Monday, 16 May 2016

Where now for the Left in the post-Rise Scotland?

Firstly - let's be quite clear about what happened this month. Rise didn't "make a breakthrough", or "get off to a good start". It didn't "create waves" or "run a campaign to be proud of". 

Its activists can find no solace in "missing out by a whisker", nor in "winning the argument, if not the vote". Its leaders, certainly, have nothing to be proud of in running the most aggressive, paranoid, self-entitled campaign ever seen in Scottish politics. 

This general election was an unmitigated disaster for Rise. It scored just under one half of one per cent of the national vote on the List, finishing with just 10.911 votes. It was beaten into ninth place behind Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party (which scored half as many votes again as Rise), and the frankly bonkers Scottish Christian Party - Proclaiming Christ's Lordship.

On the List, it managed to defeat just the new Womens' Equality party (for whom I voted), the equally bonkers Libertarian party, an Independent, the National Front, and the Communist party. 

It was, one might say, not a vintage result. 

Results (you can scroll past this bit)

Despite unprecedented saturation coverage in the newspapers, universally positive, the Hyndland Soviet did not connect at all with its target working class voters, who rejected the Rise message - and, more to the point, messengers - in their tens of thousands. 

In Central Scotland, just 1.636 citizens voted for Rise - a province where the SSP scored 20.000 votes previously.

In Glasgow, Rise managed to finish a solitary vote ahead of A Better Britain - Unionist Party and lost to Solidarity. Just 1% of - 2.454 - Glaswegian voters thought Rise best represented them, in a province where the SSP used to get 30.000 votes and regularly beat the Tories, Liberals, Greens, and Ukip. 

In Highland and Islands, they fared even worse. A ticket with an actual sitting MSP (albeit elected as a National party member) saw them fail to reach the four-figure mark, gathering an astonishingly bad 889 votes - just less than half of one per cent. 

There was another disastrous result in Lothian where SSP leader Colin Fox topped the Rise ticket, failing to regain his seat. He came second-bottom, losing to the Womens' Equality party and getting about a fifth of Ukip's vote as again half of one per cent voted for Rise. The Greens had 35 times the Rise vote. The SSP once got over 14.000 votes in this province. Rise? 1.641.

In Mid-Scotland and Fife, the awful Jenny "Nasti" Gunn was brought down to earth with an humiliating clatter, scoring just over a thousand votes on the way to an embarrassing half of one per cent of the vote, losing to the Greens, Liberals and Ukip, and holding off Solidarity by just 24 votes. The SSP only once scored such a poor result in MSF, and also at one point got ten times as many voters as Gunn attracted. 

The story of anguish continued in North East Scotland, where they reached the top ten by less than 50 votes from the Libertarian party. They were beaten by such political luminaries as Solidarity (who got half as many votes again as the Riesling Revolutionaries), the National Front, and the Christians. The paltry 599 (less than 0,2% of the vote) votes was just half of the SSP's worst electoral performance in the province - and substantially less than the 5-figure votes the SSP used to score there. 

Southern Scotland was no better, with Rise coming rock bottom, the most unpopular political party there. Scoring a derisory 0,3% of the vote, it finished behind an Independent, and - again - behind Solidarity. The SSP never managed such a poor score there, and previously returned an MSP with a five-figure vote. 

1.522 votes was the damage in Western Scotland, ironic because demented has-been Frances Curran, when trying to persuade SSP members to suicide the party had promised an influx of "3.000 new members from Ayrshire alone". Perhaps half of them were on their holidays. Whatever happened to them, Rise came second-bottom again, thrashed by both Solidarity and the Christians, scoring just half of one per cent in a region which used to return SSP MSPs. 

Conclusion

The suicide of the SSP, forced on unwilling members by a desperate, jaded leadership, was a huge mistake. In most seats, the Rise "haul" of votes didn't manage to equal the SSP's worst-ever score. 

Yes supporters in working class seats which in the past returned SSP MSPs to Holyrood took a look at the motley collections of middle-class weirdos, creeps, student militants, bigots, and social misfits who were aggressively demanding their second votes and screeching in their faces in fast-food shops, and turned overwhelmingly to the SNP and Greens, the latter which the SSP was regularly defeating in by-elections in the halcyon period between the referendum and the hostile takeover of the party.

The leadership has turned a party which once returned MSPs from diverse regions, which once defeated Ukip, the Liberals and the Greens (and in Glasgow, the Tories), into a laughing stock party barely reaching three figures. 

Many people in the leadership of the SSP must consider their position, and it's surely unarguable that those who were the prime drivers in the suicide of the party from a position of immense strength after the referendum should not continue in positions of influence in the party. Those on the party's Executive Committee who backed Rise should resign, and let people who are genuinely loyal to the SSP and whose political careers lie in the 21st, not the 20th, Century, try and recover the party from the wreckage of Rise. 

Going Forward

Clearly, Rise will not carry on. Already, its star candidate in Glasgow has announced that she will refuse to represent the "alliance" in next year's Council elections, having spent the last six months promoting herself. It looks likely the SSP membership will vote at the conference next month to disaffiliate from Rise (most SSP members opposed the suicide of the party, but a gerrymandered conference last year coupled with a concerted infiltration of the party led to them having their party stolen from them in an hostile takeover), which will remove most of the funding and experience from Rise. 

The awful performance in this election by Rise will render the threat made by those who thought they were too good to join the SSP but wanted to infest and occupy its structures and finances - "if the SSP doesn't join us, we'll stand against the SSP" - impotent. With Rise dead, and socialism in Scotland now in a post-Rise position, the SSP is the only show in town for the Left - if it itself can recover from the civil war which has engulfed the party and led to half of its best and most experienced members walking out. 

If the SSP can't recover, though, - and if it is hamstrung by an inept and discredited leadership it's difficult to see where that recovery comes from - where does the Left go? Clearly, there's no appetite to set up a new movement. So should socialists join the National party or the Greens with the intention of pulling it to the Left?

Or - how is this for an idea. With the radical Left now in control of the Labour party at a UK level but a hard-Right administration in Scotland, why should we not seek to infiltrate and take control of Scottish Labour, drag it to the Left, and transform it into a vehicle for socialist independence?

The membership of Scottish Labour is now so low, and morale so dented, that a concerted attempt at infiltration now would almost certainly succeed. It would take little more than half a dozen activists joining each Glasgow, Central Scotland and Western Scotland constituency party to be able to take it over, deselect existing councillors, and nominate radical socialist, pro-independence candidates. 

A Leftist takeover of Scottish Labour would surely have the tacit support of the southern leadership, and would enable us to take over a party which already exists and has an electoral structure capable of winning swathes of seats in local elections. 

The post-Rise landscape of Scottish socialist politics necessitates a radical change of thought, tactics and approach. We ought at least to consider a campaign of entryism similar to the 1980s but with one huge difference in our favour: we would not be opposed with any enthusiasm or energy by a UK leadership, nor by a UK party establishment which is concentrating on its own anti-Corbyn coup. 


Friday, 6 May 2016

Where now for Scottish Labour (including Why Rise Failed)

The Westminster election last year could have been a blip, but the evisceration of Scottish Labour in yesterday's General Election shows a pattern. 

Nine years into an SNP government, the Nationalists routed Scottish Labour in their heartlands. Every seat in Glasgow lost. Former leaders and elder statesmen rejected by the electorate (but, of course, rammed in to Parliament against the will of the voters by a party which remains suffused with arrogance). 

Where 20% of the vote would, a mere half-decade ago, have been an unmitigated disaster for Scottish Labour, it is now an aspiration. It now looks like an unreachable aspiration. Scottish Labour, toxic in a way even the Tories of the 1990s didn't quite manage to reach, are despised, dismissed, and defeated. 

