Sensibly, I hope, I've waited for the events of election day to settle a little before having my say. When you're passionately committed to one side or the other it's easy to be carried away by the elation of victory or the despair of defeat and write something you may think ill-considered further down the road. Especially when, as events unfolded on Friday afternoon, some people seemed unclear on who had won and who had lost.
In my opinion, the first important thing to acknowledge is that the Labour Party performed better in the Scottish local elections than many of us suspected they would. That 'many' includes, I should point out, a substantial number of Labour supporters and activists. The reactions of newly-elected councillors and activists at Glasgow's SECC confirmed that. As the counts progressed there was genuine delight and barely-disguised surprise.
The Labour Party's mantra at recent elections, particularly in Scotland, had been that there were 'lessons to be learnt'. These elections have shown, I think, that some have been paying attention. Clearly, in Glasgow, Labour out-thought and outmanoeuvred the Scottish National Party who, previously, had been universally acclaimed for the effectiveness of their campaigning and their electoral strategy. This time, though, the Nationalists missed a trick or two. Not, as many commentators have suggested in the management of expectation. I think both parties (at a national level) were careful to downplay predictions of success though undoubtedly some SNP supporters were bullish about the prospects of taking Glasgow. Rather, it was that the Labour Party understood more effectively the ramifications of Single Transferable Vote and how to get an even spread of support for each of their candidates. This meant, that in a number of wards, the SNP had a clear lead in first preference votes but still ended up getting only one councillor elected against three Labour councillors. This is something that must be looked at by the Nationalists in future.
Unlike some, I also make no criticism of the Nationalist decision to try and get three councillors elected in the Govan ward. It was always a risky policy (and they would have gained an extra elected councillor had they only shared their vote over two candidates) but, if they were ever to take control of the city, it was probably essential to get three candidates elected in what was assumed to be their Glasgow power-base. If they failed to achieve that success in Govan it was unlikely they would secure control of Glasgow regardless of other votes across the city.
Their other mistake in Glasgow (and I did write about this prior to the election in this blog) was to have Allison Hunter as leader of the SNP group. I know from speaking to others that Allison has many excellent qualities. Unfortunately these do not extend to effectively communicating SNP plans for Scotland's largest city. If the SNP were serious about showing how efficient and common-sense governance of Glasgow could, by extension, demonstrate their ability to do the same for an independent Scotland they should have chosen a figurehead that would at least have given them a fighting chance to win the election in the first instance. Hunter's public appearances in the lead up to the campaign and during it were hardly likely to inspire confidence. This must also be addressed. Loyalty to those who have provided sterling service to Party is admirable (and, unquestionably, Allison Hunter has) but when it compromises electoral success, it is misguided.
Football, it seems, may also have played a part in the Glasgow result. During the campaign I heard stories that some activists had 'reminded' voters that the SNP had pioneered the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act which some 'supporters' believe tramples on their human rights by trying to prevent them spouting bigoted bile at each other. I hoped these stories were apocryphal. However, I was also made aware of others being 'reminded' that the First Minister had 'intervened' with HMRC on behalf of Rangers in their ongoing tax case. I was asked by one visitor to my door, during a lengthy discussion about the vote (my theory being that time spent trying to convert me was time denied to the task of converting others), which team I supported. Living in prime Celtic 'territory' in the East End of Glasgow, I wish I had had sufficient wits about me to answer disingenuously to see where the conversation would have gone. My truthful answer (Kilmarnock) didn't lead anywhere of interest other than some gentle ribbing about not following a 'real' football team. Of course, some of us used to get the same ribbing about not voting for a 'real' political party.
Many, of course, might see the football issue as fair game in Glasgow. Obviously these were local elections about local issues and some may think the Offensive Behaviour Bill and the Rangers tax case as legitimate concerns to voters. Certainly local issues contributed to results in Aberdeen (Union Terrace Gardens) and in Edinburgh (trams) to the benefit, it would appear, of the Labour Party.
The local issue, though, used by Glasgow Labour in a pre-election briefing to the Orange Order will raise many questions about Gordon Matheson, his team and the tactics they were prepared to use to retain power. On the Monday before the election, Matheson effectively prostrated himself (and his Party) before a meeting of the Orange Order and conceded his own policy of restricting marches was wrong. Presumably this volte-face was in Glasgow Labour's election manifesto - I'll search out a couple and check.
Hmmm, perhaps I didn't get the right leaflets through my door - nothing in these about a 'review' of policy on Orange Order marches.
Johann Lamont has made much political capital over the last two weeks by asserting that you learn a lot about the man by the company he keeps. Presumably, then, her warm embrace of Matheson on Friday at the SECC count means she is happy with the company wee Gordon keeps.
This is becoming a pattern where Labour are bent on supporting both sides of an issue.
Obviously we support anti-sectarian legislation but Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is flawed.
Obviously Salmond shouldn't have support of Murdoch; we want him to support us again.
Obviously we oppose Coalition cuts; we'd cut much slower than this.
Obviously we don't like nuclear weapons but it's a dangerous world out there.
Obviously we don't agree with lowering tax on super-rich but we won't support Nationalist motions.
Obviously we hate the Tories but we'll enter into coalitions with them.
Of course the SNP are anti-Catholic (to Celtic fans) and we support the Orange Order (to Rangers fans).
We are Labour. All things to all people. No heart. No principles. Other than the pursuit of power. And more Orange marches in Glasgow.
Labour voters; think about it. Is this the country you want?