Thursday, October 19, 2006

An Unwelcome Return To The Fold

Alex Salmond must be the happiest bunny in Scotland this morning.
The SNP's tartanissimo has recently been pumping his chances in the 2007 Scottish parliamentary elections to the rafters.
Many view the SNP as quixotic idealists, addled by The Corries and souped up on Braveheart. Nothing could be further from the truth, for Salmond and his gang are the most dangerous political party in the United Kingdom.
They are not democrats, but constitutional sectarians whose ideology permits no alliance with the Conservative & Unionist Party.
It is not often one finds cause to praise Tony Blair, but the devolution settlement of 1998 ensured that no one party could achieve an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. In an ideal, ordered world the necessity that coalitions be forged would prevent the SNP from ever gaining a toehold, let alone a foothold, upon the rungs of power - the Labour Party is their major electoral competiton, and although the Liberal Democrats are the second greatest opportunists in Scottish politics like all opportunists they know which side of their toast is buttered; it does not suit their national interests to abet the nation's dissolution.
However we do not live in such a world, but inhabit the cloistered, sweaty world of Scottish machine politics instead.
In order to achieve the politician's goal of gaining and wielding power, Salmond needs allies wherever he can find them; and if he makes just enough headway then it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a Scottish Executive coalition led by the SNP and including the Scottish Greens and Solidarity could hold office next May.
Humpty Numpty as Minister for Justice, and The Sunflower Kid in charge of community relations. It doesn't bear thinking about.
And the reappearance of Michael, Baron Forsyth of Drumlean (pictured) into the public arena may only hasten that end.
There may be some in the Scottish Conservative Party who hope he will return to full time public life, in the same way that there may be some in the East Midlands who pine for the Sheriff of Nottingham.
In February of this year, I wrote of the Conservative Party that,

"Whether it's found expression in 'the short, sharp shock' prescribed by Willie Whitelaw or in David Cameron's and George Osborne's gagging, gushing support for the invasion of Iraq, there is a very deep vein of natural unpleasantness in the Conservative Party, a tendency which is always happiest when it is physically imposing itself on other people; and the party's public visage is all too often the thin veneer of civilisation that masks a kicker of sand, a golf club bully, a road rage attacker or a well heeled thug. "
No doubt absolutely unintentionally, so it was also with Michael Forsyth and the poll tax.
Whilst in office Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland from 1995 to 1997, gave every impression of being a Thatcherite fanatic; impressions he did little to dispel. No matter how just the cause, his own doctrinaire pursuit of ideology over reason, in an issue as piddling as local government finance, did more to politically empower scofflaws like Tommy Sheridan, who first rose to public attention by being sent down for his refusal to obey the law of Scotland and for inciting others to do the same, than any other Conservative policy.
His rigidity rendered his party brittle, and brutally unpopular. Although he might not like to think so, he bears as much guilt as anyone else for the electoral annihilation that the Scottish Conservatives suffered on May 1 1997.
However all of this could forgiven and forgotten but for the defining moment of Forsyth's political career; his orchestration of the single greatest act of political opportunism in modern Scottish history, so bold it would make even a Scottish Liberal Democrat blush - the 'return' of the Stone of Destiny, a piece of pandering pantomime that did him and his party no favours.
Even today, the legacy of Forsythism hangs over Scottish politics like a bad smell. Brian Monteith, a former employee of Michael Forsyth Associates with whom he once stood under a banner proclaiming 'Devolution Sucks', thunders about his trip to Washington with his fellow MSP's on the Adam Smith Institute's blog when by rights he should be cleaning toilets in Tillicoultry.
The nature of Lord Forsyth's record notwithstanding, what will be making Alex Salmond so happy this morning is that Forsyth has done it again.
One has to wonder whether David Cameron is not merely gauche, not merely elitist but actually sane if he thought putting a rabid tax ideologue like Michael Forsyth in charge of a working party on tax would result in any outcome other than the recommendation of massive tax cuts.
Forsyth's advocacy of tax cuts gives Salmond political ammunition. All he needs to do is say 'Yeah, same old Tories, blah, blah, cuts in public services, blah blah, still relying on Michael Forsyth', before launching Scottish political discourse's Weapon of Mass Destruction - 'POLL TAX!'


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