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The End of Labour in Scotland?

by ChrisCook Thu May 5th, 2011 at 05:51:01 AM EST

There is a parliamentary election in Scotland [today] at which the Scottish National Party (SNP) are hoping to be returned, after four years of minority government.

There was an excellent article [Saturday] in the Scotsman by Gerry Hassan, now posted on that excellent commentator's blog.

Election could be big crunch for SNP and Labour

He begins

The Scottish elections have been shaped by two diametrically opposed campaigns, with two different themes and moods, one SNP and one Labour.

They have met with very differing responses from voters, with the SNP surging ahead in the polls as Labour have badly stumbled and blown a double-digit lead.

He goes on to compare and contrast the positive SNP campaign with the negative Labour campaign based essentially on fear and concludes.....

frontpaged with minor edit - Nomad

Just as the SNP believed their own hype in 2007, so too did Labour in 2010, aided by the party moving into the lead in the Scottish Parliament election polls, a lead the party did not earn, but which merely reflected anxieties with the Tory led Government. The moment voters concentrated on Holyrood and the SNP got their act together, Labour's lead evaporated.

Next week's election is going to tell us many things. That Labour can't win on its core vote alone. That the `old Labour' approach is dying. And the party has little idea what to do.

That the Nationalist victory and coalition of 2007 wasn't a flash in the pan. That the SNP are competent and a permanent fixture. And yet at the same time, at what could be the height of their popularity, this will be the ultimate testing of the party's emotional resonance, the catch-all nature of its appeal, and Alex Salmond's leadership. Whatever happens next Thursday the SNP and Labour will never be the same again.

Gerry routinely posts his articles on Facebook for discussion, and there is always a high quality discussion which develops, often including some pretty influential Scots, and I added my two penn'orth as follows...

I think we are seeing that people respond better to a positive message than a negative one. Which should not come as a surprise.

If Labour are anything, they are the party of Solidarity, and yet in becoming New Labour they lost their core values of mutuality and the common good. These values have always seemed to resonate more strongly in Scotland and the Nordic countries than elsewhere, probably because in harsh environments co-operation may be a matter of survival.

As third generation Labour (but not New Labour) it surprised and saddened me to see that the SNP's policies were closer to my values than Labour's had become.

Add to this the fact that the best SNP politicians actually want to be in Holyrood, rather than Westminster, and that their excellent core team have played the cards dealt to them by Westminster extremely shrewdly, particularly in devolving financial matters to the councils as much as possible so that the tough choices may be made locally rather than imposed top down.

I believe that the forthcoming election will lead to the death of Labour in Scotland, and hopefully the birth of Scottish Labour.

IMHO the Coalition's Big Society and Localism policies have created a political vacuum which may be filled bottom up by people acting collaboratively who understand that in a networked Society 'reality-based' Policies will create the Party, rather than the Party creating the Policies.

There is no reason whatever - other than dinosaur tribalism - why Scottish Labour could not unite in solidarity with the SNP in respect of policies 'which work'.

As the man said, the 19th century was the century of Liberty; the 20th century was the century of Equality; and the 21st century will be the century of Fraternity.

I wonder if this guy read that article ?

Observer - Andrew Rawnsley - Which party leader will be happy on Thursday? It may surprise you

Momentum, a very useful commodity in politics, ought to be with him. But Labour has problems, the biggest of which is called Scotland. They ruled in Edinburgh in coalition with the Lib Dems for the first eight years of the devolved parliament. When they lost control to the Nationalists in 2007, ending a half century of Labour domination in Scotland, it was a shock. But many expected it to be a temporary interregnum before Scotland returned to Labour rule. Quite a lot has gone wrong for Alex Salmond since he formed a minority government four years ago. As with the Lib Dems at Westminster, it has been a bumpy transition for the Nats from being a party of perpetual protest into becoming a party of power. They had long contended that an independent Scotland could thrive alongside smaller nations in the European Union. The legs of that argument were cut off by the financial crisis. The terrible bust suffered by the Republic of Ireland no longer makes it look like such a great role model. Then there was Sir Fred Goodwin's ruination of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which would no longer exist had not the English taxpayer been available to provide the money to bail it out.

