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Showing posts with label Scottish Labour Leader. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Labour Leader. Show all posts

Saturday, 17 December 2011

An open letter to Johann Lamont

Dear Johann Lamont,

Congratulations on winning the leadership of your party in Scotland. I hope that your win gives you a clear mandate among all Scottish Labour supporters, and that it is perceived as a valid mandate to lead the main opposition to my party, the SNP, who received a very clear mandate to govern Scotland last May. It is vital that your mandate is seen in this way not only by Labour supporters but by the Scottish Government, by the SNP, by the other opposition parties and by the Scottish electorate.

The only way to ensure this is to publish as soon as possible the full, detailed breakdown of the votes cast in the leadership election, in the interests of transparency in Scottish politics. (I am confident that you will wish to do so, indeed, by the time this blog comes up, you may already have done so.)

I listened to your acceptance speech closely, because as a committed SNP supporter, voter and party member, I believe that the existence of an effective opposition in any Parliament is vital to democracy. I was a Labour supporter for most of my life, and I will never return to Labour because of the depth of the betrayal of all my hopes and expectations over decades by the Labour Party as constituted up until this election.

But I do believe that you, and at least some in the Scottish Labour Party want to make a new beginning and to place the interests of Scotland first. You outlined in your acceptance speech a vision statement for Scotland. Few Scots of any party would disagree with the bulk of its content, and for that reason, it could have been made by any party leader, at any time, in almost any country.

I don’t want to appear to suggest that it was an empty ‘motherhood and apple pie’ statement – I do believe that you are committed to these ideals and broad objectives, and so am I. And I am delighted that you and Scottish Labour appear to have rediscovered your Scottishness.

But given this consensus on what we all want for Scotland, it is evident that what gives our respective parties their identity is the means by which these objectives are to be achieved. If my memory serves me accurately, you and other members of the Labour Party have accused the SNP of stealing your vision. That was unfair and inaccurate – we have closely similar visions because we are both social democratic parties, committed to a strong, effective public sector and a vibrant, entrepreneurial private sector.

In a certain kind of Scotland, the SNP and the Labour Party could recognise a shared vision while differing vigorously on key aspects of achieving that vision. We both recognise that the Tory vision as presently exhibited in all its uncaring, incompetent awfulness, is inimical to the interests of Scotland, and indeed the peoples of the UK. The LibDem vision has been badly – perhaps fatally – compromised by their poisoned and supine alliance with the Tories in Coalition.

But there is a great yawning gulf between your vision as outlined today and the Scottish National Party’s vision, and that gulf is created by your commitment to keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom. At this moment, this profoundly mistaken policy – the only real one you have at the moment – is main barrier to your achievement of Labour’s new Scottish vision.

The reasons for this are plain to see, and the Scottish electorate understood them plainly last May, and voted accordingly. I accept that not all of that vote was a vote for Scotland's independence, but it was decisively a vote for Scotland holding all the economic levers necessary to transform Scotland, indeed the the pressing need at the moment is to have them to enable Scotland to survive the cold, cold global wind that is blowing.

But there are other great barriers between us while you and Scottish Labour are committed to the UK – they are nuclear weapons, i.e. weapons of mass destruction, foreign policy and the unelected, undemocratic House of Lords, now perceived by many Scots as the lucrative bolthole for failed politicians, including Scottish Labour politicians.

While Scottish Labour is committed to the UK, it will be seen by many Scots as the party that supports illegal or dubious wars that kill the flower of our young servicemen and women, the party that is committed to ruinously expensive WMDs that endanger Scotland by their presence - and pose an ever-present threat to world  peace - and the party that is committed to the undemocratic House of Lords, whatever hollow statements about reform, never acted upon, may say.

A great watershed in Scotland’s history is approaching – the referendum on Scotland’s independence – a pivotal moment in our history that will shape Scotland and the other three countries of the UK for a generation and perhaps for ever.

As we approach that fateful day, it is vital that all parties with a core shared vision for the people of Scotland approach the great debate that will be continuously conducted from now on with objectivity, with facts, with some degree of mutual respect, with the common objective of allowing the Scottish electorate all the information they need to make their great choice.

That need not – and will not – inhibit vigour in debate, but if we can draw on the great intellectual political and social traditions that have always characterised Scots and Scotland, we can offer Scottish voters a real, rational choice.

I wish you and your party well in this new and critical era. I cannot of course wish you electoral success in local elections next year, nor in the referendum when it comes.

from one Weegie tae another – awra’ best,

Peter Curran

Scottish Labour Leadership Results
December 17, 2011 2:59 pm

Leadership result:

Deputy Leadership result:

Monday, 17 October 2011

Tories – does Scotland need them?

