Archive for category Parties

An appealing alternative?

A guest post today from Stuart MacLennan on the Labour Party: leadership and policy. Thanks Stu!

2ldg9znIn the couple of months that have passed since the election, I find myself increasingly despondent with our hopes for the future. It seems I’m not alone in this. I started writing this post over a month ago, but buried it for fear of seemingly like a stereotypical lefty crank. But even the noble and learned Lord Mandelson seems to share my despondency, so I felt, perhaps, it was worth commenting further upon the Leadership election presently underway within the party.

We are repeatedly told that the Labour Party has failed to “learn the lessons of the past” – which is true. Unfortunately for us, far too many people who are keen to learn those lessons have been going to the wrong classes altogether.

In the 2015 General Election, Labour suffered a double whammy, losing support on our right – to the Tories and UKIP – and on our left – primarily to the SNP, but also to other parties too. This poses a dilemma to the party. In the past we’ve suffered losses at either end, but never before in recent memory have we suffered both at the same time. How do we address this? The fact that losses to our right occurred primarily in England, and losses to our left occurred primarily in Scotland has led people to the obvious, but incorrect, answer that we need to move to the right in England, and to the left in Scotland – and that only a total separation between Scotland and England enables this.

Chasing voters is the most cynical – and usually least effective – way of doing politics. “People voted for X, so if we’re more like X then they’ll vote for us instead.” This is utter nonsense, and Scottish politics illustrates this. In response to a sizeable number of former Labour voters voting for Scottish independence, Jim Murphy sought to woo them back by being more “patriotic”. But if you vote for the SNP because you’re an existential nationalist, why on earth would you vote for Labour because they’re a bit nationalistic, but nothing like as much as the SNP? The answer is, of course, that you wouldn’t.

Nonetheless, this is the exact same approach that is advocated by fellow vote-chasing cynical Blairite, Liz Kendall. Kendall’s answer to Labour’s lack of electoral appeal is, as Yvette Cooper put it, to swallow the Tory manifesto. Think about this from the same perspective as above: if you support the Conservative position on most things, why would you vote for a party that’s basically the same, just a bit less so? The answer, again, is that you wouldn’t.

The need for an alternative

Opposition parties are at an incredible disadvantage. Not just in terms of resource (although having the machinery of the civil service to work out your policies for you is an undoubted advantage over reliance upon Short Money staffers) but because Britain is an inherently conservative country. That is not to say that the majority of Britons are ideologically right-wing, but that we are inherently suspicious of change. That suspicion can be overcome, but the strong presumption in the minds of British electors is that the devil you know is always preferable.

So the first task in winning elections from opposition is persuading voters to defy their conservative tendencies and agree that an alternative to the present government is desirable. Sometimes you can get lucky – as Tony Blair did – and find yourself up against a government of whom the electorate have grown so tired that you barely have to make this argument. David Cameron arguably benefitted from such a sentiment, as did Wilson in 1964; but this alone is not enough to propel you to Number 10. Labour undoubtedly made this case well in the late 80s, which spurred the Conservative Party – and subsequently the electorate – to agree that a change was needed (which, unfortunately for Neil Kinnock, was not him). Similar observations could be made of Tony Blair’s Government in 2005. On both occasions incumbent governments of whom the electorate had grown tired were not challenged by opposition alternatives that the electorate found remotely attractive.

In 2015, contrary to the “Red Ed” dogma that appears to permeate the Blairite right since the election, Labour’s economic message was, in fact, a conservative one. There can be little doubting that we accepted the premise of the Conservatives’ economic message. Our own economic position was “we’ll be basically like the Tories, but shitter at it”. For this reason, we fundamentally failed the first test for winning elections from opposition – that we need an alternative. If you believe that the Tories’ approach to the economy is the right one, then why on earth would you vote for Tory-lite? Why have the shandy when you can have Special Brew? On this basis, Labour fundamentally failed to persuade the electorate that an alternative to the present government’s approach was either needed, nor desirable.

Therefore, once you have achieved the difficult task of persuading the electorate that an alternative to the present government is required, you then have to persuade them that you are an appealing alternative. The prerequisite of this step is that you actually have to be an alternative.

The need for an appealing alternative

Having made it through stage one – either by accident or by design – it then follows that you have to adequately meet the second test. That is to say, that the electorate, now convinced of the need for an alternative to the present officeholders, have to believe that you are the alternative that they crave. Failing this second test will result in people either plumping for what they know, or those who crave a change looking elsewhere. So it’s not simply enough to be an alternative, you have to be an appealing alternative.

