Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Reasons to be cheerful.

Well, first of all, a big thank you to Lord Ashcroft. Really.

He has on any view performed a public service with his constituency polls and anybody in the Scottish Labour Party consoling themselves that ignorance was bliss has surely had a rude awakening.

I'm not even certain that it wouldn't be a good thing if much of what is predicted came to pass. And that's for four reasons.

For what would an SNP landslide mean?

It certainly wouldn't mean independence, for the Nats  have painted themselves into a corner on that by conceding that a referendum win is the only route to that goal. Setting aside for the moment the constitutional obstacles to another referendum, that at the very least depends on what happens in May 2016 and not May 2015.

Secondly, it would almost certainly mean another Tory Government not, this time, because Scotland had voted Labour and England otherwise but rather because Scotland had sat out the contest. Now, if that was on the basis that Scotland (now) was clearly in favour of independence we would have a problem but nothing in other polling suggests that. So it's difficult to see how the Nats would go forward. Even if, after a gubbing, Labour was inclined to the offer of a coalition partnership and the Nats to accept (both most unlikely scenarios) it's difficult to see that coalition having a Commons majority. SNP seats gained off Labour don't affect the number of Tory (or English and Welsh) Lib seats at all. Even the failure of either big Party to construct a Commons majority leading to a second election doesn't change that. It would only demonstrate the futility of voting SNP at a Westminster Election. And who'd bet on the SNP repeating their putative "achievement" in that circumstance? Common sense says they'd have to end up backing one or other big Party, if only by default.

Thirdly, and arguably most importantly, it would give not just the Scottish Labour Party, but the whole Labour Party, a well deserved kick in the arse.

For far too long we have taken the electorate not just in Scotland but in our safe seats elsewhere elsewhere for granted and in the process treated them with contempt. Partly, it has been that all the focus has been on small numbers of swing voters in marginal seats and on their concerns, mainly in the realms of personal taxation. The assumption has been that traditional Labour voters have nowhere else to go. Well, if that was the assumption it can no longer be that. People, even traditional Labour people, need reasons to vote Labour which go beyond stopping the Tories (or indeed the SNP). And if the strategy to attract these swing voters is premised on us being not too much different from the Tories then perhaps it's not unreasonable for our (past) more committed voters to take us at our own word and query whether that's what they signed up for.

But there has also been another factor. Actual Party activity in these safe areas has been regarded as altogether secondary to running (or trying to get elected to run) the Country. Or at least to running the Cooncil. So local Parties have become moribund., consisting largely of Councillors, would be Councillors, and their families. But it didn't really matter, was the argument, for "the community" was Labour. So, come election times, all sorts of local leaders in trade unions, community enterprises, voluntary organisations and the liberal professions could be relied upon to send out a subconscious message that voting Labour was just "what you did". We never however tried to tie these people more firmly to the Party not least because, between elections, the view of too many of our elected representatives was that they would prove "more trouble than they were worth". The one historic exception to this was in regard to the trade union movement but, to put it mildly, that movement is not what it was and indeed what is left of it no longer feels that Labour is, automatically, its Party. So neither "the community" nor the Unions can now be regarded as a secret army. Indeed, in many cases their attitude to perceived Labour complacency and arrogance has become part of the problem rather than its potential solution.

If we need to actually win (back) our safe seats then the starting point has to be to look at selecting candidates suitable to that task; not just to "working" the seat but to rebuilding the Party. If we can achieve that then that would surely be some sort of silver lining to these very dark clouds indeed.

And finally, there is this. How far May 2015 affects an equally important election in May 2016. Scotland currently exists in a kind of political alternative reality where Independence is somehow imminent. It's not. But as I pointed out in an earlier blog, the Nats have to maintain the illusion of progress to avoid their bubble bursting. I wonder however how a result in May this year will play out for them if it transpires that their success has nothing but a disruptive consequence as they attempt to force upon Scotland something we have only too recently rejected. And if it has any other outcome? The current SNP vote clearly couples traditional independistas with those expressing the "anti politics" sentiment that manifests itself across Europe in support for Parties as diverse as Syrzia and the Front National. But, as Syrzia are about to discover, it is one thing to travel hopefully, quite another to arrive. The minute an anti politics Party becomes a participant in government they are inevitably drawn into the compromises and disappointments that entails. Traditional Party support appreciates that. I'm far from certain that the anti politics wave does. And if disillusionment does follow from the SNP wave not so much changing nothing as not changing much except the politicians faces?  Then the very point at which that would fall to be expressed would be at an election the Nats really need to win.

Always darkest before the dawn.


  1. A long winded gross rationalization.Smacks of straw clutching and hand wringing in the face of the yesnp forward momentum ignited by an angersurge you,personally, helped to formalize.

  2. It appears your answer to Labour's woes, is to wait until the SNP implode?

  3. It might surprise you,many in the SNP want HomeRule(defence,foreign affairs excluded)

    Labour want anything but HomeRule,Vow + is doing the rounds stand comedy club,york place.edinburgh

  4. Incomprehensible - more Smart than smart

  5. Labour - there's no such thing a Scottish Labour - and you, Mr Smart, turned on your own. Before the referendum you ignored them, during the referendum you threatened, bullied, demeaned and undermined them, you told them they were incapable of looking after their own affairs, you sided with their political, economic and ideological enemies. You sided with the Tories, the party in power in your beloved Westminster who were systematically attacking the most vulnerable people in society and JoLa told us that Ed Miliband wouldn't let her speak against the Bedroom Tax for a year until he found out how it would play in the Home Counties. Labour MPs voted for benefit caps, not rent caps, voted for austerity, not investment, voted for Trident, not humanity. You are solely culpable for your own demise. You have no idea how to resuscitate your party because you cannot find its heart.

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