A tale of two parties- it is time that Scottish Labour went its own way
Writing: Adam Losekoot
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that Scottish Labour aren’t exactly the powerhouse they once were. At a time when they have managed to send only one MP down to Westminster it is worth taking a closer look at why exactly they have been doing so poorly here in Scotland. At one time Richard Leonard’s party (albeit before he held the reins) had what was effectively a monopoly on the Scottish electorate; one earned by pushing for the things that mattered to a majority of people, by fighting for social justice and workers’ rights, by standing up to Conservative policies. Yet in recent years they have instead spent their time mumbling something about ‘better-together’ and wheeling out Gordon Brown whenever they teeter on the verge of irrelevance; all the while the Scottish National Party is hoovering up their once intimidating voter base.
As their own manifesto loves to state, Labour are all about change, so perhaps it is time for Scottish Labour to draw a line in the sand, to realise that being tied to a party run in London and geared towards the English electorate is not doing them any favours in a country with an increasingly divergent politics. Scottish Labour spent the last general election constantly being over-ruled by English Labour, having to change policies, manifesto promises, long-held positions all because Jeremy Corbyn and his advisors didn’t feel comfortable making the same ambitious promises to rest of the UK that Richard Leonard was prepared to offer Scotland (not least because the Scottish Government has already implemented most of these policies). Scottish Labour can make all the promises it wants but at the end of the day, London’s Labour is the body which determines policy and its ‘regional offices’ can like it or lump it.
Both Richard Leonard and Jeremy Corbyn have been members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for longer than most of us have been alive, yet in the last election both parties promised to renew trident – a project estimated to cost up to £200 billion – spouting some rubbish about a potential, future multilateral disarmament. Scottish Labour reneged on its long held belief that ‘nuclear weapons are an abomination and do not belong on this planet’ because the party south of the border knew that it could not sell that idea to a majority of the English electorate, meanwhile the UK’s entire nuclear arsenal sits only 40 miles north of Scotland’s densest population centre. A Survation poll in 2015 found that only 31.6% of people in Scotland support maintaining trident on the River Clyde. It’s not surprising then that Scottish Labour managed to elect only one MP.
Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South and candidate for deputy leader, was recently reported as standing against the idea of a separate Scottish Labour party, claiming that: “The Scottish Labour Party actually has more autonomy than any other part of the UK Labour Party, but it isn't used… Let's use that autonomy, and that takes away any issues around becoming a separate party." This is the same man who said that it was right for Scottish Labour to almost destroy itself for the no campaign in 2014 and believes the party should be prepared to do it again. Scottish Labour does not need to destroy itself, it needs to reassess its position on the constitutional question – much like Richard Leonard wanted to do, trying to hold a special conference to discuss the issue, yet his plans were rejected by the NEC. Thus, once again reducing Scottish Labour to irrelevance once again – better get Gordie.
Around the world it is Labour parties who are the instigators of true, progressive change, who fight for social justice; we need only look at New Zealand where Jacinda Ardern’s party is a global leader in these values, recently promoting a wellbeing economy which focuses less on economic growth (whilst not ignoring it entirely) than on sustainability, on ensuring people are cared for and even happy. Such a policy has been adopted by a small number of other governments and parties, notably the Scottish SNP government. Meanwhile Scottish Labour sits on its hands, pooh-poohing such policies when it should be at the forefront of this change. Leonard’s party is unable to be truly radical, truly reformist, a true Labour party while it is still shackled to its counterpart across the border.
Image: Defence Images via Flickr