Bit of a zombie weekend – watching two slow motion catastrophes in graphic action – the national rugby team and Scottish Labour’s election plan…both inept, unresponsive, naïve and hung over with failure.
I’d expected some progress by now from both because there were early signs of effort and enterprise but with time running out they are each marooned in stagnation.
And, like the rugby team, Labour are suffering as much from the little things as they are from any overarching shortcomings. The first is the Murphy re-election platform. In some ways it won’t bother voters where the leader sits and he was after all chosen on the basis of being a sitting MP. I don’t imagine Labour voters are concerned that his current campaigning is done, in electoral terms, from Westminster rather than Holyrood but as the contest warms up and the focus turns on Scotland’s place in the Union, the powers in Edinburgh and who represents the nation, well, I suspect they’ll find it a bit weird that the prospective First Minister is standing again for election to the UK parliament.
Voters differentiate between the two centres and between the two governments and while they might stomach Murphy continuing as a Westminster member meantime, a la Salmond, I’m not sure they’ll readily accept that he commits himself to another term down there when the clear need is to be inside Holyrood.
The pragmatic reasons I suppose, include: If he doesn’t contest Eastwood then he forgoes a resettlement payment (MP’s redundancy)…there is every chance that without his personal vote Labour lose the seat…there is no Holyrood vacancy for him to fill…but if the SNP does well in winning West of Scotland seats he can pick up an MSP spot by getting himself placed top of that list.
However, it isn’t much of a rallying call for the British election to be telling people you’ll stay for a year if they elect you and then you’ll be off to Edinburgh – enjoy the by-election. (In which case, again, he wouldn’t qualify for the resettlement grant). Or, more cynically, he stays as MP to see what happens to him in the Holyrood vote and if he fails to get in next year, he ploughs on as an MP, with the leadership left a raggedy, threadbare nuisance to be passed on to some other mug.
Presumably this is why so far he hasn’t told anyone of his longer-term plans – not an ideal launch position. The sense that this is dodging the honourable and straightforward route expected by the public is strong. Ask the man at Eastwood Toll and he’ll tell you Murphy should stand down and go for a Holyrood seat if he wants to be First Minister. Anything else looks sleekit and self-serving, like a man hedging his bets and unsure of success.
And doesn’t it underline Johann Lamont’s killer line that Scotland is Labour’s branch office when the leader himself opts to stand for Westminster even as he tells us of his plans to be First Minister? I think Brian Taylor said this was ‘far from satisfactory’ – repeated for emphasis. In other words: He’s f***ed. He’s relying on Scots overlooking this misstep and what it tells us about his ambitions and Labour’s hopes.
Woe betide anyone who conveys the idea that he is taking the voters for granted. And contained therein is another calamity waiting to happen – that Murphy loses the seat. That really would spell the end because can you imagine a man the voters have kicked out presenting himself as the leader to take on Sturgeon and the ascendant Nationalists?
Makes you wonder how much actual planning Murphy did in advance….like his deputy who strikes me as too immature. Kezia Dugdale has fallen into the habit of a default high-pitched delivery designed to convey anger and scorn – appropriate on occasion – but literally monotonous. She personifies Labour’s approach – constant attack – but without a change of gear which suggests thought or even solutions. I stop listening.
Her recent tweet asking why Chinese steel was being used on the Forth Crossing (as a juvenile response to criticism of Labour leaflets being printed in England) has the hallmarks of John McTernan, who’s been asking MSPs to travel through to Glasgow to get their instructions from him. No mature politician would make such an elementary mistake to sound petty on the one hand and ill-informed on the other providing an open goal to remind us of the closure of Ravenscraig and the loss of a strategic industry.
But my favourite cock-up isn’t Labour’s at all – it’s Danny Alexander’s gift to nationalism by sticking up the Union flag on public works. You just know this came from a committee asked to brainstorm about ‘getting the message out’. Why should Brussels get all the credit for jetties and fly-overs when it was just matched funding?
Of all the issues this raises, the most fundamental is this: Do Scots admire the Union Jack? When it is displayed, do we naturally stiffen our spine, struggle to restrain a salute and quietly hum God Save the Queen? Damned if I do…
I resent its presence, regard it as a symbol of British control in Scotland and of colonial imperialism abroad. I believe it is quietly resented by most Scots as the comfort blanket of those with the casual air of superiority they hear at the edges of their lives – that metropolitan entitlement and dismissiveness that brings us ‘the news where you are.’ That Alexander should have misunderstood or forgotten such feelings shows where his heart now lies – as a London-based, Tory-aligned benefits cutter whose Scottish instincts have been corrupted by Westminster far too early.
Those signs of course will become the target for graffiti just as the idea has on Twitter. Indeed we can apply it to Jim Murphy standing again for Westminster – FundedbytheUKgovernmentby