Thursday, 31 July 2008

Is it siblicide time?

You know those times when you look away?

There's a scene in The Wind that Shakes the Barley where fingernails are being pulled out with pliers and an entire cinema crowd turns away at once. Gentlemen and less gentlemen will acknowledge a blow to another's anatomy which makes you seek to cover your own delicate areas.

That kind of "there but for the" feeling is what many non-Labour political types will be feeling right now. Miliband's wee tantrum rebellion turns out to be more than a wee tantrum with rumours of the ghost of Christmas past backing it along with other "colleagues". When the outriders turn their attention in concert to the target, it's fair to assume that the bunker has been occupied and there's about to be blood on the family heirlooms - Miliband is unlikely to survive the fallout but it will be messy.
I did love the charming naivety of the Home Secretary when talking about the possibility of a challenge to Brown:

"I don't think that's what we want at a time when people are worried about the economy."
On top of that there's the continuing financial crisis at Labour UK (£19 million in debt - £19 million!) which threatens to send the whole of the party careering into oblivion. It got so bad that the Labour party in Scotland had no dinner in all of 2006, according to note 6 on page 13 of the annual accounts.
Then there's the collapse in their membership - sitting at 158,868 UK-wide at the end of June this year, compared to 407,000 in 1997 - a drop of 61% in 11 years. They don't publish Scottish figures, but a population share of their UK figure, assuming Scotland to be 9% of the UK population would give them 14,298 members - the same size as the SNP except that the SNP is increasing in size and Labour is shrinking.

Looking at Labour's Scottish accounts, however, tells a different story - membership and subscription fees for Scotland fell from £123,076 in 2006 to £114,403 in 2007. That figure includes "Fees received from MPs and MSPs", but that isn't quantified, so we'll have to treat the whole lot as membership income. Labour's membership fees are £36 a year with a concessionary rate of £12 a year. If every member paid the full rate there would be 3,178 Labour members in Scotland; if every member paid the concession there would be 9,534 Labour members in Scotland. The true figure will be somewhere in between (remembering that there will also be an adjustment for MPs and MSPs). No wonder Labour membership numbers in Scotland are secret.
Just to compound the woe, Cathy Jamieson, so far the most competent of Labour's Scottish leadership hopefuls, made a right pigs ear of a press conference, and Andy Kerr turned into Sherlock Holmes:
"What I have learned is that there are a multitude of reasons why people have become disillusioned and have either not turned out to vote or have voted against us,"
By far the worst start, however, was made by Iain Gray - he's got the support of George Foulkes and Rhona Brankin.
These are the old heads on young shoulders, the creme de la creme of Labour - such little spark!

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