Saturday, 25 October 2008

Right Strategy, Wrong Tactic

It's always nice to hear someone else say what you're thinking. So thanks to Will for backing up my hunch.

I thought that Stephen and Caron were becoming a little bit hysterical about the SNP in recent postings and, like Will, I have been wondering what it is all about.

The LibDems are toiling to appear relevant. I trace this back to their strategy following their spectacular (there is no other description for it) Dunfermline by-election win. Buoyed by this win and possibly sensing that the SNP were the party struggling to appear relevant, they completely overplayed their hand in the Moray by-election.

Portraying themselves as a party poised for victory then failing to even beat the Tories (who were an extremely distant second themselves) made them look rather foolish. It's always easy to overplay the effect of these things with the public at large but, assuming the LibDems weren't being disingenuous, the disappointment of that result would be tough to recover from.

Maybe, even, the psychological effect of that result was behind the LibDems running for cover from another term in coalition last year. Mibees aye, mibees naw but back to the point...

The last thing the LibDems need in the run up to a Westminster election is a rampant SNP. Not only would this make seats such as Argyll, Gordon and Inverness immediately vulnerable but it would also seriously weaken their '3rd Party' status right across the country. I wouldn't necessarily argue that that would make the SNP likely to win other LibDem seats but it may weaken their position enough to allow either Tory or Labour candidates overtake them. There must be some real concern in some LibDem quarters that they could be reduced to two or three Scottish MPs if they can't find some way to halt the SNP advance.

So, in the run up to the Glenrothes by-election, in which they are absolute no-hopers themselves, the LibDem tactic has to be to ensure that the SNP don't win.

In itself that is fine - politics is politics after all, and all parties have to look ahead strategically and support that with tactical choices. Strategically, the LibDems are absolutely correct to try to stop the SNP in its tracks. The problem is that their tactics in support of this are way off the mark. For in concentrating their fire on a relatively popular Scottish Government while largely letting a relatively unpopular UK Government off the hook the LibDems are making themselves appear even less relevant with every passing day.

A lot has been said about the possible demise of the Labour Party in Scotland but this is too simplistic. I sense that we may see a complete re-alignment of politics in Scotland in the next few years where the Unionist / Nationalist divide becomes the major fault line and we leave the traditional and increasingly irrelevant politics of Left v Right behind.

I suspect that whatever result we get in Glenrothes, the Labour Party will lose the next General Election. However, it may be pivotal for the prospects for both the SNP and the LibDems.

No comments: