Well we're into the home strait in the 2011 Holyrood election and what an interesting election it has turned out to be so far!
Labour has utterly failed to inspire and there seems quite a strong part of the electorate that sees them as kinda irrelevant!
This is Scotland and they haven’t a coalition to kick – take that away and they are not hated, just not very popular outside of their own support! After such a strong showing in Scotland at the General Election what a difference a year makes! (in fact, what a difference 6 weeks makes!)
The SNP has been very successful at building a coalition of people looking for an aspirational modern Scotland.
The Greens – probably due to the unpopularity of the LibDems - looked poised to do quite well. What is untested is how much people truly support them, but clearly the pro environment consensus in politics grows year by year.
The coalition has been toxic for the LibDems and they have been crowded out of this election somewhat. At this point I think incumbency will save a couple of seats and targetted efforts will bring a percent or so better than the final weekend's polls This would represent the difference between a drubbing or just a difficult stage they're going through.
The Tories, after a good start and some good ratings for their leader, have been crowded out a bit as well and may end up doing a little worse than they might have hoped!
In short, I think this election is going to give us a large Labour group and a large anti Labour group in the guise of the SNP. This could be a very bad thing. If Holyrood just becomes an SNP Labour fight many of us will be marginalised by Holyrood! Also this will smack of FF v FG in Ireland. Two very similar parties offering plenty of bluster but short on ideas.
The Greens will gain some seats while the LibDems and Tories will be reduced to smaller groups or hang on as a small rump.
The paradox is that, in different ways, none of the parties should kid themselves.
Labour, despite national polls aren't actually well liked.
The SNP have limited support for Independence – the support is for a modern aspirational alternative to Labour – and Alex - rather than for the SNP per se.
The Greens are benefiting from LibDem fall out and general sympathy to environmental issues. But some of them seem to think they will now replace the LibDems. However, many of their supporters are unlikely to support their policies in any detail - quite the reverse and they have no base or philosophy for local government.
The Tories have not yet moved forward, they remain essentially as unpopular in Scotland as ever - or at least since 1987!!
The LibDems are very unpopular post coalition. Whether this is a generational change or they can in due course remind a bloc of voters that they prefer them to other temporary choices remains to be seen! The task for the LibDems is, I think, to rebuild as a modern aspirational party.
I thought in this election they have had some extremely good ideas eg
- regional development banks
- the commitment to green jobs, and renewables and energy
- plans to abolish the Council Tax for the poorest pensioners,
I think when people get off their soap-boxes and they actually look at what the LibDems are doing in government it is rather impressive:
Look at the key policies of the General Election manifesto!
- fairer taxes - the tax threshhold raised massively to benefit lower paid workers and make work pay,
- a fair start for every child - a range of measures to support schooling including a delivery of the Pupil Premium to support the schooling of children from a poorer background.
- investment to create jobs in the renewables sector including the formation of a Green Bank, probably in Scotland!
In fact the LibDems have got over 60% of their policies implemented through the Coalition!
There is an argument that the LibDems in coalition in the UK achieve far more than the SNP in Scotland. Salmond and the SNP were after all largely irrelevant when faced with the global banking crisis!
And on tuition fees?
Well Labour brought in tuition fees in England despite promising not to and would have done so in Scotland if they hadn't been stopped by the Liberal Democrats.
The SNP promised to eradicate student debt in 2007 but have got nowhere.
The LibDems managed to take many thousands out of paying fees in England - better than it was before.
In Scotland they have gained praise from student groups. "To win £15m college bursaries, and £8m for college places, in a budget which is being cut is a fantastic result. We hope this will now end the yearly ritual of college bursaries running out and end the threat of cuts to 40,000 of our poorest students.” said Liam Burns NUS President
So, the truth about the LibDems in Government is rather better than many people perceive. But no-one has been listening this time.
As I say, the task is to remind people why they liked them and - in Scotland to rebuild as a modern and aspirational party.
There may yet be some movement in this Holyrood election, like there was in the last days of the General Election. I expect post Royal Wedding some of the SNP support may go back from whence it came. The question is how much will go back.
We're in for an interesting night on Thursday!