All recent polling suggests a return to Westminster for the former first minister.
All recent polling suggests a return to Westminster for the former first minister
Anyone thinking that stepping down as first minister would mean a more leisurely pace for Alex Salmond will yesterday have been proved sorely mistaken.
The news that he intends to make a return to Westminster, this time standing in the seat of Gordon in Aberdeenshire, took few by surprise.
The move will place him at the heart of a process by which the SNP could play a pivotal role in the likely event of a hung parliament next May.
First however, Salmond needs to be elected. On that matter, the current outgoing MP for the constituency, Deputy Lib Dem leader Malcolm Bruce, is unequivocal.
Alex Salmond will, Bruce told Radio 4’s Broadcasting Housing yesterday, fail in his efforts. This morning he spoke to BBC Radio Scotland about Salmond’s “arrogant presumption” in believing that simply standing for the seat means he has won.
So what are Salmond’s chances next year of taking the seat in what will be an eagerly anticipated race?
In 2010 the seat saw the Lib Dems secure a majority of almost 7,000 over second placed SNP, with a swing from Lib Dems to the SNP of 7.6 per cent.
Despite the challenge however, Gordon should be a relatively easy win for the SNP.
In 2007 Salmond stood for the seat for the Scottish Parliament, securing a majority of just over 2,000 votes over the Lib Dems, with a swing from the Lib Dems to SNP of 10.7 per cent.
By 2011, this time in the newly named seat of Aberdeenshire East which includes much of Gordon, Salmond increased his majority to over 15,000 votes with a swing from the Lib Dems to the SNP of almost 20 per cent.
Salmond’s popularity in the area will undoubtedly propel him over the winning line. Coupled with all recent polling suggesting a victory in Gordon, and the benefit to the SNP of the sitting MP standing down, I will be very surprised if we do not see Salmond return to Westminster.
With Gordon Brown standing down next year, the former first minister will seek to carve out a space for himself as the self-styled guardian of the Scottish national interest, holding the feet of the UK-wide parties close to the fire over the promises they made on further powers for Holyrood.
If they don’t see these promises through, expect some stormy scenes in the Commons. It was, after all, Salmond who in 2008 disrupted Nigel Lawson’s budget speech so much that it lead to the Commons being suspended for 15 minutes. Who would bet against him doing something similar again?
Salmond will be a prominent figure in politics for the foreseeable future. As the Scotsman writes today: ‘those who wrote him off three months ago may yet have cause to reconsider’.
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter
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