Labour made a catastrophic mistake in giving up on the north of Scotland, says former SNP activist MALCOLM CUNNING

 

It was 1973; I was young, innocent and had a peculiar interest in politics. I had already shocked the elderly librarian in the small fishing village where I was brought up by asking for copies of “Das Kapital” and Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”. When it came to joining a political party there was only one local possibility which appeared to match my youthful radicalism. And so it was that I joined the SNP.

I have now been a member of the Labour Party for over 30 years. Though I live in Glasgow and was proud to be a Glasgow councillor, I still regard myself as a North East loon. Not a day passes when I do not check the P&J online or the North East section of the BBC website. Sadly, the Labour Party, which consumes so much of my time and an almost equal loyalty, is a virtual irrelevance in that part of Scotland which I still call home. Any sixteen year old in Fochabers or Fettercairn with an interest in politics would make exactly the same decision today which I made all those years ago.

In the two elections of 1974 the SNP pulled off the trick of persuading a near entirety of the non Tory vote in several NE constituencies to coalesce behind the nationalist banner. I campaigned in Banffshire (for Hamish Watt, may the gods forgive me) where decades of Liberal Unionist and Conservative domination were swept aside. Though 1979 saw a brief resurgence in Tory fortunes, the SNP had breached the dam and have gone on to build a solid power base across the entirety of the North East.

In truth, most of the fisherman and farmers are little interested in Scottish nationalism. They are interested (and why shouldn’t they be?) in the protection of rural communities and rural industries. But the SNP put these issues at the forefront of their rhetoric and are assiduous in avoiding any suggestion that they are dominated by the views or priorities of the central belt. In many parts of Scotland “Glasgow rule” is as much an anathema as “Westminster rule” – perhaps more so. The SNP twigged that particular truism years ago.

On May 5 the SNP finally achieved in the central belt the same sort of victory they first achieved in the likes of Banffshire, East Aberdeenshire and Moray & Nairn in 1974. This time, of course, it is the Labour Party which has been the victim of their success and we have to be fearful that we could go the way of the Inverurie Tory: slow and terminal decline.

Inevitably, in the immediate aftermath of our defeat, the talk is of how we can win back our traditional heartlands and reinvigorate our core support. I would suggest that we perhaps look a little more widely and consider why it was that we allowed ourselves to become so dependent on the heartlands and the core. Should we not take the opportunity to develop policies, strategies and campaign activity (a new narrative, if you must,) which reaches out beyond the urban laager and appeals to a far wider geographic and social Scotland?

Rural Scotland may appear idyllic and picturesque to the day tripper but it hides real poverty and inequality. Access to housing in some rural areas is even more problematic than in the central belt. Wages, particularly for those in low skilled and manual jobs, tend to be lower, house prices are inflated by incomers and retirees, and social housing is even more difficult to come by. The traditional industries based on fishing and farming are either in decline or, in the case of farming, so heavily mechanised that they no longer provide jobs for anyone other than the tenant farmer and a few specialist contractors. I met the son of an old family friend recently, who now runs the farm on which I once picked potatoes and did other odd jobs as a boy. In the early  ’70s, in addition to dozens of seasonal casuals, the farm still employed a foreman, a shepherd, a ploughman and several other full time staff. They are all gone.

Specialist healthcare can involve round trips of over 100 miles and if there is only one secondary school within a 20 mile radius you have to hope that the local headie is getting it right because a transfer request is not a serious parental option. Even plagues that we tend to think of as quintessentially urban now blight some of our rural communities. In the fishing towns and villages of the North East coast, drug dependency is now an endemic issue. The concomitant problems of organised crime and women forced into prostitution to fund their habit are less obvious but no less real.

Labour must have a message for these communities. Independence is certainly not of itself a solution, with or without the oil.

I left the SNP in 1977 having reached the dizzy heights of being national secretary of the Federation of Student Nationalists on the same executive committee as a young Alex Salmond. I left because I came to two important conclusions that still inform my politics today. Firstly I realised that the nationalism of the SNP was in no way related to the national liberation struggles of the post-colonial era – a romantic fiction which I had accepted for far too long. Secondly I came to believe that the principles of socialism and social justice had far more to offer in terms of solutions. I believe that this holds true for the entirety of Scotland from Muckle Flugga to Gretna.

