Gray warns Scottish Labour successor of “poison” being levied at them

The outgoing leader of Labour MSPs at Holyrood, Iain Gray, has issued a warning to his successor once they are elected in December, reports Ed Jacobs.

The outgoing leader of Labour MSPs at Holyrood, Iain Gray, has issued a warning to his successor once they are elected in December.

Addressing a special conference of Scottish Labour which approved a package of measures to establish a stronger leader of the Scottish Labour party and more autonomy for the party north of the party to set its own direction and policies, Gray told those vying for the leadership:

“You will be attacked. You will be smeared. You will be lied about. You will be threatened.

“The cybernats and the bedsit bloggers will call you traitor, quisling, lapdog and worse. They will question your appearance, your integrity and your sexuality. They will drag your family and your faith into the lies and the vitriol. If you are a woman it will be worse.

“It is no consolation to know that any journalist or commentator who gives you a fair hearing will suffer the same. This is the poison some have brought into our politics and it is vile.

“It is time we started talking openly about it and it is time the SNP did something about it. They know who some of these people are. This is not how you build a better Scotland and Scotland deserves better.

“But those who bring light suffer burning. You will stand up to it and you should be proud to do so. You will be proud, proud to lead this movement. Newly empowered by the devolution of our party to match the devolution of our country.”

In one of her first major speeches since her appointment as shadow Scottish secretary, meanwhile, Margaret Curran brought with her a twin message for party members – a sober reflection of the severity of the electoral damage inflicted on the party in May’s elections to Holyrood together with a warning that “the time for self-reflection and introspection is over”.

However, at a conference in which the three contenders for the leadership of the party were quizzed by party members, the issue which was undoubtedly on the minds of delegates and speakers alike was the SNP’s plans for a referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.

Speaking a week after the nationalists formally launched their roadmap to independence with a pledge that independence “ambassadors” will visit every household in Scotland, shadow defence secretary and co-author of the review into Scottish Labour’s future, Jim Murphy, argued the next leader of the party in Scotland would have responsibility for saving devolution from the threat of the SNP.

His declaration came as David Miliband voiced scepticism over plans for so called “devo-max” in which Scotland would gain full financial autonomy whilst keeping powers over defence and foreign policy with Westminster.

Dubbing it as the “maybe” option in an independence referendum during an interview with the Edinburgh Evening News, Miliband argued:

“I’ve never known a referendum that included a box that said ‘maybe’, but that seems to be what the SNP wants.”

His comments, however, will cause tensions within the party, after Labour MSP and former minister, Malcolm Chisholm, and former Labour first minister Henry McLeish voiced support for devo-max, with the Scotsman quoting what it describes as a “senior Labour insider” as saying many within the party support what Chisholm and McLeish have been arguing.

Writing on his personal blog, meanwhile, Iain Macwhirter, political columnist for the Sunday Herald, adds:

“Things are stirring in the Scottish Labour undergrowth. While MP and leadership hopeful, Tom Harris and the former aide to Tony Blair, John McTernan, continue to insist that Scotland has no future outside the union, and are warning Scots not to get big ideas about going it alone, others are beginning to realise that this is a doomed prospectus.

“The former Labour First minister, Henry McLeish, and Malcolm Chisholm, the only Labour MSP who remained standing in Edinburgh after the May massacre, are urging the party not to fall into the trap being left open for them by Alex Salmond. Labour cannot afford to back the No campaign in the Scottish independence referendum. It has no real option but to support “devolution max” or federalism.

“Otherwise, Alex Salmond will win even if he loses because the SNP leader has colonised the centre ground. Alex will be quite happy to accept fiscal autonomy as another giant step towards full independence. He’s a betting man and he likes an each way punt.”

See also:

Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in orderKen Macintosh MSP, October 27th 2011

Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independenceEd Jacobs, October 17th 2011

Alexander outlines harsh truths for Scottish Labour as his own seat is axedEd Jacobs, October 13th 2011

Scottish Labour needs a new Donald DewarEd Jacobs, September 26th 2011

Former Tory minister “in the pay of the Libyans” claims Labour MPEd Jacobs, September 12th 2011

8 Responses to “Gray warns Scottish Labour successor of “poison” being levied at them”

  1. Political Planet

    Gray warns Scottish Labour successor of “poison” being levied at them: The outgoing leader of Labour MSPs at Hol…

  2. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: Gray warns Scottish Labour successor of “poison” being levied at them

  3. treborc

    What is wrong with giving the people a choice, a Chance to have a vote for god sake is that not real democracy allowing the people to decide, are Labour so worried Scotland nolonger believe in the crap coming from Labour.

    Labour has to stop blaming the press and get back into the battle for the people, otherwise the people will remove Labour as a political party in Scotland , and New Labour was to close to the old Whigs.

  4. Toque

    Labour spent years portraying nationalists as racists, I can’t say I have any sympathy for them now that they’re being portrayed as traitors and sexual deviants. I’m sure that most of them are.

  5. Gregor Addison

    Let’s be honest, the ‘cybernat’ is not one type – there are many people who go on the comments boards and they aren’t all supporters of the SNP. I myself frequently go on comments boards and contribute to the debate – and I try my best not to personally attack people. I also don’t play the “I’m more Scottish than you” game – which misses the point of independence; that it is one possible democratic solution to what Labour politicians used to call the ‘democratic deficit’. You don’t have to wait long on the comments boards for Labour supporters, or Lib Dems, or Tories to come along and use ‘vile’ and ‘poisonous’ language about anyone who supports either independence or the SNP. But there are good people out there on all sides of the debate who are interested in solutions, not point scoring. Sadly, Iain Gray is not one of them – nor is Lord Foulkes who likened Alex Salmond to Mussolini (oh yes, we can laugh at that one), or Ian Davidson who called the SNP “neo-fascists”, or Anne Moffat who compared Alex Salmond to Hitler. The suggestion – made today in the Scotsman by Brian Monteith – that SNP core supporters are closet Nazis is never far from the lips of many Unionist politicians. If you look at the SNP in government, you’ll be hard pressed to find any evidence of this. After all, there are fewer parties more centralist than either the Tories or Labour – that’s part of the problem Scotland currently faces – a problem recognised by some in the Labour party in Scotland (though they remain silent, or silenced). Gray cannot argue that he’s for raising the tone, if he indulges in attacks like this; nor can the other politicians I mentioned. Sadly, it looks to me as if Labour MPs are trying to seize power and limit any further devolution. If reclaiming devolution means setting limits on democratic growth, then Labour are doomed. Henry McLeish and Malcolm Chisholm seem the better option but no-one has bothered to listen to them of late. Labour does a very good job of silencing its own inner critics. I think there are two possible options for the future governance of Scotland; either federalism (which may be, largely, in the hands of English voters – and, so, unlikely) or independence (which is clearly in the hands of Scottish voters, but is still not a done deal). If we end up with no change; if the MPs seize control of the party and limit devolution in favour of their mandate; how long will that ‘status quo’ last?

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