politics. 

There was, of course, one event in which former British prime ministers were trotted out by a terrified British establishment to use the gravity of the rarity of their interventions to make the public think twice. 

All three living former British prime ministers - Major, Blair and Brown - made significant interventions in the Scottish independence referendum last year, each making their own contribution to the sustained terror campaign perpetrated against Scottish voters by the British regime. Major threatened a British war on the Scottish economy, Brown threatened a British war on the Scottish health service. Blair, being Blair, just threatened war. 

The effect this had must not be underestimated, particularly for older voters whose entire exposure to news is through the media of television, radio and newspapers, which painted these interventions as major State events. 

This will have not gone un-noticed by the British establishment.

Cameron foolishly promised UK voters a referendum on the country's continued membership of the European Union. 

Blair and Brown will both speak out for the European Union, but the former is distrusted - hated - in large swathes of the UK, and the latter's intervention more likely to do harm than good, particularly in England where he is blamed (accurately) for the destruction of the national economy.

The humiliation of David Cameron will neutralise him. It's hard to imagine a man who thinks as highly of himself as Cameron does putting himself in a position where his interventions in favour of keeping the UK in the EU can be instantly undermined by a single sentence: "you fucked a dead pig: why should we take you seriously?". 

For those who wish the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union, the loss of Cameron as prime minister will be quite a big blow. He can be relied upon to speak out in favour of the EU (we all know that his "renegotiation" is a load of mouldy old bollocks which will change nothing about our relationship with, or obligations to, the EU), and he is genuinely committed to the UK being part of the EU. 

There are those in the Conservative party for whom this is not the case. The resignation of David Cameron - and he surely can't survive this week - could benefit any number of people within his party. His systematic humiliation, which will result in him playing an atrophied, if any, part in public life as an ex-British prime minister, can only benefit those in his party who do not wish an important Conservative voice to be heard in favour of our membership of the EU. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

If Salmond Had Never Come Back

I love it when “Kez” Dugdale’s paper, the Daily Mail, does those mad dystopian future stories at election time. You’ll know the type – because of the failure of a single Tory supporter in a single constituency to cast their vote, Labour, led by a generally mildly Left-wing figure like Angela Eagle or something, sweeps to power with a majority of like 200 (no, me neither).

Obviously, without the steady guiding hand of Conservatism guarding the tiller of the ship of state, Labour drags it onto the rocks. The first sign of this is usually muttered, angry conversations between Tory and Right-wing Labour MPs in the bars of the Commons (“for Christ sake, Gladys, it’s a week since the Queen’s speech and there’s barely a Muslim been bombed or a bedroom been taxed. The bloody prime minister’s practically a Communist”), leading to a dramatic decline in society (sort of like a cross between Threads and that episode of Father Ted where Dougal did a funeral), which is inevitably only saved when the Americans and the IMF coastguard step in to tow the ship safely back to Port Capitalism.

So that genre was the first thing I thought of when I imagined on my walk to work this morning what it might have been like If Salmond Hadn’t Come Back.

The Highland tones of the SNP’s national secretary Alasdair Allan boomed into the conference hall. First, he declared that Christine Grahame had narrowly beaten Fergus Ewing to the deputy leadership. But it was the leadership result that the 300 delegates – not to mention the three nervous candidates – were really waiting for.

“There were 3.268 votes cast. The valid quota for election is therefore 1634 votes. On the first Ballot, the results were as follows:

Roseanna Cunningham MSP 2477 votes
Michael Russell MSP 315 votes
Nicola Sturgeon MSP 476 votes

Having achieved over the required 50% quota, I can therefore declare that Roseanna Cunningham has been elected to serve as the new Leader of the Scottish National Party.”

It had been clear since nominations opened that the 34-year-old Glasgow MSP, viewed as a rising star in the party, would be unable to defeat the MSP for Perth, and former MP, Roseanna Cunningham, the deputy leader. Mike Russell’s candidacy was widely considered as a ploy to ensure he would remain on the new leader’s front bench.

