Martin Hutchison is an enthusiastic Fabian interested in the underlying architecture of political thought. Here he examines the psychology of the recent election result in Scotland. This piece was first published on his own blog.
So Scotland continues to fulfil its global function as the Large Hadron Collider of political psychology, with the political electrons whizzing around at the speed of light crashing into each other with spectacular results and the creation of entirely new political structures.
If the Large Hadron Collider discovered the existence of the Higgs Boson particle provided vindication for the standard model of sub-atomic physics then is it possible that a new and powerful theory of political psychology called “the Moral Intuist Theory”, which challenges the existing standard model of political accounting, can provide credible insight into the political earthquake which struck Scotland and the wider UK in the recent General Election.
Daniel Johnson, Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh Southern in next year’s Scottish election, says a central plank of the SNP’s attack on Labour has been exposed as baseless, by Nicola Sturgeon herself. He says she must now explain why she and her party knowingly misled the public during the general election.
The SNP’s most wounding attack line against Labour during the general election was that we were signed up to £30bn pounds worth of cuts. Yesterday, in a single sentence, Nicola Sturgeon exposed this claim as utterly baseless. The honesty and integrity of her general election campaign is now seriously undermined.
We heard it time and time again. Labour had signed up to Tory Austerity, £30bn of cuts. It underpineed the charges of “Red Tory” that every Scottish Labour candidate had lobbed at them on the doorstep and at hustings. They said it so often it became almost impossible to dismiss. Except it has been exposed as untrue by Nicola Sturgeon’s own words.
Frank McAveety is a Labour councillor in Glasgow, having previously been MSP for Glasgow Shettleston. This piece was previously published in The Herald.
We Scots are often fond of telling stories and remembering battles of the past. In an election campaign that resulted in the crushing of Labour representation at Westminster – reduced to a single representative – it felt like a horrendous combination of the collateral damage of the Battle of the Somme and the leadership destruction of the Battle of Flodden.
As Labour activists sought to find some rest and consolation through shared discussion we even had a melodrama of our own, as our Scottish leader was bunkered away from public contact while his advisers rushed about searching for the remnants of the Fifth Army to prepare for a counter-offensive.
As all strategists should know, the numbers never lie. Since 1959 Labour had never fallen below 38 MP’s elected from Scotland in a general election. To have only one remaining is the most catastrophic of defeats and, even for those of us who were victims of a similar tsunami in 2011, the scale of carnage in 2015 was more than anyone could have envisaged.
Scottish voters are not thick. They recognise that the SNP want independence more than anything else. Scottish Labour must be careful not to allow itself to be portrayed as a party which puts “The Union” before all else. Within this context, Kezia Dugdale is correct to say that Labour should focus on its values if it is to recover in Scotland. Others, including Daniel Johnson, Peter Russell and Mark Davidson, have made similar points. Indeed, even Gerry Hassan’s recent overview of the political landscape in Scotland suggested that Scots want the political class to deliver on these values.
The first aim of the SNP, as outlined in its constitution, is “Independence for Scotland”. Secondary to this is “the furtherance of all Scottish interests”. There is nothing about ensuring “wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few” or being certain “high-quality public services are either owned by the public or accountable to them”. These are Labour’s values. Its constitution also ensures Labour will deliver “people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power”.
If Scottish Labour is to be the refreshed “insurgent force” called for by Kezia Dugdale in launching her leadership bid, it’s going to have to think – and act – radically about its structure and purpose. It needs to re-evaluate its current alliances and reach out to new political forces in Scotland.
The membership is aware – as it chooses its sixth leader in seven years – that there’s a long slog ahead; dealing with a decline in support stretching back over several/many years will take considerable time.
April, for Eliot, may have been the cruellest month, but for Labour in Scotland May must now take that honour.
We should be in no doubt that the verdict of the electorate delivered a once-in-a-generation shellacking (once-in-a-generation according to the conventional calendar, that is, rather than Sturgeon Referendum Time) and presents our stiffest challenge in a century.
Foremost in our mind should be our primary task: to present an effective opposition to the first majority Tory government in a quarter of a century, and to the zealously triumphant SNP at Holyrood. We must not repeat the mistakes of 2010, when the introspection of an indulgent, inward-looking leadership contest allowed the Tory-led coalition to frame the narrative of government, and set the context for the whole of the last parliament.
Scottish Labour have effectively raised the issue of poor performance in Scottish Education this week. Questions asked at by Kezia Dugdale at First Minister’s Questions and public statements have centred on the “attainment gap” and underachievement in state schools, particularly amongst students who face financial and social challenges. The Teflon comments of Angela Constance, that local councils must “own their attainment gap”, have been rightly criticised.
I am pleased that the Scottish Labour Party leaders are highlighting these issues. However, I think it must be only one aspect of Scottish Labour’s response. I want to propose a way forward for members and supporters. This model should, as far as possible, be a guideline on how we approach campaigning, and rebrand Scottish Labour as “doers”, under the heading “Scottish Labour – Transforming Scotland”. This campaign would be “Scottish Labour – Transforming Scotland’s Education”. Continue reading