Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Nicola Sturgeon emerged bloody but unbowed from the first Scottish Leaders' debate

If you missed the first Scottish leaders' debate on Tuesday, then don't worry because there was no great game changer. That came in spite of the fact that Nicola Sturgeon was clearly rattled on a couple of occasions from an audience that was not as friendly as she is used to these days. That said, she more than held her own, and the forward march of the SNP will continue apace.

The audience was chosen by STV "based both on current opinion polls and the last general election result," according to the TV station. They don't tell us how they weighted the polls with the last election, because in 2010 the SNP polled badly and today they are riding high in the polls. It looked to me as if the audience owed more to the 2010 vote than it did to today's voting intentions.

Sturgeon's low point came when she was asked about another independence referendum and quite clearly ruled it out since this election is not about Scottish independence. She was then bowled a low ball which caught her out when she was challenged to do the same in 2016. She gave the obvious answer which was to say that she preferred to fight one election at a time, but that did not go down well with many in the audience who began to groan at the thought of another plebiscite.

She still seemed to be on shaky ground when Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, pressed her to say if she wanted Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. The obvious answer was to say that the SNP does not care who the leader is, and would work with anyone, even a vegetarian, teetotal weirdo like Jim Murphy. Instead she answered that she was offering to help put Miliband in office, which gave Spud Murphy the chance to reply: "Nicola, we don't need your help." Actually, Labour does, as Sturgeon then shot back, so that round was a draw by my scoring.

Murphy stored up some potential trouble for the future by repeating the old lie that the biggest party forms the government. Those idiotic porkies will come back to haunt Labour if the party finishes second in terms of seats, but has a majority courtesy of the SNP. Obviously, New Labour's troughers will not pass up the opportunity to grab ministerial office, but they will be in for a rough ride from a Tory opposition baying for blood.

Probably the best performance of the night came from Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader. Since the SNP was coming in from the left, and Murphy was desperately trying to pretend that his outfit is also still leftist, that created quite a lot of space that Davidson could occupy on the right which went unchallenged. The disadvantage she had, something which was shared with Willie Rennie of the Lib-Dems, is that nobody really cares what either of them thinks. This election is between the SNP and Labour.

Given that, and even allowing for Sturgeon's shakiness in parts, this debate will be unlikely to influence anyone in any way. The poll lead that the SNP enjoys is based on something more than a rational weighing of the arguments heard in a debate. People who have voted Labour for generations are now sick and tired of being treated like election fodder by a party that scarcely exists as anything other than an election machine to get Labour troughers their fill of Westminster swill.

The forward march of the SNP continues unabated.

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