Sunday 26 April 2015

Labour needs to scrap the Bain Principle as part of its rebuilding strategy

The Bain Principle is named after Willie Bain, the Labour MP for Glasgow North East. In a nutshell it states that Labour will oppose whatever the SNP proposes no matter what the circumstances. Bain enunciated this in a 2012 tweet, but the policy goes back a long way.

The policy began once Labour realised that the demand for devolution was not going to disappear and a limited devolution bill was promised from the 1992 general election onwards. The problem was to make it seem as a Labour gift to Scotland and that meant removing the SNP from the equation.

Take the parliament building as a case in point. The original plan involved using the wonderfully dignified Royal High School building on Calton Hill had the 1979 referendum on devolution not been fiddled by a Labour amendment that made it impossible for the bill to pass. Following that farce, Scottish nationalists held vigils outside the building which meant that for Labour it could not be used as the new parliament. Donald Dewer had it that the Royal High School was a "nationalist shibboleth," with the result that millions was spent on a new parliament building. Those millions did not matter to Labour as all they wanted was to present the new parliament as the Party's gift to the people of Scotland.

When that wheeze failed in 2007 with the election of a minority SNP government in Scotland, Labour went into overdrive to try and derail as much policy as they could. The SNP were elected on a promise to scrap the scheme for a new tramway system in Edinburgh, a scheme that had already overrun by many millions of pounds, was years behind schedule, as well as creating chaos in the city.

None of that mattered to Labour. All that mattered was that the SNP policy to cut the losses and scrap the trams had to be opposed. So Labour joined with the Tories to force the SNP government to continue with the plan. This is why Edinburgh now has just under nine miles of tramway, constructed at a cost of almost a billion pounds.

In 2012 the SNP put forward a motion to oppose the Tory plan to reduce the 50p top rate of income tax. Labour refused to vote for that, hence Bain's tweet which confirmed what many people already knew, that Labour opposed SNP policy for the sheer devilment of it.

The strategy behind all this seems to be to undermine the SNP at every opportunity and then  take the credit when Labour puts forward exactly the same policies that they had opposed when propounded by the SNP. The problem for Labour is that the electorate are not as stupid as Labour thinks they are and they have seen through this wheeze, as Labour will find out next week.

Following the deluge on the 7th May, Labour really needs to rebuild from the bottom up, and start putting forward policies that play on the council estates, as well as working constructively with parties that share some of the same values.

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