Leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander, has today called on the Scottish Government to hold an early referendum on Scottish Independence. Now, it turns out that this is not some dramatic conversion to the cause of 'Independence', but a blatant tactic to disrupt the intended timetable of Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, who intends to hold such a referendum in 2010. Generally speaking, its not a sensible idea to play political games with constitutional issues. It makes a politician look shallow and irresponsible. Today's statement by Wendy Alexander is clearly a stunt, which may well backfire. I would be surprised if any of the other opposition parties in Scotland will support this call. I suspect that the SNP leader and Prime Minister, who is one of the craftiest operators in British politics, will find a way of turning this to his benefit.
An interesting aspect of this is whether Gordon Brown knew about the announcement before he heard in on the News. I suspect he did not, which would be the most graphic illustration of his waning influence in the Labour Party. This announcement, which looks a bit like a 'back of the fag packet' idea could really do some damage to Labour in Scotland, where the local council elections were not as bad as they could have been.
I really don't believe this. As writing this post I've put Newsnight on, and Hazel Blears has just told Jeremy Paxman that Gordon Brown's cabinet, not having known about this announcement before it was made, now agrees with Wendy Alexander that there should be an immediate referendum on the break-up of the United Kingdom. Words fail me. The Labour Party is falling apart.