Unions queue to back Findlay for Scottish Labour leadership…
Some of Scotland’s largest trades unions have thrown their weight behind left-wing MSP Neil Findlay’s bid to lead the Labour Party in Scotland. Findlay, who launched his bid in the socialist Morning Star newspaper, seems set to be the left’s champion againsy Tory-unseating Blairite Jim Murphy.
Unison, Scotland’s largest union by membership, has official backed Findlay after he and leadership rival Sarah Boyack addressed a meeting at its Glasgow headquarters on Saturday. Findlay’s addressed apparently focused on policy, and he supports such left-wing crowd-pleasers as abolishing Trident (although it is not certain how he squares this with the need for job creation.
Train drivers’ union Aslef has also endorsed Findlay and Unite, which is the largest union on Scottish Labour’s Electoral College due to more of its members paying the political levy, is very likely to do the same.
Murphy is hoping to pick up support from some of the smaller unions, such as Usdaw, as well as his old union the GMB. He launched his own campaign with an apology to the voters, on behalf of the party, for its failure to listen to them in the aftermath of its defeats in 2007 and 2011.
Meanwhile, the resignation of Anas Sarwar means that a contest for the deputy leadership will run alongside the leadership race. MSPs including Kezia Dugdale, Jenny Marra and James Kelly are tipped to run.
…whilst Salmond eyes a Westminster comeback
He hoped to be the first Prime Minister – or perhaps President – of an independent Scotland. Yet following his defeat in September’s referendum Alex Salmond is refusing to rule out a return to Westminster.
The former SNP leader is even talking up the possibility of the Scottish Nationalists propping up a minority Labour administration in the event of a hung Parliament. In an ironic echo of Nick Clegg’s 2010 negotiations, Salmond has indicated that Ed Miliband’s resignation would be essential to any accommodation.
This speculation comes as polling suggests that 20 or more Labour constituencies could be vulnerable to an invigorated Nationalist attack in 2015.
Any coalition with the nationalists – including Northern Ireland’s SDLP and Plaid Cymru – would make it very difficult for a Labour government to maintain its position in England, especially when it came to the apportioning of the spending cuts the next government will have to enact.
Salmond meanwhile has ruled out any cooperation with the Conservatives – with whom he probably has more in common, setting the Union to one side. This means that, unlike Clegg, he can’t bid the two main parties against one another.
Mandelson has “no regrets” over on-the-run ‘amnesty’ letters
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that he has no regrets from his involvement in the controversial government scheme that led to the collapse of John Downey’s trial for the Hyde Park bombings.
He described his approach to the issue of on-the-runs (OTRs) as “sensible, proportionate and principled”. Mandelson was not Northern Ireland Secretary when the mistakes around Downey were made, but the scheme started operation under his watch.
A judge-led review initiated by Cameron found that the operation of the scheme was “systemically flawed”. Miscommunication between the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI led to Downey being falsely issued a letter, which led a judge to terminate his trial.
Mandelson acknowledged that more steps could have been taken to prevent what Lady Justice Hallett, who led the probe, described as a “catastrophic error”. You might think he would regret not taking them.
Labour MP Ann Clwyd faces reselection after she reconsiders retirement
Labour has decided to press ahead with the candidate selection in Cynon Valley after veteran MP Ann Clwyd reconsidered her decision to step down at the 2015 general election.
Clwyd, who has been an outspoken critic of the Welsh NHS after its treatment of her husband and has advised David Cameron on the subject, claims that local voters have asked her to stand again. Yet Labour had already started the process of selecting her successor and has decided that it will continue, meaning that Clwyd will have to see off her would-be successors.
Cynon Valley has seen a familiar battle refought in recent months after the local party went “on strike” when Labour decided to impose an all-women shortlist on the constituency. The party previously lost Blaenau Gwent to an Independent former party member who rebelled against a similar decision.