Tuesday, 18 August 2015

I'm glad I wore my corset

... for I think my sides have split.  In today's Guardian John McTernan has provided his insight into how Kezia Dugdale can win back victory for Labour in Scotland.  It was the best laugh I've had all day.  Let's take a closer look.

“Mission: Impossible has a happy ending, right” tweeted Kezia Dugdale when she was elected leader of the Scottish Labour party. That gives you an insight into her genuine strengths as a politician: being witty, self-deprecating, at ease and, most of all, realistic.
Nice try Mr McTernan, but not entirely convincing.
 Kez knows as well as anyone that this is the second-worst time in history to be the Scottish Labour leader. (The worst was on 8 May, when Scottish Labour were reduced to one seat in Westminster.) But like all great politicians she is an optimist of the will and of the intellect. And like her colleague and friend Edinburgh MP Ian Murray, the one Labour MP who survived the tartan tsunami, Kez is a street fighter.
Ms Dugdale is a street fighter?  Her CV would suggest otherwise.  Daughter of teachers, career spent in the Labour political bubble, just when did she acquire her street-fighting abilities?  I have never heard of her making a speech to the general public or even, like her ex-boss, taking to the streets with an Irn-Bru crate.  Unless it was playing Tekken on her Playstation.  'KEZIA DUGDALE WINS!'
 Kez is the Scottish Labour party’s sixth leader in eight years. The job has taken the scalps of great Labour figures such as Wendy Alexander and Jim Murphy, so what does Kez need to do to still be standing in 2020?
Um, great Labour figures?  Really?
In the words of the old Labour party slogan: “The victory of ideals must be organised.” Dugdale has to grip the party organisation, project a modern version of the Scottish Labour party’s ideals, and plot a path back to victory.
I understood all the words, just not the sentences.
First, the party. Dugdale’s mandate was overwhelming – 72% of the vote. She must take that as an endorsement of a leadership that should run unchallenged until the next UK general election. The hard left, backed by Unite, succeeded in tearing down Jim Murphy – Kez’s predecessor.
She garnered just over 5,000 votes.  Hardly a ringing endorsement.  And Jim Murphy succeeded in bring down Jim Murphy.  Something to do with that embarrassing General Election result wasn't it?  Oh wait, I forgot.  Labour people are never responsible for failure.  Outside forces are always to blame.
They were unable to stop her and had no credible candidate to run against her, but they will constantly try to undermine her. Kez will need total control over the party machine to crush any attempt to destabilise her. The selection process for next year’s Scottish parliament elections have been reopened and her priority has to be to ensure that every single MSP elected next year is of the first rank. Look at the Scottish Parliamentary Labour party today, and that is simply not true. A team of all the talents needs to start with talent.
Watch out for the Kezinator - she'll be back!  As for the selection process for the Scottish elections being re-opened, there are a number of ex-Westminster MPs looking to hop back on the gravy train, but I'm sure it's completely unrelated.  And good luck with the talent thing.  No, really.
Second, Kez has to have a powerful policy platform. And those Labour policies have to be symbols of distinctive values. Scottish Labour’s holy trinity should be localism, pluralism and equality.
Doesn't quite trip off the tongue like 'liberté, fraternité, egalité', but you have to make do with what you've got.  Not at all sure what it means, but no doubt all will become clear.
Kez has already been clear on localism – she wants to see more powers given to the Scottish parliament, but for those powers to then be dispersed more locally and not be retained by the Scottish government. Many of the new powers the Smith Agreement determined should be devolved to Holyrood could, and should, be given to local councils. The Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Programme, for instance, should be run by Scotland’s cities – they are best placed to know their own labour markets. And schools should be run by heads, parents and councils not micromanaged by the Scottish government. Localism is a direct challenge to the centralism of the SNP who want to control or co-opt every part of Scottish life.
Any why would this be?  Because there are many Labour councils at the moment.  If you can't win at Holyrood, see if you can shift powers to where you do have influence.  Not exactly subtle. And dependent on making a good showing at the Scottish Council elections in less than two years, which is by no means a given.
Debate and dissent are to Nicola Sturgeon what holy water is to a vampire. That’s why Kez must promote pluralism – a voluntary sector, for example, free to criticise the SNP government, able to point out their appalling track record on inequality. Kez Dugdale made her name as a politician putting the issue of educational inequality on the agenda.
 I wasn't aware that a fiat had been issued preventing the voluntary sector for criticising anyone they want to.  Ah, they're not complaining, so it must be that they are being prevented of course.  Couldn't be that, all things considered, they think the current Scottish government are doing a reasonable job with the resources they have.  Still have no idea what this has to do with 'pluralism' however.
Only a handful of working-class Scottish children get grades good enough to go to elite universities. Bad enough in itself, this is a scandal from an SNP government that likes to swathe itself in social democratic rhetoric. Localism, pluralism and equality – the foundation of Kez’s politics and the basis for a profound critique of the eight years of actually existing nationalism.
This is just utter bollocks.  'Nuff said.
Third, Kez needs to show she has a route back to victory, however long – and it will be long. That route cannot avoid independence. The British Election Study showed that Scots who voted for the SNP in May did so because they support independence, not because they oppose austerity. Until the case for separation is truly dead and buried Scottish Labour can never fully recover.
Looks like Scottish Labour is a terminal case then.
So, making the economic case against independence is critical and Dugdale is good at it. She must make the case forensically in Holyrood while preparing to fight and win a second referendum. That will be hard but she will be successful, and defeat in the second referendum will be an existential crisis for the SNP and the foundation of a Labour victory.
At this point I guffawed.  Ms Dugdale good at making the case forensically?  Well unless she ups her game considerably, this ain't gonna happen, as a perusal of any of First Minister's Questions since December will demonstrate. Ms Dugdale is the mistress of the badly-researched argument and is easily flustered.

Mr McTernan would have us believe he is some sort of dark genius of politics.  This demonstrates that he has more in common with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz than Voldemort.

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