Sunday, 30 October 2011

I Despair

If the French Bourbons had been partial to Party Conferences and had decided to hold a 1790 event in response to the events of the previous year it would still have struggled to match yesterday's Labour Party event in its combination of complacency and misplaced sense of injustice.

The problem with the Scottish Labour Party is that it is the Scottish Labour Party. Like the Bourbons, it believes in Divine right and it simply cannot come to terms with the fact that others do not share that view. If the people no longer support Divine Right then it must be because they do not understand it; it is simply inconceivable that they might actually disagree with it.

I will illustrate this with reference to the questions put to the leadership candidates.

Asked why they wished to be First Minister, all three candidates replied essentially that if they were First Minister then patently Alex Salmond would not be First Minister. That was more than enough answer for the people in the hall and therefor evidently would be enough for the people of Scotland.

Asked where they stood on "Devo Max" all three dismissed it for no other reason than that it was being proposed by the SNP. Not one commented at all on their view of what powers the Scottish Parliament should actually have. After all, who is interested in that?

Asked where they stood on Gender balance in candidate selection not one even paused to observe for a moment that the principal problem with our candidates was not their gender but the fact that they weren't getting elected.

Asked what they would do about youth unemployment, all three assured us that they would oppose it! Honestly, that was their answer, as if it was obvious that Alex Salmond, or even Ruth Davidson/Murdo Fraser was actually in favour of youth unemployment. Or that anybody outwith the hall believed them to be.

Most bizarre of all one of the other questions amounted to "Do you think Social Justice is important?" One can only assume this was to give the candidates the opportunity to commit public political suicide.

And as for the Council Tax Freeze question. No answer even started to acknowledge that this had been such an unpopular SNP Policy that we, in a panic move, had adopted it! Or why anybody might have thought, even wrongly, that it was a neccessary move? Even the Deputy Leader who had, presumably, approved it!

And then their was the final staged question on disability rights. Even the question was not: "what would you commit Labour to doing on this subject?" but rather "Would you repeat the experience of 2011 by having a Manifesto on the subject?" All gave the obvious affirmative answer. Not one observed that Labour having a Manifesto on this or any other subject would achieve f..k all for the disabled or anybody else if we weren't the actual Government.

Yesterday we didn't  try to work out why we lost. We just chose to pretend it hadn't happened. Margaret Curran's earlier speech summed it up perfectly. Having started saying that we had to face up to some harsh truths, she then mentioned not a single one and proceeded to attack the Coalition, roping the SNP in with their actions without a single even attempted justification for doing so. If the SNP were not Labour then they must be Tories. Simples.

And despite the quiet private recognition that part of our problem is that we are associated with  being the solely the Party of the feckless, the public sector and of local government bureaucracy and inefficiency; far from confronting this, all three, indeed all seven, candidates chose to give all three groups their enthusiastic pledge of further unconditional support. And to offer not a hint of a policy offer to anybody else.

There might just have been some tendentious basis to proceed after 2007 on the basis that if people hadn't heard us properly, we simply needed to raise our voices. Surely now somebody standing for the Leadership must have the courage to recognise that it is not that people don't hear the message. It is that they don't like what they are hearing.

There were two good speeches yesterday. Iain McNicol, the new General Secretary, gently pointed out that in organisational terms, we needed to start living in the 21st century and, more significantly, Gordon Matheson gave an excellent combination of a defence of our record in Glasgow and a series of positive reasons for a renewed mandate.

Unfortunately neither of them would even be eligible to stand for the leadership.



  1. Hopefully by the time you get your act together, we will be independent.

  2. Mathieson? Did he mention Purcell at all? No? Thought not.

  3. I could join them then.

    But whilst they stick by the Kilbrandon principle it's a right no-no.

    Putting social justice as less of a priority than the centralised constitutional sovereignty of a state that still hasn't given up its imperial pretensions is a bizarre position for a party founded for the attainment of the former. Maybe that's why R B Cunninghame-Grahame gave up on them.

    To paraphrase George Robertson. It's independence that could kill the SNP stone dead.

    "Forty one years ago, when Labour gave evidence to the Kilbrandon commission on the constitution, the Labour delegation, led by John Pollock, was asked which it would choose if it had to: an independent, centre-left Scotland or a Conservative Britain, and it answered without reservation, a Conservative Britain. And this is still the bind they are in, choosing London over Scottish priorities."

  4. Mathieson recently blamed Scottish Water for craters appearing at various times in Renfield Street and Hope Street. It didn't occur to him that the idiots responsible in his Council send so much public transport vehicles down these two streets constantly because of Glasgow's devotion to that other vehicle the motor car! No wonder the drains are falling in with the pressure from so much stationary traffic sitting on top of them all day long!

  5. "It didn't occur to him that the idiots responsible in his Council send so much public transport vehicles down these two streets"

    Do they? Here was me thinking that bus services in Scotland were entirely unregulated, with bus companies free to drive down any public road they wish so long as they can make a profit out of it.

    Oh - just remembered - they are.

  6. Any one know when Mr Mathison will allow Strathclyde Polis access to the Glasgow Council ALEO contracts to discover if any of the alleged contract fiddles are true?

    What has happened to Mr Murphy's proposed saviour of Glasgow - Mr McAveety?

    Why has the guy who brought SPT into disrepute been given a Glasgow Council job at a higher rate of pay?

    What did Mr Gray actually mean when he said the (UK Parliamentary) Union is finished in his speech on Saturday?

    These are just some of the questions those outside Labour's Scottish Region's time bubble would like answered.

  7. How can Johann Lamont think she has any credibility after her shameful exploitation of a rape victim by using a fabricated story of her rape case to try and discredit the justice secretary in Holyrood.?

    How can Labour have any credibility if they continue to condone this fabrication and yet howl like whipped dogs, when Alex Salmond made a genuine mistake and had the courage to immediately apologise?

    Labour in Scotland need to revisit the works of James Maxton and Keir Hardy, and become independent from London, only then when they stop coveting the ermine and per diems, will they make any progress in Scotland.

  8. Ian,

    if this is in any way a true reflection of what went on then the Labour Party in Scotland is still very much lost in the wilderness. Forty days and forty nights or is it going to be forty years? On the evidence it seems the latter.

    I think in psychological terms it's called GROUP THINK.

  9. One of the problems the SLP seem to have is the inability to decide which is more important - to develop politically effective attack lines and a coherent, positive policy direction before next May and the independence referendum, or engage in some introspection, working from the core values and aim of the Party.

    The latter must come before the former, because we cannot develop a plan for the future based on the same thinking that has been killing the party for the past 12 years.

    I think the biggest indicator of this is the dismissal of devolution max as meaningless. Why not seize the opportunity to define it? Tom Harris spoke about the reason it is so popular in the polls is because it is whatever people want it to be - I disagree, I think it is widely believe to mean fiscal autonomy and I think that by developing a sense of direction and defining devolution max as the devolution of appropriate fiscal powers to Holyrood, SLP will take the first step towards effectively reforming the Party.