We do have many policies which are relevant to the rural areas and have, when in power at Holyrood, acted on occasion to protect and enhance rural interests. The “right to buy” legislation has reinvigorated a number of Highland and Island estates but we have signally failed to capitalise on such successes. The Labour Party in country areas throughout the UK is far more likely to be characterised as the party that legislates to stop folk from pursuing pastimes they have enjoyed for years rather than champions of rural rights.

For far too long we appear to have been happy to allow the SNP free rein in huge tracts of Scotland as long as they were beating the Tories. We held the heartlands and that is where we concentrated our efforts. Fine, put a candidate up in Banff and Buchan, (which succeeded the old Banffshire in boasting the lowest Labour vote of any Westminster constituency outside of Northern Ireland,) but measure success as holding on to our deposit.

Now that the SNP have given us a good kicking in what we have, until now, considered our own backyard, it is perhaps time to redefine the battleground and start challenging the SNP in those areas where we have failed, for well over a generation, to say anything of any meaning whatsoever.

Let Alex and the SNP be the party of nationalism; it’s our job to make the Labour Party the party of Scotland – all of it!

Malcolm Cunning is a former Labour councillor in Glasgow. He worked for Charlie Gordon MSP until May 5 and still works for Tom Harris MP. He was once chased round Turriff swimming pool by a gang of girls who mistook him for the drummer out of the Bay City Rollers.

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47 thoughts on “Confessions of a Justified Teuchter

  1. I think there are many people who joined the SNP in their youth and strangely saw the light and joined Labour around the time in the seventies when it became clear that their personal advancement would be better served in the Labour Party.

    No doubt that was not your reason, but I do wonder about the likes of George Robertson, Brian Wilson and Jack McConnell.

  2. “Firstly I realised that the nationalism of the SNP was in no way related to the national liberation struggles of the post-colonial era ”

    I couldn’t agree more! And I think that’s what your colleagues have still yet to work out.. Scottish Nationalism is a modern, progressive movement…

    1. Apart from those Nationalists who want a smaller state with lower taxes. Its a movement which has two wings – left and right in old parlance. One is made up of ex-Labour voters and the other of ex-tories. Theres nothing wrong in that, but trying to portray the nationalist movement as some kind of socialist utopia is misleading.

      1. “Its a movement which has two wings – left and right in old parlance.”

        The implication that Labour doesn’t is either disingenuous or blind. Or do you think Tony Benn and Tony Blair are birds of an ideological feather?

        1. I agree. And it would seem that Tony Blair was more right wing than even most party members thought, judging by his memoirs! My point was that you couldnt describe the SNP as modern and progressive, when it has an even wider cross section of the political spectrum amongst it.

  3. I agree Malcolm. For a long time I have been saying that our party has been too focussed on, and driven by the Central Belt – and even then the Glasgow/West of Scotland area.

    If you look at areas in Angus like Arbroath, Brechin, Montrose, you will see the big issues being Housing, Jobs, Public transport, drugs etc. These are all things we should be seen as addressing – but we have been seen as irrelevant for far too long here in the north east of Scotland. Even in the big cities like Aberdeen and Dundee we are now struggling, partly because the party has almost been cut adrift. People dont see us as being close to them.

    You touch on what party would a politically interested 16 year want to join – and up here it feels that the SNP are the only option, unless you want to be a Young Conservative. We must change and adapt and start to rebuild. My worry is that this process will take longer than we have, and we may be out of office for a long time.

    1. I’m originally from Brechin and grew up there under the Thatcher Years. I watched as my home town was decimated by her cuts and Labour has done NOTHING to help. The people there are sickened by Labour and I doubt if they’ll ever be won back to voting for them again. I can say the same for the sentiments of Forfar, Kirriemuir, Letham as well as the other Angus towns you named.

