Monthly Archives: May 2016

Labour is standing in the shadow of the constitutional elephant

I know, I know, I am obsessing.  The result of the election was the culmination of many factors and the coming third was a long time in the making.  I am increasingly irritated (no one voices surprise at this) that commentators from other places think they can tell Scottish Labour what we need to do.  As if their wisdom has never been voiced before.  Sadly, it is usually superficial and based on the last couple of years.

Being third is the latest output from issues whose roots lie in the dim past and the harvest is what we are reaping now.

So in an attempt to address the superficial content here is my tuppence (over priced I think).

It no longer matters.  Whose fault it is.  Whose fault it was.  Which campaign was the worst ever.  Which leader was more mince than any other.  What we did that was so great in the past.  Who did what to whom in the ballroom with the lead pipe.  We need to get over the pain and get on with showing what the point of our party is.

Analysis of voter trends, box samples from election counts, doorknocking sessions, focus groups, results, policy polling, members surveys, workshops, conference, brains trusts, stakeholder groups and uncle Tom Cobley and all counts for very little when the result was third.

Say it again.  Third.

The constitution is the elephant in the room.  A great big Grey lump that refuses to move out of the way despite a plebiscite and a general election and a scottish election.

Voters can’t see the good stuff we have on offer because the elephants bum is blocking us from view.  The two ladies riding on the elephant pulling the reins each way are trampling all over the agenda in a way that makes other issues flat and trampled underfoot.

We need the elephant to charge off down the road and allow other issues the attention they need.  However, the parties in first and second place need the constitution to stay right where it is.

Why?  (I am glad you asked)

For the SNP, the prime reason for their party is to deliver an independent Scotland (in the EU – but thats not the point).  Independence at all costs.  After the referendum defeat they need the elephant to hide the impact of their nine years in Government.  ‘Judge us on our record’ was the campaign line and no such judging was possible as the mibbies aye (if we can win or things change) to a second Indyref was coded into the manifesto and every press conference and debate.  They need the constitution to remain front of their supporters minds.  The total volte face on anti-austerity and tax policies needs some cover.  A big grey elephants bum planted on top of this did just the job.

For the Tories, Ruth had very little else to go with.  She would be the (only) defender of the union and a strong opposition.  The constitution was her saviour as she successfully hid the impact of a conservative Government from the Scottish Electorate.  Internal mail ‘Dear Dave, Bojo, IDS, Michael Gove and Theresa, please stay on holiday until after election day.  Thanks Ruth.’  Ruth Davidson made sure that the argument was still on yes or no.  That way the electorate gave that issue prominence and squeezed other union supporting parties.  She would be a strong opposition.

I accept that Kez should not have answered a hypothetical, hypothetical scenario about voting yes.  Fabian interviewer should have thought of the impact before asking it that way.  Still no point crying over the spilled milk.

‘Us too.’ Really doesn’t have the same appeal as ‘Defender of the union sitting akimbo on a tank .’

So we were squashed behind a big grey arse against the wall as the constitution battle raged on.  We were surrounded by failures of both governments but no one could hear our voice shouting about them above the trumpeting of the agonised constitutional elephant filling the room.  No wonder it was loud with the FM’s heels digging in and Ruth squeezing hard.

So what now?

It’s a bit like the tree falling in the amazon thing.  If no one heard it fall did it make a sound?  Politics is a bit like that.  If no one hears your message it doesn’t matter what you were saying.  Has anyone noticed the fall of scottish Labour?  Until the constitution is sorted out, it will be acceptable collateral damage for both camps.

The diarrhea of constitutional arguments has covered us and we are struggling to get clean.  We need a power shower and an elephant rifle at the very least.

Power shower to get the stink of Better together off of us and an elephant rifle to kill the elephant and let the electorate see the mess of everything else.

SNP – Education- a mess.  NHS funding – a mess. Environment and fracking – a mess.  Transportation – a mess.  Local Government – a mess.

Tories – Welfare – a mess.  Economy – Even bigger mess. Europe – another fine mess.  Defence – shambles.

The power shower may come in the guise of Jeremy Corbyn.  I am not a great fan but his positioning will certainly help as the Tory/SNP phoney war continues for the next 5 years.

The bullet for the elephant rifle? Buggered if I really know.  The EU referendum will expose the mess of the tories on Europe but it may have no impact on us in Scottish Labour.  If Scotland votes out and the UK votes remain might be interesting.

Scipio found a way to counter Hannibal’s elephants.  Maybe we could ask him how to slay the constitutional elephant.

One thing is certain, George Robertson missed.

 

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Return of my grumpy!

I used to like to put my thoughts on my blog.

I would range across the range of topics political and sometimes vent into the blogosphere.

However, as an elected Councillor, the putting your thoughts down could lead to some interesting discussions and misuses of my words.  I stuck to my job and left my blog to gather dust.

After an election campaign that ended with results that are less than ideal, I felt my grumpy gene kick in and my fingers twitch across the keys of my keyboard.

Third!  yes THIRD!  That’s where Labour have ended up after this latest election.  My party suffering at the hands of the electorate.

Firstly, the electorate are never wrong, they make up their mind and if they don’t choose your party then it is down to your inability to convince them to give your their support.  Trite and I desperately want to blame something or caveat the statement.

There is no caveat.  It needs us to look in the mirror and work out what we need to do to regain that support.  The online news is full of pundits, ex-politicians, failed politicians, failing politicians, armchair political strategists, enemies and opponents – all saying where Labour got it wrong.  I have twice declined phone calls from a friend of mine who, no doubt, wants to pick over the bones.

As one Labour List Candidate said to the BBC ‘The manifesto was self immolation for dummies.’ unhelpful, mistimed and totally infuriating.  He was adopting the old adage of when things are going badly, fight with your own side.  It is the Labour way.