In 2015, Labour suffered the catastrophic double-whammy of failing both tests.

As I detailed above, by the mid-90s Labour did not have to do very much to persuade voters that an alternative was required. However, for all he was painted as a centrist, Tony Blair’s Labour was distinctive to an extent. In the same way that Wilson focused on technology and modernisation, New Labour – at the very least – embodied an energetic renewal of Britain’s stuffy politics. It wasn’t radical, though it was distinctive; and, crucially, New Labour smacked of managerial competence and personal appeal – which by this stage was the exact antithesis of John Major’s government.

It is not necessary to stray particularly far onto your opponents’ political turn in order to win office. For all his critics on his own side might have decried him for being the “Heir to Blair”, there has never been much doubt that David Cameron is planted firmly on the political right. Certainly, Margaret Thatcher never felt it necessary to embrace any part of the Labour platform in order to win office, and comfortably retain it.

But I do not advocate that was is needed is an alternative that is necessarily radical, but rather, an alternative that has mass appeal. Our platform in 2015 was anything but appealing. Our offering to the public was composed of a handful of minor platitudes to the left and right. The gist of the 2015 manifesto was:

• “Banning zero-hours contracts” – except that hardly anyone is actually on a zero-hours contract and a lot of the people who are, it turns out, actually quite like them;
• “Ending the bedroom tax” – a noble pursuit, except, again, it’s something that hardly anyone has actually been affected by;
• “Cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000?” – we’re going to cripple students with *slightly* less debt;
• “NHS” – Britain’s answer to motherhood and apple pie.

Where is the appeal to the masses? Where is the distinctive position? It’s certainly a long way from the radical platforms upon which the governments of 1945 and 1979 were elected.

Is all lost for the Kendallites?

Those adherents to the Kendall-cause aren’t entirely without hope. It might well be that – for reasons unrelated to policy – the present conservative government might become so unpopular that the electorate seeks out another conservative government – just one that isn’t run by the Tories. But unless it transpires that David Cameron and George Osborne are manifestly corrupt and/or incompetent (which they’re not) then the Liz Kendall approach to leadership – which is, ostensibly, following voters – is doomed to failure.

We cannot win elections by chasing voters and, worse still, following our opponents. It may be an article of faith to the Blairites in England, and the Trots in Scotland, but the mountain cannot come to Mohammed. To win again, we need first to convince electors that an alternative to the approach of this Conservative government is required – something you cannot do by emulation. We then need to persuade voters that we are the alternative that they crave, and we cannot do that with insipid, piecemeal policies aimed at a fraction of a percent of voters at a time.

In 1945, we fought an election ostensibly on the issue of housing. Its mass appeal is that everyone needs a house and we didn’t have enough of them. The same could be said for today. Similarly, as a population we are more mobile than ever, and evidence appears to suggest that the public are open to radical ideas with respect to transport. These are just two areas in which the potential exists for alternative approaches that appeal to the masses, and not just the fringes.

What we need is an appealing alternative. Is that too much to ask?

Labour in Scotland: past, present and future

A long read today on the history and future of the Labour Party by Tommy Kane. Thanks Tommy!

left_turn_only_by_awetumjoygasmEarlier this month the well known political commentator Peter Kellner contentiously challenged the Labour Party to ask itself ‘why it would be invented if it did not exist’. There were no such doubts about the purpose of the Labour Party when it was formed in 1900. The 129 delegates there passed Keir Hardie’s motion to establish ‘a distinct Labour group in Parliament’ and did so with the full intention of ‘promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour’.  The rationale behind the creation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), that 6 years later would become the Labour Party, was clear. They were determined that the LRC would provide political representation to working people and to fight for them within – and against – a political and economic system that hitherto had exploited them and continuously wrought misery and poverty to them, their families and their communities.

As alluded to by Kellner, 115 years later that clarity of purpose is lacking, the Labour Party is facing an identity crisis and in Scotland (arguably also in England) it is facing an existential crisis. These are integrally linked challenges. Labour’s fight for survival is undoubtedly related to the aforementioned identity crisis and a vagueness and confusion over its purpose. Complicating matters further is the divergence of worldviews and ideological terms of reference that currently co-exist within the Labour Party. From Progress and Movement for Change in one corner to the Campaign for Socialism (In Scotland) and its sister organisation, the LRC (in England and Wales), on the other it often appears the much-heralded Labour broad church is stretching the metaphor way beyond its original meaning.

May’s General Election result has understandably provoked a period of introspection in the Labour Party. In Scotland the unprecedented result, which saw all but one of Labour’s MPs lose their seats and the leadership of  the divisive Blairite Jim Murphy come to a shuddering halt after only 6 months, the Labour Party appears unsure how to stop the (apparent) SNP juggernaut.  In England Ed Miliband, despite a decently progressive prospectus which proposed limited state intervention in the energy and housing market as well as challenging the use of zero hour contracts (though still nowhere near clear enough on Labour’s purpose, not least in the confused message over austerity) has carried the can for Labour’s electoral defeat.

The unexpected but disastrous reality of five years of a destructive and cruel Tory Government has, in apportioning blame almost exclusively in the direction of Miliband, exposed the ideological divide in the Labour Party. Centrist policies that accept austerity, and based on a discourse the Tories would be proud of, have been voiced by most Labour leadership hopefuls, while New Labour apparatchiks have emerged from under their stones with attacks on Ed Miliband for being too ‘left-wing’ (if only) (a simplistic analysis without evidence, obviously based on their own biased ideological worldview and found to be flawed by pollsters such as John Curtice). All appear to be falling over themselves to centre their vision on ‘aspiration’ – code for acceptance of inequality, individualism and greed – with recipients of social security and immigrants seen as fair game and who, following the New Labour logic, seemingly don’t aspire towards enjoying a better and more prosperous life.

Some leadership hopefuls retort ‘this is what we heard on the doorstep and we must respond to it’. This type of response since the election exposes the lack of purpose and ideological incoherence by some who reside within the 2015 Labour Party. Politics is about leadership as well as listening. It is also about having an understanding of and explaining the fundamental failings (not least the growing inequality) in and of the system and its exploitative character, for example its dependence on cheap labour enabled by the (EU) free movement of Labour and its need for a pool of unemployed.

Labour should also be about offering a vision of a fairer society which would allay the genuine concerns and fears that people have. This must include a policy programme, paid for by economic policies of redistribution that invests in housing and public services, encourages and facilitates public ownership, creates jobs and makes work fairer and better paid. Labour should also be articulating a vision that sees workers and communities empowered and given control of their lives via decision-making influence over their workplaces and in their communities. Taking such an approach would also necessitate an explanation of how recipients of benefits and immigrants are victims of the system, not the cause of problems within it. Labour should be confident enough to build a narrative around a positive vision of how they want society to be and how they will achieve it: rather than the ideologically and morally timid reaction to immigration and welfare that it peddled before, during and since the General Election.

What of ‘labour’ itself? We are told by Kellner and his ilk in the political class and commentariat that the Trade Union movement is a busted flush. If that were so, why do the right wing media and Tories spend so much time attacking them? The reason, of course, is that organised labour remains the biggest threat to the system that they benefit from, defend and propagate. But the tension between the Trade Unions and some within the Labour Party is palpable. Too many, like Murphy in Scotland, appear to see the unions as a bigger enemy than the tax avoiders and tax evaders, the market rigging spivs and wide boys of the City of London. This tension is seeing that relationship almost reach tipping point; a point that is increasingly topical in Scotland. The link must be defended and sustained if Labour is to have any chance of recovery, if broken then the Labour Party, as we know it, will also be broken.

How does Labour recover from here?

So where else does Labour go from here? Nationally, Jeremy Corbyn, the first properly socialist candidate since 1988, with a clear anti-austerity and redistributive message, has got on the ballot paper for the leadership with an agenda that is clearly about challenging, not safely managing, capitalism and neo-liberal orthodoxy and for the benefit of ordinary people, both those in work and others dependent on social insurance. Corbyn offers a politics that recognises the fundamental inequality in our society, and that accepting it should never be the purpose of the Labour Party. If Labour does accept this brand of politics and austerity then Kellner is right. After all why would you need to create another party to manage the system, and oversee its reconstruction in favour of the wealth and powerful as is happening at the moment, when there is a political party already in existence that has proven fairly adept at it over the past century or two?

Nevertheless, whether he wins or not (and OMOV makes it less predictable than some are suggesting) Corbyn’s candidature illustrates, just as Neil Findlay’s leadership bid did in Scotland, the enduring strength and ideas of the left in the Labour Party, despite proclamations otherwise by the various left factions currently doing the rounds in Scotland. Albeit, it also exposes the tensions and differences that co-exist within the Party. If Jeremy Corbyn was to win (despite being a non-believer I’m almost seeking divine intervention to help make it happen) one can only imagine how the Progress wing will react? Conversely, if some of the others win, particularly Liz Kendall with her strong Blairite message, it’s safe to assume that a significant proportion of the membership and affiliates will feel doomsday has finally happened.

In Scotland the SNP finds itself in an unprecedented position of power and Labour is unsure how to react. Agreed amongst all is the need for a root and branch review of internal organisation, campaigning, policy and politics. Only with such a review, intent on clarifying Labour’s purpose can there be a base for recovery. Unfortunately, many are focused on debates over internal structures, most prominently the outgoing leader Jim Murphy who had the temerity to think he could direct the future rules of the party despite knowing he was soon to depart as leader. A ridiculous situation, akin to a football manager sacked after relegation deciding what new players the new manager would buy for the following season.

A structure that Labour in Scotland must change is its relationship with the wider UK party. Scottish Labour must, for practical as well as political reasons, make its own policies and take its own positions, perhaps a federal structure in an increasingly federal UK? New powers coming to Holyrood necessitate an autonomous Scottish Labour in some shape or form. Similarly, if Labour takes a rightward drift down south, then Labour in Scotland must be able to distance itself from that agenda. Only then can Scottish Labour take on the opportunist SNP who give an appearance of progressiveness but in essence are no such thing. That said, measures towards autonomy will only be as politically effective as Scottish Labour’s willingness to break with small c-conservativism and  make distinct Scottish Labour arguments that clearly challenge the SNP’s claims to represent a unified set of interests, between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the disempowered, in Scotland.

How Labour takes on the SNP and reacts to them is one strategic decision that Labour and its new leadership team must make immediately. It is right that where appropriate Labour should confront the SNP’s phoney socialism/social democracy (which is just another vehicle for them to achieve their ‘raison d’être’) and their regular construction of contrived grievance based on nation not class, and the division and the divisiveness that it brings. Labour should also hold the SNP Scottish Government to account, something which of course is the opposition’s job to do so, and which it’s compelled to do given the 8 years of failure in various policy areas that the SNP have presided over.

However, while the current nationalist dominance has resulted in a nasty and intolerant strain of nationalist sentiment the reality, which many in Labour must start to acknowledge, is that most SNP supporters are not part of that particular strain.  They are voters who instead have ran out of patience with a Labour Party that has, over time, disappointed and failed to inspire them. The more Scottish Labour bases its activity almost solely on having a go at the SNP and, by extension, the voters who voted for them, the more damaging it will be for the Labour Party.

To restore trust and to renew itself Labour in Scotland must also clarify its purpose with a positive vision of transformative change based on genuinely socialist policies. Labour must understand both the current and forthcoming powers coming to the Scottish Parliament and work out how best to use them to tackle the scandal that is health and wealth inequality that continues to shame Scotland. They could/should introduce emblematic policies rejecting Trident, rejecting austerity, promoting redistribution through progressive taxation, building social housing to solve the housing crisis, keeping public services public and buying back the highly questionable PFI schemes, as well as offering a vision for local government that strengthens and re-democratises it while reforming its funding arrangements. Labour must also become again a campaigning party that works hard and remains rooted in the communities it serves.

If all of this is informed and inspired by a broad understanding of the need to challenge inequality in power and wealth Labour will signal that it intends to sort itself out rather than focus on what the SNP are doing or not doing. This will send a message to the Scottish people that the Labour Party is again the party of working people as intended by Keir Hardie and his 128 comrades back in 1900. By situating itself in that historic corner, Labour will not only survive: there is no reason for it not to once again thrive in Scotland. If it doesn’t……..


Apex predator

trexSay what you like about the Tories from a policy perspective – like, they exist to protect the interests of the powerful, to redistribute wealth to the rich, etc – but their strategic prowess is frankly extraordinary.

Throughout the 20th century they were renowned as the “best election-winning machine in Western Europe”, and indeed after the Attlee government they were only ejected from office three times by Labour: 64, 74 & 97.

Blair’s three wins led to smug conclusions from the centre and left that the Tories had lost their magic touch. But everyone has an off decade from time to time, and besides (again, say what you like about him in policy terms) Blair was the master of his medium.

