Last night’s Newsnight Scotland, with Raymond Buchanan in the Grand Inquisitor’s chair and Sarah Boyack and Jackson Carlaw in the firing line came pretty close to my idea of what this vital Scottish programme should be, and can be.
It had a theme, and questions that really mattered to Scotland, and it addressed them vigorously and forensically. The state of the main (sorry Greens!) opposition parties should concern any democrat, because a strong and representative voice for the core values of their supporters is a vital component of the necessary consensus that underpins any democracy, as is the conviction that, even when a voter’s chosen party does not form the government, that they can exert a proper influence over its policies and its programme. The checks and balances of democracy cannot function without this, and the fact that my party, the SNP, is now dominant in the Scottish Parliament, and that I was ecstatic about their decisive victory, does not lessen my concern over the parlous state of the opposition parties.
The LibDems have their new leader, Willie Rennie, but, to what I hope is their shame, the other two main opposition parties do not. The fact that they do not, almost five months after the election, and are unlikely to have until at least six months after the election, is a disgrace, but accurately reflects the confusion and lack of focus of their election campaigns. The Tories, thanks to the political courage of Murdo Fraser, at least have the issues in focus, and face a clear and unambiguous choice between old Toryism, epitomised by Michael Forsyth, and a new, revitalised centre right party, with two candidates for the old Tory values – Ruth Davidson and Jackson Carlaw - and one for the new centre right, Murdo Fraser.
The Tories are focusing on what they believe in, something they are very clear about, and the political processes are simply a vital tool to pursue those values. Most of their values, leaving aside the common shared values that cross all civilised political boundaries, are anathema to me, but they and their supporters have a right to hold them. The Tories know what they are for – they currently disagree about the political identity and structure necessary to achieve their goals.
Labour, in contrast, have no idea what they are for anymore, having long since degenerated into a mindless power seeking machine, a blind, destructive, venal and significantly corrupt juggernaut created by Blair, Brown and Mandelson that spectacularly ran off the rails, having destroyed the British economy and devastated two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan in the process. They have succeeded in enriching their leaders and some of their cabinet ministers through the juggernaut of blood and death they unleashed, while impoverishing the country.
All three of the opposition parties (sorry again, Greens) are significantly defined by their opposition to the independence of the Scottish people, a blind opposition called Unionism. At least the LibDems and the Tories have other things they believe in – Labour has nothing left except its Unionism. It has become the thing it always falsely accused the SNP of being – a one-issue party. It is neither left nor right, neither centre left nor centre right: it floats aimlessly around the political compass, adrift – sans values, sans principles, sans everything …