Calm Down, Dear

Much excitement among Labourites that after eight years their heroes may have scored against the SNP. Eight years…in 2007 interest rates were above 5%, Blair stood down for Brown and Britain came second last in Eurovision. Eight years…when the voters finally rumbled Labour, the SNP grew into a mature government and the voting system was demolished by their 2011 surge. Eight years…when Labour were nuked north and south into charred remains, lost an election to a vicious Tory party and the SNP membership shot to 100,000.

Eight years…no other government in history has a record like that of virtual non-stop success and popularity, growing support even after a devastating defeat on their key policy. If it’s true that after all those years – in which my own family arrived and now learn in the ‘failing’ education system – Labour has had a success, isn’t that in itself the real story for journalists interested in their country rather than cheerleading their political party? Or is the truth that none of them is quite writing off the Nats yet because, as soon as you ponder the idea, it turns from analysis into Christmas panto.

Yet in articles and tweets the desperation of commentators for a revived Labour can barely be contained. Most of these people, remember, have lived in thrall to Labour, many grew up in Labour families and all their training and professional experience has centred around the same flailing behemoth. The Guardian’s political editor Michael White was tweeting that Scottish Labour has found its mojo and the sheen was coming off the Nats. I saw a tweet which seemed to indicate Kenny Farquharson in the Times was saying something similar.

I think they have a point – if you ignore the Nationalist record of the last eight years, if you believe Labour under Kezia Dugdale is serious, if you think the opinion polls are wrong and if you believe that there are enough votes to the left of the SNP to go round. You have also to believe that it is Holyrood’s role to spend Scottish taxpayer’s money covering the cuts imposed by Westminster.

Two of the key events of the last week weren’t the actual decisions Labour took – on Trident and on restoring tax credit cuts – but rather what they demonstrate as a consequence. On Trident, it took 24 hours for the defence spokesman to show them who is boss. It wasn’t subtle. It was a public humiliation for a party claiming it was newly autonomous. And Kezia had no reply. The mute silence of autonomous Scottish Labour proved beyond doubt that autonomy is decoration. All decisions that matter will always be made in London and even if, like me, you approve of a different viewpoint in Scotland and welcome it as a campaigning device within the party, the truth that hurts is the structural subordination of Scottish Labour. They can, as Kezia might say, carp from the sidelines, but what they can’t do is change a single Scottish policy on a reserved matter even when Scotland is literally in the firing line. They must be independent to do otherwise.

On credit cuts, the policy she has chosen is the clearest evidence of how impotent Scotland is on a key issue like welfare. The triumph trumpeted by the Unionists with laptops is merely an admission of powerlessness. Scotland is reduced to stripping other spending commitments – on which a government was elected, by the way – to find the cash to replace the money removed by the Tory government. It’s the same principle as working tax credits themselves – they help families but are a subsidy to employers. In this case Labour is promising to subsidise a brutal Tory policy rather than joining forces to prevent its implementation. As Sturgeon pointed out, there is widespread cross-party discontent at play yet at the very moment the Tories are most vulnerable, Scottish Labour switches its attack lines on to the SNP.

Both of these position are confirmation that Scottish Labour remains captive to London diktat both on internal party policy and on wider Scottish interests. Independence is a cure for both and anyone who follows this without the media’s Labourite bias will realise the logic. They may not agree with a separate Scotland, but it’s hard to deny that Kezia has positioned her party so it points towards independence, either for Scottish Labour, for Scotland, or both.

I think Nationalists need to lighten up too. So used are we all to success and crippling Unionist failure that when Labour produce a successful slogan – on a policy without costings – there is unnecessary consternation. Like critical commentators, this is good because it begins to move our politics more on to an even keel, one where the media attacks the government (already a Unionist speciality) and one where there is a real and, so help me, an effective opposition. I have a growing unease at the sheer scale of SNP dominance or, indeed any party’s dominance, which is my primary reason for supporting PR. Talk of one-party states is silly and ill-informed but my suspicion is that the wider public don’t like it either – it makes them suspicious. That in turn makes them less likely to back independence if it means giving even more power to the SNP.

There is a balance in democracy and the rise of the SNP has coincided with (and partly caused) the decline of the others. A return to credibility by Labour and even electoral advance would not be a threat to the SNP and may even help the longer-term case for independence.  I just don’t see any reason yet to think it’s about to happen. But Labour are pleasing their cheerleaders in the media.

