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Time to bury New Labour in Scotland

The results in Scotland are a disaster for Labour, but they are a disaster made in Scotland. According to poll results, in a Westminster election, Labour’s support in Scotland would be slightly up on last year’s General election, which was itself, at 42%, a good result for Labour, up 2.5% on 2005. Not that this should give us in the rest of Britain any comfort — screwing up at Holyrood today is sowing the seeds for screwing up at Westminster next time round. However, it is in Scottish politics, first and foremost, that Scottish Labour has got to learn to succeed.

The fact is that Scottish Labour has been far more focussed on Westminster than Holyrood. It’s organisation is based on Westminster constituencies, not Holyrood ones – a requirement of UK Labour rules that must surely be changed. It send’s its best people to Westminster. As the SNP’s Angus MacNeil cruelly put to the Daily Record:

The SNP put its best team on the field for the Scottish election.. Labour put out its B team, or its C or D team.”

The Daily Herald thinks likewise:

Labour may have been the architects of devolution but the party appears to have failed to adapt to it. The strong Scottish Labour presence at Westminster suggests that the party regards its Holyrood contingent as the B-team.”

New Labour, in granting devolution to Scotland, had no intention of granting devolution to the Scottish Labour Party. Donald Dewar was despatched to keep a grip on Scotland. When he died, none of the A-team were willing to follow him to do Blair’s bidding. No triangulation for Scottish Labour — they stayed to the right of both the SNP and the Lib Dems. Remaining complacent and socially conservative, they were in the wrong position to attract the swathes of Lib Dem voters betrayed by Clegg’s decision to back the Tories.

Blair tried to do the same in Wales and at first succeeded, but the Welsh fought back and Rhodri Morgan put “clear red water” between Welsh Labour and New Labour. Now freer than ever of the Blairite millstone, Welsh Labour has cruised to victory.

But in Scotland, swathes of Labour core voters saw no reason not to back the SNP. Being anti-Tory was not enough for Labour. The SNP were anti-Tory too, and rather better at it. As the Herald puts it:

This was more than the price paid for a lacklustre campaign under an uninspiring leader and more than the outcome of a disastrous strategy that attempted to make bogeymen of first the Westminster Coalition and then Scottish independence. Neither tactic struck a chord with Scottish voters. Unlike in Wales, Scottish Labour simply failed to explain themselves as the party of social justice or hold out a positive distinctive vision. And a leader who ran away from cuts protesters did not look like the man to take on the Tories, unlike the combative Alex Salmond who has promised to do just that.”

The wind of change that Ed Miliband promised Labour has not yet reached Scotland. The need is urgent… it’s time to bury New Labour.

The SNP cannot be allowed to be all things to all Scots. It welcomes the backing of Tory voters. Business leaders queue up for it. The filthy rich like Scotland’s richest man, multinational engineering boss Jim MacCollDavid Murray, former Chairman of Rangers who made his money in mining, property and call centres, homophobic transport magnate Brian Souter, Kik-Fit boss Tom Farmer, Financier Martin Gilbert and Audrey Baxter of her family’s multinational food business. Two hundred such people endorsed the SNP this week.

It would surely not be too difficult to devise a core voter strategy in Scotland which differentiated Labour from the SNP, which will prevent it appealing to “all classes, all communities, all parts of Scotland” as Alex Salmond rightly says the SNP has done this time — as they have been allowed to by Scottish Labour.

One Comment

  1. Jeff Duncan says:

    Or perhaps Scots realise that Labour were never any good at social justice or managing the economy and they simply represent a tired vision of them against the Tories which no longer interests the Scots – they want a party that will help and manage their aspirations for a more prosperous Scotland … A self-confident Scotland … An independent Scotland.

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