Labour was confident that Scotland would default back to its historic masters, especially once the Tories, a party with few friends north of the border, were in power at Westminster. This complacent assumption seemed justified until quite recently. But in a matter of a few months double-digit poll leads over the Nationalists have evaporated like Scotch mist. It is now the SNP which sits on a commanding lead. The Nats may even do well enough to take seats from Labour. Some of this is down to the skill of Mr Salmond who is the answer to the question with which I opened this column.

The one-time chippy outsider has turned himself into a "father of the nation" figure. He has downpedalled independence and fought a presidential campaign. "SNP - Alex Salmond for first minister" is the party's slogan on the ballot papers.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun May 1st, 2011 at 01:44:55 PM EST
It seems rather unlikely that Labour will disappear any time soon. However Labour may be outbid by the SNP in the who can be most against Conservatives competition.
by Gary J on Sun May 1st, 2011 at 05:35:28 PM EST
I'm not suggesting that Labour will disappear.

I'm suggesting that in order to survive and thrive Labour must become demonstrably independent from Head Office, and bring in a generation of first rate - instead of largely second and third rate - MSPs with independence of action and a mind of their own.

ie we would see the end of (New) Labour in Scotland, and the re-birth of Scottish Labour.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun May 1st, 2011 at 05:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour must become demonstrably independent from Head Office

Is this likely? It seems to me that quasi-Stalinist central control is part of the culture in Westminster for all of the parties, and real independence won't come cheap.

I wouldn't be surprised if Scottish Labour had to resign the English whip before they could be considered truly independent.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 5th, 2011 at 08:02:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's interesting that it is very much the other way around in Wales.  Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists are really struggling with their campaign for the Welsh Assembly election on May 5th and Welsh Labour are doing well.  Plaid and Labour have been in coalition together for the last term, which has worked reasonably well overall.

Welsh Labour are aiming for a majority government, not sure that will quite be achieved but still, they will be the largest party. As I've said before, Welsh Labour are distinct from the UK's New Labour, being much more socialist for a start (and please don't argue me into the ground on a definition of socialism).

Going out canvassing though has highlighted a few things, a) people know about the AV referendum but often not about the Assembly elections and b) the electorate still get confused about the distinction between Parliament and the Assembly.  Some are voting for people rather than parties - "I'm voting for her" without an awareness of which party they represent or what their policies are. People still hate all politicians and all parties.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun May 1st, 2011 at 05:41:32 PM EST
I think that is the difference between the two. Scotland became a NuLab heartland with all of the complacency and patronage that implied.

Chris is correct in specifying that this imminent wipeout will lead to the death of NuLab and the re-birth of Labour; a process that was never needed in Wales because the Blairite infection died crossing the Severn.

Good luck for Thursday

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 03:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the council elections, Labour spinners are suggesting Anything above 400 being a good result, Tory spinners predicting 1000 Labour gains  so anything less is a failure. But any major switch will suggest that Cuddly Daves coalition of the cheerful is not as popular as they like to imagine, and will actually put their smugness on the back foot.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun May 1st, 2011 at 05:59:00 PM EST
I've become confident that things are going to be fun after thursday.

Dave and Nick are gonna need serious marriage counseling after the spats that marked the AV campaign. If AV wins Dave will be pounded by his own backbenchers. If Nick loses, the libdems are gonna have to become a lot less co-operative in order to salvage anything from the coalition.

All we need is for the (english) Labour party to recognise that the neoliberal consensus is done and embrace a new future

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 03:16:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no confidence in that happening, unless its in the form of Labour must move further to the right to capture disaffected liberal votes. At the time of the coalition arguments we already heard that Scots Labour MP's undermined any chance of a coalition being reached by announcing that they wouldnt agree to any agreement that involved the Scots Nats. putting their own petty tribalism above national agreement to keep the tories out.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 06:40:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To hum Chris' theme, this result is gonna start a war in Scottish Labour that NuLab must lose. It won't happen overnight, anymore than the two Eds are gonna acknowledge on May 6th that the Brown-Darling neoliberal capitulation must end. But it surely must.

