Leftwing Politics

SNP Celebrate Historic Third Term, Labour Reel at Historic Third Place

It’s likely that you noticed there was an election yesterday in Scotland; even if the disturbing lack of coverage in the run-up to the election left you in the dark, the wall to wall coverage this morning should make you aware. In some ways, it was the night we expected, but in many others it was a night full of some unexpected developments.

Across the country, the Conservatives made gains in SNP and Labour seats, in Glasgow the SNP wiped Labour out completely and in the list vote, Labour’s Kezia Dugdale managed to hold onto a seat by a hair’s breadth. The Greens made significant inroads too, taking 6 seats and forming a fully fledged parliamentary group for the first time since 2003.

BBC results

SNP the largest party – Image Credit: BBC News

The main story is, of course, that of the Scottish National Party, securing an historic third term in office. They pulled out 63 seats, falling shy of the 65 required for a majority and the 69 they held after the 2011 election. Many were speculating that the SNP would be looking at a majority again, seeking to replicate 2011’s monumental achievement, with many treating is as a given; however, very early on in the night and prior to even the first declarations, Alex Salmond said that it was, “by no means a foregone conclusion”.

Sturgeon

Nicola gets five more years – Image Credit: Getty via BBC News

Indeed, the Scottish Parliament’s additional member system is specifically designed to prevent a single party majority. Many spectators even referred to the SNP as having “broken the system” in 2011, with it now returning to normal. This morning’s result, then, should not be seen as a defeat for the SNP, rather as a fantastic “vote of confidence” -as Nicola Sturgeon said following the counts – for the SNP to continue in government for another three years.

Rtuhie

Ruth Davidson become leader of the opposition – Image Credit: Getty via BBC News

However, if there are any real winners this morning, it is, rather unexpectedly too, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, who thumped Labour across the board to become the largest opposition party in Holyrood. There had been the odd speculation from the pundits throughout the campaign that the Tories could be the second largest party, pushing Labour into third, but it was largely laughed off by most of us. It was, however, the platform upon which Ruth Davidson based her whole campaign – “A Strong Opposition”. Credit must go to Ruth Davidson too, she has turned the Scottish Tories around spectacularly achieving their best Scottish Parliament result to date.

The real losers, after the dust settled, were indeed the Scottish Labour Party. Most were convinced that Labour would still hold onto second place, after all, how could Scotland ever places the Tories above Labour? However, it wasn’t to be; the traditional Labour heartlands of Scotland fell and Labour were put into a horrifying third place, behind the Tories for the first time in generations.

Kez

Kezia Dugdale “heartbroken” by results – Image Credit: Press Association via BBC News

Well, some may argue that the proposals for raises to various bands of income tax were to blame; but a 1p rise for middle income earners was hardly going to turn the entire country against them and those affected by a hike to the highest levels were probably not voting Labour to start with. By and large, the reason for Labour’s downfall seems to be on the question of independence.

It’s this constitutional question that has rattled Labour then, with Kezia Dugdale trying to stay out of the whole rotten business and giving neither a clear yes or no to support for independence. This maybes aye maybes naw approach, compared to the staunch defence for the Union only a couple of years ago, has hurt the Labour Party more deeply than they could have imagined.

Those blaming the SNP for the demise of Labour should take a look at the results; whilst in Yes strongholds such as Glasgow and Dundee the SNP routed Labour, increasing majorities or making gains, the SNP vote stayed largely level across the country. The Yes vote has shifted to the SNP, but most of them were there to begin with in 2011, however a large number of Labour’s Yes voters have stayed with Labour.

Instead, it’s the No voters that appear to have deserted Labour. The Scottish Tories ran their campaign on the idea of a “Strong Opposition”, but that was not only to Nicola Sturgeon’s government, but also to any further push for independence. It was the Tories who drove home the idea of continued campaigning to preserve the centuries long Union with the rest of the UK. Whilst Labour try to brush the whole idea under the carpet, the Tories have recognised that this issue will not go away.

Now, I am a Yes supporter, as many may have gathered by reading this blog, but it is pointless to disregard those who support the Union and their opinions. Labour, however inadvertently, did just this by trying to ignore the whole constitutional question. The result was that those who had supported Labour and who wished to remain as part of the United Kingdom felt that their party was not going to deliver the commitment to that cause.

Now, regardless of one’s position, one cannot fail to realise that this issue is going to be at the forefront of Scottish politics for quite some time to come and will remain the dominant issue throughout this parliament and possibly the next. So, where then do Labour’s No voters go? They go to the only mainstream party that is fully committed to fighting for the Union, the Conservatives.

If you want proof of this, you need only look at individual constituency results which mostly sit around SNP level (or up slightly) Labour down dramatically, and Conservative up dramatically.

Whilst it was always assumed that the SNP would win overall, the real battle was the traditional one of Conservative vs. Labour. And the Tories punished Labour in a way we haven’t ever seen in the Scottish Parliament. In just about every seat, the Tories gained what Labour lost and it was for the very simple reason that the Labour party have tried to ignore the question of Scotland’s constitutional future.

Where now for Labour, in that case? Having been thumped into a humiliating third place with their own supporters crossing over to the traditional enemies of the Tory party, there is a lot of building to do. As a party they need to show strength and unity – two horrid buzzwords, but it’s true. They need to stand behind Kezia Dugdale and the leadership, knuckle under and push forward a unified policy front on all the issues including independence and, sorry Jackie, Trident. Only then can they even hope to become a serious political establishment in Scotland again and regain the voters they lost to Ruth Davidson.

As for the SNP, they’ll form a minority government. It’s what the Additional Member System was made to do. With 63 MSPs, however, they should have no real difficulty in pushing forward their agenda.

Nicola Sturgeon will be elected as First Minister. She said this morning that she would not seek to form any formal coalition government, but with the common ground shared with all parties on varying issues, it’s likely that cooperation will be the key word in this parliament. The minority will also make for more balanced debates and perhaps a more rigorous examination of policy in the chamber.

And it’s this minority that may offer Labour a second chance at convincing voters to back them in the future as they try to hold the SNP to account. It also brings the Green Party into place again as they expect to push the SNP on issues such as fracking and taxation.

Yes, we expected the SNP to govern and yes, we expected Labour to suffer slightly, but, as usual, there was so much we didn’t expect. All that can be said for certain is that the next five years will definitely be interesting for all parties and for everyone in Scotland. We will likely see questions over reform to the NHS, education, housing, taxation, jobs, the economy and benefits. We may even see the independence question thrown up again, but who knows.

We now just have to look forward to 2017 for the local elections, this will be the next real challenge for all parties and should provide an interesting indicator of how they are all doing in the public’s opinion.

Until then, though, we’ll just have to wait and see what the new government looks like and what the first year in parliament brings. It will be many things, but it shouldn’t be boring, that’s for sure.

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Where now for Labour?

After the crushing result for Labour in the most recent general election, criticisms are coming in thick and fast regarding the direction in which the Party is going. In the days since the election, following Ed Miliband’s resignation, several key members of the Labour Party have spoken out against his leadership and, most notably, the leftward lurch that the Party took during his time in office.

Chief among these figures are the likes of Lord Hutton, former minister Alan Johnson, David Miliband (ouch!) and, the man himself, Tony Blair. Lord Hutton blamed the Labour Party’s failure of the adoption of “old school socialist’ policies, while David Miliband, who has ruled himself out of running for the leadership, said that the party was failing to do enough to ‘woo middle class voters’ according to the Independent newspaper.

Meanwhile, Alistair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has criticised Ed for “having no economic policy” and said that the party was now in a worse position than it was in 1992. Adding salt to the wounds is Labour peer, Lord Sugar, who has resigned from the Labour Party saying that it simply was too anti-business. Lord Sugar will now sit as a cross-bencher peer in the House of Lords “representing the interests of business and enterprise”.

So, is that the message, was the Labour Party simply too left-wing to appeal to the voters? Is Chuka Umunna (supposedly with the backing of Mr. Blair himself) right in wanting to take Labour back to the right, do English voters just not have an appetite for a left-wing party?

Since Labour’s founding and as it moved into conventional politics, it has constantly had to shift towards the centre on various issues, to appease the middle-class voters and secure more seats. The last major lurch to the left happened during the campaign for the 1983 general election when Labour produced their most left-wing manifesto in decades in a bid to try and win over the working class voters who may have been fed up with Maggie Thatcher’s first term.

The manifesto was about as left as they come, calling for the re nationalisation of the British Shipbuilder’s Consortium, British Telecom and British Aerospace as well as unilateral nuclear disarmament and the abolition of the House of Lords. The result was a disaster for the Labour party, with Labour losing 60 seats and the Tories gaining 58. Subsequently the manifesto was dubbed “the longest suicide note in history”.

Labour would remain in opposition for another fourteen years.

It wasn’t until 1994 that the Labour party would take off again with the youngster Tony Blair taking over as leader of the Party following the sudden death of John Smith. Blair embarked on a new mission, rebuilding the Labour Party under the guise of New Labour.

Under Blair’s leadership the Labour Party took a substantial dive to the right, becoming more business friendly and less focussed on the toils of the working class. Some might argue that the final nail in that particular coffin was the removal of Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution in 1995, which originally read:

“To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

Clause IV was seen by many as the part of the constitution that committed the Labour Party to socialism, the dropping of this clause from the constitution therefore seemed to signal the final departure of the Labour Party from the path to socialism.

However, it must be said, that under Blair, Labour saw huge success and won a landslide majority in the 1997 General Election and another in 2001. 2005 saw their popularity slump, but a slim majority did see them govern until 2010, albeit with a much reduced popular vote and fast waning popularity.

The final collapse of the vote in 2010 and the resignation of Gordon Brown as the leader of the Party prompted another change in the Party, with Ed Miliband – noted for his left-wing views within the Party – winning over the Blairite (and his brother), David Miliband.

The election of Ed, who even came to be known as Red Ed, prompted in a sense that the Labour Party would be moving back to the left, distancing itself from New Labour – which had seen many a Labour voter feel disenfranchised and which many blamed for the financial crash.

Ed Miliband announced plans for a prospective Labour government to allow the government to bid on rail franchises, effectively allowing for nationalised railways, freezes on energy bills and tighter regulation of the energy companies, the raising of the minimum wage to over £8 an hour, outlawing zero-hours contracts, lowing tuition fees, reintroducing the 50p tax rate for top earners… the list really does go on.

Now, while it wasn’t as left-wing and socialist as some in the Labour party would like, it did see a slight move back to being a “party for ordinary working people” and away from the pro-business days of New Labour. But the electorate didn’t buy it. We’ll leave Scotland for now, as that’s a separate case, but what went wrong in England and Wales?

Well, if we’re to believe the likes of Lord Hutton, Lord Sugar, Tony Blair, etc., it’s because Labour went too far to the left and the voters didn’t like that. The Labour Party, despite what it’s name and founding principles suggest, should be pandering to the middle class voters who might ordinarily vote Tory, but aren’t quite sure about the chap in charge.

But the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. Labour faced the wipe-out they did because precisely because they have moved away from the left and, hence, away from the working people of Britain – their core vote. I saw an interesting map, the other day which details the constituencies in the UK where, in first past the post, Did Note Vote would actually have won the seat. I’ll put it up and see if you spot a pattern.

Constituencies where "Did Not Vote" would have won.

Constituencies where “Did Not Vote” would have won.

Shown in pink, are constituencies where if all those who were registered to vote but didn’t had their vote count for a “did not vote” party, that “did not vote party” would have won the seat.

Firstly, it’s pretty appalling the sheer number of seats where this is the case – but look at where they occur. The vast majority of pink seats occur in urban areas and areas in which people traditionally are more likely to vote Labour.

There is also another map, that I found quite interesting which shows, by constituency, the party that came second in terms of the popular vote.

Parties in second place by constituency. Image Credit: the Telegraph

If you look at the areas where Labour came second, they largely seem to tie up with the areas in which Did-Not-Votes would have won it. So what’s going on?

The long and the short of it is that a huge number of people in these urban and traditionally Labour areas have become completely disenfranchised with politics altogether and a large number of them are, sadly, working class voters who no longer feel that the Labour Party has their interests at heart.

What do these people do? They simply don’t vote – Labour doesn’t represent their interests and, as far as they’re concerned, the Tories aren’t much different, so what difference does it make?

Another alarming feature is shown on the 2nd Place Map and that is the large amount of UKIP purple kicking about disenfranchised Tory and Labour voters alike have fallen for the nationalist populism of Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party which offers a nice target to blame for all their woes – immigrants and Brussels. And again, it’s because working people simply haven’t got a party that truly represents them.

Only a truly left-wing Labour Party, with the working class peoples’ interests as its core values, can have any hope to re-engage the core voters of the Labour Party and rebuild themselves as a party of the people and hence work to rebuild Britain as a fair society.

I am saddened that Ed Miliband resigned, but it was probably the right thing to do after the result. But it does leave the door wide open and whoever comes in next will have a lot of work to do in rebuilding.

Unfortunately, however, the candidates stepping forward for the role, notably Chuka Umunna, are closer to the Blairite section of the party and want to see a return to the right and a pro-business pandering to middle-England once more – the kind of vote that only comes along when people get fed up of the guy leading the Tories.

Of course Blair, Sugar, Hutton, etc. would call for a move to the right, they’re wealthy and quite like the way the right does things, but they don’t represent what the Labour Party stands for any more. If Labour want to be successful party and actually get things done, we need another Ed – we need someone who can take the Party back to its left-wing roots and re-engage with the working class people of Britain.

Only a truly left-wing Labour Party can fix Britain, all that remains to be seen is whether Labour can manage it before it’s too late.

Vote SNP, get Tories? No. Vote SNP, get Scotland.

So unless you have been living under a rock for the past wee while you’ll be aware of the predicament that Labour currently finds itself in; namely the fact that they are facing an utter wipeout in Scotland at the hands of the SNP. The reason for this is rather simple; Labour has held Scotland as a stronghold in UK politics since the late 1950s and, specifically following the referendum (or referundilymundilyundilum depending on what your party affiliations are) and the supposed broken promised that have come since, the majority of Scottish voters now appear to be disenfranchised with the Labour party, feeling that they no longer truly represent Scotland.

The alternative is the Scottish National Party, who despite losing the referendum last September, are picking up votes left, right, and centre – if you’ll pardon the pun. The SNP are being viewed as the party who can properly represent Scottish people and their interests, but what would an SNP vote mean for Scotland and the rest of the UK?

If I’m being honest, I’ve put off writing this one for a bit because, up until now, I’ve had a bit of a dilemma over the whole thing. After the referendum, I was pretty clear with myself that I’d vote SNP in the General Election, but as time went on, and in the past few weeks specifically, I have been moving towards the fence with the Labour side of things. You see, we’re constantly told that only Labour are big enough and strong enough to stand up to the Tories, only Labour will change the nature of the cuts and measures of austerity that have put ordinary people onto or beyond the poverty line, only Labour will chase after the rich to make sure they pay their fair share.

We’ve been told that the SNP will take away from Labour votes and hand the Tories the reigns once more for another brutal five-year shafting of our poorest and most vulnerable. The only way to keep the Tories out was to vote Labour.

But the past couple of weeks have allowed me to see things a little differently. The SNP stand on the basis that they want to work with progressive parties to make things fairer up here and across the UK in general, they want to cooperate with anti-Tory parties to make sure that we look after our most vulnerable, and, crucially, they want to make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster as a clear and distinct one – something the other parties have failed to do in the past.

Labour told us that this was nonsense and we should just vote Labour; “do as you’re told and you might not get the Tories again.” So what if, in the event of a hung parliament, we asked, if the SNP and Labour were to work together and keep the Tories out that way? Well, Labour had a snappy answer for us; “You vote SNP, we’ll stand back and let the Tories in.” Yes, Ed Miliband actually said he would allow the Conservatives form a government rather than have any kind of deal with the SNP.

Over the course of the past year we’ve been told to vote “No” and stay with the UK and that our voice matters and that Scotland can work with the UK to make things better for everyone. We were then told “well done” for voting “No” and that it was a triumph of democracy and that, above all else, we should respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland.

Now that the democratic will of the people of Scotland appears to be that we send a large number of SNP MPs to Westminster, it’s suddenly not the kind of democratic will that should be respected and as such we are to be punished for it. And who wants to punish us the most for it? The Labour Party. The party that supposedly stands up for ordinary Scottish folk is now telling them to do as they tell them or get Tory rule, even if the Labour party and in a position to work with the SNP against the Tories.

If the Labour party, then, truly have the ideals of progressive politics and the good of the working people of these isles at heart, then I believe that they will have to work with other parties such as the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. If they refuse to do so, they either let the Tories in as a minority or are forced to govern as a minority. Any instability of the government is then on them.

We hear a lot from Labour about the hypothetical referendum that they seem so fixated with regarding respecting the democratic will of the people of Scotland (referring to the last one). If they choose to have an unstable government it is because they have failed to respect the democratic will of the people.

Over the past few weeks, it has become quite apparent to me that the SNP really is the only party to vote for if you want change for Scotland (and, indeed, the rest of the UK). They are the only party who actually offer any alternative to the austerity and public sector cuts. They are one of the very few parties (and the only one in Scotland with a chance of election) who oppose Trident. And they are the only party that actively wants to stand up for the Scottish people.

That last bit is important to me. Every other party is part of a greater Westminster machine with a one size fits all approach across the United Kingdom looking to apply the same formulae in the South East as in the Far North and that doesn’t work. The SNP are the only party who listen properly to the needs of Scots, and who have those interests in the fronts of their minds as the walk into the House of Commons or the Holyrood Debates Chamber.

The SNP understand the Scottish people better than any other party because that is their sole function as a party – to understand and work for Scotland. What’s more, they are, as I mentioned above, the only major party with a properly progressive agenda.

It saddens me a little bit that Scottish Labour have become what they are now – a joke party attached to their London colleagues with very little to differentiate them from the Tories they supposedly so bitter oppose. Jim Murphy can stand and shout all he likes now, but most of what he says is utter nonsense; he, in a desperate bit to garner votes spoke of reduced cuts in Scotland, only to be shouted down by Ed Balls who – as Shadow Chancellor – made it quite clear the Murphy wasn’t the one setting the fiscal policy. Murphy has also told us that all the SNP want is another referendum, the only people talking about another referendum are the three main parties, with the SNP having no plans to introduce one at present.

All Labour are doing now is telling the Scottish people that their voice only matters when it agrees with them. And that voice is one of further cuts to public spending and odd economic propositions that seem to have no real backing at all. The SNP meanwhile is actually talking with Scots about progressive poltics, about different ways to kick-start the economy, about how to best represent the people of Scotland.

As I say, I have been putting this off for a while, it’s even taken me two days to actually get this together at this point. I am saddened that I don’t feel the Labour party can adequately represent the people of Scotland any more, I am still at odds with myself because I haven’t ever really seen myself as a nationalist (in the generally defined sense). I want to see a more progressive politics, one where we aren’t so tightly bound to the old ideals of the past and fixated on a solid parliamentary majority where one party can get in and then do as they please for five years.

Now I am growing more and more certain that this is the right thing to do, for Scotland and for the rest of the United Kingdom – on Thursday, I will be voting SNP.

 

Raising the minimum wage to £8 per hour, what good will it actually do?

The Labour party, in their manifesto have pledged to raise the minimum wage from it’s current level of about £6.30 per hour to around £8 per hour over the course of their parliament. Other bodies and parties, such as the Greens and the TUC have called for it to be made even higher, with the TUC calling for a £10/hour minimum wage. But would raising the minimum wage actually do any good?

Now as a left wing person reading this (you’re on a left wing site, I just kind of assumed it) you’re probably screaming at the sight of someone claiming to be a socialist questioning this idea, but let’s try and break it down a little bit.

Now many critics have stated that this scheme would end up costing the government a lot of money as the two million or so jobs affected by this are mainly in the public sector in areas such as health and local government. Now, Labour claim that this will in fact save money from the benefits bill, which makes sense.

There are currently millions on low incomes who have to claim benefits in order to augment their income and keep afloat. By increasing the minimum wage we put more money into those people’s pockets and less of them are required to claim benefits to get by.

However, what about the private sector? Remember we still live in a capitalist world and the private sector still employs a huge number of people and they, being the private sector, have to also make a profit. If they’re being forced to pay staff a higher hourly wage we will either see redundancies or hours cut as a means to preserve profit.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I do find it most upsetting that large companies turning a huge profit annually may cut jobs to keep increasing that profit, but that is capitalism for you in a nutshell. But that doesn’t even cover the smaller companies who already have tight margins and may be unable to pay their employees this higher wage. Jobs will be cut and prices will go up. And we haven’t even touched on the idea of zero-hours contracts.

A large number of the workforce are employed on so-called zero-hours contracts – contracts under which they have a job but aren’t guaranteed any fixed hours. Now the Labour Party have said that they will be looking to outlaw these as well. I am all for this, zero-hours contracts exploit some of our most vulnerable people who are desperately trying to get enough to live by. However, with companies now being required to guarantee a fixed hours contract and pay a higher minimum wage, it’s likely that we will see a lot of jobs cut.

But let’s imagine, for a second, that private sector employers don’t decide to cut jobs as a result of this, everyone is now on a guaranteed fixed hours contract being paid a wage of £8 an hour. Surely this is better? Fewer people claiming benefits to augment their incomes and more money kicking about, people able to buy more and that’s good for the economy, yes?

Well, not quite. In the short term it’s great; everyone has more money, they can buy more, they can set some aside or they can finally get buy without on their own without hanging onto the state as much. In the long term, though, things aren’t so brilliant.

Firstly, private companies now need to raise their prices to keep profits up (they’re now paying out more in employee salaries, remember) and in general as there is more money kicking about they can raise prices anyway. People are still being taxed at the same rate too, so their paying more in tax too.

Suddenly people are now paying more for goods and services, slightly more in taxes and some of them may even be on fewer hours as a result of small businesses cutting hours to keep afloat. Now whilst people may have more money in their pockets, it’s not ‘worth as much’ any more. We now also have more people on (what are now) low incomes having once more to rely on the state to help them out… sound familiar yet?

In the long run, whilst it might not (hopefully) do any real damage it is certainly not going to make anything appreciably better. In the short run, yeah, it might be quite nice, but in the long run it’s, at best a stunt to get votes from people on low incomes and, at worst, an idea that could result in even more unemployed and a decreased spending power of the money in your pockets.

Now I must appreciate here that I am no economist, these are just my views on the subject from my basic understanding of the topic. But there must be, in my opinion, better ways to lift people out of low income, more sustainable ways. Currently the SNP’s model of ‘modest increases’ for public spending seem to be the better set of ideas – more money in the public sector means that the public sector can afford to employ more people on better rates. It means that new projects to help lift people out of poverty can actually go ahead.

Whereas the current model of cutting public spending at every available point mean a tighter public budget, meaning less room to employ more people or raise wages, fewer public jobs overall and less money floating about in general. How Labour plan to find the money to fund the wage rises then is beyond me.

The real issue isn’t that people are on low incomes because their wages aren’t ‘high’ enough. It’s because they are either on crap contracts or unemployed altogether as a result of austerity driven cuts which have pushed people out of public jobs and money out of people’s pockets.

And until Labour are able to accept that cuts are not the best way to dig this country out of the economic mess it’s in now, we’re never going to get any lasting situation that is to the benefit of the ordinary people of these islands.

Johann to step down, Scotland astonished.

Lamont "astonished"

 

In this country, we have come to expect our politicians to resign in an honourable fashion following a major political defeat. Subsequently, it came at very little shock value when Alex Salmond announced his intentions to resign as SNP leader and First Minister, despite the fact that many were truly sad to see him go.

So it took the Scottish people a little off-guard when Johann Lamont made her surprising announcement yesterday that she was standing down as Scottish Labour leader with immediate effect. Despite the fact that she has been celebrated by the No campaign as one of the saviours of the United Kingdom she has grown fed up of Westminster treating Scottish Labour “like a branch office”.

In an interview with the Daily Record she called a number of Labour’s Westminster MPs “dinosaurs” who were failing to recognise that “Scotland has changed forever” in the wake of the referendum. She seemed concerned with the fact that most current Labour MPs were putting their own interests ahead of those of Scotland and went on to mention that whilst Scotland had voted to remain in partnership with the UK, Scotland is “distinct” and had to be treated as such.

It’s unlikely that many people in Scotland will be too sad to see her go; her blatant cooperation with the Tories, her applauding of Asda for the threat of higher food prices in an Independent Scotland, her alienating of roughly a third of her membership over support for a No vote,  and, of course, her remark that Scots are “not genetically programmed … to make political decisions” will likely lead to a slightly tarnished political reputation. However her passing does mark something rather more worrying. Scottish Labour appears to be on the verge of total collapse.

But of course the infighting in Labour isn’t anything new, with former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish pointing out that the “crisis in Labour didn’t happen yesterday.” We have known for a while that the Labour Party were falling to pieces – the Scottish Labour Party perhaps more so – as Westminster and Holyrood have drifted further and further apart with Westminster moving further and further to the right and Scottish Labour trying to hold its ground for fear of obliteration at the hands of the SNP.

There have been many Labour party members in Scotland who have felt increasingly disillusioned with the Westminster party, a difference which was starkly marked by the appearance of Labour for Independence during the run-up to September’s referendum. It was estimated that roughly a third of Scottish Labour Party members were in favour of independence, however their voices were silenced as nothing more than a few dissenters trying to cause trouble.

Labour’s failure to mobilise on new powers for Scotland in the aftermath of the referendum is now pushing the tension between the Westminster and Holyrood groups to its limit, with much of the Scottish Labour Party wanting greater autonomy over policy making decisions as well as being in favour of increased powers for the Scottish Parliament. Scottish people are increasingly becoming more wary of the three London based parties and their “branches” north of the border with a real feeling that the simply don’t represent their views any more. Unless Scottish Labour were to see more autonomy from their London masters it looks like they’re on course for disaster.

Current polling suggests that the SNP are likely to make vast gains into Labour strongholds in 2015 and 2016 as more and more people turn to the SNP as the social democratic party that Labour were supposed to be.

Lord McConnell echoed the views of both Ms. Lamont and of Mr. McLeish saying that; “She [Ms Lamont] clearly blames today publicly Ed Miliband and those around him and that’s a very serious accusation that requires answers, and it requires answers not just from him but from those closest to him.”

Since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999 (after nearly 300 years) the Scottish Labour Party have had seven leaders including Ms. Lamont. Johann Lamont was a fairly low key member of the party who gained leadership of the party after their heavy defeat to the SNP in the 2011 Scottish General Election. Since then she has become a fairly high profile player in the Labour party, mostly through her part in the No Campaign and had high hopes of becoming First Minister in 2016.

Whilst she will be the seventh leader to go, it’s quite clear that tensions are at breaking point in the Labour Party. What is even more astonishing (to use one of Johann’s favourite words) is that Ed Miliband, and the entire Westminster group of the party for that matter, seem to be blissfully unaware of any of it. With Scottish Labour support dwindling fast, this is no longer a position that they can afford to hold.

Unless we see a quick turn-around from Labour and some very visible change in Scotland and the Scottish Labour Party, they face being utterly destroyed in Scotland. And with Labour largely credited as being the party that delivered a No vote in September, we could see that slim 5% majority disappear quite quickly too.

Boycott of “Anti-Indy” companies is not the way forward

So, the wounds are still sore and a large number of those who supported the “Yes” campaign feel cheated, betrayed and hurt. Throughout the campaign a collection of fairly big companies (Standard Life, the John Lewis group, RBS, Lloyd’s Bank, etc.) said that, in the event of a Yes vote, they’d move their business down to England. Some of these, such as RBS, were simply moving their registered address to the country that they do most business in without the moving of operations or, more crucially, jobs. Others, such as Standard Life said that they would move jobs away from Scotland whilst John Lewis threatened price hikes in an Independent Scotland.

This kind of thing did annoy a number of Scots who felt like the large corporations were effectively trying to buy off an entire country. To the ordinary Scot, seeing billionaires throwing jobs around so flippantly and threatening the livelihoods of so many working class people was utterly abhorrent and sparked a lot of anger up and down the country.

However, now we are seeing a flip-side to this story; Yes supporters now calling for a boycott of the companies that made these threats in the first place. This is not the answer, folks! These companies employ a fair few Scots and the only people a boycott is going to hurt will be them.

As we’ve seen, the people who own and run these companies are quite well off and know how to make sure that they are getting the most cash they can. They will still make their millions and, if sales drop, they will simply cut back on staff and wages. That means that ordinary working class people are going to be thrown out of a job while the guys at the top roll around in cash.

Yes, a lot of you are pissed off with the people who run these companies, and rightly so, but to boycott them will be to take your anger out on the thousands of normal people just trying to make a living. That is something that I find utterly abhorrent.

So, what do we do then?

Many of us want to continue the fight for a better Scotland; this may be through the pushing for continued devolution, continuing the campaign for independence, etc. The best thing you can do is keep talking to people. For the first time in a long time Scotland has become incredibly politically involved, people are talking and thinking politics – so keep that going. With so many people now debating the various issues and thinking for themselves, it will become impossible for the Westminster élite to silence us. Our minds and voices are our most powerful weapons.

If you want to go further, join a political party. The SNP, Scottish Greens and the SSP have seen a monumental surge in membership over the past five days with the SNP on track to overtake the Liberal Democrats as the third largest party in terms of membership in the UK. These three parties stand in favour of increased powers and independence for Scotland and are working together to provide a strong “pro-indy” front at the next General Election and the next Holyrood election.

This debate has opened our minds and given us our voices back. Let us not feel the need to resort to so crude measures as boycotting of companies and endangering jobs. Let us use our voice and take the fight directly to the élite in London!

Letter To Ed Miliband

The following is a letter I have sent to Ed Miliband through the “Unlock Democracy” Campaign that seeks to see an elected Upper Chamber in the United Kingdom’s parliament.

Mr Miliband,

I am writing to you today regarding your promise on Lords Reform. I am saddened that this government has not been able to reform the House of Lords, but I have faith in the Labour Party to be the ones who strike a blow for democracy. The General Election is nearing and it is my firm belief that Labour, if it truly holds its traditional values dear, should include a reform of our country’s upper house in its election manifesto.

Labour have traditionally been the party that have fought for the representation of the working classes, the ordinary folks of this country, and they have done a spectacular job in many regards, but one has been left out. More than half of our legislature is wholly unelected and out of touch with the common people of this country. The House of Lords is made up of appointed members, many of whom have vested interests, be they party political, financial, or otherwise. What’s more, they have absolutely no popular accountability.

In our day and age, to have an entire house of our legislature made up of unelected peers is quite unacceptable. Our country considers itself a beacon of democracy to the world, yet how can this be when those who propose, amend, and vote on our laws are either appointed to suit the interests of those in power or simply assume their seats by birth-right or having chosen the “correct” religion?

Mr. Miliband, I am sure you know and feel, as I and many others up and down this nation do, that there is something inherently wrong with our upper house. As the leader of the party of the working classes it should surely be within your best interests to make sure that we have an upper house that can be truly representative of and accountable to the electorate. It is, after all, the very basis of a democratic society that the people as a whole, not the privileged few, who decide who is and is not fit to write our laws.

It is my sincere belief that the people of this country have had their fill of Tory policies that benefit only those in established wealth and power; I believe that the public will give Labour its mandate to take Britain forward in 2015. Public support for an elected upper house is at an all-time high and still growing. By pledging to reform this country’s upper house, Labour would be striking a very real blow in the name of those it seeks to represent.

That is why I am asking you, as an ordinary person with a real desire to see change for the better, to make a referendum on a reformed upper house a manifesto pledge for the upcoming election. Please, help us make our country a real democracy – one that we can be proud of.

Yours Respectfully,

James Howard Whittle

If you want to get involved, you can go to http://unlockdemocracy.org.uk/pages/1517 and write to the leaders of the three main parties. But don’t stop there, publish your letters, send them to a paper, send them to your local MP.

Sorry for the absolute silence from me recently, I promise, more posts on their way in the next week!

Scottish Labour Descending to Chaos?

In a recent interview with the Sunday Post, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, refused to back Johann Lamont for the party’s leadership. This comes amidst claims that he has been sidelined by the rest of the Labour party. Meanwhile Brown complicates things in London.

Johann Looking Composed as Ever. Image Credit – Wings Over Scotland

When we think of Scottish Labour, a few ideas spring to mind; however, organised, united, strong, committed, etc, aren’t generally among these thoughts. Since Johann Lamont took the reigns in 2011, this has been more than evident. No wonder, just watch First Minister’s Questions and you’ll see just what kind of person we’re dealing with. Now, I won’t delve into the matter greatly, an earlier post of mine, called “What to do about Johann”, does that quite nicely.

It probably suffices to say that she’s there because she does what she’s told to do by her Westminster bosses.

However, the Scottish Labour Party’s deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, has refused to back Johann Lamont’s leadership of the party. Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central, was recently interviewed by the Sunday Post. When asked if he backed Ms. Lamont’s leadership he managed not to say yes, or indeed actually answer the question, simply pointing out that “Johann Lamont is leader of the Scottish Labour Party.” He’s an observant one, isn’t he?

There is no doubt that the relatively young MP is ambitious; he’s made sure that he’s been at the very front of Labour’s campaign for the Union. I’m sure that he envisages himself as being the Scottish Labour Party leader and, perhaps, First Minister of Scotland. But it appears that the Labour Party aren’t quite with him on that one.

Granted, Johann is useless and has to go if Labour ever want any more seats in Holyrood. But Sarwar? The Westminster robot? You only have to look back on his performance in the head to head STV debate he had with Nicola Sturgeon. He was quite hopeless. How, then, is he going to cope going up against Big Eck in the debates chamber in the Scottish Parliament? My bet is ‘not well’.

Granted that debate was a wee while ago, and he’s getting better at it, but the members of the Labour Party don’t quite see it that way. There are accusations, both from within and outwith the party, that Sarwar is being sidelined.

Sarwar has been conducting Scottish Labour’s campaign to keep Scotland in the Union by driving up and down the country in the “IndyRef Express” telling Labour voters to vote “No” this September. This is a role that Sarwar feels is very important and puts him in a good stead with Labour.

