Prior to Johann Lamont’s doomed leadership, there was no leader of Scottish Labour, just a Leader Of Labour In the Scottish Parliament, a mere LOLITSP. Iain Gray, a much better politician than he ever gave the impression of in that role, wasn’t the formal leader of the Scottish Labour MPs: that was still run through Westminster. And it showed.
Labour’s priority, as everyone has been observing ad nauseam, has remained on Westminster throughout, with Holyrood mistakenly regarded as a stepping stone to winning UK general elections, or in some cases, at an individual level, to a Westminster seat.
Scottish Labour MPs regarded their MSP colleagues with utter disdain, and the feeling was (with more justification) mutual. But the 2011 changes were meant to resolve that. From that point on, Johann Lamont was formally the leader of the Scottish MPs. Except Ed Miliband was her leader. And selection for Labour MPs remained with the UK party, as did their loyalty. All that had changed was a formality, a line on an organisational chart. The previous situation, although broken and in need of reform, was at least more honest.
It’s clearly not working. And giving Lamont’s successor some nebulous “more powers” over the Scottish party (sound familiar?) won’t help either. There is only one structural solution within which Scottish Labour could flourish, and, ironically, it’s closer to independence than federalism. A true Scottish Labour Party, with links to rUK Labour more akin to the partnership in Germany between the CDU and the CSU: both part of whatever the centrist ex-socialist European grouping calls itself nowadays, but closer than Labour are to the SPD or the French PS. All policy, selection, fundraising, expenditure – the lot – run in Scotland.
It’d allow a coherent set of policies to be constructed in Scotland for Scotland, perhaps an inch or two to the left of rUK Labour. It’d end the back-stabbing and sniping which have gone on since Dewar died, or at least limit it. The leader would be in Holyrood, but the group leader at Westminster would be a key role too – perhaps the deputy, until Scottish independence. If rUK Labour need Scottish Labour MPs to make a majority (or even if they don’t – up to them) they could work together just like the CDU and CSU do in Germany. Scottish Labour MPs could still serve in a UK administration. If the talent sent down was exceptional, which may be hard to imagine when you look at Brian Donohoe or Ian Davidson, maybe one amongst them could still be a good choice for a Labour PM. There might sometimes be a need for a little policy compromise if the two parties set different courses, but that’s manageable. Possibly even constructive.
The alternative is more of the same. It’s not just the Sunday Herald gloating about the party’s travails: even this weekend’s Sunday Mail editorial said it was time for change or “hell mend Labour”. In a way, of course, it’s none of my business, although this isn’t intended unhelpfully. I’ve not identified as a Labour voter since about 1992. One part of me thinks they can’t be saved, and (given the continued power of Blairism and Blairites) isn’t upset about that – but another wants to see Labour get its act back together and provide a proper opposition to the SNP. If Labour want to do that, they should be listening to Andrew McFadyen, not falling for John McTernan’s complacency. That way lies the wasteland, or even the graveyard.
@Kirsty_C Labour hegemony is normal setting.
— John McTernan (@johnmcternan) March 7, 2014