Labour have no future tracking right. They can trend liberal and against neocon foreign adventure and neoliberal financial bollocks while still avoiding the more obviously discredited manifestations of socialism. The future is small and local, the libs have the slogan right, but labour must grasp that it is about co-operativism, transition to green and seasonal. But that it doesn't have to be anti-modernist.

That's Green Party politics and if Labour don't espouse it, the greens will and Labour will get blown away as the 20th century version of the future become increasingly unaffordable and unattainable.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 07:35:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Greens in Scotland are running a canny campaign, aiming to mop up lots of second preferences.  

I think they'll be up for a lot more MSPs than the two they now have, maybe even five to seven.

Several people I know think that the SNP might therefore manage a majority with the Greens in a coalition.

IMHO a minority position in a coalition is lose/lose and always the kiss of death, and that it would be a bad mistake for the Greens - as it was in Ireland.

But getting your bum in the back of a ministerial car is what politics is all about, and I'd be amazed if the Greens could resist Salmond's seductive siren call......

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 10:06:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given what I've seen down here, the minority position in a coalition is the hind part of a pantomime horse.

But Avigdor Lieberman has done a good job of making his minority position into a powerful tool to effect the (lack of) changes in Israel. So, it can be done, it's just down to the extent to which you're willing to fight for those things that matter to you. Clegg hasn't really done that job well and it remains to be seen if Scottish Green politicians are any better.

In the medium long term I'd like to believe that a Gree/Labour pact would work, but first Labour have to dump inconvenient economic and large scale industrial views that would prevent co-operation for now.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 10:34:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... to dump false models of the economy ~ its quite often the Green party as well.

Its a tremendous temptation to adopt a neoliberal language to talk about the economy, since on the one hand, it feels like it addresses the charge that Green's are not "serious", and on the other hand, there are many incremental steps forward toward a sustainable economy which can be expressed in neoliberal in terms of external costs and investment in economic productivity.

But in the end, it is not possible to arrive at a sustainable economy within the neoliberal framework, and so to be truly serious, it must be rooted out.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 12:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I suspect you're right. However there is the possibility that they adopt neoliberal policies cos they don't know any better. They aren't aware of the extent to which the current status quo simply represents a captured intellectual process where there is a clearly delineated alternative which (we sincerely hope) avoids the problems of neoliberalism. One which allows a more balanced economy that, ultimately, means the state is more of an enabler than an increasingly threadbare safety net for the swelling numbers of the impoverished left behind.

however, lacking this awareness, they are like NuLab : They believe that the "principled" left thing is to allow neoliberal economics to do its thing on the presumption that increased tax revenues will help clear up the mess. In the Labour Party this belief goes back to the 60s and Tony Crosland. It's just the social equivalent of infinite earth economics and ultimately runs into boundary constraints we can loosely group under the label "reality".

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 12:49:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the more members of a party are thinking things through using the fictions of the conventional wisdom, the greater the temptation for those who know they are fictions to go along "for now".

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 03:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was at the STUC organised May Day parade in Glasgow yesterday (full disclosure, I'm working in the Scottish Greens' press office only for the election period, and was distributing some of our campaign materials at May Day), and at one stage a guy in his 60s approached me for a copy of the Green mini-manifesto. Says he to me:

"I'm a member of the biggest Left grouping in the UK ... disaffected Labour voters."

Just one election anecdote amid thousands, but the man's anguish - and anger - about 40 years of his life given to political activism for Labour, and how his efforts had disappeared down the pan, was very affecting. What we are seeing now, of course, is a desperate rearguard, negative effort by Scottish Labour to rescue something, anything from a shambolic campaign. Their latest election broadcast is now up, and it's all rather grim; notably, it doesn't feature their leader Iain Gray opening his mouth.

However deep the disillusion with Labour is, I still suspect that their fabled election machine may prove reasonably effective (though not enough to defeat the SNP). Apparently 10,000 Labour activists (from within Scotland and beyond) are primed to descend on doorsteps and polling stations on voting day, May 5. Another sticking plaster, last gasp effort, however, may again put off the date for a root and branch Labour reappraisal in Scotland.