      1. But Brechin (or indeed Angus) has never voted for a Labour MP or MSP. One could look at the state of these areas now – places who have voted SNP consistently since the 1970s – and say the SNP has done ‘NOTHING’ to help them. Where were the SNP during Thatchers cuts?

        My point was that the issues that face areas like Brechin are ones we should we be campaigning on – Jobs, Housing, Pulic Transport. These are the things we should have policies which are relevant to people living in these places – showing that we arnt ignoring them. Thats what this site is all about.

        1. To my shame, Brechin was a Tory Ward when Thatcher was in power. It doesn’t change the fact that even Labour constituencies have suffered the same fate as Brechin. You only have to look at Glasgow’s poorest areas (Drumchapel, Easterhouse, Gorbals, Govan, Linthouse, Royston, Possil Park etc.) to see that having a Labour MP/MSP did nothing for the people living there. Labour talks about fairness and equality but they’ve done little to help those who voted for them. The damage Thatcher did is still highly visible in Scotland today. So what good has voting Labour ever brought to correct that damage? NONE! All Labour do is slam the SNP for wanting better for the people and blame the Tories for Labour’s inability to act responsibly when in government. Why should any Scottish voter put their trust in any Party that’s only interested in getting into Westminster and views the Scottish Parliament as less important. There’s never been a Westminster Labour government that didn’t have Scotland backing them. Why don’t Labour admit the truth that if Scotland becomes independent it will finish the Labour Party in England forever? Without the Scottish vote Labour has no future in UK or English politics.

          1. But this site is about trying to talk about these problems (both real and perceived) in Scottish Labour – and ways we can change to address them.

            I dont know Glasgow that well to say what Labour has or hasnt done to help it – I’ll leave that to Tom – but there are many things that Labour has done to help those less well off, which were opposed by Conservatives and SNP alike – such as the minimum wage.

            As it happens I dont think that the Labour party would be finished in England – it was the biggest party in England in 1997 and 2001, for instance. I think it would be a different party than now, and would be the poorer for it – but it wouldnt be finished.

          2. “there are many things that Labour has done to help those less well off, which were opposed by Conservatives and SNP alike – such as the minimum wage.”

            You’re going to have to detail for us how the SNP opposed the minimum wage.

          3. I’m confused as to why you’ve refuted a claim nobody made (that the SNP never opposed Labour), while ignoring the very specific one you were asked to support. Did the SNP vote against the minimum wage, or didn’t they?

          4. I’m pretty sure Roseanna Cunningham is in the SNP too, and she also voted Yes, so your assertion is untruthful. Unfortunately I don’t recall offhand the names of the SNP’s other MPs at the time, of which there would only have been a couple, so I can’t say what they did.

            (In any event, some of the SNP’s MPs not voting for something whose passage was an absolutely foregone conclusion – and we don’t know the reasons they weren’t there, VERY few Commons votes are participated in by all members – is a very poor definition of “opposing” it. So far we have two SNP votes in favour and two absentees, so it seems safe to assume that Mr Ruddy’s assertion of the SNP opposing the bill is simply a lie.)

          5. Ah, I’ve tracked down the SNP’s other two MPs at the time – Andrew Welsh (Angus) and Alasdair Morgan (Galloway). Both voted Yes alongside Winnie Ewing and Roseanna Cunningham. So Mr Ruddy’s claim that the SNP “opposed” the minimum wage in fact translates to four Yes votes and two absentees.

    2. Brechin’s main employers were the Matrix (formerly the Coventary Gauge and Tool), Smart Ltd (textile weaving), Duke Ltd (textile weaving) and the Cannery. All of them closed (apart from the Matrix which has a much reduced staff) as a direct result of Thatcher making it cheaper to import from Eastern Europe and giving contracts for M.O.D equipment to her capitalist friends. Brechin has never recovered. It’s an absolute disgrace to Brechin’s historic importance, it was the very centre of the foundations that Scotland was built on, it has the only complete Celtic round tower in Britain dating back to the beginnings of Scottish Christianity. It was a Cathedral City when Glasgow was scattered villages. Labour has never shown they value our heritage and have never made any attempt to help the very people who were once their most staunch supporters. My own Grandad was a member of both the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Co-operative Labour Society. He spent his entire life devoted to helping the working people and was a personal friend of Lord Boyd-Orr. The Labour Party of today bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Party he gave his life to!

