Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Come home to Labour

Yesterday the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell gave a speech to the Labour Party Conference in which he said that Scottish voters who are against austerity should 'come home to Labour'.  In support of this he said
Let's be clear, the SNP has now voted against the living wage, against capping rent levels and just last week voted against fair taxes on Scotland to spend on schools.
A damning indictment, one might think.  What more reason would people need to vote Labour?

As ever, the devil is in the detail.  It turns out that the things that the SNP voted against were amendments to motions being debated in the Scottish Parliament, which is not quite the same thing that Mr McDonnell implies.  Evidently he, like Jeremy Corbyn, is being briefed by people from the Scottish branch of the Labour party, most likely Kezia Dugdale and/or Ian Murray.  You'd think they might be realising about now that the information they are being given is not entirely accurate.  The problem they have, however, is the people in Scotland are more aware of such shenanigans than they might have been prior to the referendum.  Which bring us neatly to the second issue.

It's becoming clear that Labour in Scotland has not yet learned the lessons of indyref and the General Election.  They still clearly believe they are entitled to expect votes from the Scottish Electorate without doing anything in particular to persuade people of their case.  While the Labour party might once have been the natural home for Scottish voters because of its support for the working classes, those days are long gone, ever since Tony Blair and the 'New Labour' revolution.  Nowadays Labour is really the party of keeping the chosen few in a well-paid career, whether that's at council, Scottish Parliament or Westminster level.  And worse, it's become obvious to the Scottish electorate that that's the case.

Kezia Dugdale announced at the party conference yesterday that she intends her party to stand on a pro-enterprise platform in the forthcoming Holyrood elections, at the same time that Mr McDonnell was announcing a review of economic policies, including measures to shift the tax burden away from middle and low-earners and a 'Robin Hood' tax on financial transactions.  Clearly Ms Dugdale is sticking with the Blairite model of Labour, while Mr McDonnell is more of an old-fashioned Labour politician. I can't see how the two are going to square that particular circle, and it will be an interesting test of just how autonomous the Scottish branch of Labour will be permitted to be.

If Labour want to avoid another wipeout at the Scottish General Election they are going to have to learn how to actually campaign for votes, rather than just telling the voters to 'come to their senses' and 'come home to Labour' without actually providing a compelling set of reasons to do so.  Mr McDonnell said he was devasted by the results in Scotland back in May.  On current form, he should brace himself for more disappointment next May unless his Scottish branch office up their game considerably.

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