There had been whispers that senior MSPs had pleaded with Banff and Buchan MP Alex Salmond, a former leader, to throw his hat into the ring in order to stave off a Cunningham victory. But Salmond did not believe an MP could lead a party primarily based at Holyrood, and warned that if anyone nominated him, he would decline the nomination, and that if he somehow was elected, he would resign. In any case, Salmond deferred, and Cunningham comfortably beat her Left-wing rival.

The first sign that all wasn’t well was at the 2005 Westminster election. In 2001, under Swinney, the SNP had won five seats, viewed as something of a disappointment. But in 2005, Cunningham’s party lost two seats – Alex Salmond’s to the Tories, and Stewart Hosie in Dundee East fell to Labour as Tony Blair was returned to power. Angus Robertson’s Moray seat had been predicted to be in some danger, but Cunningham’s approach to the Iraq War (“we opposed the start of the war, but what is done is done and we Back Our Boys to get the job done”) resonated with military voters in the constituency and he was saved.

While the election was viewed as a disappointment, nobody blamed Cunningham for the result. The SNP had never done particularly well in Westminster election, she’d only been leader for eight months, and the most important thing was to try and become the largest party in the 2007 Holyrood Election.

There was some disappointment in the party when the focus of Cunningham’s Holyrood campaign became clear. Although there was approval for her position on the monarchy, there was dismay over her inclusion in the manifesto of a promise to legislate against same-sex marriage and the right of same-sex couples to adopt children.

Her changes to the selection rules also caused some consternation: a ban on candidates standing on both the list and in constituencies was seen by some as an attempt to stop leadership rivals coming to the fore: at her behest, Conference passed a rule stating that the leader had to be a constituency MSP or MP.

The election couldn’t have been described as anything other than a success, in all honesty. Whilst Labour, the Liberals and the Tories stayed static on 50, 17 and 18 seats respectively, the Greens and Socialists lost 1 and 5 seats respectively, and smaller parties and independents were entirely wiped out. Cunningham’s nationalists were the main beneficiaries of the latter, and were the only party to actually gain a seat, going from 27 to 39 – four more than their previous best under Salmond in 1999. Cunningham’s offer to the Liberals of a “new, anti-Westminster progressive minority coalition” with the Socialist and Green MSPs was torpedoed by Liberal concern over her attitude to gay rights, and the Liberals chose the devil they knew. Jack McConnell was sworn in for a third term as First Minister, with no changes in the composition of the Cabinet.

One sad moment in the election for party members was the loss of the popular Nicola Sturgeon. She reckoned that “one more heave” would overturn Gordon Jackson’s majority in Glasgow, Govan – and demurred when offered the top place on the List as she wanted to reserve the right to challenge Cunningham for the leadership. In the event, Glasgow voters, as always, backed Labour. Many commentators criticised Sturgeon’s decision to run in the constituency, noting that it was impossible for the SNP to win a constituency in the city.

When Gordon Brown took over as prime minister shortly after the election, he told McConnell that failure to make progress at Holyrood towards majority government was unacceptable, and that he expected McConnell to make way for a new leader. This was widely viewed as unfair, given the impossibility of majority government at Holyrood. There was speculation that Brown didn’t understand the Holyrood system, but the settled opinion was that he simply disliked the slippery Blairite. Mild-mannered schoolmaster Iain Gray, who had only just returned to Holyrood after losing his seat in 2003, won the subsequent leadership election in a surprise result.

The new First Minister started out well, repulsing SNP challenges in the Glenrothes and Glasgow North East by-elections. After the latter, in November 2009, he was convinced by his Scottish Executive Justice Minister, Wendy Alexander, to bring on a constitutional referendum to shoot the SNP fox once and for all. Piloting the legislation through Parliament, with the enthusiastic support of Westminster, was Alexander’s final action before resigning from Holyrood after a scandal in which she was found to have taken illegal campaign donations.

Timing was the only stumbling block for what became known on social media as #indyref. Cunningham’s Justice spokesman, Christine Grahame, argued that it should be delayed until 2012 to avoid being overshadowed by the UK and Scottish elections in 2010 and 2011. But wary of allowing the SNP a chance of narrowing the already impossible 70%-30% gap in the opinion polls, the new Justice Secretary, James Kelly, favoured a snap referendum. As this was also the option favoured by Gordon Brown, hoping a No vote would give him a bounce in the opinion polls, a snap referendum was called instead, with cross-party support from the Liberals and Tories in both parliaments.