  4. Perhaps in the late 70’s and 80’s it would have be fair say that Labour stood for “ the principles of socialism and social justice” and they “had far more to offer in terms of solutions. I believe that this holds true for the entirety of Scotland” However as someone in their mid 20’s who grew with Tony Blair and the “New Labour” project to suggest that’s what the party now stands for seems laughable!

  5. Aye, Malcolm, the SNP have tricked us all.

    What a load of tosh.

    The oldest reason I despise the Labour Party and the associated unions is that they hounded my father, the hardest working man you’ll ever find, out of his job because he didn’t want to be part of the union.

    Other reasons for my distaste is how they have shafted the people of Scotland for decades using corrupt practises and nepotism as a way of life.

    Throw in the embrace of nuclear weapons and illegal wars which have killed thousands and cost billions and you can see why they will NEVER get my vote.

    The SNP get my vote because they stand for the things I believe in: self determination and the financial ability to run you own affairs.

    I spend much of my working life in Norway and I see the fantastic country they have over there. They look after their people and have an oil fund for a rainy day. Basically, they run a country the way it should be run and it is a million miles away from anything that Labour could ever conceive.

    Your article is insulting and is yet another reminder, as if one was ever needed, why Labour lost big time.

    1. Dave, if you read my contribution more closely I think that you will find that it is far more critical of Labour than it is of the SNP, certainly when it comes to how we have campaigned for and promoted Labour outwith “traditional” Labour areas. When I say that “the SNP pulled off the trick of persuading a near entirety of the non Tory vote in several NE constituencies to coalesce behind the nationalist banner” it is more an admission of guilt rather than an accusation.

      We should have been able to build on a non Tory coalition in these seats back in ’74 and we should make far more effort today to address the issues and concerns of rural communities.

      That said, I strongly suspect that you are not persuadable; even if Labour ups its game in Auchenblae.

  6. Thanks for the decency of a reply.

    Our country, though, is on the threshold of exciting times.

    Four years ago, Labour were put out of power in Scotland. Now they will be out for another five and I personally doubt that they will be back after that for at least another five.

    Fourteen years without Labour is a dream come true.

    They have truly been a scourge on our country.

    1. Then why are you posting on a site which is about Labour changing itself to gain success at the next election? Seems a strange way to spend ones spare time.

      1. Hi John

        Why would you have a problem with that?

        I browse the Internet and read various papers and follow various links.

        Regards

        Dave

        1. I dont waste my time on NewsNet Scotland, or the comment pages of the Scotsman. Theres really no point, as a rational calm debate simply cant be had there – the majority of posters are nationalist and seem to hate Labour for even existing. The people who post there are not going to listen to me, I’m not going to convince anyone, so whats the point in posting.

          Thats why I was glad that this website was set up – somewhere where we can have those debates, and discuss the future direction of our party in a constructive way. Although that doesnt mean we dont want to hear the views of those in wider Scotland – indeed its vital we listen to ordinary voters – its probably dependant on how those views are presented on a Labour website. I’m not sure theres any merit in the views of someone who thinks we have been a “scourge on our country” (whilst I might disagree with many of the SNPs policies, I dont think they have been a “scourge”)- and given that, is there any point in you posting here, other than to feel good about yourself?

      2. Perhaps because there are people who would like the political centre of gravity in Scotland to shift in a certain direction – let’s say, by way of example, to the left – which would require the opposition parties to move in that direction. People who might like the opportunity to choose between two left-of-centre parties rather than only having one option.

        If you give a homeless man £10 to get into a night shelter, you probably want his life to be better. You don’t necessarily want it to be better *than yours*, but you still want it to improve, even if only because ultimately the world is a nicer place if the streets aren’t full of beggars, for everyone including the formar beggars.

