Henry Kinloch, former councillor and Treasurer of Edinburgh Pentlands CLP, sees Labour’s current woes as the result of a combination of factors, and cautions against repeating the same thing and expecting a different answer.

Three factors have variously been put forward to explain Labour’s General Election defeat;  the Leader, the Media and Brexit.  It seems to me that no one factor can explain the scale of the defeat, rather the three factors came together to create a “perfect storm”.

As far as I remember, every Labour and every Tory leader has resigned immediately following a defeat.  The Tories in particular have been ruthless in getting rid of failing leaders.  Jeremy Corbyn did not resign in 2017 following defeat by a pretty hopeless Teresa May and went on to lead the Labour Party to a defeat which is one of the worst in living memory.  I have heard it said that repeating the same mistake and expecting a different outcome is a sign of madness. 

Reports from around the UK seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn as being very unpopular on the doorstep.  The idea that Labour won the argument but lost the election seems incredible.  We may have had the best arguments but not enough people were listening. 

This brings us to the media. The right wing press has generally attacked Labour leaders. I can remember in particular the attacks on Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband.  There seems to have been something different about it this time in terms of the level of vilification addressed at Jeremy Corbyn.  Even the BBC seems to have done Labour no favours. 

A Guardian journalist, on the Andrew Marr Show, talked about secretive, Svengali-like figures in Tory HQ who seemed to be responsible for masterminding the Tory messaging.  It seemed creepy to me.  The Tories definitely won the dirty tricks prize.  It is very worrying that so many former Labour supporters seem to have abandoned progressive, liberal policies to vote for a populist, right wing, Trump-lite, proven liar.  London, home of the much derided liberal, metroplitan elite, seem to have largely stuck with Labour.

Brexit was a very difficult issue.  Right from the beginning, before the referendum, I would have liked Jeremy Corbyn to have taken a more strong Remain position.  Following the vote there was a clear choice: to continue to campaign for Remain, which may have not been successful (it wasn’t for Jo Swinson) or to accept the result and campaign for a good deal with the EU, retaining as close alignment as possible. 

Labour’s policy was, however confused for a long time and only became reasonably clear near the election date.  There were a number of questionable decisions along the way.  Why vote to support Section 50?  Why vote for Boris Johnson’s, so called deal, which was worse than Teresa May’s deal, and an election?  Jeremy Corbyn seems to think that Johnson’s deal got rid of the possibility of “no deal” which now seems back as a possibility.

The future is very difficult, but, as I say above, making the same decisions and expecting a different result is not credible.  At Edinburgh South West level, Labour was overwhelmed by the larger national picture and Sophie did not have the opportunity to make a better impact given the length of the campaign and the timing of the election.

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9 thoughts on “A perfect storm

  1. So that is your explanation for why Labour was rejected south of the border – do you think the decline in Scotland was for the same reason or could other factors be at play? I ask as Labour in Scotland has now been replaced…it has been replaced by the SNP as the progressive, anti-Tory force in Scottish politics, and it has been replaced by the Tories as the main unionist party in Scotland. Labour is now sitting in 4th place in seats it held until 2015 and in many seats it has lost 3/4 of it vote.

    My conclusion is that Labour in Scotland needs to have a distinct reason to exist if it is to recover. Most socialists in Scotland support independence – so is the future for the Labour Party to be to seek to represent pro-UK socialists? Best of luck with that…

  2. Corbyn was almost certainly a factor, but no more so than ANY leader of the Labour Party would have been in a UK election. Every single one has had to run the gauntlet of media vilification from a predominately right-wing press. However, under his leadership, Labour garnered millions more votes than his immediate predecessors. The 2017 vote was only bettered by Blair’s 1997 landslide in the past half century or so. Even December’s vote was millions more than Milliband, Brown (especially Brown) and Blair in 2005 were able to inspire. So I don’t think “the man” was the problem.

    Undoubtedly, the overwhelming problem was Brexit. Not even Labour high-heid-yins could articulate Labour’s position on Brexit with anything like clarity. They achieved the remarkable by managing to p*ss off both Leavers and Remainers with one inscrutable policy. This allowed the Tories to convince enough of the gullible that they represented their interests in this area (despite being led by a prodigious serial liar) and thereby win formerly safe Labour seats in England.

    Let’s not let those gullible Labour voters off without some of the blame. Many of the vox pops I listened to after the election were stunning in their illustration of how stupid many of these people were. Former Labour voters in Barrow voted Tory because they were “fed up of zero-hour contracts, low pay and insecure employment” …. seriously, they did. One woman in Leigh said it was good to have a change of power as Labour hadn’t been working for them. When informed the Tories had been in power for almost a decade she exclaimed “but not in Leigh they haven’t”. Yet another in Yorkshire said he couldn’t vote Labour this time because they wouldn’t get Brexit done. When asked who he would therefore vote for he said “Lib Dems”. When faced with such wilfully, ill informed idiocy, Corbyn and Labour never really stood a chance in England.

    In Scotland the picture is different. Independence colours everything. The SNP have hoovered up much of Labour’s traditional vote while the Tories have become a single issue “Union or Death”, “Rule Brittania” parody of a political Party thus squeezing Labour into another position they cannot win from, and seem unwilling to take the required lessons from.

