During the Scottish independence referendum, I was lucky to get asked if I wished to go and listen to listen Gordon Brown, the first event was a Labour event held in Glasgow City Centre. As Gordon Brown was such a high profile member of the party, I thought, it would make a nice change of pace for me. The event was packed, and I have to say I was really impressed by his speech.
The biggest thing for me was his knowledge of facts and figures interwoven with his personal experiences on the doorsteps and the many hustings he had done over the years. I got the invite because I was doing Better Together in Pollok and also elsewhere. When the opportunity came to listen to him again, I decided to go to that event also in the Emirates Stadium in the East End, just like before the event and his speech were very good.
I have to say, they were highlights for me.
The fall of the Labour Party in Scotland may have caught some people by surprise, but not me; for a long time, the party was heading in the wrong direction. The resentment against the Labour Party didn’t start with the SNP and others doing the Red Tories campaign, it started decades before. People in Labour had lived off the legacy of what had been achieved by the party after the Second World War.
When the Labour Party shifted to the right, it was taken there not by the working class which created the party but by the middle class. Careerists in the party came straight out of universities to work for MPs or MSPs and then waited their turn becoming staffers and getting additional income by being councillors. These people had nothing in common with the working class.
In the local election for council, I voted and ranked pro UK candidates only, although I did vote Labour number 1, I didn’t give my second vote to the party, I ranked other people higher. The second Labour candidate didn’t get a ranking at all from me; I didn’t want to vote for Fariha Thomas.
I was going to write that I first met her at a Labour street stall in Govan, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I attended that event to help out and was roundly ignored despite being a new Labour member. I have a reputation as an activist, I wasn’t expecting a red carpet but I also wasn’t expecting a cold shoulder. I don’t know if I will volunteer to campaign for the Labour Party in this General Election, I haven’t made my mind up. I have no problem being in a losing campaign but prefer winning ones, but politics is such that you can’t always get your wish.
I would say that one of the problems in the Labour Party in Scotland, there is an ‘element’ that doesn’t make you feel welcome at all. In fact, I would say further that I didn’t enjoy my time in Pollok CLP which is why I had no problem leaving to stand as an independent. I was asked to put myself forward for selection and against my better judgement did so, even although I knew it would be a farce. Although I joined Scottish Labour, my plan was after the Holyrood campaign was to immediately leave, but I stayed to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and time drifted towards the selection process so I got roped into that as someone wanted to keep me in the party. My thoughts on Pollok CLP is that it is a shell, no one wanted to come out and work, whether this was because they didn’t like the policies, didn’t like the candidates or didn’t like the atmosphere is anyone’s guess. But in the Holyrood campaign in Govan in 2016, I was the sole Labour activist for Johanna Lamont, people did come in the last week, but by then it was too late, you could argue it was too late at the start of the short campaign but that’s another story.
Scottish Labour spends too much time not being active enough, not being able to effectively engage with voters and not able to motivate their own members to be activists. What you are seeing in Scottish Labour at present is a party which has been ran into the ground because those in charge were happy to do their agenda which by enlarge wasn’t in sync with what people wanted.
The charge of Red Tories has been run since the Scottish independence referendum; it is a label which appears to stick, at least with the Nationalist community. It wasn’t the Tories that brought in the bedroom tax, and it wasn’t the Tories who brought in the ATOS crowd which caused the benefits scandal, it was the Labour Party, or to home in and be more specific, it was the rich middle class in the Labour Party. In this General Election, Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going to do well; too much damage has been done by Labour and in Labour for him to have a viable chance of being Prime Minister.
I think, it is great that Gordon Brown is returning to the campaign trail for Scottish Labour but here is the rub, he despite his presence won’t be able to turn around Labour’s former heartlands. The reason in part is that many candidates don’t have his stature, his gravitas, his knowledge and are in some cases, like better than paper candidates. The lack of ambition by Scottish Labour is shocking, they are only targeting 3 seats, Edinburgh South, East Lothian and East Renfrewshire. When you stand back from the Labour Party, you can see a party which has lost its moral compass as it struggles to find if it even has a place in Scottish society.
Scottish Labour is said by some to be the ‘third party’ in Scotland, and things are still falling downwards as they have lost their heartlands. If you are pro UK and voting Labour chances are you are going so as part of an anti SNP strategy. I am voting Labour in the General Election, not for the party, and not for the candidate in Glasgow South West. At present, I haven’t even considered if I will even offer my services to Pollok CLP or whether I do so for someone else and/or other parties. As I said in a previous blog post, I am considering doing a ‘busman’s holiday’ for my own amusement.
One thing which caught my eye is that there will be a ‘Laird’ standing in this election, Lesley Laird, who is standing in Mr Brown’s old seat of Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, no relation just the same surname. Ms Laird is going head to head and challenging the SNP’s Roger Mullin, who had a 9,974-vote majority in 2015. The general feeling I get on the doorstep is that people aren’t flocking back to Scottish Labour, it is quite the opposite; people are drifting away and have moved on mentally to others. At an informal Labour meeting before I left the party when all CLPs were close down by the party, I said that Scottish Labour needed an ‘Nye Bevan’ moment to reset their brand.
Although Kezia Dugdale is in charge, she is struggling; her run of defeats is getting to be so embarrassing that her continuation as leader must be surely in question. I think she will hang on but the same question which haunts Jeremy Corbyn when will he stand down equally applies to her. Despite having more control of Scottish Labour and charting her own course, everything ends in abject failure.
Politics is quite simple, you listen to want people want and give it to them within reason, sadly in Scottish Labour, it is a case of not listening to people and telling them what the party is prepared to offer them even if the people. ‘Red Tory’ is a millstone round the neck of the Labour Party in Scotland, and they need to fix it. They lost the “Nationalist” working class vote and also the pro UK working class vote a remarkable achievement, there is just the bit in the ‘middle’ left and if they aren’t careful, they will end up as the ‘fourth’ party of Scottish politics.
Gordon Brown hitting the campaign trail is a boost for Scottish Labour, however, someone needs to go and fix the problems in the party; that is a backroom discussion!
George LairdThe Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University