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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Election Misgivings

It's not a great sign, when you're already feeling beleaguered four months into office for not calling an election, to have to have the last election that was held in these islands brought under very negative scrutiny. Even worse if one of the principal culprits happens to be one of your much valued right-hand men, but this is what is now happening to Gordon Brown over the report into the May elections in Scotland.

The May elections, you may recall, returned a hung Scottish parliament in which the SNP were - just - the largest party. Alex Salmond duly became First Minister in a minority Scottish government. The election process, however, was administered by the central government in Westminster, and specifically by Gordon Brown's elections supremo - and then Scottish Secretary - Douglas Alexander. The just published Gould Report into these elections produces some damning conclusions. Some 140,000 ballots were lost or spoilt because of the complexities and ambiguities of the ballot papers, and Gould accuses the Labour administration, and Douglas Alexander, of placing party interest before the interests of the voters.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this. Think of all the coverage of the Florida election scandal when George W. was first elected president and the accusations of gerrymandering placed against the Florida administration, headed by Bush's brother Jeb, and then apply all of that to the Scottish situation, and you have a flavour of the depth of this scandal. Alexander is one of New Labour's rising stars, and a member of another Labour dynasty whose sister is currently Scottish Labour leader. He has apologised today, in the somewhat qualified fashion in which ministers apologise these days, but his reputation has surely been holed below the waterline, and it is another blow to Gordon Brown. It gave David Cameron yet another chance to score points in yesterday's heated Commons exchanges at PMQ's.

BBC coverage of this story with links to PMQ's is here. Nick Robinson's online commentary is here.

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