It’s hard to believe it was only a few short weeks ago that Scottish Labour activists fondly laboured under the misapprehension that the Better Together campaign was one which had as its focus Scotland and the United Kingdom. The events of the past month have shown that Better Together doesn’t refer exclusively to nations, but also to political parties: namely coupling Labour’s vote in Scotland to the ideology of the Conservative Party.
Johann Lamont’s humiliating resignation as branch manager was something which, predictably for a machine politician with the vision and foresight of a particularly myopic cnidarian, she had failed to envisage. But make no mistake about this: Jim Murphy had secured the Scottish Labour Party leadership vacancy before poor Johann had the faintest idea that she was to be resigned. Better Together – funded and staffed until the end of 2014 (in comparison, Yes Scotland closed on 19th September) – staffers including Blair McDougall and Robert Shorthouse are running the Murphy campaign, and even the booking for the launch of his campaign was made under Better Together’s name.
A right-wing coup of an eviscerated Scottish Labour Party, governing a Scotland nestled smugly in the muscular arms of a Conservative-dominated United Kingdom was always the guiding goal of the Better Together campaign. It is no coincidence that the campaign was dominated by New Labour (or, if you prefer, Red Tory) figures such as McDougall, previously notable only for writing a series of letters to Scottish newspapers in 2003 demanding that his namesake Tony be allowed to bomb the civilians of Iraq in an illegal, genocidal war, to which the roots of today’s Scottish Labour collapse can be directly traced. Better Together failed to attract real Labour figures such as Denis Canavan or Henry McLeish, who either jumped ship to the Yes side with Scotland’s socialist movement, or stayed clear of the official No campaign whilst still supporting the union.
It is in this Better Together milieu of Red Tories and actual Tories that Jim Murphy found his political home. Murphy – notable for being educated at the same whites-only school in Apartheid-era South Africa which also produced Apartheid’s feared chemical weapon chief, Wouter Basson – was instantly at home in a middle-class, right-wing, neo-liberal setting: not surprising for a man who has close links with right-wing Israelis, and the extreme right US group the Henry Jackson Society.
Labour members should go into this leadership election with their eyes wide open: it has already been decided. Jim Murphy would not be giving up his seat in the Shadow Cabinet if he didn’t believe this. His campaign – lauded to the heavens by the Daily Record and Daily Mail (both of which are home to his undeclared running-mate Kezia Dugdale) - is reminiscent of the Better Together campaign itself: it’s Murphy who gets the first item on the news with the other two candidates lucky to get a response. Murphy’s campaign which controls the news agenda.
This is the last chance for socialism to prevail in the Scottish Labour Party, and it seems it has already been lost. Whilst decent Labour members have already fled during the period of Blairism and New Labour (many to the SSP), some remain, desperately trying to bring the party back to socialism. This cannot happen if Jim Murphy is in charge – which is why those who funded and supported the Better Together campaign have redirected their attentions to Murphy: including a donation of no less than £10,000 to Murphy’s leadership campaign from Conservative Party donor Alan M Sharr. Hear that dinging sound? It’s the penny dropping for the Scottish Labour activists duped into campaigning with the Tory-funded Better Together campaign that the concept of Labour and Tory being Better Together didn’t end with the referendum.
The Better Together campaign was desperate to prevent a fair, modern, redistributive Scotland. It was staffed and funded by a right-wing political elite from the halls of Westminster, from the right wing of the Labour Party and from the Conservative Party.
They did not give their time and money to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom to then see the Scottish Labour Party turn back to socialism. That is why they are now fighting for their man, the conservative candidate, Jim Murphy, to take control of the party. And that is why the socialists in Scottish Labour should be scared: for this is their last chance.