Alex Salmond to make Westminster comeback – threat to Lib Dem seat of Gordon?

Alex Salmond - License Some rights reserved by Ewan McIntoshFormer Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has hinted he might make a comeback at Westminster, as the BBC reports:

Alex Salmond has said he has not made up his mind whether or not to stand for a Westminster seat at the next general election. The outgoing Scottish first minister was asked on the BBC’s Question Time programme if he would consider becoming an MP again. Mr Salmond said he had “absolutely decisively” not made up his mind, but agreed that the door was not closed.

Alex Salmond made his name at Westminster, as MP for Banff and Buchan for 23 years (1987-2010). However, two factors will be in his mind.

First, his personal standing in Scotland means that whichever seat he stands in the chances of the SNP winning will be much, much higher. We saw this in 2011, when Mr Salmond’s decision to stand for the Scottish parliament in Aberdeenshire East boosted the SNP ticket throughout the area — to the Lib Dems’ cost.

Secondly, the chances of the SNP making a breakthrough at Westminster on the back of Labour’s collapse in Scotland means the Nationalists could wield significant influence in the event of a second hung parliament. An SNP delegation of c.15+ MPs could end up being far more powerful than Nigel Farage’s Ukip.

So where might he stand? Here’s Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political correspondent:

When he announced his intention to stand down as party leader and first minister following the independence referendum he promised to “continue to offer to serve” as MSP for Aberdeenshire East. But that does not prevent him from running for Westminster too. A so-called “dual mandate” is allowed. Targetting the Gordon constituency which overlaps with his Holyrood seat is perhaps the most likely option. The SNP were the second-placed party there last time and the sitting Liberal Democrat MP, Sir Malcolm Bruce is standing down.

What would be bolder and riskier would be for him to seek the SNP nomination in a Glasgow or North Lanarkshire constituency. These are areas that traditionally vote Labour but backed independence in the referendum. If the nationalists are to make gains in west central Scotland they need to persuade ‘yes’ supporters from all parties and none to vote SNP.

In 2010, Gordon was held by Sir Malcolm Bruce by a majority over the SNP of 6,748 (14%). With Malcolm retiring, Christine Jardine has been selected to try and retain the seat. She’ll have a tough fight on her hands no matter what, but it’ll certainly be tougher still if Alex Salmond does decide to throw his hat into the ring.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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26 Comments

  • Kevin McNamara 24th Oct '14 - 10:30am

    Let’s hope he doesn’t stand there otherwise we’re toast…

  • Anyone for Salmond as DPM in a Lab/SNP coalition? Won’t happen of course. The SNP objective will be to secure devo-max in exchange for some kind of confidence and supply agreement. In any case they can’t enter a coalition if they stick to not voting on ‘English’ laws. It would be an amusing turn of events though.

  • matt (Bristol) 24th Oct '14 - 10:59am

    “Anyone for Salmond as DPM in a Lab/SNP coalition?”

    Hmm. It’s intriguing but I doubt it.

    But what about Salmond the MP candidate as joint spokesperson for a Nat/Green coalition (they are part of the same EU party) in the TV debates?

    Leanne Wood (Plaid) on radio 4 this morning was talking about the Nats and the Greens forming a bloc together that would ‘hold the balance of power’ (that phrase again) in the next parliament. I think we’re seeing a strategy to coordinate more (eg the English Greens seem to have stopped putting up candidates in Cornwall in favour of Mebyon Kernow – someone will factcheck this and tell me I’m wrong now).

    Although our Scottish members will be able to confirm that the SNP is not the most environmentally friendly party to ever walk the earth.

  • Gordon is a probable loss anyway, and if he stands it may actually help us in the long run, as it will encourage Labour and (particularly) Conservative supporters to back us as a Unionist.

  • First, his personal standing in Scotland means that whichever seat he stands in the chances of the SNP winning will be much, much higher.

