The week in Westminster: Parties you can control - but not the voters

SO IT has been a poke in the eye for the control-freak tendency at Millbank. Although every party has claimed victory in the "super Thursday" elections the real winners were Dennis Canavan and Rhodri Morgan.

Mr Canavan's stunning victory at Falkirk West leaves Labour facing a nightmare by-election since he is already on record as stating that he cannot be both an MSP and a Westminster MP. His local Labour Party will certainly not put up with another candidate parachuted in from HQ.

In Wales, Labour voters protested in several constituencies against the imposition of Alun Michael. This was acknowledged by John Owen Jones, a Welsh Office minister, who admitted the party had been given "a bloody nose".

In England, William Hague can breathe a - temporary - sigh of relief after the local authority elections. Although his spin-doctors are claiming success in regaining 1,200 of the 2,000 seats lost in 1995, he should be terrified. For an opposition party to be behind in mid-term local elections is unprecedented.

Compare his position with the mid-term opinion polls and local election results in previous parliaments. Margaret Thatcher had a 12 per cent lead in 1977; Michael Foot was 3 per cent ahead in 1981; Neil Kinnock had a 3 per cent lead in 1985 and 7 per cent in 1989, while Tony Blair had a 20 per cent lead in 1995.

For the Liberal Democrats the man of the moment is the Orkney and Shetland MP Jim Wallace, who will have almost as much power as Donald Dewar. The Liberal Democrats are determined to win a formal coalition with Labour, and that would see Mr Wallace given executive responsibility.

He won't want to stand on the sidelines and even Mr Dewar must surely want the security of a regular majority in the Scottish Parliament for an agreed programme.

First price to be demanded will be an end to tuition fees for students in Scotland, increasing the prospect of students from England beating a path north of the border. This will cause a headache to David Blunkett as he tries to defend the fees in England - on the back of Scottish Labour MPs' votes in the Westminster division lobbies.

While the Scottish National Party performed respectably, its result was a far cry from the hype of a year ago. The knives are out, inside the party, for Alex Salmond, and many are blaming him for blowing the campaign.

He began with a disastrous political broadcast on the Kosovo crisis when he opposed the Nato campaign. His decision to oppose the Government's reduction of income tax was also a blunder and the air is expected to be thick with recriminations.

Margo MacDonald, a former Westminster MP and newly elected MSP, is expected to be an early challenger in any leadership struggle.

NORTHERN IRELAND party leaders were in and out of Downing Street on Thursday evening - including the Rev Ian Paisley who was wearing dark glasses to hide a black eye. In the midst of the bustle, a nattily-dressed gentleman sashayed out of No 10 with a gorgeous blonde in a short skirt and big hair-do. Heads turned as the man was revealed as Ralph Lauren, escorted by his wife. They had been visiting Cherie Blair. Expect even more elegance from the Cherie wardrobe.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn