Dave Anderson, new Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland has come under fire for saying that Labour should at least think about an electoral pact with the SNP to prevent another Tory govt when challenged by the media.
“If that is the price that we have to pay to prevent another rabid right-wing Tory government, then, I tell you what it is, we have got to at least think about it and discuss it”. Anderson qualified this by adding “Three and a half years before a possible general election it is a conversation we don’t need to have.” but not before the hares started running with the Scottish Labour triad. Kezia, Jackie and James Kelly were quick to condemn and declare not in any circumstance.
The problem is that the Westminster electoral anomaly of first past the post affords Labour with almost a quarter of votes in 2015, only one seat. In these circumstances, only independence seems likely to topple the SNP block of MPs .
But party politics are tribal, them and us, polarised. Right?
What the Scottish Labour left need to face up to is these ideas are not from the Right. Anderson and Clive Lewis are within the Corbyn camp. It is simply not enough to shout down these suggestions as playing to the right, when Scottish Labour remains so terminally weak, and led (if that is even the right word) by the mainstream and mediocre.
Whilst the next Westminster election is three and a half years away, the crisis in the Labour Westminster group is right here right now. As soon as this leadership election is over, Corbyn requires to rebuild the support of the PLP. I believe that the 172 will dwindle, as most Labour MPs will return to the fold. Of the small cabal of hardcore Blairites, I care less for what they do. Everything has changed. They are now largely irrelevant, in or out of the party.
I would rather a Left Labour leadership at Westminster co-operated on issue by issue with progressives like Caroline Lucas, Chris Stephens and Mhari Black than pander to Progress. That is how Corbyn must get on with the job of opposing the Tories. Ian Murray, the one Scottish MP must return to class and get his head down to work positively to defeat the resurging Tories in Scotland. Look at the issues: Trident, welfare, Brexit, immigration. Our Left leadership in Westminster have more in common with the Greens and most SNP MPs than those on the Progress wing of the party.
I am aware that my words may be regarded as treacherous to some Scottish Labour left comrades. The reality, for me is that Scottish Labour is a very long way from making a comeback, with or without Corbyn. SNP minority govt still commands more support and confidence of traditional Labour voters than the party can even sniff at. The Scottish Parliament is different. Labour’s issues are different there. The SNP are a minority govt. The Tories are the main opposition. The relationships between parties at Holyrood therefore too require to be different. What needs to be different too is that the Scottish Labour left must snap out of its reverie that all that is needed is to expose the SNP as being right wing and the working class voters will come flooding back.
Voters. Two big problems here. Firstly, Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP have a strong trusted leader, who, apart from on one core question is firmly in line with what was once mainstream Labour opinion. Regardless of the issues, the SNP now seem to the Scottish electorate more Labour than Labour itself. Secondly, no one knows what Scottish Labour is for any more. The British leadership election seems remote. The Scottish leadership, for what it is, seems weak and remoter still. Braying from the sidelines, even from the left has never won anything.
It is necessary for the Scottish Labour Left to stop trying to look over the shoulder of the SNP and instead climb on the upsurge of Momentum. Here, away from the parliamentary bubble that consumes both Westminster and Holyrood is a movement of new members and returnees. The old adage “educate, agitate, organise ” springs to mind. A long game is required to win Scotland to real Labour. There has never been a better opportunity for bottom up grassroots development. This is where the Scottish Labour left require to show leadership, and bring the next generation through.
Until this happens, no amount of Nat-bashing in either parliaments, on the door steps, mainstream or social media will shift the Scottish working class bemoan that “I never left Labour, Labour left me”.