The Tories are back, though, and they appear to have developed a new art, or refined an old one: a trick which should give any party considering working with them good reason to think twice about it. They have become very adept at destroying their partners, and it is no mere coincidence. They know exactly what they’re doing as they do it.

First, the Lib Dems. It’s reported that, just after the coalition deal was inked, William Hague said “I think I’ve killed the Liberal Democrats“, and history has proved him right. Clegg’s spectacularly inept approach to the 2010 hung Parliament – and, prior to that, the supremacy within the party of the Orange Book brigade – meant they gleefully signed up to a Tory programme of government where very little was moderated and which John Major or even early Maggie might have regarded as too extreme.

In fact, sometimes I wondered whether the Tories pushed the Coalition’s agenda even to the right of where they wanted to be, primarily to destroy the Lib Dems. That’s a long-term aim I know many in other parties have had vaguely in mind. But no-one else could have carried it out so expertly.

What I hadn’t seen, which was hiding in plain sight, was the way in which this project would be used to deliver a Tory majority. My bet on them to win overall was a mere hunch, based on a lack of faith in the electoral system, not on good analysis of what they were up to. What the Tories worked out (and handed to Crosby to deliver) was that if they could hold Labour to a draw in England and crush the Lib Dems across the south, especially in the south-west, they could potentially convert a comfortable combined majority into a narrow one-party majority.

It’s a moment of strategic genius, and it worked perfectly. To sit chummily with the Lib Dems for five years, to let them hand you power, and all along to plan to take their seats off them by way of a thank-you: it’s cold, brutal, impressive. Last time, with the National Liberal Party, the Liberals would eventually come back. It’s unclear whether the Lib Dems will.

But to pull off two such manoeuvres in one electoral cycle is truly extraordinary, and that’s what they’ve done. The other victims were Labour, both in England and in Scotland. Scotland wasn’t designed as direct help, i.e. to provide any more Tory wins, more as a way of making Labour’s life more difficult in the event of an anti-Tory majority. But it was done the same way. Like a mafia don at the height of his powers, they kept their enemies closer.

In the case of Labour, the independence referendum was the perfect opportunity to do just that. It couldn’t have been a closer embrace: they effectively subsumed all three unionist parties into Better Together, and killed Labour with apparent affection. The Tories know how the left two thirds of Scotland see them, and they saw the opportunity to let that rub off on Labour. In fact, the aim was not just to drag Labour down with them, but in fact make Labour more hated in Scotland than the Tories. It worked a treat: remember the surprise when polls showed Cameron was less unpopular in Scotland than Miliband.

It’s the same trick as with the Lib Dems. Tory voters got mostly what they wanted out of coalition – and no-one else was surprised, that’s just how Tories are. Ditto with the independence referendum. Everyone expects the Tories to be in favour of the status quo, so they didn’t lose any credibility – in fact Ruth Davidson accrued more through a matey profile – but the way Labour worked hand-in-glove with the Tories immediately put the former people’s party squarely in the role of Betrayers of Scotland.

And again, they knew what they were doing: I bumped into a Tory MSP of my acquaintance as the post-indyref surge in SNP membership was underway after Johann Lamont’s resignation. I’ve never seen him so cheery, and he declared: “we’ve managed to make Labour look like the party of Scotland in England, and to look like the party of Westminster in Scotland”. It’s a brutal vice to squeeze them in, and I admit I only really thought about the implications for Scotland, i.e. the likelihood that Labour would take a drubbing in the election just past. I’ve been sceptical of the impact the “fear of Scotland/the SNP” message had on English votes, especially given how popular Nicola was in England after the first debate, but this fits alongside it nicely. The Tories clearly had a plan. And again, Labour helped them by endlessly trying to demonise a party which broadly occupies the same space as them on the spectrum. Every time Ed tried even more desperately to distance himself from the SNP it just helped the Tories… and the SNP. It’s the old LBJ anecdote: “I wanna hear him deny it.. on TV!”

To dip back to the Lib Dem example, the poor fools thought they could “take credit” for some of the coalition’s changes in this election, such as the surprisingly regressive personal allowance changes, and for even more absurd wins, such as things that might hypothetically have happened without them restraining the evil Tories. This too has a parallel. Scottish Labour really thought they were using Tory money to support Labour when in fact they were digging their own political graves through Better Together.

