Friday 8 May 2015

Does Labour have a future in Scotland?

Yesterday I as an Englishman voted for an Australian who became my new MP in Edinburgh North and Leith. Over half the population of Scotland also voted SNP and together we returned 56 SNP Members of Parliament out of a grand Scottish total of just 59. There is now just one Tory, one Labour and one Liberal-Democrat MP in the whole country. The view from Scotland looks very nice, believe me.

A lot of us did that because we did not trust the Labour Party to stand up for our interests. We did not so much vote against Labour, as against spineless Labour. The aim was to give the national Labour Party some backbone, along with a good many sets of heavy Scottish bollocks to make up for the little peas that seem to dangle between far too many metropolitan legs.

It worked in Scotland and the failure is not ours, but such is the level of victory that Labour must start to process of rebuilding itself almost from scratch. Key to that rebuilding is the restoration of trust in Labour as a voice in Scotland.

It may be impossible to do, but Labour must try, otherwise the main aggregator of Unionist votes could very well be on the right and not the left. As part of that process, Labour has to put aside the Bain Principle which states that it will always oppose whatever the SNP proposes. Instead, it should seek to work with the SNP and against the Tories. That is not to say that Labour cannot campaign for seats against the SNP, but that when the dust settles it must work constructively with it in the areas that the two parties have in common.

Both parties have more in common that they would like to admit, starting with the fact that they both believe in the state provision of services. Neither party believes in unbridled capitalism and both are in favour of heavy restrictions over the activities of private business. Finally, neither party is in favour of the war on claimants that the Tories have waged with glee for the past five years, a war that is certain to continue now that the Tories have an overall majority in the Commons.

The real ideological difference between the two parties is that Labour stands for the Union and the SNP are the party of independence. That battle will continue, but it must not override the need for the two main Scottish parties to work together in other areas. By doing so they will lock the Tories out of power in Scotland, as well as making life difficult for the Tory government in London.

Labour can begin this process of rebuilding by cooperating with the SNP in the Commons to try to subvert the Tory government's forthcoming policies. Labour should try to persuade the SNP to abandon its policy of not voting on English only matters and then try to put forward a common front that is directed at the enemy of both of them, namely the Tories.

Will Labour adopt this common sense approach? That is up to them, but the omens are not good. Labour long ago became a shell party that was made up at local level of its councillors and their families and mates. So a recruiting drive is clearly one of the main items on the agenda.

Before that can happen, people have to be convinced that Scottish Labour is more than just a source of easy votes for the London-based party. In other words Scottish Labour has to be autonomous within the overall Labour Movement, so that polices for Scotland are decided in Scotland by people who live in Scotland. Scottish Labour can then have its own polices for Holyrood, with some mechanism being created to ensure that  both wings of the British party put forward polices at Westminster level that has the approval of both teams.

If that comes about then there is no reason why Scottish Labour cannot outflank the SNP from the left. It is not a case of Labour becoming an infantile, leftist sect, but it is about the party putting forward polices that appeal to the working class who want to keep the Union.

Whether Labour will do any of this is open to conjecture. They have a window of opportunity to start rebuilding, but if they don't take it, another party will be created to fill the vaccuum that they have now created by their policies in Scotland.

The clock is now ticking...

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