Monday, 27 January 2014

Scottish Labour - A pheonix waiting to arise or a damp squib?

The founding story of the Scottish Labour Party is one of socialism in the raw, of people looking out for people, of seeking a level playing field against privilege and the landed rich. It is a story which encompasses the Govan Rent Strike, the imprisoning of John McLean (though technically he was a Communist), Maxton and Hardy's speeches at the mass meeting at Glasgow Cross, Manny Shinwell and the police brutality before Glasgow City Chambers, the Clydeside Reds, Home Rule for Scotland and a panicking UK Government locking Scottish Regiments up and putting English Regiments and tanks on Glasgow's streets. It is a brave story, an inspiring story and heart warming story of a party of the people and for the people. A story the likes of Blair, Brown, Darling and now Milliband seek to play on, in Scotland.

It is also a story of betrayal of Scottish Socialists and their aims and wishes, by an English Labour Party already in the thrall of Westminster and its corridors of power, who played the game by Westminster rules, quickly dis-empowering those of Scottish Labour's impact for change, ducking the Home Rule for Scotland issue, a tale of much 'jam tomorrow'. A Westminster Labour Party that rapidly became an anathema, a disappointment and a sell out to the heroes of Scottish Labour's heady days - Hardy, Maxton and McLean. The part of the story the modern New Labour Scottish region seeks to gloss over at every occasion.

The only time post 1922 the Labour Party ever indulged in 'socialist' change was with the creation of the Welfare State and the NHS. A change which was at the pushing of a 1942 report by William Beveridge, a longstanding Liberal Party Member, the man who persuaded Llyod George to introduce the first stirrings of what is now National Insurance and the basic pension prior to the First World War. A report which became a White Paper in 1944 and converted into reality by 1948.  This is Labour's only great 'socialist policy' enactment, the only Acts which really changed the UK and the view of Westminster responsibility to and for all its electorate. Another great story for Labour but, and there is always a 'but' with Labour stories, it lasted less then three years before Labour started to unpick what they had put in place until, 66 years later, the NHS and Welfare State, a provision which should have been Labour's greatest achievement of the 20th Century is descending into a mockery and empty shell as successive UK Governments, since 1979, have undermined the Policies and Acts that were to make the UK a 'country fit for heroes'. Over the last three decades the hollowing out has accelerated, throwing more and more of both the NHS and Welfare provision to private companies. Companies who are more interested in their shareholders dividends than the service they are contracted to provide. Now it is just not Hardy, Maxwell and McLean who feel betrayed by Labour at Westminster but a wide swathe of the UK electorate.

It is into this maelstrom Labour for Independence (LfI) now pitches itself as it seeks to encompass, once more, the real founding story of the Scottish Labour Party. It seeks to enervate a political credo long soiled by vested self interest and hegemony that reaches Tammany Hall proportions in the Glasgow Council of the brown envelopes where £2,500 allegedly gets you your drinks and entertainment license, no matter the police opposition to you having one. Where the Scottish Police estimate over £2 million a year is spent by the same council on contracts with known organised crime front businesses. A Glasgow Labour Party where, according to the Glasgow Herald, everybody knows Louis Rodden; an organised crime 'insurance' enforcer and attender of Jim Murphy campaign fund raisers who '...likes to hear Dr Reid speak.'

How difficult will it be to prevent this Phoenix of a Scottish Labour Party, in LfI, going off as just another damp squib of lost opportunity for socialist leaning Scots?

The practical problems begin with reforming the current CLPs across Scotland, infused as they are with Blairites; supporting MP's and MSPs of neo-liberal intent. CLPs whose noses lie up Labour in London's backside and do what they are 'telt'. Reliant as they are on London for funding. CLPs whose MSPs toxicity to the SNP blinds them to the opportunities a Yes vote delivers to the people of Scotland. A 'Scottish' Labour Party structure in denial of its own long standing aim for an autonomous Scotland, lead by Scottish MP's whose apparent hatred of their own country has them running Scotland down in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. The hatred and fear of their own people in the words of a Murphy, a Curran, a Davidson or a Sawar ring clear to those with the wit to listen. Their own self interest is far more important than what is best for Scotland to release the potential of its people, long held back by Westminster's economic need to prop up the City of London. A Westminster reliant on the 'Subsidy Jocks' for a large chunk of England's energy, food supply and many other needs.

If the STUC jump ship and fully back LfI just what will be the cost to this new Scottish Labour Party? Will the STUC main backers - Unison and Unite - insist that certain folk are retained (like Unison's Lamont as 'Leader at Holyrood') or Unite's Colin Deans becomes Party Secretary. It is clear that STUC involvement will not come with any free lunches for LfI. What is the plan to winkle out the Blairites and their arch Trade Union rivals from the CLPs to give this new party a chance? Does anyone believe the likes of a 'Jackie Baillie' can change her political spots over night with any level of credence? How long will LfI allow these 'class traitors' with a tale of 'yon big boy made me do it!' to remain in place?

I fear the reality is the same old Labour faces will remain within the new 'Scottish Labour Party' promised by LfI and it will end up business as usual because, without a major blood letting in CLPs and across the party machine in Scotland, I can see no other resolution for folk imbedded in the party machine and whose over weaning self importance is far greater than any sense of integrity or honesty.

If all of this can be resolved between 2014 and 2016 it will be a cleaning out of the Scottish Labour Party machine of Herculean proportions - greater than the task of clearing out the Augean Stables itself. All that before even trying to shift the Scottish Labour Party back from the right of Scottish Politics and seeking to re-insert it between the Greens and the SNP where the LfI supporters wish it to be.

I am a SNP party member, on the socialist wing of the party and the new, post Yes vote, Scottish Labour Party will have a hard job convincing me it is a Phoenix rather than a damp squib. History shows a Scottish Labour Party full of good intentions which in the majority, as a party, they failed to deliver, as they become bogged down and self obsessed with their own beauty parades and internal feuds.

Alan Grogan: please prove me wrong, achieve your vision with and for LfI, create your socialist Phoenix - but I fear the history of your party is against you.


  1. Party funding has to be sorted out before the next Scottish elections.
    My preference would be for public financing on a constituency basis in order to promote plurarity of views and enhance our democracy.
    If you are prepared to go to the trouble of putting up a candidate and canvassing for his/her policies then you should receive public support.
    They could also look at 5 year elections instead of 4 to defer costs.
    The current system of he who pays the piper calls the tune will not do and that goes for just about everything else associated with the Westminster establishment.

  2. I can not see how a Scottish Labour Party, in any form, currently totally skint, up to its eyebrows in debt can avoid Trade Union money and influence in the run up to 2016. Their Tory Pals hardly have a bulging war chest reliant as they are on money via London HQ at present. The Libdems are now hovering around UKIP levels of support in Scotland.

    The SNP is not reliant on 'big donors', its main income arises from membership fees and small donations from ordinary members. This is the SNP's current strength but it has taken the last 13 years to get to this point.

    For me the real issue is a campaign funding cap over which no party can go with out loosing a percentage of any list seats as a penalty, in a system properly policed and enforced unlike the mess which is the Westminster system and with UK Government spending on propaganda against the Yes vote has already blown the Edinburgh Agreement out the water.

    I would also desire far better control and accounting of postal votes because the current system introduced by Labour would not even 'befit the worst of Banana Republic's' as a judge in a trial for a Labour postal voting fraud stated in Manchester.

    There is much needed to be done to ensure the considered will of the Scottish people remains paramount - a start will be a written constitution signed into Scots Law.