    So, in short, I don’t believe Corbyn was a particular problem in England or Scotland. I don’t think their “core messages” were much of a problem either. Brexit lost them the election in England and Unionism has destroyed them in Scotland. With an increasingly right-wing Tory Party in power at Westminster for at least another decade (or more), Scottish (sic) Labour’s only hope of instigating their social democratic policies in Scotland is independence. When will they learn waiting for an essentially right-wing England to come round to their way of thinking is not going to work and is not in Scotland’s best interests.

    1. Well said. Sadly Labour in Scotland would prefer to be part of a Tory UK for ever rather than be part of changing their country for the better as part of the pro-independence movement. Unless they change this position they will be squeezed down further in elections until they represent just the British Nationalist left vote in Scotland

    2. I have waited long but in vain for Scottish Labour’s offer to the Remain voting majority in Scotland. I suspect it was never clarified because it couldn’t amount to much more than saying “tough”.
      Academic now, by the looks of things.

  3. Henry you are right about the constant attacks and bias from the press on the day the manifesto came out a reviewer on the BBC papers called it Marxist left wing uncosted and would ruin the country but did not mention much of it is already available in Scotland NI and Wales .Especially Scotland
    The public for me made their minds up on Jeremy long before the election the incessant infighting the daily drip drip of bad news by so called insiders into the 24 hr news cycle .Anti Semitism and a lack of Leadership in dealing with any of it .
    We gave Boris what he wanted a general election .
    All through the last parliament we did not even look like an effective opposition never mind the government in waiting .
    We lost in 17 should have won we should have been 20 plus points in front in the polls from 17 until the election we were not we should have won did not .
    The public are not to blame its us who allowed a bunch of incompetents to get control of our party .
    Brexit I saw the problem from the day of the EU ref result Scotland NI vote remain England Wales vote leave .
    On the day of the result the Welsh FM took to the telly to ask the UK government to keep up the level of funding Wales gets from the EU .
    In Scotland we were heavily losing votes for years before Jeremy arrived .
    In 15 we lost all our MPS bar 1 blamed it on better together despite no winning did anyone including me stop to think the SNP were running an effective government in tune with peoples wishes and aspirations and were seen as willing to stick up for Scotland at Westminster .
    With Labour being seen as taking people and votes for granted .
    17 we get some ground back .Lose it all at the election .
    Do we even know why .Or what questions to ask .
    Why don’t we ask people we probably wont like the answers
    Holyrood we are third why could it be the SNP are still seen as being competent Anas Sarwar has shown what can be done with his work over the Queen Elizabeth hospital .
    Again we have to look like a competent alternative government in waiting
    Richard Leonard has what it takes but for me he needs a system that lets him and us make our own decisions and mistakes here in Scotland .That for me means a legally separate Scottish Labour party .
    On Brexit Jeremy was caught in the middle Scotland it had to be remain most of England Wales leave if you stand in the middle of the road you get knocked down and we did .
    Indy all over the place .Although I think those talks in Jeremys London office went further than we know .
    So all those reviews must rule nothing out we don’t have to agree with it but we should support the SNP Governments right to get the section 30 order the smart move would be for Boris to say ok and if Nicola delays in calling a ref we can say what are you waiting on .
    Every thing has got to be geared toward finding out what went wrong and how do we reconnect with people
    What I have said is only my opinion its a good sign this blog was written shame it had to be

    1. Hi David, a few good points in your post. I think you are spot on it suggesting that the Scottish Labour Party should be a separate legal entity. If the Labour Party is happy to not contest elections in Northern Ireland and leave it to the SDLP -a party that takes the Labour whip at Westminster- I don’t see why a similar approach can not be taken regarding Scotland. A separate Scottish Labour Party with all its own policies would have more chance than what we have just now. Of course, a separate Scottish Labour Party might decide to support a Yes vote in a second independence referendums!

  4. The scale of what has happened to Labour in Scotland is unbelievable – in many seats it held in 2015 it has lost over 3/4 of its vote. For example;
    Aberdeen South – gone from 36.5% to 8.4%
    Dumfries and Galloway – gone from 45.9% to 9.2%
    East Renfrewshire – gone from 50.8% to 12.4%
    Falkirk – gone from 45.7% to 11.1%
    Ochil and South Perthshire – gone from 37.9% to 8.6%
    Stirling – gone from 41.8% to 8.1%

    If Labour in Scotland does not sever ties with the UK party and truly become a separate party that speaks for the people of Scotland, the slide will continue until Labour in Scotland is nothing more than a footnote of history

  5. Matt and Derek thankyou for your comments .
    What I wrote is my opinion only I agree with what you both say .
    Nobody has bad feelings toward Labour unlike the Thatcher Tories .But in elections for years in Scotland we have been losing votes and elections .
    In the upcoming Leadership election along with the backstabbing we need to realize we did not win the argument we lost it .
    In the areas of England people did not lend their votes to the Tories they voted for them .
    Labour need to keep the pressure on Boris to deliver his promises ask where the money is coming from why was it not available before and if resources are being diverted from other areas campaign for those areas as well.
    In Scotland in the upcoming review everything needs to be on the table .
    We have got to realize people are voting SNP why we need to look at everything Indy we don’t need to support it but we should support the Scottish Government if they ask for section 30 etc
    I think we need to have a separate Scottish party there would be problems but I think it would transform us .
    We are still strong in local elections yet third at Holyrood .
    There is a big problem for the Scottish government with the NHS they say performance levels are better than England and we are spending record amounts .
    We say not enough .
    I say take the politics out of it why not with others form a commission to look at all problems and solutions affecting
    the NHS before its to late .
    Anyway that’s just some of what I think have a good new year everyone

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