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Obviously, in Scotland the Tories’ objectives were shared with the single-minded SNP, who squeezed both Labour and the Lib Dems almost off the board. None of this is to deny the skill with which the SNP have parlayed a programme quite similar to Labour’s into a generational shift in their own favour. But this stunning SNP success was essentially a full-frontal assault, aided by Labour’s indyref mistakes, and feels like a blunt instrument compared to the Tory moves.

I’m not sure what the Tories are up to with UKIP, but it seems certain it involves looking Eurosceptic and staying in the EU, possibly even getting pro-business concessions that will make the left very uncomfortable about being on the Stay In side alongside him. Alternatively (unless Farage completes their self-destruction in time) Cameron might come back from Brussels, declare he didn’t get quite enough concessions, and end up on the same (presumably losing) side as UKIP, making them seem doubly irrelevant but uniting his party in the process. “Losing” gracefully would shut up the “bastards” and UKIP and make the Tories even safer for business. To be honest, I don’t see the threats to him either way, and whatever they’re up to I wouldn’t bet against them.

This return to strategic form by the Tories is sadly not just of academic interest. Anyone who wants to beat them needs to outsmart them (which is not the same as tacking right to meet them). And anyone considering working with them should take a quick step backwards, too, so long as they’re sure they know which direction the cliff is in.

Twenty reasons why Jim Murphy should stay as Scottish Labour leader

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Yesterday my friend John wrote a frankly pretty unhelpful piece urging Jim Murphy to leave as Scottish Labour leader. I thought I’d redress the balance with this modest list of reasons why Jim Murphy should stay. I’m sure you’ll have other suggestions: please do let me know.

  1. He’s not had long at all to get stuff done, and turfing him out now would leave the reorganisation of Scottish Labour half done at best. Give him a little time.
  2. Labour did hold Edinburgh South, after all. It’s unlikely that’s to do with Ian Murray helping to save Hearts or being probably the hardest-working of their outgoing MPs. Some polls predicted a total wipeout, so this result is actually quite a striking success.
  3. He’s got exceptionally loyal media support, especially from the Tory press. They urged Labour to support him last year, and it feels like they’d support him now even if he’d lost every vote in Scotland. They’ve got Labour’s best interests at heart.
  4. It’s probably best to write off the 2016 Holyrood elections and 2017 local elections. The focus should be 2020 and thereafter. Jim’s the man to write those two off as well, based on this result.
  5. Actually, many of the Labour MPs who lost, like Ian Davidson, Michael Connarty, and Brian Donohoe, weren’t that great and it’s probably better for Labour to start again in 2020 with more appealing candidates next time round. Everyone needs a clearout once in a while. Consider it “decluttering”.
  6. A leadership election is a distraction from winning back support, and he clearly represents stability and steady-as-you-go for Labour in Scotland. It would be self-indulgent navel-gazing to have another election. Also, if you have a leadership election you might need to reveal how many proper members Scottish Labour has, and that might be a bit awkward.
  7. He’s successfully alienated the unions. And that’s good because the unions are the worst part of Labour, everyone says. They don’t represent working people, and look how badly they stuffed up by picking Ed Miliband. Perhaps him staying will force them to disaffiliate and take all their corrupting money with them. Maybe they’ll go and corrupt the SNP or the Greens with some of it.
  8. However, he’s in touch with working class people because he loves football.
  9. The members supported him over Neil Findlay by almost 2:1. So he’s got a really strong mandate and it would be disrespectful to those members for him not to stay on.
  10. Nigel Farage is staying after all, and he lost half of UKIP’s seats, which is almost as bad as Scottish Labour’s results.
  11. Jim definitely won’t suggest splitting Scottish Labour off to be an independent party, and a strong and united Labour party winning across the UK is vital for the UK’s survival.
  12. Trident’s going to be renewed, and Labour at Westminster are going to support that. It would be unseemly and disruptive for Scottish Labour to pick a leader who was opposed to that.
  13. Tony Blair won Scotland comprehensively in three consecutive elections so it makes sense that an ultra-Blairite leader is what Scottish voters are looking for: someone who backed popular moves to introduce tuition fees, the successful Iraq war, and the market reforms the NHS so urgently needed. Keeping a Blairite in the top job will also help keep the lid on any possible Tory revival in Scotland, which is probably the biggest threat Labour faces.
  14. He’s got staff nous. He hired Blair McDougall who ensured Labour and the Tories were in lock-step for the very successful Better Together campaign, and he hired John McTernan who led Julia Gillard’s eye-catching operation in Australia.
  15. He’s really irrepressibly confident. Like when he said the Nats were lazy and Labour would win new seats. He’s like Tigger, and the public like confident leaders. Even in February he sounded like he meant it when he predicted a late swing to Scottish Labour. Who else would even consider staying on after losing so many seats? Labour would never find someone so bullish if they had to replace him.
  16. He won’t have to be distracted and spend vital time representing the people of East Renfrewshire, dealing with constituency matters or being in London speaking in debates: he can be a proper full-time leader.
  17. Relatedly, he presumably doesn’t need a salary because he played his expenses nicely and has property to let out in London and his resettlement grant to live off.
  18. Similarly, if they picked a leader who was an MSP now they’d have to do FMQs and so on, and Nicola might wipe the floor with them. Better not to take the risk.
  19. Neil Findlay doesn’t want it. Perhaps none of the MSPs want it: none of them have publicly called for him to go, presumably because they recognise this was a decent result in difficult circumstances, especially in a part of the UK where Labour have historically struggled.
  20. Also, if Labour picked a new leader from their best remaining MSPs, that person would probably come under pressure to resign in May 2016, which would look bad and further reduce the talent pool for future leadership elections.
  21. The Nats really don’t like him so they must be afraid of him. He’s also really good at heckling people back with a megaphone and riling them up and then they look really bad on telly which wins votes. And they’ll waste all their time doing satirical photoshops of him rather than campaigning.
  22. He can drink a deft can of Irn Bru (pictured above), which is gradually underminining Humza Yousaf’s personal brand on a daily basis.

