Springingtiger's Blog

And The Winners Are Labour!


wpid-wp-1402763492776.jpegThis morning I hear commentators talking as if the SNP did not win the Scottish Parliamentary Elections merely because they did not win an overall majority. The system is designed to prevent any party winning an overall majority, that the SNP did so last time was an anomaly their constituency vote, by chance hit, a sweet spot that didn’t allow the list to prevent the majority. Ordinarily the more constituency seats a party gains the fewer list seats they get. The reason the SNP is not in a majority is because they did too well. Their share of the vote is up and they won more seats than ever on the constituency list. Personally, and I am an SNP member, I am quite pleased because it means the system is working as it was designed to, to ensure no party has an overall majority so that it can’t rail-road policies through Parliament, but must secure a degree of consensus. If you want to see how parties can abuse a majority you only have to look at the unfettered extremism of the Westminster Conservative government, in Scotland we won’t allow that. The result shows that the SNP is the most popular party in Scotland, more popular than ever, but also that the system is not broken. The 2011 result was an anomaly, unlikely to ever be repeated.

The Tories are crowing about their increased support in Scotland. However Ruth Davidson’s campaign was run largely on a single issue, opposing a second Independence Referendum. The figures suggest that the Tory increase in voter share came almost entirely from Labour and Liberal Democrat unionists opposing the SNP and the perceived threat of a second referendum, there is little to suggest any endorsement of Conservative policies. Only thirty one seats in Holyrood are held by the Conservatives which means that ninety eight are held by those opposed to Conservative policies. Sixty seats are held by parties who may be called unionist although Labour is not uniformly so, which means that the majority, sixty-nine are held by parties supporting independence. Add to this the increased electoral support for parties supporting independence and the fact that most of the increase in Conservative votes came from Labour and the LibDems it shows the trend is still towards more autonomy for Scotland, but perhaps not so much that a second referendum could succeed in delivering it just now. However the movement is still in that direction.

Interestingly down south the Tories are crowing because the government wasn’t badly damaged by the results and are pointing out that a sitting government could expect to poll badly in local elections. They fail to point out that while the position of the Tories in England is only down a little, after two full terms in office SNP support is continuing to grow. People are trying to paint this as a bad result for Jeremy Corbyn. He has been leader of the Labour party for only eight months, however over the last ten months or so there has been an unprecedented, negative hate campaign by the BBC and other mainstream media against him as well as a deliberate undermining by his own members. It is interesting to reflect that had John Mann behaved towards Tony Blair the way he does towards Corbyn he would have been expelled from the party. Corbyn has held firm and Labour’s share of the vote has increased slightly, not enough, but he has passed his first major test as leader and he can build up from here. It is true that the Conservatives did gain control of some councils, not as many as they lost, but councils like Peterborough were only won because of changes made to electoral boundaries under the Conservatives. Gerrymandering is a greater threat to Labour than support for Tory policies, particularly as it now appears that twenty-six Conservatives broke the law to win their seats. It is clear that democracy itself is under attack by the Conservative Party.

So why did I say Labour are the winners? Because they are in good position from which to rebuild, especially in Scotland, and the results provide a justification for completely new start in Scotland. It is obvious that no amount of tinkering can save Labour, however if they hold their nerve, or rather rediscover the courage of their founders, they could rebuild the party with a hope of real power in 2026. I think an autonomous Labour Party making its own decisions and determining its own policies in a fraternal relationship with its neighbouring Labour Parties might well appeal to voters who want greater autonomy for Scotland. It may be by 2026 that we will have an independent Scotland in which case it makes sense to have an autonomous Scottish Labour Party ready to seize the opportunities independence would present. The strength of the SNP and the rise of the Greens demonstrates that in Scotland socialism is not a dirty word and a Labour Party freed from the legacy of Blairism should be able to recapture some of the electorate lost to the left. I don’t think Labour can fall any further so any gain from here on in is a victory and an encouragement.

Kezia Dugdale is inexperienced as a politician and as a party leader. If the Labour Party can stop treating its leaders like football managers and give Kezia time to rebuild labour she could do well. She has just come through as painful an experience as any leader will ever suffer, if she can carry on I think she will be strengthened by it. Even before the election she was showing signs of moving away from Scottish Labour’s knee-jerk opposition to anything the SNP does merely because it is the SNP doing it. Were the Labour Party to have a clear policy platform they could use it as a guide to their relationship with the SNP; supporting the SNP when they have points of agreement, opposing when they don’t and negotiating compromises when the opportunity to influence a parliamentary outcome arises. A Labour Party that also actively opposed the Tories might well win votes back particularly when it was apparent that they did so from a solid ethical base and not merely for electoral gain. No matter how roundly anyone hates Tony Blair, he knew how to perform for the cameras, Kezia needs coaching in her self presentation. She may be more intelligent, compassionate, and caring than I recognise, however every time she opens her mouth I want to shut it for her. I suspect a big part of her problem is inexperience, but also a lack of finesse. The SNP has been fortunate in having three successive leaders who can perform well in debate and in the media, the camera makes them look like leaders, Kezia has to learn how not to appear as a panicked little girl. There is nothing wrong with a politician learning how best to present themselves and represent their party, indeed it is irresponsible not to, a lesson Jeremy Corbyn might be advised to consider also. Obviously they should still be themselves and retain their integrity, it is the externals they need to work on. A backbencher can be a scatter gun like Dennis Skinner, a party leader needs to be more targeted and surgical.

Kezia and the Labour Party are so far behind the SNP that, barring disaster, the only way they can go is forward so much of the pressure is now off Kezia. A steady rebuilding of her party targeted at a good result in 2026 using the elections along the way as a guide to progress without being distracted by pundits and the media may pay dividends. If Labour can build enough momentum things may even happen sooner. Whatever happens if they do not learn from their mistakes the Labour Party will not survive and that would not be good for Scotland. We are enriched by the diversity of our politics.


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