        You, on the other hand, seem to be a homeless man spitting and chasing away anyone who tries to give him a tenner.

        1. No, I would rather describe it as like giving a homeless man £10 and berating him for being where he is now, and complaining that if he had done things differently, he wouldnt be homeless.

          1. Then you clearly need to realign your hatred-based attitude. Only you introduced beration of this notional homeless person into the equation. I just gave him the tenner for the night shelter and hoped it would help him get onto the right track, which is what I genuinely hope will happen to Labour.

            I and others have offered honestly constructive criticism here, and you yourself acknowledge that you HAVE to preach to other than the converted. Look where focusing on your core vote got you a month ago. So you might want to try to suppress the venomous hatred of the SNP which absolutely defines everything Labour in Scotland has done since 1999 and see if you can even briefly take the advice at face value.

            I’ll even sum it up for you in a snappy little soundbite. To have any chance of resurrecting itself as a relevant force, Scottish Labour needs to be two things it currently isn’t: Scottish, and Labour.

            Firstly, you have NO chance – none whatever – unless you separate the Scottish party from the London one. If the events of the last two elections haven’t taught you that, you’re beyond all hope. You MUST have an autonomous party, because otherwise the constant decline in the quality of personnel available to you since 1999 will only accelerate.

            UK Labour needs new talent now more than it has done in a generation, and it will suck away everyone with even a modicum of ability if all that’s available to fulfil their ambitions in the Scottish party is a silly wee pretend “leader” role.

            (An end to the blind kneejerk opposition to independence would probably also help, but that’s a whole other subject.)

            And secondly, you need to be Labour. If you travelled back in time to 1960, or 1970, or 1980 or even 1990 and described to someone a party that was:

            – committed to private enterprise rather than public ownership, to the extent of diverting billions of pounds of into private hands for the building of public infrastructure

            – horrified by the word “socialism”

            – creating thousands of new crimes and locking thousands more people up in prison

            – presiding over a huge increase in the gap between rich and poor

            – launching aggressive imperial wars

            – doing nothing to advance (or even restore) union rights

            – committed to nuclear weapons

            – artificially propping up house prices (and thereby rents) while letting social housing wither and die

            – and destroying civil liberties wholesale,

            which party do you imagine they’d think you were talking about? Labour?

            These values may be in the ascendant south of the border, but Scotland has simply never taken to them. Scotland is Old Labour to the core, and the truth you just don’t seem able to face up to now any more than you could in 2007 is that the SNP is currently far closer to Old Labour than Labour itself is.

            (That’s not to appear as if I believe the nationalists to be unreconstructed old-school socialists by any means, but by any impartial analysis – such as that of politicalcompass.org – they are FAR to the left of Labour, no matter how much you might try to twist the facts to the contrary.)

            Of course, Labour in Scotland can only move back towards its traditional values by either dragging the whole party in that direction (difficult and unlikely) or by embracing my first point.

            If you disagree with those two simple observations, so be it. I can live with the SNP being in power for the next 20 years. But unchallenged power corrupts, and I’d much rather see a principled and effective opposition keep them honest, even if that meant Labour winning sometimes. A genuinely Scottish, genuinely Labour party would hold few terrors. The current shower of tenth-rate neo-Tories is a different matter entirely.

          2. And goodness me, how could I forget:

            – demonising and persecuting the unemployed and sick

            as eloquently detailed below by John Marks?

          3. IN terms of the analogy, coming onto a Scottish Labour website, and calling them the scourge of the country, is like berating a homeless man for the situation he is in.

            As it happens, I believe in many of the things you list in your post. I think some of the things you say have gone wrong with our party are things that it has done badly. We are not so far away from each other as some might imagine – as indeed politicalcompass.org makes clear. The difference is more on the authoritarian/libertarian axis than on the left/right one. Look at my comments below on James Purnell and his welfare reforms. Incidently Political Compass put me almost exactly half way between Labour and the SNP. The Greens were the party who were most left wing – and also most libertarian. I was surprised they didnt pick up more Lib Dem votes on that basis alone.

