Sunday, 3 September 2017

Kexit

So, in keeping with the dubious allegiance she showed towards the Labour Party throughout her short lived career, Kez has departed the scene at a time of maximum disadvantage to us. As it was described to me, not so much "Forced out" as "F****d off".

Having risen like a rocket she has come down like a stick. Although a stick that will no doubt float about among the flotsam and jetsam of the Scottish quangocracy for some time to come.

Unlike some of the press speculation, I'm not sure she will (re-?)join the SNP. She's far more use to them as a poundshop Henry McLeish and I suspect that's the role they'll want her to play at least until she can announce a Damascene conversion to Nationalism in the event of a second referendum. She's still quite young, so she might indeed live to see such an event.

Anyway, good bye and good.......no, just goodbye.

So, to the future.

I admitted long since that I abstained in the last Scottish Labour leadership contest as unfortunately I simply didn't think that "being a nice guy" was sufficient for Ken McIntosh to garner my support. I genuinely wanted neither candidate to win. This time however, although I will be supporting Anas, I would be genuinely content for either candidate to win.

There is an old joke that the Scottish Labour Party has more factions than members and there is some truth to that but left/right is only one divide and actually by no means the deepest of these. There is, for example, the West against the rest divide. Then, within the West, the Glasgow against the rest divide. Then, in Glasgow, the South West against the North East divide. Then, in North East Glasgow, the North against the East divide. Detailed political followers of the City will know that to be true. Then there's the divide between those who have "chosen" to support the Labour Party and those who were born into it. Between the thinkers and the doers. Between the secularists and those of a religious persuasion. (This latter group used to be code for Catholics but now includes Muslims and even practising adherents of The Church of Scotland). Between those who think prioritised gender politics are an essential element of Socialism and those who......don't. Probably most importantly, between those who hate the Nats more than the Tories and vice versa.

And that's before you even get started on the Green/Grey divide. Never mind the relative newcomer of Brexit.

But these divides have always been there. Even the apparent new European kid on the block for those of us old enough to remember Alex Mosson's "Europhile" challenge to Janey Buchan's "Eurosceptical" (I put that kindly) position as Glasgow's Labour MEP.  (Asked exactly what his platform was, the future Lord Provost famously replied "I'm standing, that's my platform").

The point is that we've always generally all got along well enough so long as we respected the equal commitment of our comrades to "The Labour Cause".  And I am in no doubt of Richard Leonard's commitment to that cause. He might not be widely known to the general public but he is well known inside the Labour Party (he was the Chair of the Scottish Labour Party!) as a serious thinker and, when required, actor. It would be fair to say that within the "Labour and Trade Union movement", his own activity has been more focused on the latter part. But that's not unimportant. For the unions to remain willing to sign the cheques it is important for them not to think they are writing blank cheques and "Richard Leonard of the G&M" will undoubtedly provide that reassurance. He is more than capable of doing the job of leading the Scottish Labour Party and an entirely credible candidate for the position of First Minister. Indeed his current relative obscurity might even be an advantage in allowing himself to be portrayed as a genuine "new start".

And, for the avoidance of any doubt, he is no sectarian. He was Anne McGuire's election agent! He worked for the GMB, hardly a hotbed of Trotskyism, and he has been at pains at the very start of his campaign to emphasise that he is a member of no internal organised faction.

So he'd be fine as Leader and, win or lose, will be an important player at Holyrood for years to come.

But I'm voting for Anas.

Partly, and this is also a factor in many of Labour's internal squabbles, simply out of personal affection. And indeed that his dad and I were and are great comrades. I also like the idea that within a generation we could go from it being controversial for Glasgow to elect Britain's first Muslim MP to no-one batting an eyelid about a potential Muslim First Minister.

But it's also because of Anas's character and record. Sure, he became an MP at an early age because of family connections, but these things happen. Danielle Rowley is Alex Rowley's daughter. Katy Clarke is Agnes Davies's niece. Karen Whitefield, Peggy Herbison's great niece. That's not a point against any of them but one very much in their favour. Nobody suspects that any of them might one day go off in the huff and join the SNP.

But Anas has never been someone to sit back and rely on patronage or birthright. He is a hard, hard worker. Always on the doorstep whenever a by-election requires it. Always willing to pitch up to speak at Party events or even just to swell the attendance by his promised presence. And he's a political strategist. Co-proprietor, with James Kelly and Frank McAveety, of Labour's survival in Glasgow in May 2017 and further revival in June. A revival which, had the former leader given them the resources, would have been more robust still.  A guy who has worked hard at his shadow health brief backed by meticulous research and helped by his being acknowledged as one of the best debaters at Holyrood. A man with, genuinely, few internal enemies. And in the Scottish Labour Party that in itself is some achievement.

But I want to just issue one word of caution to him. It will be a mistake for him to run as the "unity candidate" for it would imply that Richard Leonard is not. Anas is merely the more experienced candidate, the better prepared candidate and, when it comes to the bigger battle in 2020 or 2021 simply, at this time, the stronger candidate. Because, actually, as I say, the left/right divide inside the Scottish Labour Party is not nearly as significant as some would make out. I'm genuinely struggling to see what differences the two candidates will have within the devolved policy competencies or, indeed, on the constitutional question. And also a word of caution to Richard Leonard. Avoid at all costs becoming Jeremy Corbyn's candidate. That's not a comment on this specific leader but on any potential UK Leader. This must be a contest fought in Scotland and only about what's best for Scottish Labour. Simples.

One final point and that is about the deputy leadership. If it does indeed transpire that the contest for the top job is between two men there will inevitably be pressure on Alex Rowley to stand aside in favour of a (gender) balanced ticket. That would be a mistake. If credit for our revival in the west lies where I've suggested, then our revival in Fife is undoubtedly significantly Alex' achievement. Why should he go when he's done nothing wrong? There must be however an argument for adopting what it appears might be the UK solution to this same issue and having two deputy leaders. We have many well qualified potential candidates for that second role.

Anyway, I've quite enjoyed returning to the blogging so I suppose I ought to thank Kez for that.
Oh, and for one other thing. I am in no doubt that her conversation with Nicola on 24th June when she indicated that Labour might support a second Independence Referendum was a significant factor in Nicola deciding to call for one. With all the fatal consequences for the SNP which followed. So, I suppose, accidentally, perhaps Kezia's tenure did ultimately serve the interests of the Labour Party. I'm sure she'd be happy to know that.

2 comments:

  1. I wondered if you are a tad harsh on Kez Ian, who has had to put up with her weird dad slagging her in public. What father does that? My eldest is an SNP member but I wouldn't have a go at her over it.
    But I was bovvered about Kez swanning over to the US, a party leader, to sit by a phone for Clinton - what was that about? Also, you take Sturgeon's version of That conversation. At the time I took Kez's version but she has now accused Riddell of outing her against her wishes, and I think the interviewer's version is more plausible. So it seems maybe you are right, and the Sturgeon version is correct,

    Anyhoo bye Kez and I wish her luck. And as you say, consequences can be unintended.

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  2. Ian I enjoyed reading your blog ...not sure your view of Kezia is correct .. . Leading the Scottish Labour Party is a tough gig ... anybody would tire of the constant snipes, criticism and back stabbing that is daily fare in our party ..

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