Friday, 10 July 2015

Labour's extinction event

North Lanarkshire is the birthplace of J. Keir Hardie, but more so than that is regarded as the cradle of the Labour party itself. 

Last night, voters there sent the clearest signal yet that the end of the road has been reached for Scottish Labour, the Unionist party. 

In 1990, the SDP - like Scottish Labour, a small gang of right-wingers who had publicly turned their backs on socialism and the people to disastrous effect - dissolved itself after an humiliating by-election defeat in Bootle where they came behind the Monster Raving Loony party. Bootle, in Merseyside at the height of Conservatism, was fertile ground for the SDP - but the campaign was a disaster.

What similarities to 2015. 

Thorniewood - a solid little community in the former constituency of late Labour leader John Smith - is the most fertile of fertile territories for Scottish Labour. 

The day after the first Conservative budget in two decades systematically hammered communities like Thorniewood, and with the National party in its ninth year of government, the going should have been great for Scottish Labour - even more so with no Liberal candidate. This seat had a seventy per cent first preference vote for Scottish Labour back in 2012, before the referendum campaign. It is the sort of seat where Scottish Labour traditionally install a lumpen, whey-faced nonentity to sit for the rest of his life, acting loyally on the party's instructions and holding no autonomous views of his own. 

But this is post-referendum Scotland, and this is a Scottish Labour party on the verge of extinction. 

So while Labour activists were strutting around polling stations on the day telling anyone who would listen that they would "walk" the seat, the voters were thinking and acting differently. 

While the former provost of Cumbernauld was trying to fight with Socialist activists after they reported him for illegally leafleting on council property, local children were setting about a giant cardboard cut-out of the Scottish Labour candidate. 

Make no mistake about this, Scottish Labour desperately wanted this seat. It would have been a signal that everything was fine. Everything was back to "normal". They threw the kitchen sink at it. 

UK leader Harriet Harman, a millionaire solicitor, was dispatched to the ward to knock doors and remind people of their responsibilities to the party. Gordon Matheson, council leader extraordinaire and Scottish Labour's most prominent figure in local government, was hardly out of the place. Labour's remaining elected representatives, the local MSPs, chapped doors. 

But nobody was listening.

People who once looked to Scottish Labour to defend them from the Conservatives now see the party as an indistinguishable adjunct of the hated Tories. And they know that Scottish Labour don't want to elect councillors to serve the people, but to dominate them in the cause of Unionism. To know their mission statement, just look at how they  promote themselves, what they see the primary point of their existence to be, even now, ten months after the referendum. 

Scottish Labour have convinced themselves that everything is alright. That the Westminster election which wiped them out in every community in Scotland except Morningside was an isolated event. That all of the Holyrood voter polls showing them forty or more points behind a second-term government, struggling to hold onto second place, and looking likely to emerge without a single constituency MSP, are blips. 

But like when they elected war criminal and Apartheid fan Jim Murphy as their branch manager, and tried to convince themselves that he was credible and powerful while the rest of the country were rolling around pishing ourselves laughing, their belief is based on hope, not reality. 

Why would people in a Yes-voting district like Thorniewood want to vote for Scottish Labour, a party which primary motivation is Unionism? Why would working-class voters go out in the rain to support a party was responsible for George Osborne's vile budget extending to Scotland?

The short answer is, they didn't. And they don't look like they're going to do so any time shortly. 

Scottish Labour is critically endangered. The public perception of them as Tory lite, and therefore toxic, is hardening. They have not won a Scottish parliament election in more than a dozen years. In ten years, at all levels, they have won just one solitary election (the 2010 Westminster election). 

They are about to elect Kezia Dugdale as their leader based on nothing more than a hope that Scottish voters will take to a nasty careerist whose only qualification for the job seems to be that she is a committed Loyalist. This would be a mistake. 

The Thorniewood by-election was only a council by-election on a rainy day to elect a single councillor which wouldn't change the leadership of the council. But it's a signal that the Westminster election wasn't the end of their suffering. The people - at least in Yes-voting communities - haven't tired of kicking Scottish Labour, and may have abandoned them for good. 

And If I was Scottish Labour, I'd be noting that every constituency MSP except comedy acting leader Iain Gray, rejected "leadership" candidate Ken MacIntosh, and privately-educated Elaine Murray represent seats which voted Yes last year. And I'd be trembling. 

When campaign against your own constituents, you're on borrowed time. When you join the Tories to campaign against your own electorate, you're dead.

And Scottish Labour is the party which died of shame.


  1. "When you campaign against your own constituents, you're on borrowed time. When you join the Tories to campaign against your own electorate, you're dead."

    Sums it up nicely, you could add; when you put party over people, you're gone.

  2. An excellent blog Tommy and yes Labour have curdled more stomach's with their behaviour than even they could have imagined. I doubt they even imagined in their little hermetically sealed bubble that after nearly a century of ignoring their voters they could get something so wrong.
    Trouble with Labour it has become a gang, not a political party. It exists for the gang not those it represents.
    It doesn't look like it can learn either so it can only get worse.