With every fresh electoral blow, the structures and power-bases of the party weaken further. Losing all but one of their MPs cost the party millions of pounds in funding, and lost them thousands of hours in researchers' time - people who once would have been paid activists during elections now have day jobs. The destruction of their bases in local authorities has weakened them immensely. 

Their manifesto was, arguably, the most left-wing of any major party in this election. But nobody was listening. They are now anathema to voters in Glasgow, and western Scotland, and central Scotland. Most Scots under the age of 30 would no more consider voting for Scottish Labour than they would for Ukip - a party which now, sickeningly, boasts more parliamentarians than the disintegrating Scottish Labour party.

Sure, Kezia Dugdale will have to resign. A "leader" who takes a party to its worst-ever defeat can't carry on. But replacing a worn-out party apparatchik with another didn't wash with voters when Apartheid fan and war criminal Jim Murphy was forced out, and nor will it wash now. 

Changing the toilet roll doesn't stop the stench when the u-bend is blocked. 

Scottish Labour has never gained a seat in a Scottish Parliament election. Some citizens voted in this election who were 18 months old when Scottish Labour last emerged as the largest party in Holyrood. 

They are becoming, very rapidly, a party of the past. A party your granda voted for, and your mum used to vote for, but for whom you would never consider voting for. 

It's not exactly new to comment that the referendum destroyed Scottish Labour. A generation of voters who only know Scottish Labour as the party which spent years campaigning with the Tories for the right of the Tories to rule Scotland, and whose go-to mental images of Scottish Labour are those photographs of Scottish Labour activists dancing delightedly with Tories across Scotland, are lost to them. 

When Ruth Davidson beat Murdo Fraser for the Tory leadership what seems like a million years ago, Fraser's big idea was to detoxify the Conservatives by budding off from the unpopular British party, and ditching the still-redolent Conservative name. 

Perhaps it's Scottish Labour which needs to do that. 

Now the second-biggest Unionist party, they'll see their voters who regard the Union as their main priority desert them for their Tory friends at subsequent elections. They have abrogated any hope of Yes voters reconnecting with them. They do not appeal to the under-30s with their campaign of imposing tuition fees and charging, at the point of use, for health care. 

The only way Scottish Labour can survive is a new name, a new structure, and a new attitude. 

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Another party which needs a serious look at its attitude is Rise, the SWP front which engulfed the Scottish Socialist party and took the Left to a disastrous result, scoring zero MSPs and barely more votes. 

The tone was all wrong. It came across as aggressive and entitled, arrogant and intolerant. Its activists launched streams of abuse at those who didn't join the cult, smearing those who raised concerns about is as misogynist and/or racist. 

It demanded respect, whilst refusing to take action against activists who systematically abused members and supporters of other parties and ordinary voters, and its online engagement seemed almost designed to turn people away from it.

Rise came across as a motley collection of social misfits, thugs and bigots. Its candidates ranged from those who called for the murder of journalists who didn't support the party with sufficient enthusiasm to those who called for gender-based violence, and included middle-class owners of West End pieds รก terre with little record of activism or public service. 

Its supporters, mainly found online, were intolerant, thuggish and hypocritical, and put far more voters off than it attracted. The behaviour of the self-described "Young Team" alienated people. It was unprofessional. 

Much of this could be excused by the youth and inexperience of many activists, some of whom were barely out of school (and at least one of whom had their mother write to people who criticised her to demand voters showed more sensitivity to mummy's special little foul-mouthed flower). But this should have been reigned in early by a party hierarchy which often seemed utterly paralysed in the face of crisis. 

Those in the Scottish Socialist party leadership who lied and cheated to drag Scotland's most successful Left-wing party into this doomed political nursery have blown the Left's best chance in a generation to gain parliamentary representation. 

They should now resign, and allow those who remained loyal to the SSP and warned of the inevitable, crushing failure of Rise, to try and salvage something from the wreckage.