by Colin Campbell
IT’S been made clear what’s happening in the election in the Ross constituency – Labour and the Conservatives effectively want their supporters to back Lib Dem Craig Harrow in a bid to oust the SNP’s blustering Ian Blackford – but what’s happening in Inverness? Four weeks from polling day and not as much as a leaflet through the letterbox about or from any of the candidates, who apart from one, are completely and totally anonymous figures.
Are there to be any public debates between them? If there are, they’re being kept a closely guarded secret.
The candidates are Drew Hendry for the SNP, retired doctor Fiona Fawcett for the Conservatives, Lewis Whyte for Labour, and Dennis Rixson for the Liberal Democrats.
Just so you know.
I’m sure Dr Fawcett, Mr Whyte and Mr Rixson are very able people with much to commend them.
But I’m fairly certain Drew Hendry won’t be shaking in his shoes.
The only information which seems to be available on the Tory candidate is through their Highland website, which has a “follow” link to her Facebook page.
I did that and all I could find on it was a few pictures of dogs. Nice, cuddly-looking dogs, but dogs all the same.
There was no reference to the election, no reference to meetings or what she’s doing to try and win it, no blood-curdling attacks on Hendry and the SNP.
Whatever else is to be said for the good doctor, she’s hardly coming across as another Margaret Thatcher.
Does she think she can bark her way to victory?
The Tories ran Hendry fairly close last time. Whether the dog-loving doctor is guaranteed to bring out the vote very much remains to be seen.
Labour, meanwhile, are fielding a 22-year-old student, their “youngest general election candidate in 30 years”.
Remember the last young student to stand for them? No, me neither.
Labour are struggling badly in Scotland – and no wonder when the appalling Jeremy Corbyn is the prospective PM they’re trying to get elected – so the assumption has to be that more seasoned local veterans won’t touch the Corbyn campaign ticket with a barge pole.
Mr Whyte will no doubt do as well as he can. But untried, untested and unknown, and with a background of traditional Labour voters in this area being horrified by Corbyn, we can safely assume that that triumphant night when David Stewart was elected for Labour in the Inverness seat two decades ago will not be repeated.
The Lib Dem candidate, apparently, was elected as a Highland councillor in April. Since then, whatever impact he’s made on anything else, I’m afraid I haven’t heard of Dennis Rixson, and I thought I knew all the councillors.
He gained office by winning it from the SNP, so that was a creditable achievement. But to say it’s hard to see it being replicated against Drew Hendry is an understatement, as understated as Mr Rixson has been since he joined Highland Council.
I’ve covered most of the public debates between the candidates in the last few elections and, while a few were fairly limp affairs, at least it gave the unknowns the chance to make some voters half-aware of them.
Dr Fawcett, Mr Whyte and Mr Rixson urgently need to find some way to notify at least one in 10 – or maybe one in 50 – voters that they actually exist.
A few good old-fashioned leaflets, if nothing else, would help.
If they and their parties don’t get their act together quickly, this election will be a complete cakewalk for Drew Hendry.
Blustering Blackford may be set to lose his seat
OUR correspondent in Ross-shire believes there is a fair to good chance of Ian Blackford losing his seat.
With other parties standing aside to – as they hope – unite the Lib Dem vote against Blackford, the TV cameras could be gifted a “Michael Portillo moment” when the election result is announced.
While hardcore SNP supporters will, like automatons, turn out in droves to support Blackford, the level of distaste for him in the constituency is high.
Many regard his puce-faced blusterer performances at PMQs as a local and national embarrassment.
Tolerance of the endless outrage and grievance act has worn very thin.
He is a hugely divisive and alienating figure to many, with doubts cast on how well and diligently he has served his local constituents.
And the rich former Edinburgh banker masquerading as a humble crofter hasn’t gone down well. As someone asked: “When did you last see a hard-grafting, gnarled hands crofter looking as paunchily fat as that?”
The vicious campaign Blackford and his acolytes mounted against Charles Kennedy when he was at very low ebb is still remembered with disapproval. All’s fair in love, war and politics? Well not always, and not all the time.
Across the Kessock Bridge, Drew Hendry looks like a shoe-in for the SNP. For Blackford, the outlook is nowhere near as clear cut.