The referendum, in April 2010 was on the question “Should Scotland remain a partner in our United Kingdom?”. Whilst the question, criticised by the Electoral Commission, and bitterly denounced by the SNP as biased, was controversial, both parliaments approved it overwhelmingly. The result was never really in doubt from the start. Cunningham’s decision to run the No campaign herself, rather than delegate it to television personality and former SNP MP Alex Salmond, attracted a great deal of internal criticism. Her outburst, in a televised referendum debate, that “at least independence will allow us to legislate to protect the unborn child from the evil of abortion” was judged to have lost the No campaign at least two percentage points.

Cunningham’s decision to run the No campaign as an SNP campaign backfired: the independence-supporting Greens and Socialists refused to campaign on the No side, citing its focus on negativity about the Union instead of a positive vision of a progressive, independent Scotland. The SNP leader’s desperate, last-ditch promise that an independent Scotland would bring back Section 2A turned out to be a vote-loser. With every newspaper and all major political parties on the Yes side, and the SNP unable to attract any civic group, trade union, or any other political party to the No side, the Unionists won 82,93% of the vote. The No vote of just 17,07% was judged to have been a vote of confidence to keep the Union intact for another century.

Conceding defeat as the polls closed, Cunningham said “this was a referendum we didn’t want, at a time we didn’t want. We have lost tonight, but for us on the No side, the dream shall never die”.

The general election the next month was played out against a backdrop of an SNP shattered from its more than 4:1 referendum defeat on its defining policy. Of the SNP’s three MPs, Angus Robertson’s Moray seat finally fell to a young Tory candidate, Ruth Davidson. Despite being described as a “carpetbagger” for not being from the constituency, her appeal to military families and, crucially, Unionists, was enough to give her the seat. Mike Weir in Angus also fell to another young Tory woman, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. Only Angus MacNeill in na h-√Čileanan an Iar survived.

Overall, although Scotland elected a Labour government, voters in England and Wales, angry at Labour’s handling of the economic crash, returned a hung parliament, resulting in a Conservative-Liberal coalition at Westminster. First Minister and East Lothian MSP Iain Gray was promoted to the Westminster seat of East Lothian, replacing the deselected Anne Moffat. Although he insisted he was quite capable of being an MSP and MP, he said he felt he had to stand down as First Minister in the hope of being offered a job on the Opposition frontbenches. He later called his promotion to Shadow Energy Secretary "the best, and most important, job of my career".

The Holyrood elections came round in a rush a year later, and with the new Labour leader having had a year to bed in as First Minister, he had the twin advantages of being seen as both fresh and experienced.

The SNP ran an uninspiring campaign, the manifesto team beset by infighting. It was contradictory, desperate, and unappealing. 

Cunningham and Grahame pushed for a ban on people carrying Irish flags to soccer matches, with mandatory jail sentences for offenders. There was never any official confirmation from the SFA press secretary Blair McDougall that Labour pressure had led the SFA to arrange a friendly match against the Republic of Ireland at Hampden during the short campaign, but suspicions always lingered. 

On the other hand, Health spokesman John Swinney pushed for an end to the ban on supporters drinking at soccer stadiums. “They want you to drink Guinness at stadiums, but jail you for waving its country’s flag there”, mocked one member of the audience on a TV debate.

Cunningham led a broken party, bitterly divided on whether to seek another independence referendum or merely to administer devolution, to a shattering defeat. Labour were the main beneficiaries of the voters taking revenge on the Liberals for their treacherous coalition with the Tories at Westminster, but they also stole enough votes from the SNP to score a remarkable majority – of just one MSP – in Holyrood; the first-ever.

As Cunningham announced her resignation at 8am on the Friday morning, the TV cameras didn’t broadcast it live. Instead, they concentrated on the simultaneous event of Scotland’s first-ever single-party First Minister arriving for his first day at work as First Minister in his own right.

