Friday, May 06, 2011

Heartbreak #sp11

Well, after a night like last night, it would be very churlish not to congratulate the SNP. My friends who are SNP activists are clearly thrilled to bits at an amazing night for them. Their success even makes Jeff at Better Nation's crystal ball look pessimistic. Domination in Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Central Belt and the North East. And they're still picking up on the lists.

I'm not going to get into any deep and meaningful analysis until it all sinks in a bit. Clearly the Westminster Coalition has done for us - but we were not blameless in Scotland either. There are times when our parliamentary party has taken illiberal stances - the release of Megrahi being a case in point - and we didn't develop our campaign messages strongly enough soon enough.

So far, we've retained just Orkney and Shetland, both with reduced majorities, and getting between 2 and 4% of the vote elsewhere. That's a hell of a lot of lost deposits. Mike Rumbles has lost, heavily, to the SNP in West Aberdeenshire, Margaret Smith in Edinburgh Western (although she may pick up on list), Mike Pringle coming 3rd in Edinburgh Southern, all to the SNP.

Fife and the Highlands are counting this morning. I have to say that I expect we'll lose Dunfermline. The way things have gone, it looks like there will only be one seat left for us in Mid Scotland and Fife, either Iain Smith in NE Fife or Willie Rennie on the list. These are two of my favourite people in the world, so that's heartbreaking for me. I want them both to get in. I can't see Iain losing NE Fife, but we'll wait and see.

Alex Cole-Hamilton didn't win Edinburgh Central, despite running the most inspirational and energetic Liberal Democrat campaign in Scotland. He's unlikely to get in on the list either because Margaret Smith will likely be the only Lib Dem elected, if there is one at all in Lothians. I will admit to a bit of a cry when I read this gracious  tweet from him.
If my defeat tonight is part payment so that no child will spend another night in a detention centre then I accept it, with all my heart.
 Principles run deep with him, and his dedication to children shows. I'm gutted he won't be there, this Parliament at least.

Alex Salmond said that the SNP was now the National Party of Scotland. You can see why on the strength of the results. Tonight's not been great for plurality, though. And plurality is a good thing.

If we've had it bad, Labour have had it worse. You can see a clear reason for what happened to us and they completely failed to take advantage of it.And they got completely stuffed by the SNP in areas like East Kilbride where they can't blame a collapse in our vote.  I thought the Better Nation boys were havering when they said that the SNP were going to win East Lothian. A small portion of Humble Pie is being consumed, given that Gray held on by a mere 151 votes. I can't see how on earth he can stay on as leader now, but who would replace him? The only front bencher I rate from before is Jackie Baillie and she's ruled herself out of a leadership contest already. Andy Kerr and Tom McCabe didn't expect to be heading to the job centre this morning, but that's what they're doing.

There is much more to unfold this morning for us. Will we retain our Highlands seats, Lochaber, Skye and Badenoch and Caithness, Sutherland and Ross? And what will happen in the rest of the lists? Will Ross Finnie and Jim Hume return? Will Alison McInnes and Margaret Smith get in? I had a horrible thought a while ago that our much reduced group might be all male, but that fear is receding a bit. I'd forgotten that Alison had beaten Mike Rumbles to top spot on the NE list.

It's not been easy being a Liberal Democrat in this election - and the party needs to be better than it's ever been at supporting those who have worked hard for us and lost.  There is a clear need and a place for a strong  and distinctive Liberal Democrat voice in Scotland and we'll need to fight our way back. A lot can happen in 4 or 5 years and I think that people may well see benefits from the Liberal Democrat influence in the coalition by then.

There are dangers ahead, though. We're getting thumped for the Coalition, yet from the results so far here and in England, the Tories don't seem to be being punished as much. The Tories will be watching that one with a big smile on their face and will want to maximise our downfall. And they have shedloads of money while we barely have two brass farthings to rub together.

Labour also have to fight back, but they have the help of loads of union money.

In some ways it feels like we've gone back 30 years. We need to make sure it's a temporary blip. I think doing that will involve talking to the people who were around and helped build that breakthrough in the 80s and 90s. Ross Finnie's one of them and I can think of many more. I think the party needs to ask for and listen to their ideas, their experience. Liberalism is an inspirational philosophy and we need to show it in every public utterance we make. We did a bit of that in this campaign, and our policies were better than in 2007, but not nearly enough. And we need to be a constructive opposition to the SNP, who will surely now govern alone.

If you're looking for someone to call Nick Clegg the spawn of Satan, or call for Tavish Scott's head on a plate with a side dish of mashed turnips, you won't find it here. I want to see some changes from both of them, but what's happened is not a result of a personal failure by either of them. It's much more complicated than that.

I'm going to get a couple of hours' kip before the next load of results now. See you all later.


oneexwidow said...

Another well-written and thoughtful piece.

I particularly liked your description of Alex Cole-Hamilton's tweet as "gracious" - that's exactly the word that came to my mind when I saw it earlier this morning.

Anonymous said...


Sorry to be seeming to kick you when you are down but, I must disagree with your assertion that this democratic election result is a defeat for plurality.