Wait, that’s twenty-two reasons! I’m sure there are even more out there, so please do suggest them in the comments.

How will Labour respond to a mass extinction event?

A helpful (no really) guest post from John Nicol today. Thanks John!

Hadrosaurs graze peacefully as burning meteors fall through the sky.Thursday’s earthquake may be the best thing that’s ever happened to Scottish Labour. Quite memorably during the referendum campaign, a Yes activist followed the newly-arrived Labour bigwigs through the streets of Glasgow, blasting the Imperial March from Star Wars through a speaker and crying “Our Imperial masters have arrived!” The activist’s message could have been as much for Scottish Labour as for the Scots as a whole.

Labour’s Westminster MPs have long seen themselves as the ‘real’ politicians. In their eyes, the Scottish contingent in Holyrood were the B team, the 2nd stringers – too wee, too poor and too stupid to make it in the big boy’s game in London.

It’s a long time since James Mackenzie of this parish coined the term ‘LOLITSP’ – Leader Of Labour In The Scottish Parliament – on twitter to try and describe exactly what the relationship is between the person that most Scots see asking questions every week (and who most Scots assume runs Scottish Labour) and the rest of the party. But that person has always been hamstrung, told to stay in their box and not get too ambitious. Wendy Alexander was ousted by her own brother for having the audacity to try and set a course for Labour that hadn’t been approved by London. Johann Lamont complained of the “dinosaurs” holding her back and unable to see the reality of what was happening on the streets.

Lamont, from all accounts, was removed by a coup orchestrated by Jim Murphy and her good friend Margaret Curran. And while it was gratifying to see Creepy Jim get ousted on Friday morning – a man so odious that even Tony Blair kept him at arm’s length – it was particularly delightful to see Curran get her just desserts. She epitomised everything that is wrong with Scottish Labour. She couldn’t wait to ditch her Holyrood brethren as soon as a position in Westminster became available, to join the Big Leagues and the people who, like now former MP John Robertson admitted to the Washington Post, hardly needed to campaign at all. The self-styled elite of the party.

And now Lamont’s dinosaurs are all dead. Scottish Labour has been decapitated, and it was interesting to see Kezia Dugdale’s body language when she was standing next to Jim Murphy as he made his non-resignation head-in-the-sand speech. It reminded me of that opening scene from episode one of The Good Wife, as Julianna Margulies stood slightly off to the side and behind her politician husband as he admitted to having an affair, trying to look stoical and failing grimly.

Like the character in that show, this is the moment that Kez needs to seize, while there is a vacuum at the top. Labour’s MSPs are the only game they have in town in Scotland now, and they need to step up and reposition Scottish Labour as no longer a branch office. Scotland has muscled aside everyone else for her, and now Kezia Dugdale needs to tell Murphy some home truths and point him in the direction of the job centre.