The Scottish Tories, by any criteria, are in deep trouble. They have one MP at Westminster, and his seat is now set to disappear. Without proportional representation in Scotland – which their Westminster party has recently venomously and successfully opposed for the UK – they would be in an even worse state, and Annabel Goldie wouldn’t have been their last leader. The party only has a UK Prime Minister courtesy of the LibDems, who are in worse trouble nationally than the Tories. David Cameron has suffered two major scandals in his year and a half in office, and has lost one key adviser and one minister.

Almost six months after the May 5th Holyrood election, they have still not managed to elect a new Scottish leader, are unable to reach a consensus on what party exactly it is that he or she will lead, and the campaign is dissolving into acrimonious anarchy and bitter recrimination. As Margaret Mitchell said recently in a televised campaign speech, they’re “down to the bare rump”. If they’re not careful they will also be gone with the wind. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

A party that likes to think that its defining qualities are loyalty and leadership is strikingly deficient in both. The Scottish Tories are in the shit, the merde, the deep, deep doo doo.

I don’t like the Tory Party or what they stand for, I have never voted Tory in my life, so I should rejoice. My schadenfreude should be unbridled – but it’s not. This has baffled some of my SNP contacts, who, in common with many Labour supporters (who knows what the LibDems think about anything these days?) look forward eagerly to the extinction of this endangered species, the Dodo of Scottish politics.

I must say that the unfolding Fox-Werrity scandal, as well as confirming all my worst fears about the corrupt nature of the UK Establishment, the military/industrial complex and the M.O.D. (covered at length in my blogs on defence) gave me cause to think that perhaps the UK and Scotland would be better off if this pernicious creed ended, not with a bang, but a whimper.

But I still think that Scotland – and England and Wales and Northern Ireland – needs a party of the centre right – and here is why I think that …


The answer to my question – The Tories – does Scotland need them? – is answered in part by saying Scotland already has them, some 420,000 of them, perhaps even half a million. That is about the number of voters who voted for them. They voted for a party that espouses centre right values and a centre right programme. And the result is that in Scotland, they are almost disenfranchised.

Where exactly do those who look forward to the extinction of the Tory Party in Scotland think these voters are going to go, in the absence of a party to vote for that reflects their political views?

The answer is clear enough from politics in any country in the world – they will either go to parties with more extreme right wing views and programmes, or they will embrace non-democratic solutions, and there will be no shortage of these on offer.

That’s my view and that’s my answer, and it encapsulates my fears. But there is another answer, another scenario, and it is worth setting out.


Many SNP supporters and many Labour supporters dream the impossible dream – a Tory-free Scotland. They share this dream, as indeed they share almost all of their core social democratic, egalitarian values.

The only worm in the apple, a worm on the scale of The Lambton Worm of Penshaw Hill is the Labour Party’s doomed commitment to the Union – the great irony of an internationalist party of the common people locked into the rump of a faded colonial empire, one that ruthlessly exploited the peoples of the world, and in its death throes, continues to oppress them.

But if the Scottish Labour Party (and the English and the Welsh and the Northern Irish) manage to slay this worm, the shared dream would become a reality, in this scenario.

In a Tory party-free Scotland, the political spectrum would range from the SNP to the Labour Party, with perhaps token spear carrier roles for a tiny number of Greens and LibDems, squeaking entertainingly at the sides of the stage. There would be policy differences, but within a core social democratic consensus: no one party would dominate, although one might be the government, or there would be semi-permanent coalition government.

This impossible dream, this Utopian vision is attractive to me also, in the way that being thirty years younger, five inches taller, better looking and richer is attractive to me. But it’s no gonnae happen …

It also carries the very real danger of a drift to a one-party state, something I am diametrically opposed to.

The 420,000 centre right voters with nowhere to go are not going to suddenly see the light and vote SNP or Labour. They are not the Scottish Socialist parties – tiny, heroic and almost irrelevant. The centre right will demand a voice, demand that someone speak for them. In a democracy, they have a right to that. Deny them it, and the Scottish body politic will have potentially something malignant at its heart.

So I say to my SNP contacts – and to my Labour contacts – look around you at the people you know. Unless you are living in a sanitised bubble, a cult-like social enclave, you have family, friends, social contacts, business contacts, neighbours, and political opponent who have centre right views, are probably dispirited Tory voters – and are also decent, caring human beings who want the best for the families, their children and for Scotland.

Don’t deny them their political voice. If you do, then your ideals, SNP or Labour, are hollow and worthless.

I will continue to bait the Tory Party, to dislike its policies and its behaviour – but I make a sharp distinction between a political party machine, whether it is an SNP, Tory, Labour or LibDem machine, and the real people that offer it their often shifting and temporary allegiance.

