Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ken Macintosh throws his hat into the ring and enters Scottish Labour leader race, if he wants to go out and save Scotland, he will need to address the internal issues affecting Labour, Labour doesn’t need a business as usual candidate, they need someone who is willing to take the party ‘back to bare metal’ if need be

Dear All

In September 2011 I wrote a blog post that the person, who was best suited at that point to be the leader of Scottish Labour, was Ken Macintosh.

The person who won the contest was Johann Lamont. Her tenure as Labour leader in Scotland was patchy, at the start, she didn’t do well at FMQs, however over time; it improved.

In the end, Johann Lamont was to step down, and as she left rather suddenly, she decided to take a dig at London Labour for treating Scottish Labour like a ‘branch office’.

If the leader of Scottish Labour doesn’t have total authority over the entire party in Scotland, then that is a problem. In politics like in life, you can’t serve two masters.

The problem with Scottish Labour is that some people for example on the issue of defence don’t get it, the Trident issue being a particular bugbear. Some people want to see Trident removed from Scotland, as if this will revive the party’s fortunes.

It won’t.

When Johann Lamont went for the leadership, two other people wanted the position, Tom Harris and Ken Macintosh. Tom Harris wasn’t my pick, of the candidates, he was in a bad position, he was a Westminster MP, and didn’t strike me as the type to carry Labour forward.

The other person was Ken Macintosh, I rated his chances as better than both Harris and Lamont; he spoke well on a range of topics and was a good performer on TV, which anyone who wishes to lead must have that ability. It isn’t enough to reel off facts and figures, you need something more. During the Scottish independence referendum, I was lucky to be asked to a couple of events run by Labour; the person who was the guest speaker at both events was Gordon Brown. On both occasions, he delivered very powerful speeches which changed my impression of him.

If Gordon Brown had been more like this, he wouldn’t have lost in 2010.

At one event, I listened to Johann Lamont making a speech; she talked about how everything she does was based on social justice.

Johann Lamont is the MSP for my area, one day, I went to her with a constituency case, she tossed in the bin, not in front my face, but I did get a letter telling me she wasn’t going to do anything.

And there she was telling me and the other members of the audience about her social justice credentials and about her passion for it. As I listened to her, I didn’t believe a word out of her mouth, and that is setting aside the incident of the constituency case.

No one can try and avoid the scale of Labour’s 2015 election nightmare; now Ken Macintosh is considering a bid for the Scottish Labour leadership.
Last time round he had support among members but the Unions apparently weren’t too keen on him and instead they favoured Lamont along with some MSPs.

Two of the possible challengers to Ken Macintosh would be Neil Findlay and current Deputy Leader Kezia Dugdale, so, this creates a problem for Macintosh who was pretty much sidelined in the Scottish independence referendum. One Sunday, close to the vote, my friend wanted some advice on gardening, so we ended up at B&Q in Darnley, to my surprise in one of the few weekends before the vote, who did I see, Ken Macintosh with his family. In fact in a discussion with my former resident critic ‘Hamish’ who retired from complaining on the blog, I did mention that as Sir Francis Drake had been bowling, George Laird was in a back garden.

Part of being a leader is showing commitment, so Ken Macintosh may want the trappings of leader but is he prepared to lead from the front? I am not so sure, in 2011, he seemed to be the most credible candidate. Post Lamont, he had all but disappeared never to be heard from again, of course being leader has benefits, people want to know you, and if elected, he would find himself with helpers all keen to align with him. It could also help in his attempt to hold his seat in Eastwood.

Whoever is appointed leader has a massive task ahead of them, and it cannot be ‘business as usual’ because business has gone right done the drain. Political parties rise and fall, this is Labour’s fall, and by the looks of things it will be a deep one. If there is any comfort, the same will happen to the SNP, the public just don’t full understand that they have been conned. But they will eventually click on to it, and then just as there was a backlash against Labour, there will be a backlash for the Nationalists.

Ken Macintosh’s pitch for leadership according to a source is he wants to change Scottish Labour's "angry" tone and reassert the party's values. The source also commented that Macintosh also had a focus on campaigning on bread and butter issues such as improving health care and job prospects.

Scottish Labour needs a leader with a vision, not someone who thinks that being a ‘caretaker’ or ‘middle manager’ is going to cut it with the Scottish public. Scotland has changed politically; the landscape isn’t the same as 2011, something that Ken Macintosh should reflect on if he decides to go ahead with a leadership bid.

Can Ken Macintosh wield the knife and have a cull, because the old guard has had its day, I doubt it, you could make a reasonable case that being all warm fluffy and cuddly has landed Labour in the mess it is currently in. Too much empathy towards people who once they got elected didn’t think it matter too much if they didn’t work their areas and served the very people who put them there.

One of the problems of Labour which is mirrored by the SNP is what some term the ‘red princes’, people related to elected members who get positions and candidacies, Stephen Kinnock, the newly elected MP for Aberavon and son of former Labour leader Neil, now Lord, Kinnock said there was "potentially a case" for separating the Scottish and UK parties.

That won’t solve Labour’s problem; that is the same short term thinking that got Scottish Labour into the current mess that it is in.

Scottish Labour is preparing to choose its sixth leader in eight years, so there is a consistent theme of making bad choices and then rallying around someone who isn’t up to the task and then the same scenario of failure repeats itself.

If you want to watch a movie on how to benefit from repeated failure and learn from it then I would recommend, Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, because the message that Labour needs is evolve.

Yours sincerely

George Laird

The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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