Scottish Labour faces crisis of its own making

For too long Labour has taken Scotland for granted. It is now paying the price.

For too long Labour has taken Scotland for granted. It is now paying the price

That a party that has been defeated at the polls spends time pondering what it stands for and what it’s ‘offer’ to voters is not new. Indeed, in many respects it is a good thing – an opportunity to take stock, understand why voters rejected them and change accordingly.

To be undertaking such an inward analysis just months before a General Election and in the wake of a win at the polls would be a sign of panic and desperation. That however, is the position that Scottish Labour now finds itself in.

Having been at the forefront of what proved to be a successful Better Together campaign, the party north of the border should be fizzing, ready and eager to implement it plans to bolster the position of Scotland within the union. The mantra was that it was possible to have a strong Scotland within a strong United Kingdom. What we find instead is a weak Scottish Labour within an increasingly weak UK-wide Labour Party.

Over the weekend, the mood of desperation now faced by Labour north of the border reached new levels, with the sight now of a party increasingly looking in on itself rather than outwards at the voters.

Concluding that Scottish Labour has become “a political machine that is angry about what has happened in Scotland in the recent past”, namely the voters turning to the SNP, Labour’s last first minister, Jack (now Lord) McConnell declared in the Times that the “Scottish Labour Party needs to be a cause. It needs to represent the future and a better Scotland”.

The current state of the party in Scotland is, he said, “very sad for Labour but more importantly it’s very sad for those we represent”.

His views were echoed by his predecessor as first minister Henry McLeish, who over the weekend argued that many of Scottish Labour’s supporters no longer know “what the party stands for”, adding that it had the “least attractive” offer on further powers for Holyrood of any of the Unionist parties.

As he starts a new week in the office, Ed Miliband would do well to have both McConnell and McLeish in for a coffee to begin the process of better understanding how to change things.

For too long, Labour has taken Scotland for granted. It is now paying the price.

Faced with Nicola Sturgeon leading the SNP and predications by Peter Kellner of YouGov that the SNP could secure up to 20 seats at next year’s General Election, the problems Labour faces in Scotland are no longer just a local difficulty; they are a crisis that could well prevent Ed Miliband gaining the keys to Downing Street next year.

Something must change and change fast. As Scotland on Sunday’s leader comment yesterday concluded:

“Can this once-mighty party whose story is marbled through the history of the Scottish ­nation over the past century make its way back into the hearts of the voters? Can it rediscover its mojo? Perhaps it is too late. Perhaps the torch has been passed on, especially with the SNP ­expected to take a leftward turn under new leader Nicola Sturgeon.

“But if there is to be a Scottish Labour recovery it has to start now, and it has to start with a radical, generous and bold approach to the Smith Commission on more powers for Holyrood. In one sense this is a very good opportunity for a party trying to make a statement about its future. But whether Scottish Labour is capable of grasping this thistle ­remains to be seen.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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24 Responses to “Scottish Labour faces crisis of its own making”

  1. The_Average_Joe_UK

    The key questions from an ordinary voters.

    I want a future, opportunity and confidence in my politicians. Labour offers classwar, jealousy and half baked back of a fag packet policies.

  2. Bill Cruickshank

    Labour are finished in Scotland. The rot began when Thatcher decimated Scottish manufacturing industry and Labour’s ‘feeble fifty’ (Labour had 50 Scottish Labour MP’s at the time) stood back and did nothing. Before then I was a lone SNP voice among my friends colleagues and family, something of an oddity, a socialist who was in the SNP, unheard of. Not anymore, I don’t know one card carrying member of the Labour Party and know of only one person left out of dozens of ex-Labour people, who is still contemplating voting for the ‘People’s Party’ and he is 71! In the aftermath of the referendum, Labour’s proposals to the Smith Commission are the weakest of the unionist parties, that has not helped Labour’s case. However the real problem for Labour is that Scots feel betrayed. Sleeping with the Tories in the Better Together bed was the final nail in Labour’s coffin. Labour is now seen as a party of self serving traitors, the bitterness now runs very deep, so deep in fact, that Labour in its’ present form is finished as a political force in Scotland.

  3. NorthBrit

    The mantra was not that it was “possible to have a strong Scotland in a strong UK”.

    The mantra was that Scotland would suffer dire consequences if it voted for independence.

    The Labour party does not want to “bolster Scotland’s position in the union”.

    It has spent at least the last 17 years arguing that Scotland is subordinate to English parliamentary sovereignty and that the Treaty of Union no longer has any effect. Its approach is that Scotland has been “extinguished” and is part of an “enlarged England”.

    Labour is only interested in taking control of the Westminster parliament, and this requires that Scotland be prevented from becoming a nation again.

    Labour is therefore opposed to any moves that could lead towards the pre-1707 position of common British sovereignty over international affairs, with other matters the responsibility of the English and Scottish parliaments.

  4. Matthew

    Class war is going on at every second, that’s how capitalism works. Acknowledging its existence does not mean we perpetuate it, and if we pretend it does not exist it won’t go away.

  5. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Companies are largely run by professional managers. They are owned by pension funds and institutions. The UK has millions of small businesses. All this transpires to is that people generally do the best that they can for their own self interest.

    When you’re a little older and learn to think for yourself, you’ll realise that the programming you’ve received from the idiots who programmed you is a load of ideological bollox.

    What deprived areas need is for the people to rise up and start businesses and for companies to want to invest in new jobs. Both of these things are an anathema to socialism and Labour. You lot would rather go for abject poverty for all with your ridiculous ways.

    Socialism is a way to shoot yourself in the foot as you aim your pistol at the nearest capitalist.

    Ask yourself this Junior? Was Google, Amazon, BAE, Land Rover, The British FS sector, Virgin, Ocado, HP, IBM Rolls Royce, Bentley the product of Socialism?

  6. robertcp

    I do not see how more SNP MPs will stop Ed Miliband becoming Prime Minister. They would never live it down if they kept a Tory government in power!

  7. robertcp

    Labour’s dominance of Scotland might have ended and that is not a bad thing to be honest.

  8. dave1234567890

    The Tories are offering more powers to Scotland than Labour and there is actually a suggestion that the SNP would support the Tories to get them into office to put through these powers.

  9. RolftheGanger

    A spoiler tactic to try and head people off from voting SNP (or Green, or Scottish Socialist, or Radicals if they firm up as a new party)

  10. DougDaniel

    It’s more complicated than a case of Labour simply taking voters for granted – Labour are hardly alone in doing that. Labour’s real problem is that they have come to define themselves as the anti-SNP party.

    It’s quite clear how Labour were approaching the referendum. First, secure a No. This would destroy the SNP, and finally get rid of Alex Salmond. From there, Labour walk in, pick up the pieces, and march to victory in 2015, then 2016, and regain their rightful place as the natural party of government of Scotland.

    But it’s not turned out like that, so now it’s panic stations. Salmond has stepped down, but he’s certainly not out. Rather than descending into infighting and recriminations about whose fault is was that Yes lost the referendum, the SNP has regrouped around Nicola Sturgeon, the only politician in Scotland with a claim to being more popular than Salmond. The other Yes parties have also seen a surge in membership, to the extent that it seems certain the Greens have now surpassed Scottish Labour’s membership (the total of which is a closely-guarded secret, so it must be bad).

    Labour have simply refused to acknowledge the changes taking place in Scottish politics. To make matters worse, they treat the constitution as a distraction, spending the whole referendum campaign dismissing it as something to get out of the way so we could get back to “the real issues”. The problem is the people of Scotland rightly realise the constitution *is* a “real issue”, as it’s the foundation of everything a government can and can’t do. And so, yet again, they have been left wanting, turning out to be the party with the least ambitious plans for devolution.

    Until Labour stops obsessing over the SNP, they’ll continue to be left behind.

  11. Andrew Morton

    Whatever the SNP do vis à vis the outcome of the 2015 election, we can be sure of one thing, whatever the result, they will act in the best interests of the Scottish people.

  12. robertcp

    Labour might just have to bite the bullet and give the SNP what they want.

  13. robertcp

    I tend to agree. The SNP would be committing political suicide if they kept the Tories in power.

  14. robertcp

    We shall see if you are right. Personally, I would always put the interests of the centre-left before the Welsh people in my case.

  15. Andrew Morton

    And what are the interests of the ‘centre-left’?

  16. robertcp

    To be fair, I accept that the SNP is a left of centre party and I am very relaxed about the prospect of more SNP MPs in 2015.

  17. Stephen Wigmore

    That’s a laugh. The SNP care for nobody but themselves. You may have recently noticed that 55% of Scottish people rejected the SNP’s reason for existing and them.

  18. John R

    It’s quite simple – Scottish Labour needs the Scottish Tories. Unless the Scottish Tories are a credible force, then people on the centre left will look elsewhere – to the SNP, to the Greens, to the Socialists, to independents. Scottish Labour needs to be THE voice of the Scottish centre-left, not just one voice among many. If the nasty, nasty Tories also are allowed to become *foreign* nasty Tories, then the centre left will naturally migrate to the SNP. Scottish Labour got trapped in it’s own hegemony.

  19. dave1234567890

    I don’t think Labour are prepared to do that as Brown made quite clear the other day. They know full well what the consequences would be of giving full tax raising powers to the Scots and that would be even more pressure from English voters to stop Scottish MPs voting on such matters in England and all the other powers devolved to Scotland. There is definitely an increasing groundswell of opinion on this subject and if Labour agreed to give Scotland the powers that the Tories are proposing this could well become a crescendo which could not be ignored. It would almost make it impossible for Labour to get any legislation through in England.
    That is why the SNP and the Tories are closer together in their aims and why I think it is not beyond belief that they could do a deal.
    The SNP get what it wants and the Tories having given them those powers will have unstoppable public opinion behind them to stop the Scottish MPs voting on English only matters.
    Labour are between a rock and a hard place

  20. Andrew Morton

    That barely merits a reply. No, on second thoughts, it doesn’t merit a reply.

  21. Andrew Morton

    That barely merits a reply. No, on second thoughts, it doesn’t merit a reply.

  22. robertcp

    We live in interesting times!

  23. alastair

    Is Labour finished ?.Won a by election in Oban in the summer .Fighting a second one in the other Oban ward today where the candidate Kieron Green was a close second the last time.Will know the result later tonight.
    In Argyll and Bute Labour polled 10200 votes in the 2010 General Election which was a year of defeat .My point is it is not the same everywhere .

  24. Anne Muir

    only because they had the kitchen sink and every other lie told in the last week people off Scotland will not forget that telling lies to the pensioners and promising more powers thats more off a laugh labour is finished in Scotland

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