The Greens have been getting praise for running a positive campaign, with new ideas, and with proposals (such as Land Value Tax) for how to pay not only for the new ideas, but to resist the Westminster cuts agenda and actually make use of the devolved powers. Here's the Greens' election broadcast.

I said to Jérôme that I would try to do an election diary for EuroTrib, but this could be tough as the scramble of the last few days of the campaign is now upon us. But to pick up on the point outlined by Chris, re the Greens getting into agreement with the SNP, and possibly getting burned - the Greens' red line issues are out there, and it is a fundamental point that these will not be reneged on. Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Greens, has been making the point for months - the spectacle of the LibDem cave-in to the Tories in London only makes that resolve stronger.

"I'm just not interested in doing someone else's dirty work" is how Harvie explained it in an interview with The Herald newspaper over the weekend (requires a simple, free, sign-up to access article fully).

by MaBozza (greig.aitken AT gmail.com) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 01:57:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good to hear from you, Greig, and welcome to ET.

I met most of the Green top brass in Dublin a couple of years ago when I made the FEASTA annual lecture, and it was a tragedy how they allowed themselves to be stitched up like a kipper by Fianna Fail in exchange for a couple of ministerial positions.

The result has been a disaster for the Irish Greens.

It's good to see Patrick setting out his stall so clearly. He and his fellow Green MSPs will need a combination of skill, grit, guile, and effective policies to maintain the integrity of the Greens as a coalition partner.

I believe you will find on ET a unique combination of skills and experience to assist in developing the basis of a new - 'reality-based' - approach to policy making and indeed, to political economy.

Unfortunately, I was unable to register in Scotland in time for the vote, but I wish you every success on Thursday.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 02:22:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, I was unable to register in Scotland in time for the vote

Unfortunately, I've been away too long, so they won't let me vote. It would have been fun to help vote out the LibDems in what would have been my constituency (North East Fife).

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 03:03:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given you are in the final push to Election Day it was nice of you to even clear the time to write a comment!  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 02:41:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In which case, a wash up article after the election might be nice. Just a few tag lines to start a conversation.

What you say sounds very hopeful. Best wishes for the campaign

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 02:50:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the good wishes. I've actually been checking out ET for quite a few years, though not contributing enough - must do better.
by MaBozza (greig.aitken AT gmail.com) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 03:03:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MaBozza has been an ET member for quite a while, but has been on vacation from September, 2009 until this diary. Welcome back.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 08:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and that Green's election broadcast is excellent. I want to move up there so's I can vote ;-))

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 2nd, 2011 at 02:59:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm thinking that the SNP are more than averagely Greeno-compatible, as governing parties go. So a coalition deal is not a foregone disaster...

On the other hand, if the SNP don't agree on the redline issues, then is some sort of "confidence-and-supply" agreement on the cards, in return for SNP support of certain Green legislative initiatives?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu May 5th, 2011 at 06:40:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I think a confidence and supply agreement would be a continuation of the status quo, which ticked over all right apart from the odd disagreement.

I think the Greens and the SNP see eye to eye on many things, apart maybe from the economic tendencies of the SNP top brass which are pretty corporate....Ben Thomson - who is the merchant banker behind Reform Scotland - is apparently quite close to Salmond, whose enthusiasm for Celtic Tigers was ill-timed....

Reform Scotland are pushing for increased fiscal powers (ie borrowing powers and corporate tax cuts Celtic Tiger style - notwithstanding the complete failure of the model ) and are backed by cheer-leaders in the media - particularly the Scotsman, one of whose journalists (George Kerevan) is actually standing for the SNP this time.

This no doubt accounts for the fact that the Scotsman and News International etc are supporting the SNP this time.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu May 5th, 2011 at 08:33:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the LibDems to get anywhere, they have to jettison Slick Nick, and it may be too little too late.  Clogg punted the political opportunity of the century after the last election, and the LibDems are likely to spend the next generation on the verge of relegation.
by rifek on Tue May 10th, 2011 at 07:18:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
37.2% SNP  (up 16.2)
28.4% LibDem  (down 13.8)

No comment yet from the Royal Couple.... You can find full results here.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 10:08:52 AM EST
And SNP appears to get a majority on their own. If I read the results right and the result stands.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 10:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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