 

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24 thoughts on “Calm Down, Dear

  1. Alasdair Macdonald

    Of course, we need an effective parliamentary opposition in Scotland and we need a range of political parties which articulate a range of coherent policy proposals. The sad state of affairs is that Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats do not have people who are able to present such things. There is very little of substance in what they say. For the past 8 years, all they have done is attacked and criticised and have got out of the habit of establishing some kind of philosophy from which government policies can be critiqued and from which proposals for improvement can be derived. These things simply are not there. I have only once in my life voted SNP (since I became eligible to vote in 1968). Other than the Green Party, it is the only one which has people who can present coherent arguments, who have a bit of ‘presence’, and who appear to be trying to do things to benefit the people who live in Scotland. It is not perfect and, like any mass party, corrals a very wide range of views, held together by the belief that it would be better if we in Scotland ran our own affairs. If that goal is achieved, then I am sure we will have a range of political parties articulating a range of views, by a range of people ranging from idealists to chancers. I know people in Labour , Conservatives and LibDems, who are intelligent, insightful, passionate people who are capable of articulating policies, but in the constraints of their parties, they are like rabbits in the glare of headlights. Before losing to Ruth Davidson, Murdo Fraser argued for an independent Scottish Conservative Party. I hope he finds his voice again. But, who are his equivalents in Labour and LibDems? The apathy with which Kezia Dugdale was received on question time, matches my own ennui when I see Willie Rennie get to his feet. When I see Patrick Harvie or Alison Johnstone rise, I will listen. I listen with interest to the many stars of Women for Independence. But the three parties who have a chunk of seats at Holyrood and their fans in the mainstream media, really need to realise that we have the best educated population Scotland has ever had and we are capable of nuanced understanding and debate. If they cannot provide that, then “Gi’e’s peace!”

  2. Please sir? (holds hand up)

    Scored what?

    Tax credits? Labour proposes to use money that isn’t there along with powers that won’t be available for a further two to three years in order to make a shrinking budget go round less than it should? The proposition is that the Scottish tax payer should effectively pay twice over in order to get the benefits of a government that actually cares what happens to it electorate?

    I’m not up on sport, but that seems more of an own goal, but then spending money you don’t have and will have no control over in order to make some party political mileage is ‘par for the course’ with some folks.

    A twisted part of me would almost like to see Ms Dugdale and Labour running Holyrood, simply so they’d have to follow through.

    The operative word in that last sentence is ‘almost’.

  3. OLD ABITS DIE HARD DEREK ,I DONT SEE PEOPLE CONCERNED ABOUT A 1 PARTY STATE,RIGHT NO ITS WHAT WE NEED

  4. When people see a party which puts Scotland first and others who don’t,who are they going to vote for?
    That is the reason for our “one party state” and until the unionists cut ties with their London masters,that is how it is going to remain.
    Labour’s pretence (it always seems to be that way with them) that they act as an autonomous Scottish party just doesn’t wash with voters.
    Unfortunately for the unionists,it is becoming patently clear that we are not better together and as long as they continue to cling to London power structures,their decline in Scotland is inevitable.
    We need political choices in Scotland as part of a thriving democracy but only when those choices are seen as acting in our best interests rather than just feathering the nests of political hangers on.

  5. “….I have a growing unease at the sheer scale of SNP dominance…”

    I couldn’t disagree more. It isn’t that long ago that Labour had a big majority at Westminster, were the largest party at Holyrood, and controlled the majority of Scottish local councils. All presided over by a compliant, uncritical Scottish media. I don’t ever recall any complaints of democratic deficits or one-party states in those days.

    I cannot understand why you are being so sympathetic towards Scottish Labour. Their downfall is entirely their own fault. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt, or an even break. They don’t deserve it.

    Everything the SNP have achieved over the last 8 years has been against the odds of a system loaded against them in just about every possible way. Hell, even the voting system at Holyrood was conceived to prevent any party gaining an overall majority- and the SNP still managed it. And everything they have achieved has been against a torrent of ridicule, abuse and hatred from the “British” establishment. So please don’t talk down or belittle their achievements- they have had to fight tooth and nail for every inch of ground gained.

  6. Katrine Paterson.

    Only a party with a death wish would have put such a naive young Kezia Dugdale in charge. But then, only a fool would put their head on that line. So off they will go into the sunset! Will anyone really care? I certainly will not.

  7. I wouldn’t take too much notice of Michael White’s tweets. He seems to operate on a different level of reality to the rest of us. Only the other day he referred to the constituents challenging Alistair Carmichael as a ‘lynch mob’.

  8. Everyone went to skule, so everyone is an expert on education.

    I entered teaching on a mature student Teechur recruitment grant for College and Yoonie to offset a teacher shortage. By the time I spent another year at Teechur Training College in Jordanhill there was a surplus of teachers. I have never known aby Governement get it right, There was always a shortage or surplus of teachers. So I don’t nu the latest SNP bad, weaponising.

  9. The media doth protest too much. methinks. The Emperor has been back to the same tailor.

  10. Jim Murphy was the last “savior” of the Labour Party in Scotland screamed the corporate media at that time. A solitary MP elected and 40 MP’s lost was the result in 2015.

    If the likes of Michael White was not an editor but a bookie he would by bankrupt by now, such is his accuracy at making predictions.

    Kezia has continued along the same path as Murphy, that is the path to oblivion for Labour in Scotland. May 2016 will see who is right.

    If you want a laugh type “Jim Murphy savior” into google. Kezia will be remembered though not for the reasons she hopes.

  11. Labour put me in mind of the words of the song when will they ever learn when will they ever learn ?

  12. Unionist “journalists”, as Thepnr says above, were convinced Murhpy was the new Messiah. Now it’s Dugdale’s turn to be the new Messiah… Messiah-ette? You can tell she’s going the same way as Murphy because she has tried to change the tone, or rather the speed, of her voice and is convincing no-one in the process. The only way Labour and the other unionist parties in Scotland can revive, is when Scotland regains its independence and everyone starts with a clean slate.

  13. The SNP is only so dominant because the rest are so utterly incompetent. Why do you blame the SNP for the failings of the rest?

  14. Dave McEwan Hill

    But the media were giving the same plaudits to the arriving Jim Murphy

  15. The outdated Labour carrack is fickle and badly-rigged; it shifts and sways with the slightest change of wind direction. Their cannon can’t shoot straight. Whereas, the SNP galleon is sailing solidly and briskly, well able to cope with storms, squalls and waves breaking over the bow, let lone pot shots from a tired old wreck.

    A so-called “hit” from Labour is negligible – if they keep firing randomly into the fog they’ll snag a sail at some point or ding the prow. Doesn’t mean they’ve got the measure of their target – it’s just statistics.

    (Must stop reading about ships. lol)

  16. I’m pleased to see you claimed that Labour “may” have scored against the SNP, Derek, for they haven’t a hope. The Greens are the only contenders at the moment. But as has been pointed out above, with Scottish Independence things could change. I look forward to that happy day!

  17. We already have significantly higher spending per capita than rUK.

    How awful of our London masters, that even a Tory majority doesn’t prevent us from spending so much more on public services than we could, without a deficit double the size, under Indy or FFA.

    That labour is proposing to use the increased opportunities of the Scotland Bill to remove the effects of the tax credit cuts is a…what? A bad thing? In socially progressive, left leaning, SNP Scotland?! Well I never!

    The SNP have been so determined to pooh-pooh the Scottish Parliament post Scotland Act 2016 that they’ve forgotten to plan for how they might propose a radically different approach to the increasingly devolved competencies. And don’t kid yourself, that’s the opportunity the Bill offers.

    Labour have stolen a march from the left, and yes, it is a costed policy (*coughs…white paper).

    Ignore this reality it if it stokes your inclination towards sneering self congratulation if you like-there is many a labour politician who can tell you where that attitude eventually lands you.

    We want a higher welfare society, with benefits of shared currency and continued EU membership (which, thank goodness, we voted to maintain), as well as keeping higher public spend per capita with Barnett? Fine. Let’s vote for it. But we have to pay for it ourselves. The Scotland Bill allows us to do exactly that.

    I’m up for it. I’m a member of the Labour Party. Where are you lot?

  18. Timeline of the last 18 months:

    – Labour play every low-life, pond scum trick in the book to tag team with the Tories in the referendum, thereby ensuring a subordinate Scottish Government at high likelihood of being at the mercy of perpetual Tory rule for the foreseeable

    – On the account of everyone involved in the subsequent Smith Commission, Labour (not the Tories, not the Libs) were the main obstacle to the inclusion of the most significant welfare and tax powers in the draft Scotland Bill

    – Labour spend the whole of the General Election campaign saying things like ”The Vow’ has been fulfilled’, ‘we have delivered a powerhouse Scottish Parliament’, etc.

