Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

It's Kinnock in a Kilt. (Scottish Elections)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

It's Kinnock in a Kilt. (Scottish Elections)

Article excerpt

The opposition ran a highly professional election Campaign. Out went beards and amateurism: in came a catchy theme tune, slick manifesto launch and aggressive poster advertising. The party leader, whose decency exceeded his charisma, worked his socks off to convince voters it was time for a change.

Next month's Holyrood election is being fought in a time warp, with many of the parties resurrecting campaigns of yesteryear. Labour's manifesto promises echo those on Tony Blair's 1997 pledge card: shorter NHS waiting times, smaller class sizes, faster action against young offenders. With health, education and crime now under the control of the Scottish Parliament, the main parties are converging on a narrow strip of ground, diagnosing the same problems and offering near-identical cures.

Labour's attempt to oust John Major in 1992? No, this is the Scottish National Party in 2003, with John Swinney cast in Neil Kinnock's role. The SNP, once a byword for chaos in kilts, has rebranded itself as the smart-suited, left-of-centre challenger to Labour in the Scottish parliamentary elections on 1 May. To soften its image, the party has even adopted a bilious shade of mauve -- called "heather".

The danger for Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister, is that he gets the blame for failing to improve public services, expressed by the SNP slogan, "How long can we wait for Labour?" It is as though Blair had to face a midterm election before Gordon Brown's extra billions had had time to kick in.

The SNP is attacking from the left, promising to champion public services -- without recourse to the Scottish Parliament's limited income-tax-raising powers, which lie on the shelf unused. …

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