A Welsh Sister yesterday asked “Scotland, what’s with the Tory thing?”.
No wonder! What a Beamer. A growing momentum of unity on the Left, a prospect of a Corbyn government, hindered by a dozen Tory gains in Scotland, of all places. Keir Hardie must be burlin’ in his grave.
I ain’t no mansplainer or jocksplainer. This is not that kind of blog. There are plenty enough blokes out there blogging and flogging their fact packs at each other, calling and trolling. I prefer action mostly.
I want to make five simple observations from my own perspective. You might disagree. I might listen.
1. Scottish Labour hasn’t moved on
Corbyn has revolutionised the Labour Party in England and Wales in a way that I for one rejoice. Yet the Labour Party in Scotland thaven’t moved on since 2014. Neither the Scottish leadership nor the Party machine have even had a Corbyn makeover. With a few notable exceptions, the Scottish Labour beast is the same one that served Jim Murphy as leader. Of Corbyn’s three trips to Scotland, the current Scottish leader was nowhere in sight. What does that say?
2. Independence, init?
Whoever in Scottish Labour dreamed up the 2017 election strategy, scored a complete own goal. Scottish Labour remained at odds with those that wanted to support Jeremy Corbyn. His attempts to engage those who voted Yes to independence in 2014 displayed an understanding that was either absent or ignored by those in charge in Scotland. Jeremy said he would talk to the Scottish Government about Indy Ref 2, Kezia said Scottish Labour would never do that. Too many people can still said they would support for Corbyn in England but would still vote SNP to gain independence. Scottish Labour was seen as the biggest blocker. Own goal!
3. Nat Attacks backfire
Far from the broad Labour collectivism V Tory greed #ForTheManyNotTheFew, Scottish Labour’s entire energy seemed to determined to keep the debate away from progressive policies and onto attacking independence, or defending the Union. “Stronger Together” was used more prevalently in Scotland than “For the many”
While it is necessary of course to debate and expose contradictions and limits of SNP anti- austerity rhetoric, Scottish Labour’s obsession with Independence and the SNP let the Tories off the hook, time and again. For example, TV appearances and debates, PPBs, and videos from Scottish Labour were captioned with:
“Watch Kezia Dugdale challenge Nicola Sturgeon over her obsession with independence and her government’s 10 year record of failure.”
“Vote Labour to oppose another independence referendum, and for investment in public services tomorow”
4. Peak SNP is over
The supersonic surge in support for the SNP in 2014 was never one that could be sustained. I have no idea whether their Party membership is still at over 100,000. winning 56 out of 59 MPs in the 2015 general election was remarkable, and no one, if they were honest would expect or want that to be sustained.
Both Scottish Labour and Scottish Tories playing the Indy card over policies of course impacted on votes. Only way that most former Labour voters will swing back from SNP is to stop attacking them for wanting Indy. There is little evidence of Labour voters tactically voting Tory to undermine SNP. The percentage swings from SNP to Tory sit at around 13%, but there is also an upturn in the Labour vote in the same seats.
The SNP is neither a socialist or a Left party. It is a Social Democratic Party with a broad church. Good socialists and trade unionists like Chris Stephens, Mhairi Black and Tommy Sheppard are accommodated along with more right wing players such as Fergus Ewing. All the SNP needed to do was always be one step to the left of Scottish Labour to claim to be the Scottish Party of anti austerity. This should have been blown out of the water by the 2017 Labour Manifesto.
5. Myth of no Tories in Scotland is busted
In Scotland, the general election has reduced the SNP absolute rule from their high point of 56 out of 59 MPs to only 35.
There have always been Tories in Scotland. There had always been a Tory vote. The gains made by Tories are in natural and previous Tory territory. Tory voters have voted tactically for years either to keep Labour out by voting SNP or this time to burst the SNP Indy bubble. They feel emboldened and it is dangerous.
It’s hard to focus today on much else but the implosion within the Tory Party as Theresa May’s hopes of a deal with DUP begin crashing against the hard Brexit rocks. We need to get real in Scotland and quickly!
The Conservative and Unionist Party won 12 seats from the SNP to add to their singular MP Scottish secretary David Mundell. Bucking the British trend, and with Tories ousting SNP big guns such as Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson, let us remember, if Scotland hadn’t voted those additional 12 Tories in, then it wouldn’t be the Tory-DUP talks this weekend but Labour, SNP and others finding common ground.