Monday, 7 December 2015

It's no oor fault

Over the weekend there was a lengthy article in the Guardian by John Harris about Kezia Dugdale and Labour in Scotland more generally, and their chances of reviving their fortunes before next May's elections.

The first part of the article describes a First Minister's Questions session, which clearly took place some time ago since Ms Dugdale's question was about the police not responding to the crashed car containing John Yuill and Lamara Bell.  In it he says that Ms Dugdale has 'something of the rabbit in headlights about her', which is a fair description in my opinion.  Afterwards he asks her about FMQs and whether she enjoys it, and she says this:
Look, I’m acutely aware that I’ve just been an MSP for four and a bit years,” she says. “You know? I’m 34 years old. There’s a lot about life, a lot about politics, that I’m still learning. A lot of the things I’m doing as leader, I’m doing for the first time. But there are things I do know a lot about, and there are lots of things I’m incredibly passionate about: education, tackling poverty, female inequality. And on that stuff I’m 100% on my game. But I think it probably does take a wee bit of a while. She’s had 12 years more than I have.
Unfortunately this comes across as a slightly whiny 'it's not fair, she's had longer at this than I have', but it leads to an obvious question: if Ms Dugdale herself feels that she lacks experience and has a lot to learn, why did Labour in Scotland vote her in as leader?

The next part of the article goes on to describe conversations that Mr Harris has with various Scottish Labour stalwarts, including some ex-MPs, as to why Labour is doing so badly in Scotland.  Gemma Doyle, a former MP, thinks it stems from 2007, when the SNP first took power in Holyrood.  According to Ms Doyle it was Labour's failure to change their approach that is the cause of their decline, which has been caused by voters punishing Labour for not doing things differently.  Neil Findlay, on the other hand, ascribes the decline to the devastation of heavy industry in Scotland and the declining influence of institutions such as the trade unions and the church.  Oh, and also that the SNP hired some talented strategists and media-operators.  Oh, and furthermore Labour's siding with the Tories in the Better Together campaign was a big mistake.  Mags Curran, however, blames the use of social media, where the evil SNP would undermine all the fantastic doorstep work she was doing by talking to people on Facebook.

So what do Labour want now?  They want people to listen to them.  Fair enough, that's what any politician wants.  But here's the thing.  If you want people to listen to you, you have to have something they are interested to hear.  It's no good just repeating the mantra that Labour has used for decades - 'vote for us, we know what's best for working people, don't worry your heads about the details.'  In the age of the internet that is no longer going to cut it.  And the current strategy of 'SNP bad' isn't going to cut it either.  People compare what Labour are claiming with the reality of their everyday life and tend to find it doesn't match up to the Labour rhetoric.

Ms Dugdale herself claims to have seen Labour's catastrophic decline coming even before the referendum:
I was well aware that there would be a consequence for the Labour party,” she says. “I can remember speaking to a Times journalist at a lunch, saying that the rhythm of events I could see was: Scotland voting no, but then being almost angry with itself, despite feeling it was the right thing to do – and the way to articulate that anger being to kick out at the Labour party. That was before the referendum.
 So there we have it.  Scottish voters are basically using Labour as the political equivalent of kicking a dog to relieve their anger at themselves.  It's not the dog's fault, it just happens to be there.

Then we have something about Ms Dugdale's background.  There is one paragraph I found quite revealing:
I vividly remember going into my first class, on the Scottish legal system – 250 people in a lecture theatre, all banked up the stairs – and it just made me so conscious of all these privately educated kids. They all had their schools’ sporting gear on. I just felt hugely out of place. I knew within the first few weeks of starting that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.
 So let's see.  Ms Dugdale's current bee in her bonnet is about how the professions are dominated by those educated privately.  However, the fact that Ms Dugdale herself was accepted into a law degree at Aberdeen would suggest that it isn't a closed shop by any manner of means.  She seems to imply that she didn't want to be a lawyer because there were too many privately-educated students on her course.  One rather suspects, however, that the fact that studying the law requires attention to detail may have been her downfall, since she seems to be often lacking that sort of rigour in FMQs, leading to frequent embarrassment when she is yet again proven wrong on a point of detail, for example this week when she made a big song and dance about the environmental impact of the FM flying to a climate change conference, only to be told that the FM would be travelling by train.  Another example is this:
Because I think [Nicola Sturgeon]’s a bit of a late convert to feminism. I think it’s something she’s adopted at a late stage, having studied Labour history and heritage. What it actually means to be a feminist… well, affirmative action, for example, the SNP have a very poor record on.
So apparently appointing a 50/50 gender split cabinet doesn't count as affirmative action then?  And Ms Sturgeon has been a feminist for rather longer than Ms Dugdale would have us believe.

The overall impressions from the article are that Labour in Scotland are still trying to blame everyone but themselves for their current predicament, they still feel that they are entitled to Scottish votes by default and Ms Dugdale is probably a nice person but is seriously out of her depth being leader and is unlikely to survive as such if there is a similar wipeout of Labour MSPs in next year's Scottish elections.  I almost have the impression she was elected as the sacrificial lamb who can be easily dispensed with in that event.

Labour in Scotland are clearly still in serious denial about their decline in Scotland and may not even survive with the formation of RISE taking the far left-wing spot on the political spectrum.  Meanwhile all they can do is cry 'it's no fair' and 'it's no oor fault' and wonder why that isn't working and no-one is listening to them.

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