And I say to those real people that their hopes of having their centre right voice and their values reflected in the new Scotland, in the best way possible, lie with Murdo Fraser and his vision, not with the three candidates who collectively represent the past. I only hope that my endorsement doesn’t weaken his case!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Scottish Labour in a kilt that disnae fit …

The latest offering in the cold chicken franchise known as What Labour Must Do! is served up today in The Scotsman by John McTernan, the doyen of the genre. I take my hat off to John for the ingenuity with which he has varied the title theme over his seemingly endless series of articles – today it’s Labour has to face up to its failings. article

Scottish Labour facing up to its failings must be like Dorian Gray facing up to his portrait in the attic, but are they quite ready to slash the portrait, running the risk of the horror of what they have become being made visible in their public face? Well, Murdo Fraser has shown the way, but Jim Murphy and Tom Harris don’t quite have the cojones for such a radical approach, and the less said about Iain Gray’s cojones the better.

But John is in nostalgic mood, invoking men of principle from Labour’s distant past, calling up the ghosts of Tom Johnston and Willie Ross. He calls them transformative figures, and Tom Johnston richly deserves such an appellation: the less said about Willie Ross, the better. But where else would John McTernan go but the distant past? For a Blairite such as he, the temptation to invoke his former boss and idol, Tony Blair, was overpowering, in spite of the fact that the disastrous transformation that Blair inflicted on the Labour Party, the UK and the people of Afghanistan and Iraq is now so notorious, especially since the BBC’s Question Time Special last week on Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror.

But Blair slips in his symbolic abandonment of Clause 4 and nationalisation, and John’s new heroes of Labour, Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack have given Scottish Labour “an equally powerful symbol”. It’s not entirely clear what this symbol is.

And so the symbols crash and the drums fail to roll – the saltire, Scottishness – everything but a tartan doll around the neck of whoever the new, transformative Leader is going to be – none of it will work.

But as John ruefully observes in his final sentence, Scottish Labour has nothing left to lose. They could maybe do volunteer work in a tartan-tack shop in the Royal Mile, with Iain Gray and John McTernan in ersatz Jacobite shirts with plastic thongs, and have stale haggis for lunch …

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Scottish Labour Leader–a new title needed? Gauleiter?

The Labour Party don’t have a Scottish leader – what they have is the Leader of the Labour group at Holyrood, whose only function has been to keep his MSPs on message and in line, on behalf of his London master, Ed Miliband, and the UK Labour Party.

But now Labour wants a Scottish Leader – a kind of gauleiter. (I will use a more apt and charitable name for the regional leader of a national party if there is one – suggestions welcome from Labour supporters.) Why do they want this? Because they lost the last two Scottish Parliamentary elections. 2007 could be dismissed as an aberration: 2011 was a rout.

It has been an ill wind, one that has blown little good for Labour, although it has provided a role - and presumably a nice little earner - for John McTernan, who has produced a seemingly endless series of articles telling Labour how they got it wrong and what they must do to put things right. More of the same today from John in The Scotsman. He looks south for inspiration, i.e. Westminster and a Labour MP.

Scottish Scots have been no bloody good – the ‘high-road-to-England’ version are what is needed. Of course, John McTernan has never submitted himself to the democratic process – to my knowledge - by running for Parliament. Instead he has been special adviser to just about everybody in the Labour Party. He is of that strange breed, a political strategist for a party whose political strategy has failed utterly in the UK and in Scotland. He blogs for The Daily Telegraph, exactly the right newspaper for a member of the Tory Lite Party, once known as the Labour Party.

John McTernan sniffs the wind carefully, and yesterday a breeze was blowing from Tom Harris MP, who on radio and on Newsnight Scotland threw his hat – well, sort of sneaked his hat – into the leadership ring, such as it is. I know all I need to know about Tom Harris, MP. He supported Blair, strongly supported the Iraq War, supports Trident – and, of course, he supports the UK.

Quote from today’s Herald: “I do not believe there is any great contradiction in looking after Scotland’s interests and the UK’s interests.” Tom Harris.

Tom Harris has already attracted the support of Louise Mensch, a Tory MP, and David Torrance, the Tory blogger and commentator and former Parliamentary Aide to the Tory Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell at Westminster. Louise Mensch was positively gushing in her delight at the prospect of Tom Harris’s candidacy. By their friends shall ye know them, as they say …

A seasoned politician, Tom Harris confessed to Gordon Brewer last night on Newsnight Scotland that he knew nothing of the mechanics  of electing a Scottish Labour Leader. Well, the Westminster village does that to a Scot – the state of his native land becomes a faint rumbling way up North – not to be taken seriously unless career is threatened or an opportunity presents itself. Tom, a man steeped in journalism, media and PR, scents both possibilities.

So Scottish Labour may have yet another Iraq apologist, Trident/WMD enthusiast and staunch Unionist as gauleiter. Well, they are all in the job specification. But we could have done worse – it could have been Jim Murphy