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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.