    I disagree. In the post-referendum divisions he is likely to unite the ‘anyone but Salmond’ vote around the biggest non-SNP party wherever he stands. His best bet is for a safe SNP seat generously made available by somebody standing down for a nice list seat for Holyrood. Kicking out Eilidh Whiteford for his old Banff & Buchan seat makes most sense for him.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Oct '14 - 12:30pm

    Intriguing. If Alex Salmond knows anything about Sheila Ritchie, he will give Gordon a wide berth.

  • Exiled Scot 24th Oct '14 - 1:45pm

    Hmmm. 15+ SNP seats – try doubling it. With the unionist parties almost guaranteed to fail to agree a devo-max option and an average SNP membership of 1,200 per constituency they (the SNP) can choose practically anywhere to win. Where Salmond stands is irrelevant.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lib Dems end up with fewer Scottsih MPs than there are pandas in Edinburgh zoo. Only Alistair Carmichael is safe.

  • The SNP faithful expect to either monopolise or at least dominate the Scottish seats next year, and in all honesty I am seeing very little to suggest that Labour has any ability to stop that from happening. Of course, they’re not going to wipe out the Labour Party in Scotland, that’s just the same sort of divorced from reality talk that had them predicting landslide wins for Yes, but I can see them coming out of the election with 25 seats. We might keep most of ours on a good night, if we get the manifesto right and we can make good on our devolution commitment, but we’re probably going to lose at least a few. Labour, more than a few.

    The scenario where a Labour Party a handful of seats short of a majority can choose between us, the SNP, UKIP and the Greens for coalition partners is tricky. We would need to be as open to a deal as we were with the Tories. But I think we could afford to let them walk away if they get a softer deal from the others.

  • T-J, I think you rate the SNP’s chances too highly. Voters have always, always undervoted for the SNP in Westminster compared to Holyrood/polling, presumably because they consider them powerless.

    And, where post-indy SNP support is highest is where Labour are strongest, it will take massive effort to unseat Labour from the west coast under FPTP.

    They might gain a few seats, but I’ll bet it’s well under double figures.

    I expect the Tories to do well though at the expense of Labour and the Lib Dems. Can easily see them taking 1 or 2 Labour seats, and a similar number of Lib Dems.

    Labour will probably get around what they did last time, they’ll almost certainly pick up some current lib dem seats to offset losses elsewhere.

  • Stevan Rose 24th Oct '14 - 8:37pm

    Should have been quicker off the mark and offered him a seat in the House of Unelected, Failed And Retired Politicians and their Buddies. He could have kept a seat warm for Baron Clegg of Hallam.

  • Well if Liane Wood is to be believed there will be an SNP/Green/Plaid bloc next time and they will likely hold the balance of power. If Salmond is in westminster leading that block … politics cod be quite intetesting.
    I think the Nats will break through (and Plaid will gain a couple of seats) – they have a huge and energised membership and of course the unionist vote is split 3 ways. He’ll certainly go after a Lib Dem seat in the Highlands – and as I have noted here before, they don’t much like the Scots member of the coalition ‘quad’!
    The above view is strengthened by ScotLab’s implosion this evening !

  • Listening to the radio and hearing that Labour in Scotland seem to bein some sort of meltdown.

    It surprises me that Ms Lamont has lasted as long as three years.

  • Adam Robertson 25th Oct '14 - 2:21am

    I think having Alex Salmond back in the House of Commons, will invigorate politics in both north of the border and south of the border. Interestingly, the two most formidable characters of the next parliament possibly, won’t be in the major parties but in the smaller ‘blocs’, one on the ‘left’ in the shape of Alex Salmond and one on the ‘right’ in the shape of Nigel Farage. Unfortunately, this does not bodes well for us during the election campaign, as we are squeezed out by the major two parties and the two new ‘blocs’ who believe they will control the ‘balance of power’ in the next election. I mean in potential ‘blocs’ in the shape of SNP/Plaid Cymru/Green and possibly UKIP/DUP alliance.

