The death of Angus Macleod reminded us of the contribution trenchant journalism makes and how so much of what we consume in the conventional media pales by comparison. The thought arose when reading the Herald which contains a piece that marks the inauguration of the campaign to reinstate Labour as a credible party of progressiveness. (What would the Herald be without a regular dose of Bell and Macwhirter?) http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/lamont-is-right-to-put-focus-back-on-children.25534548 It is a Pollyanna piece in which we are invited to be glad – glad about Johann, glad about her policies and glad about Labour and (furrow brow with mock concern) glad that we can forget all about that dreadful referendum business.
Catherine MacLeod, former adviser to Alistair Darling, has opened the case for resurrecting both the Tory-reconciled Labour Party and the career of Johann Lamont whose invisibility during the referendum was matched only by her ineptitude when she did appear. That is not only my view, it is widely shared among the Labour-minded who couldn’t understand why MSPs, and especially their leader, played such a minimal role in what is after all a Scottish issue, albeit with UK ramifications.
I know many are tired of discussing the failed mainstream but we should be aware of what motivates them and the MacLeod article delivers, as ever, a clear pointer to Unionist thinking. First, it is to write off the past by dismissing the mendacious, hysterical and anti-politics campaign which the Union ran. It is consigned to history and no longer matters. It is time pretend that never happened. There was no threat, no bullying, no lying, no orchestration of foreign governments, the EU, NATO officials or businessmen. Labour didn’t really work hand in glove with the Tories, did they? Best forgotten.
Second, on the back of an SNP defeat, it is to promote relentlessly the interests of Unionism so it can reclaim the ascendancy and turn the dial back to Everything Normal.
Nominally the column is about childcare and how pleased we should all be that Johann has found the vision to put this grand idea centre stage. But in reality it is to praise the Union and devolution, admire its representatives and brush aside anything that deluded Yessers out there imagine is a changed landscape. When we say Things Will Never Be The Same Again, this piece says: Oh Yes, They Will.
Johann Lamont wants to make childcare her keynote issue. Is it because her priority is social advancement? Possibly. Or could it be she needs a shield to fight behind as her leadership is threatened from within? I grant her both in an act of generosity but why is the issue of her besieged position not even mentioned in this article? Is it a figment of every Labour member’s imagination? Hardly. Here is proof from the Herald’s own political staff http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/murphy-backed-for-leadership-but-lamont-has-no-intention-of-resigning.25414376
So Lamont’s personal case is being supported here even as her own side plots her removal and the rest of Scotland scorns her failure.
And wait a moment…if Lamont is to be praised for promoting childcare now the referendum’s over, why aren’t we praising those who raised it first during the referendum – the SNP? Why is it laudable for a Labour leader today to major on a subject raised by the SNP eleven months ago? Surely, the story is Well Done, Johann – You’re Catching On.
Here’s a quote. ‘Ms Lamont’s credentials on social justice and equality are beyond doubt. She has fought for them all her political life. She knows too that the keys to prosperity are good health and education…’
Strange then with such credentials she has described universal benefits as ‘something for nothing’. Strange that she voted against free school meals (allowing there was an independence trap contained in the motion but Labour’s amendment still didn’t back free meals). Strange too that she opposed minimum pricing of alcohol, booze being one of the most deadly forces afflicting families.
As for equality, wasn’t it Johann who complained in the chamber that Nicola Sturgeon was a successful woman married to a successful man? Feminist solidarity, it wasn’t.
And didn’t she use a conference speech to venture to the edge of the acceptable when addressing a childless man… ‘But there is one thing which the First Minister has discovered this year. Women give birth to children. Then they look after them. So when his focus groups tell him women don’t like him he discovers childcare. It wasn’t exactly the same as Fleming discovering penicillin. Splitting the atom it was not but I suppose the First Minister learning anything about how real Scots live their lives is some sort of progress. I’m not going to give any theories about why the First Minister has a problem with women.’ That made many uneasy. Still, in the Herald this is all forgotten as Johann is recreated as Emily Pankhurst.
We could also forget that the SNP has been busy delivering on the childcare front. More than a quarter of two-year-olds get 600 hours a year of nursery care, the equivalent of 38 weeks of morning or afternoon session. All pupils in the first three years of primary get a free lunch.
Free childcare provision is being expanded to every two year-old from a workless household in Scotland – around 8,400 children or 15 per cent of all two-year-olds.
But then this is about Johann, not delivery in government.
One of the imponderables of Lamont’s scheme to limit the costs to 10 per cent of average earnings but there is no plan for meeting the cost yet when the SNP opened its offer this is what Kezia Dugdale said: ‘They’re writing policies on the bag of a fag packet. The proposals are uncosted and ill-thought through.’ I didn’t see that in the Herald…
Never mind, Catherine MacLeod tells us this is such a good Labour idea that Kezia went to Finland – home of a world standard education system to fact-find, clearly unaware that the SNP’s Mike Russell went there four years ago to do just that. In fact, I think he’s been more than once.
I too welcome Labour getting serious about policy issues, if they really are serious. As I say, I smell a subterfuge to defend Johann’s threadbare leadership. What I don’t like is uncritical PR spin which fails to ask why our childcare is so expensive in the first place and why small independent countries have better systems. (The answer is they control all tax and spend and set their own priorities which is what we would have with independence).
So there it is – the unchallenged support for a belated, uncosted policy we are all to salute in order to big up Johann and Labour. At the end of the item is the second part of the message. ‘Great energy was expended by both sides during the referendum debate. Hopefully that energy and political commitment will be channeled in a different direction to deliver the policy changes so many wanted to see.’
In other words, give up and stop your grassroots campaigns, demos and mass movements. Stop joining anti Union parties. Stop asking tricky questions. Leave it to the professionals and let us all go back to our comfort zone. We like to tell you what’s good for you and you should listen. After all, we’ve made such a good job of the country, haven’t we?
This is the classic evidence that they have learned nothing and will not deliver anything that meets Scotland’s aspirations. Labour is not being reborn either here or in England and there may be evidence from today’s by-elections that UKIP isn’t only eating into Tory votes but Labour ones too. The return of tired old Labour under tired old Johann is Unionist wishful thinking and wouldn’t have got past Angus Macleod if he’d been in the editor’s chair.by