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Labour must outflank the SNP from the Left

Johann LamontThis article was written prior to the resignation of Johann Lamont and is reposted here because it is a clear political statement by someone who many on the Left in Scotland would like to see as the next leader of Scottish Labour, and covers the same ground as Neil’s speech to the Campaign for Socialism conference at the STUC in Glasgow today.

As Scotland enters the post-referendum era with a new First Minister in waiting and a political landscape still reverberating from the decisive rejection of independence, the Scottish Labour Party now faces a number of challenges.

While the media focuses on the growth in membership of the SNP and the Greens — not without its challenges — or the creation of yet another new left party (what a novel idea that is), Labour has to respond and respond quickly to the new terrain.

For some the answer lies in the further devolution or independence for the party in Scotland or some other bureaucratic or organisational changes.

Necessary though organisational change is, the most pressing response required is a political one.

And I would argue — following the massive turnout at the referendum — that anyone who thinks that we can take on the SNP from any other position than firmly to their left needs to re-enter this world from cloud cuckoo land.

So, in setting clear red water between Scottish Labour and a Sturgeon-led SNP government, the party should consider the following policy options:

  • Committing in principle to a policy of full employment. It is the most basic need of human beings to have the wherewithal to provide for themselves and their family
  • Establishing a national house-building programme to build council houses and social housing on a grand scale
  • Setting up a living wage unit in the Scottish government that would use grants, procurement and every lever of government to raise the minimum wage to the living wage
  • Re-democratise local government, financing services and freeing councils to set their own taxes again and be held to account for doing so — and begin reversing the 40,000 job losses across our councils
  • End the social care scandal by making social care a rewarding, fairly paid career and ending the indignity of short-timed care visits — following the best practice in the sector
  • Create quality apprenticeships and new college places that set young people up for life — 130,000 places have been lost under the SNP
  • An industrial policy that promotes manufacturing and new sustainable jobs
  • A wholesale review of our NHS — recruiting enough staff and rewarding them to ensure we have an NHS for the 21st century; ending the increasing spend on the private sector
  • Build a charter of workers’ rights with new legislation on the fatal accident inquiries and strict liability, devolved health and safety, new legislation on equalities, the living wage and blacklisting, and a commitment to an inquiry into the miners’ strike

These are policies that will have an impact on people across Scotland — especially those who have been victims of the Tory class war on the poor and who those who have been left behind as the SNP try yet again to be all things to all people.

We should remember that the SNP is vulnerable for that very reason.

It has not protected the NHS. It has failed to use its powers of procurement to enforce the living wage.

It has made no commitments on workers’ rights beyond talk about partnership. It has taken no action on blacklisting. It still sees economic growth in terms of cutting taxes on big business and the super-rich.

Even its most recent policy announcement on a land and buildings transaction tax trails behind that already announced by Labour.

Labour proposes an annual tax on mansions while the SNP will simply impose a tax when properties are sold.

Those on the left should remember this. The SNP is not a social-democratic party. It is a nationalist party that is at the same time populist. It seeks links with the trade union movement — but also with big business. Its economic policy documents show it to be essentially neoliberal, ultimately defending the privileges of the market.

This is the open goal for the Labour Party. Policy is the key to our future success — let’s start to build that radical policy programme now.

This article was first published in the Morning Star

Image credit:  photo by Left Futures


  1. David Ellis says:

    But of course we know that Labour opportunists will never outflank the SNP from the left and so it is the job of the Scottish Left to unify the Scottish working class behind a radical programme that puts the working class in power and outlines the transition to socialism. Full-employment with each being paid the minimum of a trade union living wage is an excellent kicking off point for such a programme but the policy must be for a regime of full employment by sharing the available productive work such that every school and college leaver and unemployed worker who cannot find their own jobs are bought into the local workforce to share the work. Anything else but a regime such as the pursuit of economic policies aimed at achieving full employment is a keynesian/opportunist cop out doomed to fail dramatically at the cost of the defeat of the movement.

  2. Paul Wildish says:

    There is no chance of the SLP outflanking the SNP from the Left while it takes its orders from the UK Labour leadership. If the SLP is to be an effective challenger to nationalism from the Left, then it must have organisational and political autonomy from UK Labour. As for UK Labour I see no realisation that their enthusiastic embracement of neo-liberal economics has led them to this pass, with a disintegration of their vote and contempt for their New Labour capitulation to the growing corporate state. Let Labour look in the mirror and see that their world has changed, the intellectual case for neo-liberalism is in disarray and the planet needs drastic radical change, and then ask themselves why they still stand on the side of banks and big business. Miliband, Balls and the others should answer the political question, what is Labour for?