    Where does this leave us – well with a bit of sense. Nick Clegg will run on a liberal, moderate stance and reject the alienation politics, which both Salmond and Farage offer. Both are formidable political operators, but both have their own agendas and that is not a stable government. However, one may be needed because there well may be a situation, such as February 1974, where you need at least three parties to pass legislation, to support a minority government. I think for the Lib Dems, this would be the worst of all results – hung parliament but with having to share with others, could lead to anarchy and confusion.

  • Colin

    I am amused that you should say that — “Ruth Davidson is the one who has come out of the referendum on the best feet.”.
    One would of course expect nothing less from the famous lesbian kick-boxer than for her to land on her feet. It is not clear what political facts you base your assessment on.
    Are you suggesting that in Scotland there will be a revival in Conservative Party fortunes on the back of 55% voting for the Unionist NO in the referendum??? I doubt that.

    I would however very much agree with your opening remark about Westminster Bubblers dismissing the rise of the SNP.
    The 41 Labour Westminster MPs and 11 Liberal Democrat Westminster MPs would be wise not to dismiss what has happened in the last couple of months. Many of them may be looking for new jobs in a few weeks time.

    It should of course be recognised that the YES vote and the SNP are not the same thing.
    It is sad that in Westminster there are those (including Liberal Democrats) who think it was a stupendous victory that “ONLY” 45% of people in Scotland want to go their own way and have nothing to do with Westminster.
    But there was a Liberal Lord in LDV this week saying that the 1% Clacton result was not really that bad — so I suppose the capacity for complete denial of the the facts knows no bounds.

  • It is proper to note that in the Scottish referendum Aberdeenshire voted NO by a substantial majority, so a Lib Dem loss of Gordon next year is by no means a done deal.

  • Colin
    I would not put too much store in any opinion polls that predict a bright future for the Conservatives in Scotland.

    How about this as a perhaps clearer indication of what is happening to them — In May 2014 the party’s annual youth conference was cancelled due to lack of interest after only 12 tickets were sold.

    Of course the sale of 12 tickets does not necessarily indicate that there are twelve young people interested in Conservative Future in Scotland. It might have just been one enterprising Scot buying them up in the expectation of selling on the tickets as curiosities or museum exhibits once the party has ceased to exist at together.

  • Colin
    Fair enough.
    Although there is not much of a party to fall apart is there?
    One MEP, one Westminster MP , 15 MSPs and 115 local councillors.
    The Conservative Party in Scotland has been kept alive by the fact that only for the Westmnster election is FPTP used.
    Proportional representation breathed life into the Tory corpse.

  • @Malcolm Blount

    It seems to have escaped your attention that the UK Government regulated and regulates UK banks.

  • It would be pretty difficult for the Tory vote in Scotland not to hold seeing as they only have one MP in the entire country! Seriously, why do so many Lib Dems keep falling for the Tory Line that when their vote collapses the real news is that someone else had their majority cut!
    Here’s my prediction. In the next 5-10 years the Tories will be almost totally replaced by UKIP in the North of England reducing them to a southern rump. They’ve been pretty much dead in Scotland and Wales for decades, can’t take inner city seats and have a membership made up almost entirely of pensioners. Did you clock all the empty seats at the last conference.

  • I originally come from Gordon… – a place called Ellon, and I met Malcolm Bruce 20 years ago when he was campaigning and liked him.
    Back then though, it was the Liberals and Conservatives in first and second place who fought it out.

    I think you’re maybe underestimating how much of the Liberal vote in Gordon is a vote for the person rather than for the party. If he was still contesting the seat himself, I think he could probably hold on (so long as it wasn’t Salmond standing against him at least). As it stands, I think the seat is likely to go SNP.

    What’s left of the Tory party in Scotland only votes Tory. You might get some Labour voters who particularly dislike the SNP voting Liberal in an attempt to keep them out, but I don’t think they’ll make up for the loss in votes because it’s not Malcolm Bruce standing, if only because it’s never been a good area for Labour, even with the bits of Bridge of Don that got added to the seat.

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