            The problem seems to be the way in which advice is offerred. If someone says we are the scourge of the country, and they hope for us to be out of power for 14 years (if not more) and others comment that Labour has done nothing, etc, and comments are full of snide remarks, (even if you personally havnt done any of those things) its bound to get peoples backs up. The wagons circle and everyone gets defensive. I’m sure its the same when someone criticises something that Alex Salmond says. When I’ve seen helpful and constructive remarks, I’ve tried to repond to them in a heplful and friendly manner. I apologise if I havnt always succeeded.

            I want our party to be better than it is, because I believe that Scotland (and the UK) can be better than they are with Labour Government. The best way I can see to making our party better to to be inside, fighting for the change that I (and many others) want rather than outside lobbing in criticism which isnt going to be taken notice of. I’ve said elsewhere on here that what we need to do is to return to our core values, build policies based on them and do them well.

          4. “IN terms of the analogy, coming onto a Scottish Labour website, and calling them the scourge of the country, is like berating a homeless man for the situation he is in. “

            I didn’t do that, though. And come on, if you’ve got John McTernan posting here, whoever did say it can hardly be accused of lowering the tone.

          5. I have to say that McTernan isnt my favourite Labour personality. But then Labour is a broad church, we tend to allow dissenting opinion. Some might say too much.

            I never said you did say any of those things (in fact I think I specifically said you hadnt?) But others have said them. And I apologised if I had not replied in the constructive way I would have wanted to – but as I said, sometimes peoples backs are got up by the way advice is offerred.

  7. Malcolm, as a local loon you would have been more than welcome door knocking with me in St Cyrus and Inverbervie in last year’s General Election. We have not given up on the North East. And, if you look at the stats, myself and a couple of other candidates (forgive the trumpet blowing) have managed to increase the Labour vote in rural CLPs in the last couple of years. John Ruddy has done a lot to re-energise Angus CLP, and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine are brimming with enthusiasm and new ideas.

    All is not lost! But certain key things are needed; most of all consistent support and guidance from John Smith House. A realisation that rural CLPs are not just there to funnel members to the city seats, and an acknowledgement that, in the absence of an effective list strategy, WAK, Angus et al got a third list MSP in from the North East. These organisational issues need to be sorted now, so that Labour can again be seen as a viable, local campaigning force, and build towards the next elections. Policies can wait, to be honest. First we need to be recognised as a party that is listenning in the ‘shires. Any progress here would be better than a ‘eh? What are Labour doing here?’ on a Stonehaven doorstep.

    1. ” Policies can wait “?!

      Do you really think you can win the Angus vote with a few handshakes and empathic nods but no substance? With that attitude you’re going to find yourselves learning what it is to be a number in the ranks of the long term unemployed! Politics with no policies is like a duck in a desert!

      1. I should clarify – Scottish Labour should not sit back and wait for the output of a policy review before getting out there and reconnecting with rural voters. There’s no point coming up with policies for an audience you have not built links with.

        That better, Caledo-cybernatia-67?

        1. If you’d bothered to read my comments, you’d be aware of my former loyalties to the Scottish Labour Party, yet you felt the need to be impudent about my log-in name. Surely it’s voters like me you need to “woo” back instead of alienate further? Do you really think your attitude to those of us who took our support to the SNP is going to win you votes? You have made the Scottish Labour Party as toxic as the Tories and LibDems. We didn’t vote the SNP in as a “protest” we voted for them because they are the only ones listening to us and strong enough to remove Westminster’s control from Scotland.

  8. Like the author the political party I joined when young, the one I worked for, is not the one Zi now vote for.

    As a young man I believed the Labour Party was a forward looking, socialist party dedicated to ideals of equality and fairness. I soon became disabused of that notion.

    What I enountered was a machine dedicated to the Labour Party and the Labour Party alone. It may have talked about ideals, but that was a cloak for what we ended up with. Jobs for the boys, a sense of entitlement and a system of patronage (just look at the Alexander siblings for an obvious example)

    Moreover, what is socialist or forward thinking about wasting money on PFI, giving huge amounts of money to private firms, just to play an accounting trick and reassure the middle-classes that somehow you cnave services without the nation paying for them?

