What does a Scottish journalist or commentator do when real thoughts about Scotland’s exciting and demanding political scene desert him? Why, he writes a ‘What Labour Must Do’ article with one hand while flicking TV channels and playing with his iPhone with the other. Fire it off to Bill Jamieson at the Scotsman – he’ll print anything in that genre.
So has Gerry Hassan, a commentator of real perception and depth on Scottish affairs, joined the McTernan franchise, paid upfront for the secret recipe and embarked on a career in fast crap journalism? No, he hasn’t - appearances to the contrary - even though he offers us a new variant on the title - Scottish Labour owes us an exciting, new story Read it – he has something relevant and useful to say.
But his closing paragraph asks Labour to recognise that Scotland has changed, the SNP bogeyman story won’t wash anymore and Labour must “reach out and tell a modern Labour story of Scotland”. Unfortunately, Gerry, that will require powers of invention far beyond the capacity of Scottish Labour or the UK Party. And to tell a real story, you must have a soul …
Sarah Boyack gave the game away in her car crash of an interview with Raymond Buchanan on Newsnight Scotland. In his introduction, Raymond Buchanan encapsulates the problem facing Scottish Labour -
“Labour is used to being in power in Scotland, so some of its Scottish members are still coming to terms with not being in control of anything bigger than a council.” In the lead-in to the superb introductory video piece by David Allison, RB describes it as the dilemma facing “what used to be the People’s Party.” How I love that phrase, one I have used repeatedly since I started blogging …
Jim Murphy talks earnestly outside John Smith House (oh, how the greater Labour leaders of the past silently mock the thing their party has become) about reorganisation at grassroots level, changing constituency boundaries, plans for an elected leader “from all our parliamentarians” and he claims that this is “really putting energy into the party, totally transforming it and giving a kinna set of structures that kinna don’t belong to the era when they were built, which was in 1918, but bringing us right up to date so that we can not only strengthen our party, but stand up for Scotland and win a referendum when it comes.”
Despite the fractured Lord Prescott syntax, I know what you mean, Jim. If I may paraphrase – you don’t trust the Holyrood MSP group to deliver a leader, so MPs must be included, you’ll dump the antiquated 1918 structure and bring in a new one, and having failed to stand up for Scotland while in power and throughout the SNP period in government, you will now do so by “winning a referendum”, i.e. persuading Scots to stay in the Union.
A quibble – the referendum is not an election, it is an attempt to determine the wishes of the people on a single issue, the status of a union they entered into voluntarily (more or less). A referendum is not ‘won’ by a political party, but is a decision of the people to which political parties, among many others, contribute by rational, persuasive argument. If the Labour Party had any political values, vision or programme for Scotland beyond the preservation of the Union, they would understand that, but they don’t.
What would become of the Murphys, the Harrises, the Alexanders et al if the Union ended? Look for a safe seat in England? Take the long, hard, low road back to their native land? To be welcomed with open arms by MSPs who had stayed to fight the good fight in Scotland, willingly standing down to make way for the big boys from Westminster? Aye, right …
And so to Sarah Boyack, who spent the summer reflecting on the election in May. Let’s twist again like we did last summer – ah, that summer of 2011. How we reflected!
Scottish Labour is now “totally focused on winning back in the future, and we think devolving ourselves, giving ourselves a stronger leader, giving support to that leader to make them able to do the job.” Something is sort of left hanging there – the ghost of Prestcott delivery – but we know what she means. Not a word about what Labour are for – it’s all structure. As Brian Taylor says, the Scottish people are many things – but they not daft …
In the interview that followed, Sarah Boyack walked straight into the elephant trap in her opening remarks by referring to “our vision of Scotland”, to be instantly challenged by Raymond Buchanan as to what exactly that vision was.
Sarah’s vision – “a fairer Scotland, a Scotland of solidarity ..,.” (an unfortunate choice of words Sarah – shades of a real socialist, Tommy Sheridan) “to make sure that we invest in the vital public services that people need …. big plans for creating jobs, modern apprenticeships …” While Labour was saying these things, Sarah, the SNP Government was actually doing them, while Labour’s obsession with the Union obstructed them at every turn. But do go on …
“We’re now going to devolve our party …” Twelve years after devolution and the Scottish Parliament, the penny has finally dropped in the empty pinball machine that is Scottish Labour.
Raymond Buchanan is unimpressed by the talk of structures. He’s keen on the policy.
RB: You talk about Labour being a party of fairness, of solidarity, of public services … you could be describing the SNP. What’s the difference?
The Vulcan death grip. Sarah writhes. “Well, the SNP tried to camp on some of our historic territory …”
RB: And it’s worked, hasn’t it?
It’s all down hill for Sarah from there on in.
Now What I think Labour Must Do is … I’ll write an article in my sleep and submit it to the Scotsman. Or do I need to sign up under the McTernan Labour Cold Chicken franchise? Look what happened to a real McDonald when he challenged a giant franchise! Caution, caution …