He said “I’ve spoken to more than 2,000 people in the space of five days. I’ve been campaigning the length and breadth of Scotland, from Annan to Aberdeen, owning social media space, appearing in newspapers and on TV and leading the rebuttal unit that has been highlighting the facts behind the top 20 nationalist assertions.”

However, some other members of the Labour Party didn’t think so. One senior Labour MP told the Sunday Post that “Looking after a big red bus is clearly the most important role in the referendum campaign just now… Choosing what sort of pizza to have each day is a big decision.”

Let’s not worry too much about what this says about Labour’s opinion on the importance of the Independence Referendum; Johann Lamont covered that one quite nicely when she said that the referendum on independence was not the biggest decision in recent history.

So, Sarwar seems to have been deliberately sidelined, kept out of the way of the important running of the party (finding the crayons to write Johann’s scripts with, etc.), by giving him a big shiny red bus and sending him to far flung bits of the country.

Sarwar has dismissed all of these rumours as mere “tittle-tattle.”

However, this is not the only story to come from Labour this week. Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and “Iron Chancellor”, called on David Cameron to accept the challenge from Alex Salmond for a head to head debate on the matter. This is in direct contradiction to the Better Together campaign’s official line – and hence that of the Labour Party – that the Prime Minister should, on no accounts, be allowed to have a public debate with Salmond.

Better Together chief and former Labour Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that if anyone was to face down the First Minister it should be him. Margaret Curran, Shadow Scottish Secretary, also toed the line magnificently, saying that Brown had done great work and that she was a “huge fan” but she didn’t think that Cameron should debate with Salmond either.

She added; “The SNP want to say this is a debate between England and Scotland, a debate between David Cameron and Scotland – and it just isn’t. It’s a decision by Scottish people. To have Salmond debate Cameron completely misrepresents that.”

This of course fits in quite nicely with the fact that English MPs, including the Prime Minister, are allowed to sit south of the border and tell us we can’t be independent whilst we are not allowed to say anything back – because that would be making it a Scotland vs. England affair and we don’t want that.

On a side note, Dave, either get your arse up here and face Salmond, or shut up and let us get on with it.

Meanwhile, Labour in Scotland is facing a larger and larger portion of it’s membership moving to the Yes side, upset with the direction Labour in Westminster is taking and terrified of the prospect of five more years of virtually unopposed Tory rule from London.

The continued battering from all other sides that they are “out of touch with the Scottish people”, “in bed with the Conservatives”, or “blindly following their London masters”, has also not done them too well.

At some points in time, I can see why the left in Britain is so royally buggered and fragmented. I can see why people have little to no faith in the Labour party. And I can see that if they don’t pick up their act some time soon, they are not going to last long at all.

So far, I’ve managed not to make this article about independence too heavily, but I’m afraid that I have to now:

For the sake of the Labour Movement in this country, on the 18th of September, please vote “Yes”. A Scottish Labour party free of Westminster instruction would be one truly in touch with the people of Scotland, one that could address the issues of poverty and inequality plaguing our country and that would be directly accountable to you – the Scottish People.

Yes in 2014, Labour in 2016.

 

Source,  “Labour chaos as leaders past and present fall out.” Sunday Post, 15th June, James Millar, http://www.sundaypost.com/news-views/politics/holyrood/labour-chaos-as-leaders-past-and-present-fall-out-1.423481

What to Do About Johann…

Hello once again, it’s been a crazy sort of a month and I know I haven’t posted but, to be fair, I think you’re probably used to that by now anyway. I’ve been working like crazy coaching curling at my local rink in a desperate attempt to acquire some kind of money to tidy me over my exams until I can find a job I can sustain over the summer time. Oh yeah, exams are happening soon too. And to add to it all, our shower packed in a couple of weeks back, since then we’ve been washing ourselves under a drizzle of lukewarm water which has not been entirely pleasant – thankfully the landlord is coming out this evening to have a look at it.

However, there has been a reasonable amount going on to distract me from all the various annoyances in my life and, rather conveniently, they all seem to settle around one person. You know how it is, when you have to follow the trail of various gaffes and blunders from one politician to another, then to a shady cabal of journalists, over to another country, back to your own… It gets tiring. Imagine then, my delight, when all the recent collection of political gaffes centred around one single politician.

I am, of course, talking about Johann Lamont.

For those of you who don’t know of her, Johann Lamont (Yes, that’s the woman’s name “Joanne” spelt like the German male name “Johann”) is the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, leader of the opposition at the Scottish Parliament and, until I moved house in September, my local MSP. To say she was “useless” would be an insult to the good craftsmen responsible for manufacturing chocolate fire-guards. Indeed in the past few weeks she has made so many political brain-farts it’s a wonder Scottish Labour still have any members, in fact, in her own words, “I am astonished” (repeat ad nauseum) at the sheer number of blunders she has made of recent, to the point where one can’t help ask why she is still being allowed to make televised interviews.

To claim there was a start to this any time recently would, of course, be ridiculous, Scottish Labour has been a laughing stock for the past seven years, however the start of the steep section of this very slippery slope appeared to come on the 25th of February this year when Johann Lamont clashed with SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the STV programme ‘Scotland Tonight’. This show was one in a series of debates between yes and no sides of the Independence Referendum where, during the second half of the debate, the politicians are given the chance to cross-examine each other.

Now it’s fair to say that Ms. Sturgeon, who has appeared now on all three of these one-on-one debates to represent the yes side, is a fairly competent politician and has torn both the former and current Scottish secretaries to pieces in both of the previous shows; we therefore, didn’t expect a resounding victory from Ms. Lamont in this particular face-off. However the result was far from flattering for the BT campaign, Scottish Labour or, indeed, Ms. Lamont herself.

