It seems unfair, among all the congratulation being heaped upon the Scottish food and drink industry today for their superb performance and growing international reputation, not to mention another small, but significant growth area – What Labour Must Do journalism. Two prime exponents of this new literary genre are John McTernan and Michael Kelly, with their principal market being The Scotsman.
Critics sometimes call attention to the repetitive similarities in the product range, and its lack of intellectual content, but this is mere carping in the face of the apparently insatiable appetite of the editor of The Scotsman and other newspapers for this traditional product. The spin offs, including television and radio punditry, are substantial.
The brand image is based almost wholly on the minor celebrity status of the two principal suppliers some years ago, when they were close to centres of power. The brand appears under various product identities, which are essentially variations of the core brand What Labour Must Do. Two examples, one yesterday and one today exemplify these variations - Scottish Labour needs to show a desire for change - John McTernan and Labour must take a breath - Michael Kelly, both in The Scotsman.
It is heartening and inspiring, that from the sad decline of a major political party into a confused, values-free, significantly corrupt, shambolic entity with no sense of direction or purpose, at least two entrepreneurs have managed to find a way to turn the situation to advantage, in the true, honourable journalistic tradition of exploiting the misfortune of politicians, a kind of schadenpolitik, if I may offer a German/Russian hybrid.
Michael Kelly’s article today says essentially – calm down, dears – no rush on the independence debate or a new leader, just stagger on under Iain Gray. Tom Harris is lauded for his ‘bravery’. But Kelly accurately characterises the refusal of Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander to get involved as fear of Alex Salmond and fear of damaging their Westminster careers. (As someone once said, that kind of Scotsman would do almost anything rather than damage his career. ) And he also says, without any sense of irony as a unionist, that UK Labour politicians see the Scottish Parliament as the second division, and want to play with the big boys on a world stage. Again, true to the form of this genre of political article, there is not a word about values, objectives, principles or policies – it’s all about political structure and tactics. Labour is now a mindless, power-seeking machine, and Scottish Labour is just a wee rusty cog in that blind juggernaut.
I made some reference to the John McTernan article yesterday, but let’s take a longer look -
J.McT contrasts Murdo Fraser’s boldness, characterised as a ‘nuclear option’ – an appropriate allusion from one WMD party to another – with the ‘resounding silence’ from Labour that followed the Tom Harris call for radical change. McTernan makes the trenchant point that every Scottish Leader, from Dewar through to Iain Gray, managed to become leader 'without having to define themselves intellectually or politically’. He goes on to pick Johann Lamont as his favourite, but asks what she believes in.
McTernan, a Blairite, has the chutzpah to quote Joe Hill, the legendary American Labour organiser. John, I have to say that Joe Hill would retch at the sight of the thing the Labour Party became under Blair, Brown, Mandelson and Campbell.
Nevertheless, John McTernan is right to ask what Scottish Labour and their bosses, UK Labour, believe in? But he offers no answer, because there isn’t one. Where belief, vision, values, integrity and a burning concern for justice and equity once existed, there is now an empty echoing hall, haunted by the ghosts of those destroyed by New Labour and Blair.
POSTSCRIPT – FACES OF LABOUR
Scottish white hope Tom Harris MP features in the i today – cover story MPs pay family members £3m a year – as one of the top group who pay family members more that £40,000 a year. Tom Harris employs his wife as office manager.
Sir Stuart Bell, MP for Middlesbrough claims £82,896 in staffing cost, his constituents complain he is impossible to contact, he has not held a constituency surgery in the town for 14 years, and has no office in the town. He conducts such business as he does from his home outside the town. He pays his wife £35,000 a year as office manager.
Margaret Moran MP will appear before magistrates on the 19th of September facing 21 charges relating to her parliamentary claims for expenses. Five charges allege forgery, a very serious offence at law.
Ah, The People’s Party – fearless crusaders for justice and equity for the common people, doughty fighters for the poor.