The LibDems, although not the worst offender, have been undermining plurality, in its true sense, by refusing work with the SNP for the betterment of the Scottish People. That is what the shape of the Debating Chamber was supposed to manifest, not the ya boo sucks Punch and Judy politics of Westminster.

Yes Clegg has done for you, but you let him and toed the line, to your eternal shame.

Time to live up to you Constitution and try to robe your politics in the federalist way it was designed. You might have stood a chance last night if you had done so.

Tavish needs to go.

Munguin said...

I assume that in light of you leaders comments concerning this election being a referendum on independence the Lib Dems (whats left of them) will now be insisting that the SNP declare unilateral independence and do not waste a whole pile of more moeny on another useless (as you surely see it) referendum?

cynicalHighlander said...

Tavish's words. "If you want independence then vote for the SNP on thursday." Well?

Alexander Bisset said...

Well written post as ever Caron. I would take issue however with the comment that we got bashed due to participation in the coalition.

Many people understand why we are in government and understand why we are taking the decisions we are. What they CANNOT understand is how a party can so very very very strongly say that they PLEDGE they will never do something, then turn around and break that pledge.

We aren't getting punished for going into coalition we are getting punished for breaking our pledge.

People don't like politicians they don't feel are trustworthy and we destroyed that trust that all my political life was a feature of Liberal and Lib Dem campaigns "We are different, you can trust us to do what we say".

Breaking trust is the most devastating thing you can do whether its in public or private life. Earning that trust back can take years.

The Aberdonian said...

Hi Caron

I might be generally an SNP voter but the Lib Dems are "my second party". I voted for Mike Pringle yesterday to keep Labour out. Did not think the SNP would win there.

You guys are losing a lot of good people. Mike Rumbles (whom I remember as a college lecturer at Aberdeen College), Jeremy Purvis, Robert Brown and of course Mike Pringle.

You unfortunately paid the penalty for what has happened in London and whilst politics is not fair I still feel it was maybe not fair to nearly wipe you guys out.

However I do agree with the sentiments of LS and CH

Maybe some people will be back in 2016.

Munguin said...

"If you want independence then vote for the SNP on thursday." Tavish Scott

We did and we did and now the Lib Dems can indulge in a whole lot of navel gazing while having a bubble into their white wine spritzers!

Andrew said...

Great Post Caron.

As for Tavish, in my own blog I expressed concern that he was willing to be so disingenuous as to describe the election as a vote on independence. It wasn't and it isn't. However, I'm certainly not averse to the prospect of a referendum.

There are complex reasons why we've done badly and Caron is right to a point; association with the coalition had played a large part in reducing us to 5 MSPs. But it's not the only factor and we also have to look a little closer to home.

Theer is the perception that Lib Dem MPs en masse broke a pledge - actually less than half voted to approve the changes. I'm not delighted at the way it was handled and was critical of the leadership at the time but it hardly represented a global sell-out. The sad thing is that MSPs like Margaret Smith, Ross Finnie and Robert Brown, all who have passionately advocated free education, have lost their seats while Goldie's Conservatives emerge relatively unscathed.

Talented and principled people such as Alex Cole-Hamilton would have been a huge asset to parliament. His time will come, I'm sure. In the meantime we have to learn the lessons from this disaster and move forward, although exactly how we do that remains to be seen.

cynicalHighlander said...

As Tavish is now denying the intention of what he said shows that LibDems are dishonest in the politest of terminology.

Kelvin Holdsworth said...

I'm gutted too, Caron. Particularly for Alex C-H who is the kind of person I want in Parliament and the kind of person I want one day in Government. (And, he's worked his socks off for it too).

Truths have to be faced though. Dozens of people told me that they, very regretfully, wouldn't be voting Lib Dem this time. It wasn't the coalition though - that didn't help at all and its not popular out there with those who used to be well disposed towards us. But it wan't that. No, it was tuition fees.

Well, it wasn't quite that either, because few said it was our actual tuition fees policy that really stopped them voting Lib Dem this time. No, it was the sense of betrayal at broken promises over tuition fees. It was those pledges that done for us, good and proper. Them, and Nick, I'm afraid.

It is sad and its difficult, but some very harsh things are going to have to be faced up to.

cynicalHighlander said...

LibDems are now going to have to ask themselves "What are the benefits of this dysfunctional Union". Once you can come up with honest and reasonable justification, if any, then you have ask "What is best for Scotlands people and how do we fit into that". But don't take too long as events are moving fast and Scotland wont wait.

Anonymous said...

"If my defeat tonight is part payment so that no child will spend another night in a detention centre then I accept it, with all my heart."

Too late Clegg has already broken that promise.

Am Firinn said...

Caron, I can't help thinking that if Tavish Scott and those Union Jock eminences grises, Jim Wallace and Menzies Campbell, had done the liberal and democratic thing and joined in a coaltition with the SNP when offered in 2007, things could have been so different today. In that respect you are, entirely, authors of your own misfortune and, frankly, it serves you right. However, even as a triumphalist cybernat, I acknowledge the pain and candour of your blog today, and congratulate you on your courage in writing it.

No great pleasure said...

You are getting kicked not for cuts but for being liars. All those years of populist sloganising and then ditching them as soon as you got a sniff of power.


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