Brown v Salmond was the undercard to the Obama McCain fight


As Obama cruised to his historic victory last week, little attention was paid internationally to the fight between Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown in the Glenrothes by-election in Scotland. The pre-match posturing suggested Alex was supremely confident. But the voters marked their cards rather differently

To be precise, Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown were the fight promoters. Lindsay Roy (the eventual victor) and Peter Grant of the Scottish Nationalists were not exactly billed as crowd-pleasing performers.

That was partly why I began to think of Alex Salmond as a fight promoter such as the legendary Don King. He has this way of dominating a press conference with his creative imagery. And sometimes happened with Don King, Alex Salmond was also grabbing more headlines than his fighter. When the bout was lost, it was Alex Salmond who retained the headlines. The vaunted clunking fist of Gordon Brown had done some damage. And Alex Salmond didn’t just hit the headlines, he hit the canvas.

The BBC reported it as follows:

The by-election was a result of death of Labour MP John MacDougall. He had held a majority of over 10,000 votes in 2005, but Labour’s decline and the upsurge of support in Scotland for Salmond’s nationalists have put them favourites. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, MP for the neighbouring constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, had departed from the tradition of a PM staying away from such by-elections. Mr Salmond said it was “clear” the SNP could win the by-election.
“Just as Americans voted for hope over fear, people in Glenrothes can choose between the positive record of the SNP and the negativity and scaremongering of Labour”

Polls seemed to back up this claim until a few hours of the polling booths closing. The seriousness of another defeat for Brown was the main topic of the closing days of the campaign.

What happened next?

Within hours of polling ending, rather like the Obama battle, the grapevine was indicating a clear victor. But it wasn’t the ante-Post favorite.

The BBC again:

Lindsay Roy [Labour] was elected the new MP with a majority of 6,737 over the SNP’s Peter Grant …BBC Scotland political correspondent Brian Taylor said: “Labour attacked the Nationalists day and daily over claims that the SNP-led administration in Fife Council had cut home care services for the most vulnerable.
“In vain did the SNP protest that this was driven by externally imposed exigencies, that they were doing nothing different from several other councils (including Labour ones) and that they had increased the budget in key areas of expenditure.”

Down, but is he out?

So we can say Alex even from the ringside ended up on the canvas. But even if it’s been a knockout, is it such a blow as to be the end of the victory which his party is scenting in the longer term? Above the political battle, the vision of the SDP is for a free Scotland away from the shackles of the Union, and with a new poliical relationship between Scotland and England.

In the week of Obama’s triumph, it would be a bold person to predict that such an outcome will never happen. Obama’s was victory for the originally oppressed minority. We might also remember Mandela’s victory in South Africa. But in each of these cases, there was one big difference: the direction of change was towards integration not differentiation.

One Response to Brown v Salmond was the undercard to the Obama McCain fight

  1. Paul McDonald says:

    It’s very tempting to compare Salmond v Brown to Obama v McCain and of course everyone wants to be Obama (who wouldn’t? what an inspirational guy).

    Among the slew of political figures offering their public congratulations to Obama following his election victory, Alex Salmond called it “a victory for optimism over pessimism, for hope over fear”. Salmond clearly sees himself as the hopeful optimist compared to the “negativity and scaremongering of Labour”. I recall the SNP’s victory in the Holyrood elections and how pundits put their successful performance at the polls down to their positive campaigning, which certainly had synergies with the Obama campaign.

    It’s interesting to note the view that Brown in fact could be the one most compared to Obama since his promotion of an integrated union is comparable to Obamas very skillful (and ultimately fruitful I hope) attempts to unite the red and blue states of America.

    One thing’s for sure is that following Obama’s victory, the United Kingdom appears to be far less united than the United States. Despite Obama and McCain’s clear differences they were both singing from the same constitutional hymn sheet while here in the UK there are enormous constitutional questions that have remained unresolved for 300 years. In reality, I don’t think Brown or Salmond could be compared to Obama in any meaningful way and nor should they be. We’re not the US. Both our bonds and our problems go far deeper in my opinion.

    I noted that the fervor of the media speculation surrounding the bursting of the SNP’s bubble wasn’t quite matched by Labour which I think is wise. The political battle in the UK has far longer to run than the 21 months of Obamas journey to the White House and I expect both Salmond and Brown will be reluctant to count their chickens any time soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: