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New Labour got Scottish Labour into the hole it’s in. Only Neil Findlay can dig it out

Neil Findlay campaign portraitRecall the Scottish independence referendum? Can you remember the panic when a few polls put the Yes camp in the lead? Politics is a fickle business but surely that was burned on every Westminster psyche. Dozens of Labour MPs should remember it. They tramped north of Hadrian’s Wall to tell the fine people of Scotland to stay with us. We’re better together because of reasons, etc. One of those MPs was Ivan Lewis, whose trip to Glasgow was serenaded by the Imperial March of Star Wars fame. I’m sure he looks fondly back on it now. I also suppose he remembers why he went. Scotland leaving the union affected us English and Welsh just as much as the Scots.

Writing for the Sunday Herald, Tom Watson makes the case for Neil Findlay’s Scottish leadership campaign and recommends party members back him. Ivan Lewis disagrees. After Tom’s article appeared, Ivan tweeted:

Tom tweeted back and it went downhill from there.

Whatever one’s opinion on the leadership election, it’s Ivan who’s in the wrong here. It’s an important contest not without consequences for Labour in the rest of Britain. Just like the referendum. Anyone who cares about our prospects in next year’s election and the sort of direction the party should be taking need to pay attention. Just like the referendum. English and Welsh comrades, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, should be prepared to offer supportive arguments for their choice, if they feel so moved. Again, just like the referendum. Ivan’s passive-aggressive “who could I be criticising?” tweet is symptomatic of all too many in the PLP who not just flee from, but fear political argument.

It’s not hard to see why. Take the anointed candidate, Jim Murphy. He does have a number of qualities that recommend him. In the lead up to the Syrian intervention that never happened, he spoke for air strikes from his shadow defence brief on Assad’s regime against the PLP’s line which, at that stage, was a hopeless muddle.

Ed Miliband did not appreciate the attempt to bounce the party into a hawkish position, and Jim was removed – ironically along with Diane Abbott, who made the opposite case. So with Jim you have someone who will speak up for what he believes in, even if you disagree with him. He’s also a canny political operator and is probably the sharpest Blairite figure to have graced the shadow cabinet under Ed. That’s one, not oft-commented contributing reason for his sacking and helps explain why the Scottish party machine is prone to oversights that favour Jim. Ed is happy to have a potential future rival tied up away from the centre of power.

Lastly, what I especially like about Jim is a willingness to lead from the front. He is one among a clutch of sitting MPs who takes campaigning extremely seriously. He relishes the cut and thrust of doorstep politics, whereas most – and then not all – of Westminster’s inhabitants do it out of grim necessity. To be sure, if Jim wins Scottish Labour will be shook up. His activist conception of politics will come front and centre as he remoulds a beleaguered and battered party independently of One Brewers Green.

The problem is Jim’s politics and those of former Labour voters go together like cactus and cream. Were I not some weird ex-Trot pseudo-Gramscian pinko/Bennite sell-out but a hard-nosed Blairite who wants to see Scottish Labour bounce back instead, I’d still support Neil Findlay. It doesn’t matter whether the SNP’s social democratic turn is fake or not, the ex-Labour voters that have turned that way in their droves appreciate the party as a centre left alternative and treat it as such.

Since Holyrood’s foundation, Scottish Labour has been very New Labour, and that continued under Johann Lamont – albeit apparently imposed from afar. While it is true the leftishness of Scotland is somewhat overstated, a left platform that puts self-security at its heart stands a better chance against Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP than a continuity candidate whose opposition is not backed up by popular policies. The Blairite playbook helped get Scottish Labour into its present difficulties, so why would more of the same produce different results? That way madness lies. Jim might, and probably would, tack to the left if he won but you, me, and Scottish voters know it wouldn’t be heartfelt. Neil Findlay on the other hand is the real deal.

The “interests of the Labour party” in Scotland and the wider UK are best served by Neil’s successful candidature. Jim, for all his qualities is the wrong man at the wrong time. If you’re a member of the Scottish party, or have an affiliate membership through your union and/or socialist society, please vote for Neil when your ballot paper drops.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

17 Comments

  1. David Ellis says:

    Findlay will not save the Scottish Labour Party. The only thing that can save that is if it embraces Scottish independence, a federal Britain and a radical socialist programme none of which he intends to do.

    In fact, if Labour in England does not embrace the genuine anti-Westminister perspective of a sovereign English Parliament (not regionalism which is desgined to emasculate England vis Westminster) and a federal Britain to replace the Union then it will not get wiped out by a bunch of woolly well-meaning nationalists like in Scotland but the pseudo anti-Westminister crypto fascists of UKIP.

    1. Robert says:

      Maybe so but the fact is labour has to find a niche again the left is gone it has a left leaning party now in the SNP.

      But the fact is labour has a battle on it’s hand.

  2. Robert says:

    I send my tenner to Findlay lets hope others do the same.

    We have to ensure the Progress right winger Blair mouth piece Murphy is jobless after this.

    I’m sick of the right wingers destroying labour but if I was in Scotland it would not matter as much as in Wales and Scotland because the Scottish country has a left leaning SNP.

    In Wales and England all we have is labour which is about as left as Cameron.

  3. Rod says:

    “it went downhill from there.”

    Downhill? Not at all, that was a very nice little set-to.

    It’s about time the Left started fighting their corner instead of meekly pledging loyalty to whichever Blairite happens to have successfully manipulated internal processes.

  4. David Pavett says:

    I agree with P B-C and on that basis I will send my tenner. It is sad though that the case he makes rests entirely on the political awfulness of Jim Murphy (about which I am in complete agreement) while he says nothing about the policies of Neil Findlay which as I have pointed out before are paper thin (literally, you could get them all onto one side of A4). Findlay needs to spell out some detailed policies in key areas. For example it’s no good promising to end youth unemployment without giving any clues about how that is to be achieved.

  5. Barry Ewart says:

    Yes we can all be pure but the reality for the Labour Left is it’s Findlay or Murphy so Findlay/Clark is the only game in town. So for Labour in Scotland it’s radicalism or oblivion! I’m 61 now and we only have one life so perhaps if Scottish Labour members read their history and remember their radical early 20th Century roots they will be inspired to go for a more radical democratic socialist approach, why we may even see the beginning of Progressive Labour. Chose well! Yours in internationalism!

    1. David Pavett says:

      It’s sad the idea of having policies that go beyond headlines should be thought of as demanding “purity”.

      It’s that ‘take or leave it but don’t try to discuss it’ thing that we hear so often in various contexts. Democracy cannot flourish on such thin gruel.

      1. Barry Ewart says:

        But Scottish Labour members will decide – it is their debate and they don’t have to please us, unless of course we treat them like a branch office. It will be debated thoroughly in Scotland and I hope they follow a democratic socialist approach but it is up to them. I hope they choose well!

        1. David Pavett says:

          I point out that there is a need for clear policies for all to see. You say that is to treat Scottish Labour as a Branch Office. That is a very strange response.

          1. Barry Ewart says:

            The Scottish people want more self-determination and unless you are sitting in your armchair in Scotland, Scottish Labour don’t need your approval. I am being supportive to the Left in Scotland without telling them to cross every t and dot every i until I am satisfied. You may be there but I am not but I guess I have faith in my brothers and sisters and wish them the best.

  6. Barry Ewart says:

    We can beat beat the SNP – they are only social democrats who want crumbs for working people when we are democratic socialists who want to redistribute wealth and empower working people. We should have as much power as possible in Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland, The North, South, East, and West of England. In the end we are internationalists. Yours in solidarity!

  7. swatantra says:

    Best leave it to the Scots to sort out; the more distance we put between Westminster and Holyrood the better, to demonstrate that Scots Labour is not in the pocket of the Leader in Londo

    1. Robert says:

      But of course Swat it is.

      1. John reid says:

        I hardly think Ed and his paymaster Mclusky want Murphy as Scottish labour boss

        1. Rod says:

          Ed does, McCluskey doesn’t.

          1. John reid says:

            Ed does what Mclusky tells him too

  8. David Pavett says:

    @Barry Ewart. Faith. Ah yes faith. Good luck with that. I’ll keep on with open critical debate though. The track record of faith-based system, secular and religious, is not good.

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