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Scottish Labour Party Conference rundown

November 4, 2010

(This post originally appeared on a now-defunct version of this blog. It doesn’t particularly matter that this is the case, I’m just explaining away the schoking lateness of this post in relation to the event it’s covering.)
As senior Labour figures go, Harriet Harman is not exactly the one you’d expect to overshadow a party conference with an ill-advised gaffe. Her speech calling Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander a ‘ginger rodent’ has attracted more attention than any of the policy announcements so far. She has since apologised, but the damage has been done. The story was most viewed on the BBC website for a period on Saturday (it took a bomb scare to shift it!), and on Sunday her name is still trending on Twitter.

With a Scottish election looming in May, this is an important conference for Scottish Labour. It hopes to replicate the success it had in gaining Scottish MPs at the general election.

Leaping into action, the SNP entered attack mode with redhead MSP Shirley Anne-Somerville firing out a widely covered press release saying:

Her silly remark isn’t anti-Danny or anti-LibDem, it’s anti-Scottish.

As the Scottish conference season rolls ahead, keep an eye on how many gingers are packed into the conference halls to show just how Scottish they are. Alexander, who Labour have previously lampooned as Beaker, seems to have taken great offence. There’s bound to be a poll on this coming out in the next week, and it will be interesting to see if Scottish voters share his indignation or see the funny side.

But the focus on the inevitably named ‘gingergate’ has shifted attention from other developments. In a break with conventional thinking in the new age of media and internet-based political campaigning, Iain Gray has promised a ‘doorstep election‘ based around canvassing 100,000 Scottish households before polling day. This is in common with Scottish Labour’s strategy at the general election, and is a relatively cheap method of campaigning that requires a lot of work from activists. Scottish Labour is still, as far as I’m aware, the largest political party in Scotland, but its finances are not healthy. Doorstepping rather than running expensive media campaigns is therefore a canny move.

Iain Gray’s ‘substantive‘ speech contained too many policies to detail here, but here’s a quick list.

  • Iain Gray and his cabinet will take a pay cut of 5% if he becomes First Minister
  • A living wage of £7.15 for public sector workers
  • A single Scottish police force, merging all existing forces
  • A guarantee of an apprenticeship for every school leaver
  • A literary and numeracy drive, employing more teachers

We’ll be keeping an eye on those polls to see if the ginger vote, a previously ignored demographic, has turned its tail on Scottish Labour.

Neil Pooran

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