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.