A myth that is becoming entrenched within Labour circles is that the reason the Labour Party got crushed in Scotland at the general election was because its offer was not left-wing enough. This song is sung especially by Corbynites for obvious reasons. But it is, as far anyone can feel confident of asserting why some people did or did not vote for one party or another, utter tosh.
Some will point to the “red Tory” jibe doing the rounds, but that has little to do with left or right leaning policies and everything to do with the fact that Labour was seen to be “colluding” with the Tories during the independence referendum. In other words, Miliband could have been calling for the nationalisation of all industry and the “red Tory” thing would still have been chucked around with abandon.
But I think what happened during the referendum campaign was simply the final turning point on a long journey Scotland had been making away from Labour that, again, had nothing to do with policies that were too right-wing, but rather the way Scottish Labour had conducted itself over a long period. A Labour MP during the short campaign broke the problem they were facing down beautifully. He said that if Labour were concerned about an insurgency in safe seats in say, Wales, they would know exactly what do about it. In other words, they’d know what dumping £5k or £10k extra into a constituency would do for their prospects there, and exactly how to spend that money to get the maximum benefit. But in Scotland? There was no way to even begin to know how to fight those seats. The CLPs were so moribund in parts of Scotland, they didn’t even have basic data. They had never worried about it before because, hey, why bother? The safe seats had been very safe for so long, who really needed to know where the votes were and weren’t? Until the SNP tsunami came along and then it was both suddenly relevant and far too late to do anything about.
Voters in parts of the country had their doors knocked on for the first time in either a very long time or indeed, ever. Labour had taken the Scots for granted since the collapse of the Tory vote post-Thatcher and eventually Scotland woke up to this fact and voted for someone else. That’s why Labour lost Scotland; not because Miliband didn’t present policies that were sufficiently leftist.
If Labour does go full on communist at the close of this leadership contest (and there’s a man in a Lenin hat who would be perfect for the job), one of things that will probably be most disappointing come the next general election is that in the midst of more and more of England crumbling to other parties (but mostly the Tories again), the left-wing lurch won’t even get them Scotland back again. Perhaps that’s, ironically enough, what it will take for Scottish Labour to finally begin the rebuilding process.
Duncan Chapel says
Labour lost in Scotland because it went full Unionist. It focussed its campaign on saving the union, thus alienating half the electorate, and leaving it to fight for ‘best Unionist’ with the Tories and Liberals.
Spot on, Nick, though the shock of the sclerotic nature of ScLab was painfully apparent in the indyref. If they are to recover, it will take time, community engagement and a proper analysis of the SNP’s failings as a governing party at Holyrood.
Even that may not be enough by 2020 (or 2025), of course: I expect lots of Scots to vote against indy and for the SNP as “Scotland’s voice” at Westminster for sometime yet.
Thomas Hefferin says
I think Labour’s main problem both sides of the border has to do with a lack of identity. They react to the stories written by the Tories in England and the SNP in Scotland, in an internal tug-o-war that leaves the electorate confused and wary.
Labour offered no ‘viable’ alternative to austerity. That is why they lost England. And, as you so rightly point out, choosing to side with the Tories during the Indy Ref only served to exacerbate their woes in Scotland.
I think a large proportion of the UK electorate truly wanted an alternative, however it had to be believable. What EM was offering was neither alternative enough or believable.
Only when they stop reacting and start writing their own story, thereby giving people something they can both understand and believe in, will their fortunes take a turn for the better.
Labour lost because of their immigration policy which was eventually realised by the population as being responsible for the ruination of this once great Country and their seemingly desire by some of their top MP’s wishing to lower the age of sexual consent which did not bode well with millions of voters.
it is interesting to watch many socialists look for the real reason for Labour’s disaster north of the border. Of course, there are in fact likely to be many reasons. But the one that gets no coverage In the Labour movement is that it was Labour that unleashed the street-mob politics we now have. When Scottish Conservatives were bening hounded off the streets for daring to pitch their party, Labour stood by as its ‘activists’ mobbed, hounded & harrased. I know, I was there – election after election, byelection after byelection- Hamilton, East Lothian, etc.. time and again. Any policy that thought it was smart (as Labour did for about 2 decades) to eliminate the Tories from popular politics, and not realise that shifted the center of gravity in Scotland, deserved to lose. As they say: Live by the sword…!