    What is equal or fair about demonising the sick and unemployed as Labour has done? The whole change from Incapacity Benefit to ESA is masked in terms of aid, but in reality more public money has been poured into private firms like Atos with their Assessments that no one passes but get overturned on Appeal, and the various firms with a terrible record on getting old back to work getting contracts and not the effective charities. Yes the Tories pulled the trigger, but the gun was brought out, loaded and aimed by Labour, and Labour party members and Labour appointed advisors are still there helping the process along.

    And what is there that stirred your heart into thinking “hey, presenting false evidence to Parliament, lying to Parlament, is perfectly justified as long as the beneficiaries are more private firms like Halliburton and Blackwater!” I suppose it might have distracted from the fraud Labour perpetrated on expenses as part of that culture of entitlement, or whatever you wish to describe the strange relationship between Labour and criminals in Glasgow.

    So. I don’t regret my leaving the Labour Party. It is not the Party I thought it was being brought up on tales of men like John McLean or even the elder Maxton or Shinwell and, if I want progressive policies enacted in Svotland, then it looks like my best choice is the SNP.

    1. John,
      I agree as do many within the Labour party about the things you talk about. The changes to Incapacity benefit introduced by Purnell show he isnt fit to call himself Labour, in my opinion. PFI, whilst poorly designed was a way to get new schools, hospitals and roads built without having to spend the large amounts of capital which would have needed taxes to be raised. Its hard to get things done if you get booted out of office for raising taxes.

      The iraq war is something Labour is going to have to live with, and I think Ed Milliband has started to come to terms with it. He has said that he didnt believe it was right (as did many in the Labour party still do) and several other shadow cabinet members have said that if they knew then what they knew now they would have voted differently. I think thats a fairly honest position to have. Did Tony Blair lie? I dont think so, but I think that the best spin was put on it (from their position), which is maybe close to lying.

      As to fraud and corruption, I said as soon as the Jim Devine story came out, that at best he was naive, and at worst he was a fraud – and either way he wasnt suitable to be an MP. The legal process has taken its course, as it should in all these cases. Many MPs of all parties claimed for things they perhaps shouldnt have done, in hindsight – even if they were in accordance with the rules at the time. I think it astonishing that an MP could, for instance, claim £400 a month for food, just for living in London. If they had a different job would they starve or pay for their food out of their salary? And why should they get that allowance even when parliament wasnt sitting? If any crimes have been committed by Glasgow party members or councillors, then they should face the full force of the law, like happened to Jim Devine etc.

  9. Campaigning without policies = meaningless platitudes going nowhere
    Policies without campaigning = self-interested talk shop maintaining status quo
    Urgent need for both if the new generation are not going to confine Labour to the history books.
    Urgent need for Labour to have positive presence in both towns and rural areas if we really want to be seen as a viable national alternative.

  10. I find this odd. The Labour MSP with the biggest Majority is Elaine Murray – a rural MSP.

    Whilst I know that your concern is really about the North of Scotland, it’s clear that you’re not totally out of rural Scotland as a whole.

    1. Stewart, good point and one that I did consider making in my original contribution. Dumfriesshire does prove that we can successfully campaign in rural areas. The General Sectretary of the Scottish Labour has intimate knowledge of this area. My plea would be to use the lessons learned in Dumfries and apply them to support some of the genuinely enthusiastic and able candidates who fight the good fight in Angus or Moray.

      1. Although as the campaign manager for Cathcart SNP, I hope you don’t use the lessons learned in Dumfries 🙂

        Just kidding.

        I think the main thing for you guys is tone and talent.

        The tone of the election campaign was dreadful and the lack of talent in the MSP group is evident to those not really interested in politics. Labour needs to realign itself and get away from the reactionary politics that have plagued it for too long.

