Friday, 6 May 2016

Kez must stay.

You'll have noticed that I didn't do any blogging during the election. As always I voted Labour, although more than in hope than in expectation.

I was however never really in any doubt we'd be third. And given that conclusion I had no desire to undermine my own credibility by mindless cheerleading before a select readership already of pronounced political opinion.

That third place was effectively decided when Kezia Dugdale used her position as deputy leader to fix the rules to restrict the candidates eligible to stand for the leadership after Jim Murphy's defenestration.

The Party, already traumatised, simply lost the plot at at that time, stampeding into an election with ludicrous haste and losing sight of the most essential element of the job description: that the successful candidate for leadership of  the Scottish Labour Party had to be a credible candidate for First Minister. Or at least, that failing, to be a credible candidate for leader of the opposition. Kezia Dugdale was neither.

But the most bizarre thing is that she effectively stood on a platform conceding that. A platform that even attempting to hold constituency seats was a fool's errand; that we were bound to get gubbed; that another SNP overall majority was inevitable and yet that she, Kezia herself, must then, irrespective of the result, be allowed to hing aboot for another five years to have another go. People voted for this. Or at least by the time they thought "Haud oan a minute", Kez's own rules prevented a rethink.

So there was no alternative. Except that nice man Ken McIntosh who had, unfortunately, already been at Holyrood for sixteen years without anybody really noticing.

I abstained.

The problem of course is that thereafter of course, for the wider electorate, there actually was  an alternative. Unfortunately that alternative was outwith the Labour Party.

Five years ago, Murdo Fraser, a prophet before his time, stood for the Tory leadership on the platform of winding up the Party altogether and starting again under a new name as an independent Scottish enterprise of the centre right. I can't remember the name of this proposed vehicle, although the Scottish Unionist Party springs to mind. Anyway, personally, Murdo lost that contest. And yet ultimately his ideas won.

For, over the last eight weeks we saw the emergence of precisely what Murdo proposed. A Scottish political party of the centre right, allied to the "English" Tories but, when required, prepared to distinguish itself, even distance itself, from them. Only it wasn't now called the Scottish Unionist Party. It was called the Ruth Davidson Party. And be in no doubt, it is the Ruth Davidson Party that is now in opposition. As Ruth puts the boot into this minority government over the next five years no-one but the most deluded of cybernats will buy into a line that she acts only at the behest of her "London masters".

Anyway, congratulations to Ruth and commiserations and congratulations at the same time to Murdo.

But my own principal role isn't to comment on the Tories other than in passing. It is to comment on my own Party and our own hapless contestant yesterday, Kezia Dugdale. Before moving on to that however  I would just point out one other "bleeding obvious" point. For the Tories (and indeed the SNP) their leader was up front and central in everything they did. "Ruth for an effective opposition" "Nicola for First Minister" These were messages tailored to win votes, as they did. The problem with "Kezia for.....what?" wasn't just the "what", it was also the "Kezia". The other two were substantial public figures with an established life history. Our woman had been a student and then......had run George Foulkes office.  So instead we just had "Vote Labour.......please". Or phrased our appeal (sic) ...."Vote Labour for higher taxes", although we struggled, to put it mildly, to explain what, other than as a demonstration of public virtue, these higher taxes were actually meant to be for.

But the Ruth/Nicola dichotomy also had a blunter engagement in post referendum Scotland: "Vote Nicola for independence". "Vote Ruth for the Union".

Where however did Labour now stand on the Union? I've made the point repeatedly before but the only reason there ever has been an SNP is that, back in the 1930s, it became clear to people who were then  in, or associated with, the Labour Party, but who believed Scottish Independence was the way forward,  that their views were never going to be acceptable to the vast majority of the Party. So they left and formed a rival Party.

No harm in that, that's democracy. And, who knows, maybe they were right and the Labour Party was wrong? Only time will tell. Although when most recently put to the test, on 18th September 2014, it appears for the moment my own  Party's decision of the 1930s remains vindicated as reflecting majority Scottish opinion to this day.

But that shouldn't be difficult to know, or understand, by someone aspiring to a position of Labour Party leadership. When asked if Labour elected representatives might support independence, for such a person to reply "No. If that's what they think there's another Party for them". Or indeed when asked if they themselves might ever support independence to respond "Never. If I thought that I wouldn't be in the Labour Party."

Yet that is what Kez pointedly refused to do. Albeit to then correct herself on the latter point when confronted by internal outrage. 

I'll be honest, I've always been a bit suspicious about Kezia Dugdale. She emerged explaining that she had no previous Party history: no history of family links; or student political activity; or trade union or other radical cause involvement. This, she explained, was because she had not been interested in politics, indeed hadn't voted at all, until she was twenty three. Yet, when it emerged, during the election campaign, that at almost that same age that she had volunteered for the SNP, her explanation was that she had then, within apparently a few months, not only developed an interest in politics but had begun contemplating it as a career. Although, given the nature of her volunteering, patently not a career necessarily in the Labour ranks.

The best possible interpretation of this is that she at one time decided on "a career in politics" without actually being sure of what the complexion of these politics might be. And that's the best possible explanation.

In my day job you see stories that you think won't stand up to cross-examination. This, I have to say, is one of them.

So, anyway, you'll be surprised at what I say next.

Kez must stay.

Obviously not until the next election. But for the immediate future.

That's not just because an immediate contest would inevitably be coloured by the as yet unresolved matter of whether Corbynism is the way forward for the wider Party, it's also because we should appreciate what we should have appreciated in 2011, 2014 and 2015. That there isn't going to be an election next month.

As indeed, there is not going to be an election for the Scottish Parliament, in this case, for five years. Sure, the Nats don't have an absolute majority but they will always be in a position to pick and mix from the other Parties to support them on a particular issue, either because these Parties actually do support them or because they fear an immediate encounter with the electorate.

So, Labour doesn't need a (this time credible) candidate for First Minister for at least three years.

My own view, in an event, is that the key to a Labour recovery in Scotland doesn't lie in Scotland. UK politics are increasingly presidential. If Labour gets a credible candidate for that "presidential" Prime Minister then Scotland will have a big choice to make. .But at the moment that choice isn't even on the table.

So, given that Kez was so desperate to fix the rules to get into the position of leader, we should let her, having made her bed, then lie on it. And then dispense with her services at a time of our, and not her, choosing.


  1. Indyref has hardened snp support. Lab wont anytime soon win back votes from snp.
    We will sooner win back votes from the Ruth the Truth party. But the main reason these votes have crossed that divide directly is not because of Unionism - it is because of the toxic baggage of the UK leadership (past and mayb present sympathies, support, platforms, friends etc - not least, I'm sorry to say, the IRA) and their lack of credibility.

    It might as well be Kez, until the UK leaders end their time there. Scottish tactics fade behind these issues.

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  2. There is another unmentional family affair to be attended to, a lot closer to home and only 12 months off; that is Scottish Local Council elections 2017.
    Voters in Glasgow have not forgotten the embarrassment caused by Stephen and Gordon. That nasty smell from Lanarkshire council needs a right good dose of shake and vac.
    Best leave Kez in post for time being. She might come in handy as the PTB for wipe out next year.

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