As James Kelly grinned blankly and waved to the cameras on the steps of Bute House, the Unionists thanked every God they had that Alex Salmond didn’t have the guts to come back seven years previously.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Something about Scottish Labour's membership (and money!)

The remnants of the Scottish Labour party are notoriously reticent about their membership figures. Infamously, they release the results of internal "leadership" elections in percentage terms only, uniquely in Scottish politics.

For instance, we know that Jeremy Corbyn was elected to be "Kez" Dugdale's new boss - much to her horror - with 251.417 (to put that number into context, Scottish Labour scored 630.461 votes in the 2011 general election).

We know that Ed Miliband got 125.649 votes to become leader of the party five years previously. We know that David Cameron leads the Conservative and Unionist party by winning 134.446 party members over, and that Ruth Davidson runs the shop in Scotland having achieved 2.983 votes.

Meanwhile at the Liberals, we know that thingmy leads the federal Liberals through getting 19.137 votes, and Willie Rennie is his tartan familiar because he was about the only MSP left who hadn't been leader because he stood unopposed (his predecessor, Tavish Scott, descended to the leadership by, ahem, achieving 1.450 votes).

Like wee Willie, the Nationals' leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was unopposed, but her predecessor Alex Salmond was elected leader in 1990 with 486 votes and in 2004 with 4.952 votes. There was also a Swinterregnum, in which the finance minister scored 547 votes.

But Scottish Labour have consistently refused to release the results of their "leadership" elections. All we know is that the anti-immigration activist "Kez" Dugdale got 72,1% of something. All that can discerned from that is that the Scottish Labour membership is somewhere over a hundred (the minimum threshold to produce a something-point-something result in a two-candidate election) and less than about five million.

Perhaps the big party might be able to give us some pointers, though.

Alongside the election for leader and deputy leader, Labour conducted internal elections for its powerful Conference Arrangements Committee and the National (hmm) Policy Forum.

The second most interesting thing was that Scottish Labour has been completely purged from the former organ, which is perhaps an early indication that the price the branch office will pay for its failure to continue delivering large numbers of MPs with minimum financial outlay will be a withdrawal of influence and power in the party - there is just one Scottish MP/MSP in the new Shadow Cabinet - and maybe even of financial support from HQ for the Holyrood election in May.

There is zero chance of Scottish Labour, with its ghastly latest leader limping along on 20% approval rating (Iain Gray, for contrast, was sailing along on 39% the same time out from the last Holyrood election) winning power in Scotland.

So why would HQ throw money at a campaign it has no chance of winning, and where a positive result could only provide buoyancy for Dugdale, a self-declared enemy of Corbyn?

Wouldn't it focus its money and attention on retaining control of the Welsh Assembly - now the only thing in the world above the level of a city council that they have any influence over - and on regaining the London mayoralcy from the Tories, in the city where Corbyn has his constituency? I reckon so. 

Scottish Labour might just be about to realise it's going to have to stand on its own two feet if they can't deliver all those lovely MPs.

But the most interesting thing about the results were those to the National Policy Forum. This is like a sort of mini-Senate, where each region (Scotland is a "region", incidentally) sends three or four delegates based on population.

The following is a table of the lowest and highest vote necessary to get elected in each region:

East Midlands:  4.809 - 7.327
Eastern: 5.741 - 6.779
London: 14.155 - 21.313
Northern: 4.890 - 5.252
North-West: 7.982 - 9.118
South-West: 4.751 - 6.216
South-East: 7.437 - 9.425
West Midlands: 6.542 - 7.185
Yorkshire: 7.004 - 11.920
Scotland: 3.913 - 4.351
Wales: 4.761 - 5.453

Let's interpret those results.

Scottish Labour's active membership is now so low that the highest-scoring person in its internal election would be unable to take the final (I.e. the lowest-scoring slot) in any other region of the U.K. It is the only region of the UK to be in such a membership situation.

The other two low-scoring high-scorers, Wales and Northern, would be able to be elected in three and two regions respectively.

To be the worst-performing region of the UK in terms of membership is another display of what many of us have said for years: the party is an Easter egg and the chocolate is the MPs. Take away the MPs and the party is hollow inside.