There are many strands that knit the rope that bound us to our result.  A result that, if we stand back and look at it, we could see unfolding before us.  There were a whole series of factors that left us behind the others.

Firstly, the Flag.

We have been unable to counter the Flag waving tag that presents us as anti-Scottish (or not Scottish enough / not REAL Scots) and a branch office of an oppressor party from Engerland.  Utterly idiotic and impossible to refute without buying in to the argument.  The wrapping in a flag approach worked effectively for the Westminster election but should have lessened in a Scottish parliament election.  It might have if Ruth Davidson hadn’t used the same tactic to pretend to be the defender of the union.  Polarised the issue once more.

If we are not careful this division will become a new sectarianism, a blight that we have been trying to rid ourselves of in Scotland for decades.

Nicola Sturgeon.

The profile, and generally high regard, that Nicola holds is an electoral asset.  Never mind the policies, never mind the record, ‘I’m with Nicola’ has bizarrely got traction in a way that Alex Salmond could never manage.

She has managed to avoid anything sticking to her for the moment but that won’t last forever.  The poor record on education, health, policing, environment to name but a few have been deflectable with a few blasts of dog whistle Indyref.  The manifesto, on which she has been elected, has no Indyref and only 1 mention of austerity.  Fracking may be the monster under the bed for her own supporters if it gets out.  Big boy did it and ran away won’t wash on this front.

The gloss is coming off the Nicola Apple but it certainly wasn’t going to be a problem this time.

Ruth Davidson.

A problem for Labour.  A Tory that has performed well in the chamber landing a series of caustic statements and hits.  However, being a Tory she was making little progress until she could paint Labour as weak on defending the Union.  Worked a dream, a new flag to wave and call Labour soft on opposing the SNP.  Bulldog and fierce she played her limited hand very well.  Always trying to make the electorate forget that she is still, and always was, a Tory.

The tagline ‘For a strong opposition.’ was astute, saying that she couldn’t win so it would be safe to vote Tory if you didn’t want the SNP.   No real statements on policy that a supporter of Ruth was ever able to tell me on the doorstep.

Jeremy Corbyn.

He gets the blame when it goes wrong, and no credit when it goes well. The constant negative press of Jeremy Corbyn is unbalanced but working for the right wing parties in Scotland.  Helped by our own side who cannot accept his mandate.  I didn’t vote for him but he has a huge mandate.  No Corbyn bounce in Scotland as the press here portray him as soft on the union (for tories), English westminster politician and puppeteer of branch office (for SNP) and some kind of dinosaur  (helps both).

Kezia Dugdale.

New leader taking over the mess after the GE massacre last year.  Leading an attempt to reorganise to fight again, taking on ‘the most difficult job in Scottish Politics’ with an empty purse and lacking in activists.  She is intelligent and articulate and wants to make things better for future generations.  Wanted to use the powers to raise taxes and invest in public services.

Sadly, the electorate never really thought Labour could win power (by defeating the SNP) and deliver the promises this time.  Making the job of articulating how we would use the powers more and more difficult.  Opinion polls told the electorate that SNP were going to win, and stubbornly refused to move much.

Putting up Taxes

Hard to believe that this would be a problem.  Being honest about the need to raise revenue to protect services apparently is a bad thing to say out loud.

The electorate (a bit like the SNP Government) talk left but vote right.  The notion that 1p on taxes would be a deal breaker is bizarre.  Somehow it was made in to one.  The Anti-austerity message of taxing to invest and protect against tory austerity was somehow unacceptable.

IF the media streams all sell the story that Government waste your money all the time, then the message that paying any more will be received with horror.  The idea of the 50p tax rate for the wealthiest was fine last year but this year Nicola didn’t fancy it.

Kezia tried to Talk and ACT left, was roundly criticised and ridiculed.  Hypocrisy in action, largely missed by the mass media (the Sun supported SNP, for example).

Trident.

The vanity motion forced on Scottish Conference was a missile fired early that just confirmed the pattern of the election to come.  Scrap Trident (majority of Scots voters poll to be in favour), lose jobs, no real plan to diversify the industry.

It doesn’t matter how this would be done, and the need to rid ourselves of the Nuke, the issue was used as a club to beat us with. Jackie Baillie opposed the motion and was reelected as her constituency holds Faslane (although her years of service and fighting on local issues would have been huge factors).

Indyref Hangover and Red tories.

This has cast a pall over the Labour vote in Scotland.  The message that the Labour party were the same as the tories has been hard to shift.  All evidence to the contrary.  The politics of smear have worked well in the identity politics of post referendum Scotland.  It has stuck and will only weaken as the Tories and SNP start to agree on all things tax and spend.  It will wear off but will take time.

No indyref2 message in the SNP manifesto but opposing a referendum makes Labour look afraid of asking the people to decide.  Ruth managed to deflect this from the Tories to a respect the decision argument.  Sadly, we are bearing the blame and the tories have benefitted.  In strategic terms we are stuck in the middle, unable to find a place to stand that isn’t taken.

We have had to refight the indyref and fight about the constitution where it suits our enemies and not on the grounds of health, education and Anti-austerity where we would have been much more solid.

Optimism.

The hostility that personified the Referendum and GE, has largely disappeared and door knocking conversations have improved massively.  The voters haven’t returned to the Labour party (and it might take a while) but if we keep on talking about issues they will give us a hearing.  How far that gets us I don’t know.

There were other issues that contributed to where we are (some of them years in the making) but we are third and that will take some getting over.

We need to rebuild, rethink our approach and fight for the right to be heard in a largely right wing landscape.  It won’t be easy.  Who likes easy anyway.

Grumpy.