        1. I’d agree that the tone was wrong during the campaign (and probably before). ON talent, I would also agree that many of our MSPs were not our best people – but how do we go about attracting them to working at Holyrood? Its easy for the SNP – governing in Holyrood (whatever the constitutional settlement) is central to their core belief. But in Labour we also want a Labour Government in Westminster as well as in Holyrood. Do you say that you cant be selected for Westminster unless you’ve fought a Holyrood campaign?

          Having said that, I think there are several of the new intake who are worth watching out for. They will make their mark over the coming months, and show that we’re not totally bereft of talent!

          Thanks for the thoughtful input, Stewart.

  11. John Ruddy,

    Genuine question, though I can fully understand if you feel it inappropriate to answer in the public domain.

    The question is whether Labour have made a grave mistake in calling the Inverclyde by-election so quickly?

    1. I dont know the local circumstances, so cant really say. There are probably arguments both for and against! I’m sure the local party have had some input into this as to their capacity for campaigning so soon after the Holyrood elections.

      If it was a by-election in my constituency, I would want to delay it a while, purely on selfish reasons. We worked really hard here, were dissapointed by the result and I for one need a bit of time to recharge my batteries (mentally and physically). However, I understand that its not fair to do that to the constituents and a swift by-election is what is needed.

      I think its been called this soon, because you cant really allow the couple of months you might normally allow due to it falling during the summer holidays. So it was either June or September. Labour chose June, which is brave, but right.

      1. I am still waiting for you to answer me on why the people of Angus (and Scotland in general) should trust Labour candidates? As Hoots McCrivvens has also pointed your down right lies about the SNP “opposing” the minimum wage legislation when in fact they voted for it to be passed, you are making yourself even more unelectable. I have shared your comments with several Angus residents and every one of them agrees you will never get their votes as a result of the way you dismissed my questions on why Labour did nothing to help our area when your party was in the Holyrood coalition or during the 13 years you were in power at Westminster.

        1. It would seem foolish for someone to dismiss voting for a party on the basis on what a single member of that party said (or didnt say) on an internet discussion site. Its not as if I was a candidate or anyone important! I would hazard a guess that these people would not have voted Labour in any circumstances.

          As I TRIED to make clear, we as a party need to take more notice of areas like Angus. We need to have policies which appeal and which address the issues people here face. It shouldnt be difficult, as the people of Angus have similar problems to people all over Scotland – lack of affordable housing, lack of well paid jobs etc. We need to show people, in Angus and elsewhere that we do care about them.

          The national minimum wage is a policy which Labour introduced which HAS helped the people of Angus as well as the rest of Scotland. The introduction of working tax credits too have helped people earning below average wages (as many people in Angus do). The Townscape Heritage Initiative, started by Labour at Westminster and at Holyrood has revitalised the centre of Arbroath and is doing so in Brechin. The massive extra funding for the NHS has made a big difference to the health of the people of Angus, whilst PPP/PFI, although not the ideal way of financing, has given the people of Angus new schools, a new hospital and a new road which they wouldnt have otherwise had.

          As for the vote on the minimum wage, I apologise for my mistake (I certainly didnt lie).

          However, I would like to ask you, what has the SNP done for Angus? Andrew Welsh was first elected in 1974. The council was SNP run for decades until 2007. The SNP have even been in power at Holyrood for 4 years. I have spoken to a great many people in Angus, and even Brechin, who say that the SNP have done nothing for them.

          1. The Labour Party when in power did bring in some good legislation and I am not disputing that but it has not made that much difference to the people of Angus’ standard of living. The hospital you mention can only be Whitehills in Forfar and it has very limited health services, most patients are still being referred to Ninewells in Dundee or Stracathro Hospital. The physio dept at Whitehills has neither the staff or the equipment to cope with the needs of local people. Also when the services provided for mental health care by Sunnyside Royal Infirmary were curtailed and essential workers from there transferred to Whitehills Hospital (my cousin is senior Occupational Health for Angus and Tayside mental health and her husband is in charge of the home visiting done via the case workers) they shut down most in-patient care and as a result many people with severe psychiatric illnesses are now relying on the case workers to help them in their own homes and quite honestly there just aren’t enough staff to cover the whole of Angus, patients are suffering as a result.

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