  3. Robert says:

    I will see? we seem to be talking about Alexander or Murphy or a number of other right wing Progress types taking the job, bloody hell that would mean attacking the SNP from the right in fact it would mean a New Tory Movement.

    I would think the SNP is now the new left leaning party in Scotland and although Labour would love to have the people they now have the simple fact is Progress is the issue, like it or not the left is in the minority in Scotland.

    A new left leaning party is simple not needed the SNP have taken on the task whether they stay that was of course will be down to the right wingers in the SNP without doubt the right wingers in Labour now run the party and the leader.

    If I was back living in Scotland I would have no issue about joining the SNP god they have given the labour party a right kicking, while labour thought Student fees were the way to go and Prescription fees and the bed room tax labour did not have a response to it, this is Miliband we will get rid of the bedroom tax and then we will find another way of cutting it, which turned out to be the £8 min wage in six or seven years time.

    Six years time a rise of £1.50 this country living standard and the cost of living would mean the min wage would have to be closer to £9.50.

    It really is hard to find a single reason to vote labour at the moment it really is.

    Oh and now Blair is back, he made a statement to friends to tell the Daily Mail so he could then state on TV and the media I did not say that, I back Miliband, tell you what I will help labour win.

    His address book must be getting empty.

  4. James Martin says:

    Robert, the SNP have been able to appear and talk left when it suited them because of the right-wing dominance in the Scottish Labour Party. But that does not make them a progressive organisation, indeed the Lib-Dims did a similar thing when in opposition during the last Labour government (and particularly after Iraq). It is opportunism of the part of the SNP who are ultimately very much a friend of capitalism and an enemy of the unions – hence an anti-union (and anti-gay) scumbag like Brian Soutar being very comfortable being a SNP supporter and very large benefactor.

    What is needed now is an intervention by socialists and the union affiliates in Scotland during the leadership replacement period in particular over just what sort of policies and programme are needed to defeat the SNP and others at the next election. The right-wing are actually far weaker than they seem right now, but are helped by the fact that too many socialist comrades have walked away from the party to indulge in sect-building.

    1. Robert says:

      No argument we all know that, but in the end you vote for what’s in front of you.

      New labour Progress right wingers or the left which may be just a short term issue to win elections but what the SNP are offering is way to powerful to refuse to vote for.

      Lamont fell into the trap of New labour and means testing benefits, as she said why should the rich get benefits, but people with saving of £16,000 for a couple is not rich, she was attacking the very people labour needed.

      Labour and the Left to a degree have fallen into a trap set for them, talking now only about hard working peoples, telling pensioners to work longer , ignoring the sick the disabled even down to our troops and all you get from MP’s who have never ever had a real job is we are the party of the hard working.

      In Wales we have got what’s left of a socialist leaning labour party in Scotland and in England the right wing Progress party has taken over.

      As for the trade Unions I’ve been in mine since 1966 if I was starting out again I would not bother they are way to political, giving millions to a labour party of the right while people who strike get paid pennies in strike money. less money going to the Progress party more money going in strike pay, the fact is labour only interest in the Union is in the money sod all else.

      I do not know where we go from here, look at the labour leadership Ball’s who was is an ex Tory, Miliband who hates council housing and is controlled by Progress, in the wings you have Reeves Progress chair, Alexander Progress, Murphy Progress, the whole front bench is now associated with Progress when the Union try to fight back we have Falkirk and now the Unions have agreed to stay out of Progress elections .

      New labour to the Progress party.

  5. Rod says:

    “outflank the SNP from the Left”?!

    You’re having a laugh. That’s not how today’s Labour Party does things.

    If you’ve got enthusiasm for social/economic justice you’d do better if you took it elsewhere.

  6. swatantra says:

    Most Nationalialist Partiesx are in fact conventional conservatives, and the SNP is no exception. It only gives the appearance of being leftie. Once the rather generous Barnet handout Formula is reviewed and the N Britons get a their realistic share then the Nationalist SNP wil revert to its traditional customory role.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Well said Swatantra

  7. John P Reid says: One progress author supported the yes campaign

  8. David Pavett says:

    It seems that the only for Scottish Labour to become a serious force again is to move to the left as Neil Findlay argues. It is hard to see how that could happen without a break with Westminster Labour. If so then this shows just another way in the latter has contributed massively to the break up of Britain.

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