    – The inevitable happens and a Tory government is elected by England to rule Scotland, as ensured by Labour’s conduct in the referendum

    – Tory government roll-out malicious tax credit and welfare plans, as ensured by various Labour abstentions in both houses of Westminster

    – Labour attempt to take the moral high ground in Scotland by complaining that the Scottish Government are not doing enough to stop and reverse Tory tax credit and welfare plans

    FFS!! Nothing like a good old Tory-Labour Unionist one-two.

  19. Labour policy is dictated from head office and formed only to win votes in England. Slab are there to annoy the SNP nothing more, they are not a credible opposition in Holyrood, the same as they are not in westminster. They are seen to fight for the status quo and not for Scotland’s interests, and they are berfeft of any coherent policy. One party state, no, democratically elected landslide and no wonder. When we get independence normal service will be resumed, a broad spectrum of political views will be available and true Scottish parties emerge, fighting together and each other for a better Scotland, so let’s get there first.

  20. (Not) Labour’s fundamental problem is that it’s simply not enough tot try and say SNP bad or make them look bad. In order for that to be effective you must have some decent alternative idea to fill the void you hope to create.

    (Not) Labour are simply bereft of such ideas as their “conference” in Perth clearly demonstrated. They could only come up with two policy ideas that the press were prepared to go with.

    The scrapping of Trident vote only demonstrated that they were playing catch up to the SNP.

    The APD/tax credit policy was so full of basic arithmetic incompetence that it was blown out of the water (to continue Sooz’s analogy!) within about 5 minutes on social media.

    So the message is clear – it is simply not enough to slag off your opponents when you have nothing of substance to offer as an alternative – either in terms of policy or in terms of the calibre of people you have representing you – and in that respect (Not) Labour are a busted flush (just to shake up the analogies a wee bit).

  21. Another good article. I don’t share your growing unease about SNP dominance though. I might be uneasy about it if they were feted as Labour used to be and given an easy ride by compliant media, and a bored electorate. However, we all know, as you stated, that SNP have achieved what it has against all the stuff thrown at it and still come out looking clean and determined and pretty fair at lilstening to our voices.

    As others have stated, I look forward to seeing many Labour councils overthrown and a diminution of Labour MSP’s to sit clapping Dugdale’s inanity each PMQ’s. I look forward to more power for the SNP at Holyrood and councils nationwide. To gain independence we need to prove that support is solid and has grown and widened and is capable of longevity – especially to prove that GE results were not a highpoint.

    I saw a tweet from a principled English Labour activist telling SLab to focus attacks on Tories who are the only enemies. Needless to say, SLab supporters tried to take him to task. He didn’t support Corbyn yet is now loyal to him, and though in England he can see clearly that what they should do is try to stop the cuts in the first place not go on about mitigation and fight an enemy which isn’t there. Yet some SLab tweeters thought they knew better. If SLab had half his integrity and a quarter of his basic decency and a sliver of his understanding of tactics then I would welcome them as very worthy opponents, However the present bunch need political extermination.

  22. ‘that when Labour produce a successful slogan,’ ‘Much excitement among Labourites that after eight years their heroes may have scored against the SNP. Eight years!’

    Labour have a ‘Successful Slogan’ among the Unionist Press—so what’s new? ‘Their heroes may have scored against the SNP,’—Once more, that is with the Unionist Press! Your perusal of these ‘News’ outlets and the Twitterings of the likes of Michael White, may seem like a success among Unionists, until you pay equal attention to what is being said Online in Social Media where they are being Laughed at!!!

    On Thursday at FMQ,s the First Minister pointed out that Labours Grand Plan on Working Tax Relief was to be achieved by using the Same Pot of Money TWICE! It cannot be done, they know it, and they also know they can say whatsoever they like—because they are not going to be in Government to implement what they say! ‘A One Party State?’ Until we achieve Independence, that is exactly what we need, for all the other Parties owe Allegiance to the English Establishment and hold their Own Country as subservient to an Outside Power!

    There is a Name for that!!!

  23. ‘This lamentable tendency is much in evidence in the reporting of today’s speech from Kezia Dugdale, pledging to “restore”, “cancel” or “reverse” Tory tax credit cuts. The first question you might ask is a simple one: are tax credits devolved now? No, they’re not. And is the new Scotland Bill proposing to devolve decision-making on either the child or the working tax credit to MSPs? No, it isn’t. So how the deuce is this flagship Scottish Labour policy to be delivered?
    Lallands Peat Worrier.

    You might also have mentioned this, Derek, but then again—it’s on the Internet!

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