Corbyn’s campaign helps, but Scottish Labour’s solutions have to be home grown

Kezia DugdaleCongratulations to Kez Dugdale and Alex Rowley on winning the Scottish Labour leadership elections. The challenges haven’t gone away, but this is the right leadership team to start rebuilding Scottish Labour.
The Scottish Labour leadership elections drifted to a conclusion, somewhat under the radar as Corbynmania dominates the political scene. There were no huge ideological differences between the candidates. When even Jim Murphy recognised that Scottish Labour can only win from the left, the scope for a different strategy is limited! Instead members recognised that Kez carried less political baggage and offered a fresh approach. She may be light on political ideology, but she isn’t just a political spin machine either. She has demonstrated that opposition matters, by forcing important issues onto the political agenda that the Scottish Government would rather have buried. Most importantly, I think she will be more of a team leader, building a consensus, rather than relying on a presidential approach
The deputy election was somewhat more ideological with Alex Rowley making an explicitly left pitch, coming out from the shadows of Gordon Brown, where the media still likes to place him. Alex is a thoughtful politician who has shown in debate and his written contributions that he has thought through different approaches.

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Could Jeremy Corbyn unite the Scottish Left?

Is there a scottish road to socialismThen catch the moments as they fly
And use them as ye ought, man.
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.

Robert Burns, A Bottle and Friend

Here is surely a mutiny worth waiting for. Old hands and new recruits have swung into action for Jeremy Corbyn, the old sea dog of Labour socialism. A startled Captain Harman whipped her Labour MPs into supporting Osborne’s Welfare Reform Bill – Burnham dithered then walked the plank, and Cooper fell over a barrel. The media barrage will try and hit its mark, but, as Aneurin Bevan wrote soon before becoming Health Minister in 1945, “the national newspapers have become so accustomed to writing up personalities in place of principles that they have completely lost touch with the people.”  It’s not a personality that’s winning popular support, but a set of principles both radical and realistic. Blairite gabs can only gape as 40% of members intend to vote for Corbyn, who last week became the bookies’ favourite to lead the Party, and secured the most nominations from Constituency Labour Parties across the UK. Continue reading

The Not-So-Strange Death of Scottish Labour?

Inside Labour ScotlandWhen the time comes to construct the pantheon of Scottish Labour leaders, Ken Macintosh MSP will surely stand shoulder to shoulder with Jim Murphy at its highest point. To Murphy’s visions of speedy boarding for veterans and booze at football games, Macintosh has, in the past few weeks, added two radical insights of his own: that the Scottish Labour headquarters should move from Glasgow to Edinburgh and that, instead of a general-secretary, we should have a ‘chief executive’.

It’s easy to laugh at things like this, but this point demonstrates two of the fundamental problems Scottish Labour faces: that its problems are political but are perceived in the ‘apolitical’ language of ‘organisation’ and that the membership can place no trust in the leadership for salvation. Continue reading

Report of yesterday’s Scottish Labour executive

Inside Labour ScotlandJim Murphy’s last day at the office resulted in the predictable media spin over substance, but in fairness any shortcoming in his ‘report’ was entirely appropriate.

Jim’s report on Scottish Labour’s political future was neither a report nor did it have very much to do with Scottish Labour’s political future. It was a series of papers on some internal mechanisms, not the political strategy we need to go forward. Not even a look at the bigger constitutional changes that the party needs to consider such as a more federal or even independent Scottish Labour Party. That’s not a criticism, because the party doesn’t need another quick fix and it’s not Jim’s role as the outgoing leader to offer that vision. Continue reading

What is Scottish Labour for?

InequalityAs Scottish Labour regroups after the General Election, the temptation will be to focus on organisation and structure. Important though these are, the real question the party has to ask itself is – what is Scottish Labour for?

After the 2007 and 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, Scottish Labour held reviews that gave detailed consideration to internal structure, election organisation etc. Tucked away in both reviews was a mention of political purpose and strategy, but it was left to another time, it was regarded as of secondary importance. No political party has a divine right to exist; it has to have a clear political purpose. Scottish Labour needs clarity over its key purpose and then needs to find a way of expressing it in language activists can explain and voters can understand.

For me the answer is, it’s inequality stupid. Continue reading