The Scottish election of 2016 had one winner and that was the SNP. If you believe any different, switch your TV off now! Everyone else lost, some much worse than others. Yes, I’m talking about Labour, their 3rd place finish behind the Tories. In their frustration, they are about to try and con Scottish voters once again in a desperate attempt to win back support but ignore the fact they need to be an independent Scottish party.
Why did Labour lose?
Without getting into already widely written stories, they lost it so badly mainly due to:
1) Their Referendum stance. Gleefully campaigning with the Tories against Scotland’s interests.
2) Blairite hangover. Still correctly being deemed as right wing, illegal war-mongering Red Tories.
3) Poor leadership. The comically revolving door of increasingly inept branch leaders is undeniable.
With proper and different leadership, sincere and numerous apologies and an overhaul in representatives and policy that puts people and not corporations, trident and foreign policy first, these can all be healed, slowly, over time. Unlikely though, as pretty much I have just described a completely different political party altogether.
Further, there is a 4th reason (the con) and this is the one I will focus on here.
4) The Constitution. The Labour got decimated due to being the only party not to clearly address the constitutional question.
They tried to be all things to all people and ended up being nothing to anyone. They tried to tell unionists they put in a shift for 2 years when campaigning for Better Together and they have not changed. At the same time they tried to appeal to Yes voters, hinting at independence support within the party and even Kezia Dugdale herself saying she would back indie to stay in the EU.
What differentiates party politics in Scotland is clearly the constitution and the inflexibility of the branch office was their downfall.
In an increasingly polarised Scotland, occupying the middle ground was always going to result in a confused Labour party caught in no mans land.
What’s going on?
Some over at the branch have realised this failing and know what they have to do if they are to stop the rot. Henry McLeish the former Labour First Minister has called on his party to offer “a new alternative of real home rule” and to develop a radical devolution blueprint and propose putting it to Scots, potentially alongside the option of full independence, in a 2nd referendum. He warned that his party had been “running away” from constitutional debate for a decade, need bold new ideas that would win the backing of the public or risk having “no future”.
It appears this sparked growing calls on Kezia Dugdale to confront the issue of the constitution following the party’s disastrous showing at the Holyrood election and embrace a supposedly radical new approach of home rule within the UK.
So that’s clear then Labour’s great radical plan is to float out some claptrap as new, that Keir Hardie’s Scottish Labour had at the forefront of their policy in 1888. Henry McLeish may claim “a credible path forward for Labour that gives the public the debate they want” but that very credibility is what they themselves have already lost. Don’t forget McLeish was a leading figure in the creation of the Scottish Parliament, which was supported by Labour only to quell growing nationalism. Remember the now Baron George Robertson’s proclamation “Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead”.
Who is in on it so far?
Various labourites want to win easy votes by once again deceiving Scots like they have many times before by throwing in buzzwords like ‘home-rule’, ‘federalism’, ‘greater autonomy’ and ‘absolute sovereignty’ despite the very recent shambles where Labour done all they could to stop more power coming to Scotland through the Smith Commission. Still they think they can pull this off and various unionists have jumped on the bandwagon
Labour MEP David Martin, called for “Radical home rule anchored inside the UK offers Scots the ability to shape their own nation without turning their backs on their neighbours and the security that brings.”
Former Labour MSP Alex Rowley and Dugdale’s deputy who just lost his Cowdenbeath constituency to the SNP last Thursday said “The constitution in the UK is broken in my view, and we need to build a case for a federal system of government. Every time the constitution came up, we looked very uncertain. It wasn’t going to win back Yes voters and No voters felt uncomfortable supporting us too”
Former deputy leader and new Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar said his party “are not comfortable nationalists and we are not comfortable unionists”
Kezia Dugdale said the “determination to try to move the Scottish debate on” from the arguments of the 2014 independence referendum had cost Labour votes.
Former Glasgow North East MP Willie Bain “Good to see strong voices in favour of federal UK emerging as best position for Labour to seek support on in reforming UK constitution”
Former First Minister Henry McLeish said “People might say that’s a bold option, and yes it is. But I can’t see an alternative way forward and if we’re serious about Scotland’s future, people deserve choices. “We are not going back to the old days, and I like the idea of the absolute sovereignty of the Scottish people.
What are they not saying?
But wait, not one of these people is calling for Scottish Labour to be an independent political entity, free form the restraints of their London bosses. This means they have no power or intention whatsoever of these promises ever being delivered. This is a political sleight of hand and the smoke-and-mirror politics that they are all to well known for.
Henry McLeish says “We have got to trust them [the public] to shape their destiny.” As he tries to lead us down the well worn garden path of a Calman Commission that didn’t offer the economic levers required to make a difference, the Brown devo max lie, the paltry watered down powers of the Smith Commission and that’s only a relatively recent handful. The history of Labour in Scotland is peppered with such cons. They don’t have support from down South, Lord ‘I’m alright’ Jack McConnell wants to axe the Scotland Office to stop Scotland having a dedicated cabinet representative in the form of the Scottish Secretary. He wants to replace this with a single “Secretary of State for the nations” to represent Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So while one branch of Labour propose more power to Scotland, another branch wants to remove power from Scotland. Tony Blair also tried to scrap it back in 2003.
The Henry McLeish ideas are being delivered with all the conviction of Tony Blair at the end of Labour conference singing the line ‘To cringe before the rich man’s frown’ from The Red Flag. If you truly want to “embrace civic society in coming up with its new constitutional settlement” as you claim, then show us you mean it by supporting a fully independent Scottish Labour party, until then, no one is interested. Henry says that “Labour have no future unless the party arrives at a resonant position on the constitutional crisis” but I say to you Henry, that they have no future unless they are a fully independent party with the power to implement the promises of a manifesto. He claims “Scots have not been given a viable, sustainable, attractive alternative to independence” and I say a unionist party can never promise such a thing.