During the first half, Ms. Lamont faired about as well as expected, however the second half was where it all began to fall apart for Johann and the no side of the argument. When Nicola began her questioning the Labour leader simply wasn’t able to provide any kind of clear or coherent answer, if she was able to answer at all. The woman famous for her weekly chorus of “the First Minister hasn’t answered the question” during FMQs, suddenly felt that same sentiment being thrown at her by Ms. Sturgeon at every available opportunity. When it came to Ms. Lamont’s turn to ask questions to Nicola, the Deputy First Minister simply would not be pinned down, every question Johann asked was turned back on her, I wouldn’t be surprised in Johann Lamont was sweating through her teeth by the end of it. Even as a Yes supporter, I found it difficult to watch.

However, in her true tenacious, or perhaps suicidal style, the Labour Leader would not be silenced and made an appearance on Newsnight Scotland on the BBC. During an interview with Gordon Brewer she was quizzed about proposed tax and spending powers for Scotland and for the majority of the interview seemed to have completely different figures than anybody else. She also seemed to be rather unclear about what her own party’s policies actually were, a fact that Brewer was quick to jump on.

Now I will admit that Gordon Brewer annoys the hell out of me, the words ‘smug’ and ‘twat’ in various forms and permutations leap to mind when ever he appears on screen, but the fact that he was able to so easily and systematically tear Ms. Lamont to shreds does not speak well of her in this situation.

Her most recent debacle came only yesterday on the Sunday Politics Scotland show broadcast on the BBC. Speaking from the Scottish Labour conference in Perth (where she also managed to slam Alex Salmond (First Minister) and his wife simply for not having children), she was again torn down completely as she struggled to provide any kind of answer to any of the questions put to her. Every single question either resulted in her telling us that the answer would be in the 2016 manifesto or that the SNP and the First Minister and bad and that we don’t like them.

To be quite blunt, it’s been a fucking dreadful month for the Labour Party in Scotland. It’s no wonder that 24% of Labour Party members in Scotland now say that they will be voting “yes” in September, and given the incredibly poor performance from the Labour Leadership (I don’t have the time to get started on the likes of Sarwar) the Labour Party are going to need to make some serious reconsiderations if there is a “yes” vote this summer.

It’s quite clear that, following a yes vote, Labour will not survive under its current leadership, in fact, even if there is a no vote, I still can’t seem them being successful at all unless there is some serious people shuffling. Because if Johann Lamont is what the people in Scotland are being given as their option for Labour leadership, independent or not, I can only see the Labour movement in Scotland dying on its arse at the next election. As a socialist I yearn to see a real, strong Labour movement in this country and that’s something we will not get under Lamont, or indeed any of the current Scottish Labour lot.

Thanks once more for reading, and as usual feel free to get involved via the comments section below.

 

Some Links

Scotland Tonight:

Newsnight Scotland:

Sunday Politics Scotland:

Wings Over Scotland:
http://wingsoverscotland.com/transcription-for-lazy-people/

Studying, Holidays and Parties.

Hello once again, everyone. So yes, it’s definitely been a while, and I’m not really happy about it either. Frankly there has been too much going on over the past few months and I haven’t been able to simply sit down and write an entry. My course has gone from challenging to “how far can we push these kids before they break?”, curling has seemingly taken over much of my life that was left, and the holidays consisted of chasing around after family and friends going from one thing to another.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had a good few months in general, and seeing friends and family, some after quite a wee while, others for the first time, was a great way to spend the festive period. Curling so much has been great fun, it’s also been great for my game in general and I have got a greater wealth of experience in these past number of weeks that in any other season to date. But pile it all on top of my university course and then everything else that happens in between, and you have a pretty full diary.

However, I am not here to natter on about my holidays or make excuses for the long period of silence, rather I am wanting to talk about parties. No, not those parties, the holidays saw quite enough of those, I can tell you. I am talking of political parties, because regarding them, there has been quite a bit going on in the past few months. For those of you who are clued in, I was a member of the Contemporary Marxist Party until quite recently, I use the past tense because it is no longer a party; a near unanimous decision at the last meeting saw the party dissolved and reformed into a “think tank” or discussion group to be known as the “Contemporary Left”.

I was also a member of the Scottish Socialist Party for a number of months, however I chose to leave as I felt that some of the party’s ideas were perhaps not entirely sound and well enough thought through. Whilst the SSP has many good ideas, it is perhaps not the party for me, however I wish them all the best in the future and I do hope to see them do well at the next Holyrood elections.

I have spent quite a while wondering whether a political party is really the way I want to go, and if so, what do I do with that party? Work in admin and PR as I did with the CMP? Take a more front-line role such as a candidate? Or do I simply step back and move into the mire of political commentary? The latter would require me to write fairly regularly, and we’ve seen what happens when I try that. So the question now remains, what do I do, where do I go?

Well, as it happens I found another group; young, new to the political scene, still a little unsure of exactly where they need to be going, but with a real burning passion to change things for the better. It was a group that caught my eye quite quickly, a party that had one goal – to redistribute the wealth of this country and help those who need it most. Fair Equity is a very new party with a view to fielding candidates in the 2015 General Election. The main goals are to introduce a truly proportionate income tax, to nationalise key industries privatised under Thatcher and now Cameron and to end huge inheritances. One key point that sparked my interest was that all candidates would be standing for a reduced salary of £40’000 pa plus basic expenses to run a constituency office.

Whilst it is a very new party, roughly seven months old, it already has fifty members agreed to stand as candidates with well over a thousand followers on facebook. The policies may not be well developed yet, but the parties aims are good and the members simply want to make things better. So, I know find myself in the Fair Equity party, over the next wee while, I will be working with other members to help focus on some key policy areas and hopefully be a part of a real movement for change.

Well that’s about all for now, I think. I shall try and write some more stuff this year, maybe even get on top of that vlog, however having lost the cable for my camera, I may now have to use my webcam, still we’ll see how that goes. Twitter should also be a bit more lively… I really do need to get on top of this, thank god I don’t have to worry about facebook.

Anyway, as usual thanks for reading. Oh, and I’ll leave a Fair Equity poster below for you.

Fair Equity Party