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Is Keir Hardie turning in one grave as Jim Murphy digs another?

keir hardie 's graveLast weekend, the Scotsman quoted unnamed Labour sources as confirming that Scottish Labour was effectively abandoning most Labour-held seats in Scotland by deciding to name just twelve seats it was trying to “rescue” from the SNP onslaught.

The last time Labour did as badly as this in Scotland was 1931 when it won only 7 seats (though it still had 32.6% of the vote, better than is likely on Thursday). That disaster could be put down to an earlier Scottish Labour leader, Ramsay MacDonald. It would be churlish to blame Jim Murphy alone for what will happen on Thursday, but whether or not it is his intention, it is New Labour that is being buried in Scotland by abandoning the former industrial heartlands that gave birth to British social democracy.

The twelve seats to which campaign managers have diverted resources are Aberdeen South, Edinburgh East, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh South West, East Lothian, Dunfermline and West Fife, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Scottish leader Jim Murphy’s East Renfrewshire seat, Rutherglen and Hamilton West and Midlothian.

Originally, Jim Murphy’s election strategy was based on winning back the 190,381 voters who voted Labour at the last general election, but who then voted for independence – mainly male and living in the west of Scotland (none of which is amongst the 12 constituencies listed above). That was why he went through the exercise of calling himself a “patriot”, writing that into Labour’s Scottish rule book, and denying that he was a “unionist”.

Two weeks ago, The Herald reported that Murphy had “abandoned its explicit pitch to Yes voters in favour of Operation Undecided, which focuses on the one third of the electorate yet to make up its mind“. That was a major retrenchment but, in practice, even that didn’t happen because it coincided with the Ashcroft polls which revealed that the SNP were ahead of Labour in the seats of Jim Murphy, election coordinator and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, and shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran.

Instead party managers ran what the Telegraph called an “anti-capitation strategy“, in which resources were diverted from more winnable seats to the seats of those three threatened shadow cabinet members. The flagrant self-interest of these three people close to power — although Douglas Alexander still chose to remain in London for four days a week rather than campaign in his own constituency — has undoubtedly shocked many Labour activists. Nor is it succeeding in saving the skins of Curran, who has since been abandoned, or Alexander to whom resources have been pointlessly diverted but who is also almost certain to lose.

Although Progess has been directing telephone canvassing resources to assisting these three, the highest contact rate in Scotland in the last week was in the North Ayrshire constituency of Katy Clark, secretary of the Trade Union group of MPs and the left candidate for the Scottish deputy leadership election last December.

Like most former Labour MPs in Scotland, Katy has received almost no additional support from Labour HQs in either Glasgow or London beyond what might have been received in any unwinnable constituency in Britain. There was a central phone bank that called postal voters, and an additional posted leaflet but no full time organiser.

Fortunately, this has not detracted from Katy’s campaign which has attracted volunteers from around Scotland and beyond. Keir Hardie may be turning in his grave but the Labour left has not abandoned Scotland.

7 Comments

  1. David Pavett says:

    If Murphy and Douglas loose their seats that will be a fitting recognition for their contributions to Labour politics over many years.

    The rapid decline of Scottish Labour as soon as people think, however mistakenly, that they have an alternative should act as a warning sign to Labour in the rest of the country. Will the sign be read by Labour’s leaders? I doubt it.

  2. James Martin says:

    It is right to blame the New Labour politics of Murphy (and his key advisor the horrible Blairite John McTernan) for the backdrop – but in fairness I really don’t think anyone else as leader would have made a lot of difference in the time since the leadership election.

    Also Murphy deserves a huge amount of praise in my book for the way he has dealt with the thuggish attacks and disruption of the lunatic reactionary national-socialist Nat fringe elements (whose nasty racist anti-english nationalist bile means that they call any scottish labour activist a ‘traitor’).

    And Jon I think this article was badly timed (when we need maximum unity in Scotland on the eve of the battle) and makes little real sense in some of its points. Yes of course the Progress tendency are going to support their favoured right-wingers, just as left activists and some unions will support their own favoured left/union supporting candidates – that’s hardly news is it!

    1. Robert says:

      well of course a lot of people seemed to have turned away from labour in Scotland, and only a handful turned out to shout and abuse, so the question is why have people gone against a once proud Socialist party, answer is simple labour is no longer seen as socialist.

      1. James Martin says:

        Absolutely Robert, but then you need to make a choice. No Scottish seat is going to be taken by a non-Labour Party socialist (be they from the Communist Party of Britain or wherever). But most seats will be a contest between Labour and the SNP. And the choice is then what is better for the labour and trade union movement, what is better for the working class. Because you see for all Murphy’s faults (and they are many) I would much rather have him elected and every other Labour candidate in Scotland elected then a reactionary nationalist group that is putting on a veneer of left talk but who risk the unity of the British working class – and that unity is far, far more important than this election.

  3. Chris says:

    I blame the English-hating SNP voters

    1. Robert says:

      You would, I mean are you saying the whole of Scotland are against the English or just the ones voting SNP.

  4. Chris says:

    How could you possibly inter from what I wrote that I think all Scottish people hate the English? I said nothing like that.

    As for SNP voters, since SNP policies are not even a tiny bit more progressive than Labour’s, the only possible reason they could have for voting that way is that they hate the sassenachs.

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