Thomas Stewart is a student from Edinburgh, who wrote to Labour Hame following the election, and we’re grateful for his permission to publish the letter.
I did not write this to gloat and rant. I wrote this to try and help you understand those who feel abandoned by you. I apologise if it rubs salt into wounds that must still be aching. I know you must have heard all of this before. I just felt I needed to say it.
Like so many who voted for the SNP on the 7th, I feel deep sorrow for what has become of Labour in Scotland. I passionately supported an SNP vote in this election and as I did for a YES vote last September (even if I was only won over to the cause of independence around this time last year).
I felt you deserved to lose almost all of your MPs and cheered excitedly as one after another 40 of them fell. You deserved to lose this election, and lose it badly, and you’ll deserve to lose next year as well. But this does not mean the end of your party
I am 22 years old, and although I was too young to vote in 2010 I would have voted Labour if I could have. More pertinently when I did vote for the first time in 2011 I voted for you. When the SNP was sweeping all before it I voted Labour. If you can’t win me back there’s no hope of you ever winning an election in Scotland in a lifetime – never mind within the foreseeable future.
I want to have a situation where I can look at Labour and the SNP on an equal footing and support whoever seems best in each individual election, but you’re not on an equal footing at the moment. The Nationalists appear better than you in every conceivable way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’m dumbfounded that as I write this Jim Murphy remains your leader – the man is poison. I’m sure you must have all known by October at the latest that the SNP were going to win a landslide, I certainly did, but there was no way it had to be anywhere near as bad as it was. You could have should have saved maybe half a dozen MPs, if you’d played a blinder you could have crept into double figures. Although the Nationalists had a great campaign, helped of course by the anti-Scottish rhetoric coming from across the border, much of this is down to Murphy himself.
I have only ever met one person, including some who were still backing Labour even this year, who thought Jim Murphy was doing a good job of leading your party. They were an ‘SNPout’ Tory supporting ultra-Unionist who ended up tactically voting Lib Dem. This is not a demographic to build upon.
Your campaign, and Murphy’s role in it, was as awful as it was inconsistent. When he was playing at being Tommy Sheridan-lite he appeared woefully insincere. When he was rambling about football and bizarre policy ideas like bringing booze back to matches he appeared ridiculous. Then in the dying day of the campaign when he returned to ultra-Unionism and second referendum ranting he appeared divorced from centre-left Scotland. You have to get rid of him, and you have to do it fast and clean.
But the biggest problem of all is that I have literally no idea who you are and what you stand for any more. If you’d asked me as recently as 2012 I’d have had an idea – even if you had problems it was clear what Scottish Labour was. Today I often wonder if you in the party even know.
Now is the time for you to look inwardly and decide who your are and what you want to be. Decide that first and then look outwardly at what the Scottish people are saying and try to see how you can fit your self image with the mood of the country. For the love of God stop defining yourself solely against the SNP – whether you like it or not they are a popular party for a reason and have stolen the clothes that you wore in the past. It is perhaps a good idea to be more like the SNP, not less.
Whilst it is not my place to say what I think your party should be I can say what I would love to see in the years to come. You don’t need to become a radical socialist party, although at least matching the SNP blow for blow on centre-left social democratic policies would be nice. You should have a structural advantage here – after this apocalyptic election its the SNP who have to appeal across society, and you can concentrate on trying to win back a niche of those open to policies further to the left than a party with national appeal can reach. Don’t tell me you do this right now. You don’t.
You don’t need to change your view on independence. Although I disagree with you that doesn’t mean I will always vote for a pro-independence party even if it does mean I will almost certainly vote YES again in any future referendum.
You do need to stop defending the constitutional status quo. Its time to make the party a crusade for Home Rule, Devo-Max, whatever you want to call it – the maximum possible amount of self government for Scotland. No, that doesn’t mean the Smith Commission recommendations. If we can get an adequate measure of Home Rule in Scotland then whilst many of us will still support independence in theory, we will be satisfied not to push for it in practice. Its the only way of saving your union and doing what is right by Scotland at the same time.
You do need to get your priorities straight when it comes down to what country you represent. Enough of this Murphy era ‘Jimmy-hat faux-nationalism’. People like the SNP because their loyalty is to Scotland and nothing else, and whilst you can never match this entirely you can make it clear that for Scottish Labour, Scotland comes first and Britain a very distant second. Total separation of Scottish and London Labour would be a big step in that direction.
Accept that you are going to lose next year, and probably do worse than 2011. That ship has already sailed. This doesn’t matter, it’s more important that you begin to build for the future. If you don’t there won’t be a Scottish Labour Party worthy of the name within a decade.
I may support the SNP at the moment, but my support is conditional and I want a Labour Party capable of being a credible opposition and an alternative. You simply aren’t one at the moment, and you have to realise this fact.
You have had warnings in 2007, 2011, 2014 and now 2015. Its time to start listening.