Monday, November 16, 2015

Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley needs to do a U turn and place himself as top of a Holyrood list, it isn’t in the interests of the Scottish Labour Party to have another election contest, the party needs stability over the next few years; he shouldn’t make promises that he might have to break, that isn’t good politics

Dear All

Politics in Scotland is in the midst of an upheaval, since the referendum, some parties have seen their fortunes plummet or stagnate. The biggest loser since the referendum has been the Scottish Labour Party. They suffered their worst result since 1918 at the General Election, many decent MPs found themselves out of office, swept away by a tsunami in a change of public opinion.

People had lost faith, especially in working class areas such as Pollok which has high unemployment and not enough of our young people making the jump and going to University. It is true that some areas of the constituency have improved, and there certainly has been a lot of private housing developments, especially towards Nitshill, Darnley and down towards Patterson Station.

In politics, if you say something you think before you commit yourself to a course of action, Alex Rowley is the Scottish deputy leader of Labour in Scotland, he has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle. He is thinking of doing a u-turn after promising not to take the automatic first place on the Mid-Scotland and Fife list for Holyrood 2016. One of the things which need to happen in Scottish Labour is a period of stability, you can’t make progress if you chop and change leaders, or they find themselves out of office because they lose their seat.

It is expected that Labour in Scotland will face a tough election in 2016 following on from their disastrous 2015 result. The scale of the result speaks for itself; it has many messages in it for Labour, the main one being change. Not superficial change, real change to win back the traditional Labour core vote. There are no safe Labour seats in Scotland anymore, that era has passed; now if you want to win public office, you have to put the work in, above and beyond the call of duty. You could do an entire year campaigning and still lose, people need to believe that their elected representative is standing up for them and looking out for their interests.

On Saturday, I was in Govan, I stay there, anyway, the Scottish Labour Party was handing out leaflets to garner support for their efforts to put pressure on Westminster to do a U turn on Tax Credits, so I handed out a few leaflets before I caught my subway to the trendy west end. I consider the Tax Credits cuts to be unfair, and badly thought out, I would like to see the Conservative Government ditch the policy.

As politics is up in the air at present, it is essential that Labour rebuild its brand, to that end, Alex Rowley needs to get a top slot on one of his party’s regional Lists for Holyrood. In an ideal world, he would fight his seat and win it, but, things for Labour aren’t ideal, far from it. When he stood for election as deputy, he made a promise, but it is a promise he shouldn’t have made, circumstances change and he should have considered what the political landscape of Scotland has evolved into, and it isn’t finished evolving yet.

Under a rule change pushed through when Jim Murphy was in charge of the party, the Labour leader and deputy are guaranteed the top places on a Holyrood List. In this case, I would say that Alex Rowley should follow the rules, and accept a top slot. There is nothing to mull over as he describes, the priorities of the party are before the priorities of the individual.

In his speech prior to being elected he said:

“I am also clear that whilst the Scottish Executive Committee has decided that whoever wins the contest will receive an automatic place at the top of the regional list for the Scottish General election; if I win the Deputy Leadership contest I would not accept this automatic placement. If the situation ever arose whereby I decided to apply for the list, I will stand as an ordinary member without any preferential treatment.”

Rowley’s change of heart; was apparently brought on by several reasons, he is unlikely to hold his Cowdenbeath seat, if the polling keeps going the way it is at present and there is no guarantee he would secure Labour’s top spot on the List if he goes through an open ranking process. So, it kinda looks like he is between a rock and a hard place, he needs to have a seat in order to continue as Scottish deputy leader or he gets bumped down to the bottom of the food chain for several years.

Although some in the Labour Party are now saying, the pledge wasn’t a big part of Alex Rowley’s campaign, it was, I remember it, clearly; he even had a press release made up announcing it to the world and his cousin.

Should he do a u turn?

Yes, he really has no choice, and yes, he will benefit from it, but the Labour Party needs stability, my take post Westminster 2015 was that Jim Murphy should have continued as leader, he didn’t have a long enough run at it, it was about 8 months. His problem post defeat was that Ken Macintosh who holds the MSP seat covering the same area didn’t want to stand down. I can’t blame him for that, he has represented the area for some considerable time, mind you, if Labour’s fortunes don’t improve, he could be wedged out of his seat as well.

I don’t go around making promises that I don’t intend to keep, too many people in politics do so, they are referred to as the ‘Hollow Men’, they don’t stand for anything except gaining power, and one of the things you have to except is that one day your time will be up with voters. Trust is still the most important thing in politics, or it should be, how can people believe in you if your word is effectively worthless? Sitting watching the 2015 election from the sidelines due to serious illness allowed me to see how the Labour Party was ‘doing south’ in their campaign, it was terrible, started off badly, full of tat about fitba, in my area people commented that they hadn’t seen Labour activists repeatedly.

It is up to Alex Rowley to make his own mind up, however, he may to do well in future to not make promises that he may not be able to keep to the public and his own members, that strategy didn’t pan out so well for Nick Clegg. One day Clegg had a political party riding high in the polls, next day when trust was broken, he condemned his party to electoral defeat. The Lib Dems now has about 8 MPs I think, it took 5 years for the voters to get their say at an election, but they didn’t forget about what Clegg done.

And payment for the Lib Dems was rather costly at the ballot box.

The Labour Party has about six months to mount a serious challenge, my advice to Alex Rowley, think quickly, you don’t have time to waste, and neither does the Labour Party.  

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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